Prime Video’s Wheel of Time series, based on the beloved and best-selling fantasy series of the same name, took a lot of criticism for its first season, but after two years and solid viewership, Season Two will arrive September 1 on the streaming service.
Having filmed seasons two and three back-to-back, and with the main goal being able to get five altogether, the show takes some rather large liberties with how the story unfolds compared to the book series. The Wheel of Time book series consists of 14 main books, with a prequel novel detailing the origins of Moiraine and Lan, played by Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney on the show, respectively.
However, the biggest challenge for the series to get there might not be fan backlash, but the fact that even though The Wheel of Time predates A Song of Fire and Ice’s publication date, the show has a lot of catching up to do to be part of the cultural zeitgeist the same way Game of Thrones has for over a decade. To complicate that even more, Amazon is also home to a show with an even larger following–The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Talking to GameSpot about the upcoming season, stars Pike and Josha Stradowski (Sony’s Gran Turismo) broke down how they think The Wheel of Time breaks through the noise of other fantasy series and what sets it apart.
“I mean, Robert Jordan was the bridge, wasn’t he, between Tolkien and George RR Martin,” Pike said. “I think what made him stand apart at the time–and still does–is his investigation of what the world looks like with women having access to the greatest power on Earth and being the gatekeepers of that power.”
In The Wheel of Time series, a society of women known as Aes Sedai are able to use a force called the One Power, but men who channel the same power eventually go mad. Stradowski’s Rand al’Thor is the only man who is supposedly allowed to use the power but also prophesied to save the world. However, the same prophecy says after he saves the world from the ultimate evil, he will destroy it.
“His interest isn’t solely in women, which is to do a disservice to the man who will ultimately break or save the world: Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn,” Pike added as she compared Rand’s presence in the world to an atomic bomb. “I think the diversity of his cast of characters is truly jaw-dropping and the way that so many women, in particular, who often feel excluded from fantasy, can read themselves into a myriad of fascinating characters is something that did set him apart.”
Stradowkski agreed. “I love that and that nuclear bomb. I think that’s very true and that’s what I feel like where it becomes bigger than life. For me, what’s so special is these characters and what they have to face is the Dark One, eventually in the Last Battle, but getting to that place and starting in the Two Rivers…I think is special. How much do these characters have to go through before they’re ready to face that Last Battle, especially for Rand–having read the books–how much can he take? How much suffering does he have to go through before he says ‘I can’t do this! I am going to join the Dark One because it’s easier?'”
The actor went on to add how that foreboding darkness becomes essential to Rand’s character and makes him understand what he’s actually up against.
“At some point, it becomes villainous as well. To me, Rand is becoming really dark, but I feel that is the only way he can beat the dark because he understands it,” he said. “It’s not like he plays it, it’s not like taking on some character, no it’s through all of those traumas added up. That’s why he’s eventually able to face the Dark One and I just think that’s very exciting and different.”
Comparing Rand and Moiraine’s relationship from the show to the books, Pike said she didn’t feel it was all too different, but in the way, it boils down to the inability to trust one another.
“What they struggle with is trust. Moiraine is unwilling to trust anyone, Rand wants to trust but doesn’t know if he can trust her. I think he comes to see during this season what she’s prepared to sacrifice in her quest and mission. She’s having to learn to cede control as he grows to understand himself,” she explained. “There’s only so much she can guide, but can’t control. She can steer, but she can’t dictate, and that’s not a comfortable place for Moiraine to be.”
Stradowksi says that Rand is in the same spot facing the same ordeals. “I feel like Rand is very aware that Moiraine is trying to control him and I feel like that Rand wants to trust Moiraine, but maybe more importantly, Moiraine finally trusts Rand and I mean, that is your whole challenge.”
Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time Season Two premieres with a three-episode block on September 1.
This interview was conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.