The Wheel of Time’s first season wrapped up on Prime Video in December 2021, so it’s understandable if you might have forgotten how things ended. The short answer: things are bleak for the characters on the Robert Jordan-adapted fantasy series. How did they get there, and what lies ahead? Read on for our reminder, which also works as a crash course if you didn’t watch season one.
The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time season two arrive on Prime Video Friday, September 1.
What’s The Wheel of Time about?
The Wheel of Time is inspired by the 14-volume fantasy book series (plus a handful of related works, including a prequel) by Robert Jordan, with Brandon Sanderson stepping in to guide the story over the finish line after Jordan’s passing in 2007. It’s set in what feels like the past, but is later revealed to be thousands of years in the future, with the world still in the process of rebuilding after it became “broken” in a clash between the evil Dark One and a powerful human called the Dragon.
As a result of this long-ago battle, men can no longer “channel the One Power” (basically, use magic), even if they have the ability to; in the world of The Wheel of Time, certain people have these abilities, but if men tap into them, they eventually succumb to madness. The most gifted women join the Aes Sedai, a formidable group that remains constantly vigilant about the Dark One’s inevitable return—inevitable, because the titular wheel of time keeps turning no matter what.
What happened in The Wheel of Time season one?
The Wheel of Time season one is mostly a continuous quest. It begins with Aes Sedai member Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and her ride-or-die Warder, Lan (Daniel Henney), travelling to the rural Two Rivers region in search of the Dragon Reborn—whose identity is unknown, beyond the year he or she was born. They find five possible Dragons Reborn: same-aged friend group Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Rand (Josha Stradowski), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and Mat (Barney Harris), plus Nynaeve (Zoë Robins), who’s a bit older than them but has undeniable channelling abilities. The group—which becomes variously separated, reunited, and confronted with soul-searching moments along the way—travels across the treacherous landscape to the Aes Sedai headquarters at the White Tower, then sets out to the Eye of the World to confront the Dark One. The mystery of who the Dragon Reborn is propels most of the eight-episode season.
Who are the main characters in The Wheel of Time?
Moiraine, a powerful member of the Aes Sedai, has dedicated herself to tracking down the Dragon Reborn, believing that her guidance will prevent him or her from doing what the previous Dragon did 3,000 years prior—what the story calls “breaking the world,” a devastating apocalypse that ripped what had been an advanced civilization to shreds. Other Aes Sedai want to eliminate all male channelers—either by killing them or “gentling” them, a process by which a man’s connection to the One Power is severed—but Moraine hopes that even if the Dragon Reborn is a man, he will help defeat the Dark Lord rather than succumbing to his evil.
We don’t learn too much about Moiraine’s past, other than that she’s a noblewoman. She’s very reserved; the two most important people in her life are the head of the Aes Sedai, who we’ll discuss more in a later slide, and Lan—her ever-present companion who’s bonded to her by magic, according to the customs of the Aes Sedai. Along the way, we learn that Lan, who’s also very reserved, is actually the heir to a kingdom lost decades before when it was overtaken by “the Blight,” an impenetrable forest spawned from the Dark One’s growing powers. He and Nyneave spark romantically, but circumstances eventually mean they have to go their separate ways.
Who are the main characters in The Wheel of Time?
Two Rivers sweethearts Rand and Egwene have a tiff at the beginning of the season—aware of her nascent powers, she decides to become a “Wisdom,” an honour that means she helps and heals her community but is not allowed to have a family of her own. That doesn’t sit well with Rand, who wants to marry her. They spend most of The Wheel of Time apart, but have a sweet reunion before Rand realizes (in season one’s second-to-last episode) that he’s the Dragon Reborn… and has an appointment he must keep with the Dark One. Egwene is no delicate flower, though, revealing astonishing channelling powers that suggest her destiny lies within the White Tower among the Aes Sedai.
Who are the main characters in The Wheel of Time?
The rest of the Two Rivers characters are Nyneave, a Wisdom whose connection to the One Power startles even the most high-ranking Aes Sedai she encounters; Perrin, a blacksmith who realizes he has an eerie connection with the packs of wolves he meets on his travels; and Mat, whose sticky-fingered tendencies bring him into contact with a cursed dagger that unlocks his connection to the One Power—and the madness it can bring to men who use it.
Who are the other characters in The Wheel of Time?
Other important characters include—obviously—the Dark One (Fares Fares), who’s as smooth-talking and sinister as you’d expect a Satan-like figure to be. There’s Logain (Álvaro Morte), a man who can channel and believes he’s the Dragon Reborn, but—after causing no small amount of chaos, including the death of an Aes Sedai—he’s declared the “False Dragon” and has his power taken away.
We also meet various other members of the Aes Sedai. Moiraine has many enemies among her “sisters,” especially the scheming Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood), but she has some crucial allies, including Siuan Sanche (Sophie Okonedo), who’s the head of the Aes Sedai, known as “the Amyrlin Seat.” We get a little glimpse of Siuan’s humble childhood, but the main thing to remember about her is: she’s only pretending to loathe Moiraine. They are secretly a couple, and Siuan is 100 per cent aboard with Moiraine’s plan to steer the Dragon Reborn down the right path—to the point of banishing her beloved from the White Tower so the other women don’t suspect their alliance.
