The second season of The Wheel of Time shows promise with a darker, intense, and intricately woven storyline, but pacing issues detract from the overall experience.
Although the inaugural season of THE WHEEL OF TIME was an intense and serviceable affair, the show didn’t exactly hit the ground running. After an intense and brutal opening salvo, the series slowed to a crawl and focussed on some much-needed character development and worldbuilding at the expense of the grand spectacle many of us were expecting. It was a necessary trade-off. One that facilitated the introduction of the rich and colorful landscape associated with Robert Jordan’s source material. But with Season 2 now upon us, can the adventure grow beyond the serviceable fare of last season and craft a bold new and grander scale pathway forward? Or are the opening episodes doomed to follow the same path and leave us expecting more?
Fear not fans of the Aes Sedai because Season 2 is off to a flying start. And even though the opening episodes are not without their flaws, they do offer an adventure grand in scale, a dark and intense storyline, and some epic-scale battles that will dazzle the senses. And with Lorne Balfe’s bombastic score on hand to accentuate the magic being threaded through the spectacle, the series hits all the right notes. There are a few slower moments on hand to continue the world-building and character development. But they do not detract from what is otherwise a solid start to the season.
Picking up the breadcrumbs left over from the first season, the opening episode quickly reunites us with the main players that will carry the second season forward. Leading the charge, as always is the increasingly impressive Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred. Pike served as our guiding light through the choppy waters of the first season. But in season two, her path is much more clouded. Her judgment has been affected by the confrontation with the Forsaken. And now, stripped of her powers, searches for a way to restore herself to spiritual prominence. Her Warden, al’Lan Mandragoran on the other hand yearns for her to return to her former self and restore their previously insperable connection.
It serves up a poignant opening salvo, one that sets the tone for the rest of the premiere episodes. But as the story progresses and we reunite with the young spellcasters once thought to be the Dragon, we quickly learn of a far sinister threat preparing for all-out war.
Fans of Robert Jordan’s novels will be well aware of the plot that is about to unfold. And I will not be dipping into spoiler territory here. But needless to say, the youngsters have found themselves in very different places following the emergence of the Forsaken. Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara find themselves at the bottom of the Aes Sedai ladder. Both are restricted to the role of castle maids, all the while being schooled in the art of sorcery. But with their rapid progression being stifled by their mundane chores, neither is finding the dream of becoming a full-fledged Aes Sedai attainable.
On the other side of the coin, Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) finds himself wrestling with the Wolf traits he was bestowed with during the first season. The side effects begin to manifest in visions of past events. And he struggles to determine which is reality and which is fantasy. But as the enemy draws near and his hunting party is threatened, his new abilities will prove to be his ultimate weapon.
THE DARKER SIDE
All the while, Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) finds himself attached to what appears to be a mental hospital. And soon, the reason for his presence there will be revealed. But for the opening episodes, he is confined to sleeping with his innkeeper in lieu of rent. Finally, Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn) finds himself incarcerated and at the mercy of unorthodox Aes Sedai of the Red Ajah Liandrin Guirale. Her intentions toward him are unknown, with only hints of her needing to be sure his dark powers have been banished. But as the episode progresses, his need for escape brings him face-to-face with the occupier of the cell next door. Soon, both devise a way of visiting each other through a crack in the wall that facilitates some much-needed friendship.
With Dónal Finn taking over the role of Mat Cauthon from Barney Harris, some fans may have been fearing the worst. But I’m delighted to report that the transition is seamless. Finn takes to the role like a duck to water. And his labored performance helps to facilitate his ascension into the main roster with ease. Harris will always have his supporters, and rightly so. But Finn slips into his shoes with zeal and makes the role his own in great fashion. And I cannot wait to see his story unfold later in the series.
For the most part, the series slips back into gear with ease. Moiraine Damodred continues to venture headfirst into trouble leading Daniel Henney’s al’Lan Mandragoran into a series of wonderful confrontations with a slew of Fades. And the swordplay on display is a joy to watch. The practical effects are breathtaking. And that coupled with some expertly rendered CGI leaves us with a true sense of magical wonder. The Fades look as evil and as eerie as ever. And their involvement here adds some much-needed edge to the opening episodes.
In the build-up to the new season, Prime Video released a slew of promotional material talking up the Trollocs. But sadly, aside from a few glimpses here and there, these magnificent beasts are all but confined to the sidelines once again. Which is a real shame. The creatures add a genuine threat to the overall story. And when coupled with the Fades, they offer a truly chilling set of antagonists. But in the plus column, their omission leaves room for Ba’alzamon/the Forsaken to come to the fore. And he oozes with his increasingly unnerving level of fiendishness. And his performance is a delight to watch.
I often feel like a broken record when I talk about Lorne Balfe. Whether it’s his score for Black Widow, Black Adam, or Mission Impossible, I am constantly in awe of his endless ability to heighten every project he is attached to. And I am delighted to report that his success continues with The Wheel Of Time. Balfe hit the ground running in the first season by ducking the traditional tropes of fantasy fare. Instead, he delivered a score as compelling as it was contemporary. His work with dialect and language coaches to ensure his lyrics were grammatically correct truly paid off. And the score was all the more rewarding as a result.
Season two continues this trend, and the score is as immersive as ever. The battle sequences are intensified, and the softer moments are tempered by Balfe’s mastery. And the combination really packs a punch. Even when horseback riding across the rich and rewarding landscapes, Balfe’s unconquerable and bombastic soundscapes help to propel the story forward. And this is the hallmark of a truly wonderful composer at the top of his game. Like I said, broken record!
Despite reverting to more world-building, THE WHEEL OF TIME Season 2 is off to a solid start. The landscapes are rich and rewarding, and the action and set pieces are grander in scale than the previous outing. The costume design is on another level and the soundtrack is simply phenomenal. These building blocks create a stunning spectacle in the unfolding adventure on screen. Like the previous season, the pacing often leaves a lot to be desired, and the subplots tend to become a little monotonous. But these minor niggles and they do not detract from the overall majesty of the series so far.
How the rest of this season will evolve remains to be seen. But with all the players taking their place on the game board, the next few episodes are a shoo-in to ramp up the spectacle and set the gears in motion for a grand slam finish. And that is an enticing prospect. But with Rosamund Pike in fine form and adding some much-needed gravitas to proceedings, the series is set up to stick the landing. And I am one hundred percent here for it.
Keep The Wheel of Time turning because the adventures of the Aes Sedai are back with a bang. And long may they reign.
THE WHEEL OF TIME Season 2 launches on Prime Video on September 1st with three thrilling episodes. New episodes will be released weekly every week thereafter. Subscribe to our newsletter at the top of our homepage to stay up-to-date with all the latest info and reviews from Future of the Force.
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!