Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon.
News from the Pattern
A flurry of news and rumours have swept Wheel of Time TV-land in the last few weeks, and it’s probably a good idea to take a look at the situation and see what’s what.
Season 1 is a wrap! (probably)
WoTSeries, who’ve been keeping their finger on the pulse of the latest developments, reported last week that behind-the-scenes crew were celebrating wrapping on the first season. They later clarified that a few more pick-ups needed to be done, but for all intents and purposes work on the first season has been completed. Rafe Judkins, Wheel of Time showrunner and unstoppable Narg-teaser, also confirmed this news in an Instagram Q&A yesterday.
No time for a rest though, as per our report work on Season 2 is due to begin almost immediately, with production rolling into the second year after a break for a couple of weeks for set building and table-reads.
November might be the month!
Orbit Books, who publish the Wheel of Time novels in the UK and Commonwealth, have listed a new, TV tie-in edition of The Eye of the World for publication on 4 November. Tie-in editions of novels are typically published between a week and a month before the show or movie debuts. WoTSeries, doing a lot of hard work, have reported 26 November – Black Ajah Friday? – as one of the dates currently being batted around at Amazon. Assuming Amazon replicates their recent release schedule from shows like The Boys, that would put maybe three episodes out on 26 November and then one a week for five weeks afterwards, ending on New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t mark that on calendars as confirmed just yet, but it’s a good sign that Amazon are at least envisaging a launch date this side of Christmas.
Tor Books, who publish the novels in the United States, have not yet confirmed their own plans for a TV tie-in edition.
Give us the Daughter-Heir!
An unconfirmed report (from a NSFW site we won’t be linking here) has Amazon casting for a “young actress to play a princess and future queen,” with reportedly the maximum number of legally-allowed years being asked for (six). That suggests that Amazon are looking for their Elayne Trakand (whose casting for Season 1 has not been confirmed) and that they also envisage the show lasting for (at least) seven seasons in total. Both of these facts are only conjectural; if Amazon wanted to be smart and had sneakily cast Elayne for Season 1 without announcing it, they might be casting for a different role. If you really stretch the definition, this could also be casting for Faile if they want to introduce her early, or Berelain, or even Tuon if they envisage major changes to the Seanchan storyline. Asking for six years might also simply be Amazon covering their bases for future renewals; if the show comes out and bombs, then we won’t be getting a third season, let alone a seventh.
Into the desert
Ondrej Nekvasil, the production designer for The Wheel of Time, was interviewed by a Czech periodical (translation courtesy of WoTSeries) and confirmed that the show will reflect the 16th/17th Century cultural setting of novels, rather just a generic medieval fantasy design. More intriguingly, he indicated Season 2 will shoot in Morocco, where productions such as Kingdom of Heaven and Game of Thrones have filmed in the past. The dry, dusty locations that Morocco provides relatively cheaply and within easy travel of Europe makes the Aiel Waste a likely candidate for the location, but I would not expect them to reach The Shadow Rising so early in the series. It’s possible we will instead be seeing flashbacks of some kind to the Waste, or perhaps from Seanchan characters to a dry and dusty part of their home continent. It may also be that part of the main continent has been re-envisaged as a more desert-like biome, or that it might be standing in for the Great Blight, or one the worlds reached by Portal Stone. Time will tell on this one.
A new title!
We have our first episode title for Season 2. The first episode will be called A Taste of Solitude and will be written by Amanda Kate Shuman. The title comes from a chapter in Lord of Chaos, indicating that Amazon will be drawing on the entire book series for ideas for episode titles, and the episode titles will not automatically correspond with the events of the chapter of the same name (unless Season 1 is way more compressed than we first thought).
Interestingly, we still don’t have confirmation of the titles for the final two episodes of Season 1 yet, something we’re endeavouring to find out as soon as possible.
Q&A with the Showrunner
Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins hit up Instagram on Thursday 20 May for an impromptu Q&A. It’s worth reading the full session in his Instagram stories, but the pertinent highlights follow:
- In the edit, episodes of the series have been clocking in between 50 and 65 minutes in length.
- The “EF5” (Emond’s Field Five, namely Rand, Mat, Perrin, Nynaeve and Egwene) have been doing most of their own stunts.
- Rafe is very excited by a character who appears in Book 1 but not Season 1, but who will appear in Season 2. To help us narrow it down he has given us the first two letters of their name: “EL.” So Elayne or Elaida. Or maybe Elyas. Or the oft-missed merchant, El’Steve of Elmora? I guess we’ll find out.
- The writing team assembled between Seasons 1 and 2 and developed an outline for how to break the entire fourteen-book series into a reasonable number of TV seasons (i.e. less than fourteen).
- Whether we “see” someone channelling in a scene will depend on which characters are in the scene and which ones the scene has been focusing on.
- A shift from the books is that Season 1 is an ensemble piece, whilst the first novel is more tightly focused on just a couple of characters (Rand, predominantly). The season will try to give more equal weight and screen-time to different characters, presumably as part of their plan to obfuscate the identity of the Dragon Reborn a bit more than in the books.
- Narg has been confirmed as appearing. Rafe also confirmed they have unofficial names for other Trollocs. One is referred to as “Betty.”
- At least two of the actors were in a race to finish all of the books and one of them has won, but he didn’t reveal who that was.
- The show will have to condense and merge storylines and characters from different books, otherwise the youngest castmembers will be 45 by the time they finish.
- Perrin has been the most challenging main character to write for because so much of his characterisation is internal in the novels (where Perrin appearing “slow” when he’s actually just thinking hard is a regular plot point), but they have been helped by Marcus Rutherford’s performance.
- Lan’s colour-changing cloak has been reluctantly cut from the show, with the vfx requirements and costs being high for something which is a relatively minor part of the series.
Warders teasing their Aes Sedai
It’s not dumping a duck pond on their Aes Sedai’s head, but one Wheel of Time Warder was spotted high-tailing it off the set with a strange and powerful angreal known as a “Golden Globe,” with Moiraine Damodred in hot pursuit. Further developments as they come in.