And, finally, there’s Loial—name pronounced “loyal”—a cheerful and wise Ogier (basically… an ogre) played by Hammed Animashaun, who befriends the Two Rivers villagers, especially Perrin, and helps them on their journey.
What happened at the end of The Wheel of Time season one?
Everyone makes it to the White Tower—but Mat, haunted by his close encounter with the One Power, decides to stay behind rather than accompany the group to confront the Dark One at the Eye of the World. Everyone (minus Mat) goes to Fal Dara, a kingdom that borders the Eye of the World. At last, Rand realizes he’s the Dragon Reborn, so he and Moiraine set off to finish the journey.
As the Dark One’s army closes in on Fal Dara, Nyneave and Egwene use their powers to repel it; Nyneave doesn’t survive, but Egwene’s able to bring her back. Perrin, meanwhile, helps unearth the Horn of Valere—an important tool for the Dragon Reborn to use in the Last Battle—but sees it stolen by a Darkfriend, a Dark One follower he recognizes as a peddler who used to visit Two Rivers.
Rand’s confrontation with the Dark One’s a little anticlimactic; he’s shown an idyllic future with Egwene that he can force into existence if he wants, but he resists the temptation—realizing that just because he wants that future, she doesn’t—and uses a powerful artifact (given to him by Moiraine) that amplifies his One Power strength enough to zap the Dark One into submission. He realizes that now that he’s “touched the Source” he might feel the tug of madness, so he tells Moiraine to tell everyone he died and heads off on his own.
Moiraine, meanwhile, has lost her magic thanks to the Dark One. When Lan finds her at the Eye of the World, she tells him the bad news, and adds to it by saying Rand’s tussle with the Dark One wasn’t the fated Last Battle they thought it would be. There’s more to come.
The last scene is a little girl on a beach, watching a fleet of ships approach. Each ship has women on its deck who are working together to channel what looks like a giant tidal wave; the scene cuts before it crashes down on shore.
What do we know about The Wheel of Time season two?
In the lead-up to season two, The Wheel of Time appended a new scene to the finale of season one, showing the Dark One in “cool evil uncle” mode, teaching a curious little girl about the beasts that populate the Dark One’s army, called Trollocs. Prime Video also released a featurette, “Terror of the Trollocs,” (watch it on Collider), giving a little more insight into where these monstrous baddies come from and how they were brought to life for the show.
According to a Prime Video press release: “The opening from episode 201 is an adaptation of the fan favourite ‘Darkfriend Social’ prologue of the second novel of Jordan’s series, The Great Hunt, upon which Season Two is largely based. Season Two of The Wheel of Time is also based on some elements of Jordan’s third novel, The Dragon Reborn … In Season Two, threats new and very old seek out the young friends from the Two Rivers, now scattered over the world. The woman who found and guided them is now powerless to help, and so they must find other sources of strength. In each other, or themselves. In the Light … or the Dark.”
Prime Video released a season two trailer, which you can watch above; it shows an exhausted-looking Moiriane declaring, “We didn’t defeat the Dark One, we set him free,” as well as a beefed-up Rand striding around with a sleek haircut. You can’t really tell from the trailer, but we also know that Barney Harris has left the show, and the character of Mat was recast with actor Dónal Finn.
Do you have to read the Wheel of Time books to understand the series?
In short: no. Much like the shows based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or what’s clearly the biggest influence here, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, viewers of the series who are familiar with the source material will find enjoyment (or at least a feeling of insider-y knowledge) watching the story come to life. But you don’t have to read all 14 books to follow The Wheel of Time; sure, you might miss out on Easter eggs or the more detailed meaning behind some of the lore, and some of the references will sail past you. But the show very carefully makes sure its settings, characters, and important plot points are easy for newcomers to follow. Also, if you’d read the books, you’d already know from the get-go that Rand was the Dragon Reborn. Spoiler alert!
If you want to know a smidge more about The Wheel of Time’s world without committing to all the books, Prime Video released a series of animated shorts, Wheel of Time: Origins, as part of its “X-Ray” feature, offering further glimpses into the story’s history and mythology.
Why should you watch The Wheel of Time?
If you couldn’t already tell, Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time is sort of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power lite, with fewer characters, fewer creatures, a simpler plot, and a much faster pace. (Also, a smaller budget—but everything has a smaller budget than The Rings of Power.) Leaning into its Tolkien tendencies was probably a good idea; even those unfamiliar with Jordan’s books will find a bit of familiarity here. But it also has its own inventions—like the big theme of magic-wielding women who still have to deal with the power-mad machinations of men—and it’s consistently entertaining, with a diverse cast led by excellent performances from Pike and Henney. Its story also finds intriguing ways to interrogate the idea that the slope between good and evil is a slippery one, even in a world where the actual personification of evil exists.
The Wheel of Time returns to Prime Video on September 1.
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