Amazon’s first Wheel of Time trailer has released, and there’s plenty of story reveals and secrets in it. “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.” With these words, fantasy writer Robert Jordan introduced readers to the world of the Wheel of Time. This series of 14 books – finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death – have become some of the most beloved of fantasy works.
Fantasy is in vogue right now, and studios and networks are desperate to fill the void left by Game of Thrones. Amazon’s attention has understandably turned to The Wheel of Time, and in November viewers will be able to see a live-action adaptation of Jordan’s fantasy world. The first trailer for Wheel of Time introduces a lot of the core concepts, suggests some subtle changes to the books, and sets up a phenomenal arc that can sustain this story for years to come. It makes no concessions for viewers who haven’t read the books, though, meaning casual audiences will likely be absolutely bewildered.
Here’s our breakdown of all the key takeaways from the Wheel of Time trailer – the characters, the plots, the places, and the thrilling action scenes to come.
The Wheel of Time series is set in what could be described as something of a Matriarchal society, so it’s appropriate that it begins with two women – Nynaeve and Egwene. Nynaeve is the Wisdom of the village of Edmond’s Field, essentially a healer and leader of the local Women’s Circle. The secret of her success as Wisdom is the fact she has access to the One Power, the Wheel of Time version of magic, although she can only access it when she is angry. Egwene, meanwhile, is daughter of the mayor of Edmond’s Field, and she has unusual potential to wield the One Power. In the books, Nynaeve and Egwene are secondary characters at the beginning who rise to prominence as the series continues, and Egwene in particular has a vaunted destiny ahead of her. Placing them at the beginning of the trailer – in what seems to be some sort of ritual to test Egwene’s courage – seems a clever way of telling viewers the balance has shifted, and the women will be crucial all the way through. Nynaeve is played by Zoë Robins, while Egwene is played by Madeleine Madden.
The three male protagonists are shown sharing drinks in Edmond’s Field, and it’s clear the Wheel of Time characters are older than in the books – a smart move on Amazon’s part to avoid this looking like a YA adventure. All three are ta’veren, people who are central to the Web of Destiny and who influence the lives of those around them in order to transform the world. As it is explained in The Eye of the World (book 4):
“The Wheel of Time weaves the Pattern of the Ages, and the threads it uses are lives. It is not fixed, the Pattern, not always. If a man tries to change the direction of his life and the Pattern has room for it, the Wheel just weaves on and takes it in. There is always room for small changes, but sometimes the Pattern simply won’t accept a big change, no matter how hard you try….And sometimes the Wheel bends a life-thread, or several threads, in such a way that all the surrounding threads are forced to swirl around it, and those force other threads, and those still others, and on and on. That first bending to make the Web, that is ta’veren, and there is nothing you can do to change it, not until the Pattern itself changes. The Web – ta’maral’ailen, it’s called – can last for weeks, or for years. It can take in a town, or even the whole Pattern.”
Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) is a gentle man who has a fierce anger, Mat (Barney Harris) is a cheerful gambler who frequently acts without thinking, but Rand (Josha Stradowski) is the closest thing Wheel of Time comes to a main character – a man with a unique destiny ahead of him, one of which he is entirely ignorant as he relaxes in Edmond’s Field.
The trailer includes a shot that appears to hint at a tragedy to come. The sorceresses of The Wheel of Time are known as Aes Sedai, and each of them is guarded by a Warder. Frequently the bond between Aes Sedai and Warder becomes romantic, because the two work together for so long and become so close with one another. In one shot, a Warder is shown holding one of the Aes Sedai rings and weeping, suggesting his sorceress has died.
Tar Valon is one of the most important locations in The Wheel of Time, seat of the Aes Sedai throne and located within sight of a mountain called the Dragonmount. The design of Tar Valon seen in the Wheel of Time trailer corresponds perfectly with the books, and it is dominated by the White Tower, the compound where the sorceresses live and train. “The Wheel of Time turns around Tar Valon,” an old adage declares, “and Tar Valon turns around the Tower.“
Marketing for The Wheel of Time has tended to focus on Rosamund Pike’s Moiraine, the Aes Sedai who initiates the events of the entire series when she arrives at Edmond’s Field and discovers three ta’veren – including, most concerningly of all, Rand al’Thor. Moiraine is one of the most remarkable figures in the Aes Sedai, and her legend is famed all across the continent; she only narrowed avoided being placed on the Sun Throne as their leader. She has dedicated her life to studying ancient prophecies of the fabled Last Battle between all the forces of good and evil, and it is that quest that has brought her to Edmond’s Field.
The Wheel of Time trailer introduces viewers to its version of magic, the One Power. There are two halves to the One Power, saidar and saidin. Saidar is the feminine part, wielded by the Aes Sedai, and the trailer suggests each of these sorceresses wields saidar in a slightly different way. But the more ominous half is saidin, the masculine half, which has fallen under the sway of the Dark One – Wheel of Time‘s equivalent of the Devil, the villain of the entire series. Any man who has the power to manipulate saidin goes insane, and so few live long.
When Moiraine meets Rand al’Thor, she senses he possesses the ability to tap into saidin to an unprecedented degree. This, incidentally, is why some of the changes made among the characters – notably their ages – are particularly curious; an older Rand is one who has avoided madness for longer, suggesting a subtle rewrite of the franchise’s rules. It’s possible that, in the Amazon Prime series, a man’s mind only begins to crumble when they actually fulfil their potential of beginning to use saidin. The Wheel of Time trailer focuses almost entirely on saidar, saving a lot of the plot related to Rand for the series – or for later trailers.
The Aes Sedai are divided into color-coded Ajahs, and the Red Ajah is one of the most important. They are typically harsh and unyielding, and it is their sacred duty to seek out any men who possess the One Power; they then bring them to the White Tower of Tar Valon in order to perform a ritual known as “gentling,” that cuts them off from saidar. There are more members of the Red Ajah than any other, but concerningly they have successfully been infiltrated by the forces of the Dark One; a number of these Aes Sedai are actually “Black Ajah,” sworn to the Dark One’s service, its existence hidden from their sisters.
The ruby-hilted dagger is a crucial part of Mat’s story, stolen from the cursed city of Shadar Logoth. This place fell under the shadow of the Dark One’s influence a long time ago, ironic because they were corrupted by their very zeal for the light until the city’s inhabitants turned upon one another. Rand and his friends are forced to spend a night there while on the run from a group of Trollocs (creatures who serve the Dark One), and Mat found the dagger while there. It is a foul blade, exerting a dangerous influence upon his mind, and the slightest scratch from it brings death within seconds unless an Aes Sedai can intervene.
The Wheel of Time trailer includes a number of glimpses of the Forsaken, channelers of the One Power who swore themselves over to service of the Dark One. “The Dark One and all the Forsaken are bound in Shayol Ghul, bound by the Creator at the moment of Creation, bound until the end of time,” and the emergence of the Forsaken signifies that this prophesied age has come about at last. (Of course, given history is cyclical in The Wheel of Time, the accuracy of this prophesy is disputable; it’s difficult to say whether there ever really was a moment of Creation in the first place.)
One of the most important moments in The Wheel of Time trailer is a reference to the “Last Battle,” a great conflict at which the Dark One will finally be defeated – at terrible cost. The forces of light will be led by a man who can channel the One Power, the “Dragon Reborn,” but he must learn to resist the Dark One’s influence as he taps into saidin. There have been a growing number of False Dragons in recent times, but Moiraine believes Rand al’Thor to be the real deal. If the Dark One can defeat Rand and his allies before the Last Battle, then all will be lost.