The Wheel of Time: Season 2, Episodes 1-4 Review

The Wheel of Time Season 2 Premieres on Prime Video in September

In the later books of Robert Jordan’s beloved Wheel of Time series, the story becomes weighed down by an ever-expanding cast of characters that are too divided, resulting in a lack of action and meaningful interactions. Surprisingly, the second season of Prime Video’s adaptation follows a similar pattern, isolating the members of the ensemble and recreating the biggest flaw of Jordan’s epic fantasy world.

The show faced challenges in the absence of Barney Harris, who played the troublemaker Mat Cauthon in season 1. As a result, Mat’s character was left out of the battle against the forces of the Dark One in the final episodes. Dónal Finn, Harris’s replacement, delivers a decent portrayal in the new episodes, though his character’s plot of being trapped due to cowardice is unimpressive. Meanwhile, the Dark One’s top lieutenant, Ishamael, portrayed by Fares Fares, engages in more scheming and recruitment. However, his ominous charm would be more persuasive if he didn’t openly proclaim himself as the father of lies and betrayer of hope.

The Wheel of Time Season 2 First Look Images

The season starts with a focus on moping and brooding. Rand al’Thor, played by Josha Stradowski, discovers his ability to channel the One Power but fears losing his sanity and hurting those he loves. As a result, he fakes his death and spends the first four episodes in Cairhien, seeking control over his powers while dwelling on the stark wealth inequality within the city. Although Rand’s darker side is intriguing, certain moments, such as a destructive dream and his obsession with being seen as a man, come off as awkward rather than sensual.

With Rand and Mat’s solo storylines, Perrin Aybara, portrayed by Marcus Rutherford, embarks on a quest to retrieve the stolen Horn of Valere. Unfortunately, without another protagonist to interact with, Perrin’s storyline becomes overly focused on his grief for a character created solely for the weakest plotline of season 1. However, the introduction of the Seanchan, enigmatic seafarers, brings some excitement to Perrin’s arc. The Seanchan, depicted with terrifying brilliance onscreen, make for intriguing adversaries.

The exclusion of Moiraine Damodred’s (Rosamund Pike) ability to channel and her separation from her warder, Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney), remains puzzling. Although Moiraine proves her dominance in social interactions and battles without magic, too much time is spent on her attempts to distance herself from Lan and his resulting despondency. This decision to strip Moiraine of her magical powers feels redundant, considering the show already explored a similar theme in the previous season. Nonetheless, Moiraine’s unwavering focus on preparing for the impending battle between the forces of Dark and Light is commendable.

The events unfolding at the White Tower, where Nynaeve al’Meara (Zoe Robins) and Egwene Al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) learn to channel the One Power, provide some of the best moments in the early episodes. The Aes Sedai headquarters, a place where decisions that impact nations are made and where magical training takes place, showcases a blend of fantastical world-building and political intrigue reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones.

Madden and Robins deliver standout performances, with Nynaeve dismissing her remarkable magical potential while Egwene expresses jealousy over her lack of progress despite her dedication to the rules. The writers delve into the burdens and benefits of an Aes Sedai’s extended lifespan, examining the struggles faced by Moiraine and her primary adversary, Liandrin Guirale (Kate Fleetwood), who skillfully manipulates Nynaeve and emphasizes the dangers of neglecting the political landscape while focused on saving the world.

Viewers unfamiliar with the book series may not notice the debatable changes made in this season. However, they might struggle to keep track of the multitude of new and returning characters. Unfortunately, the captivating title sequence showcasing the interconnected lives of the characters and the color-coded factions of the Aes Sedai, present in the first season, is absent from the initial episodes. A Game of Thrones-like map would have provided a helpful visual aid for viewers navigating the expanded world of the show.

Season 2 of The Wheel of Time returns with an enticing mix of drama, action, and intrigue. Stream the new season on Prime Video starting September 1.