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Remember iwot? Last time they came up, the possibly imaginary two-person production company that’s been clinging for dear life to the film and television rights for Robert Jordan’s The Wheel Of Time since 2004 had just announced that Kari Skogland would be directing their (still entirely hypothetical) live-action film trilogy set three-thousand prior to the events of Jordan’s books. There’s been no movement on that front, nor is there likely to be, since iwot has a long and well-documented track-record of announcing projects and abandoning them just as quickly (to date, their entire output consists of one low-quality, half-hour long fan-film scraped together just in time to retain the rights when they were in danger of reverting back to Jordan’s estate), but they’ve previously taken the estate to court over their right to continue racking up failed business ventures to add to their resume, so there’s not much that anybody can do to stop them at this point.
Now, however, cofounders Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon are back with a new announcement; and I’m covering this, even though I strongly suspect it will never get off the ground, because it’s not just another silly, eyeroll-inducing, ultimately harmless empty promise from these guys. Selvage and Mondragon are claiming to have partnered with an AI software company called D1srupt1ve (okay, that name is eyeroll-inducing) to turn The Wheel Of Time into the “first-ever AI-enabled entertainment franchise”. Their press release contains all the usual vague, hyperbolic, self-aggrandizing language we’ve come to expect from these two; lots of stuff about how the experience will “energize an array of products and services that will extend, expand, and enhance the franchise’s current and future media formats, including books, television, movies, video games, and location-based entertainment”, and “intensify the emotional ties that bind fans to the franchise, bringing stories and characters to life in a way that is both dynamically interactive and deeply personal” and so on and so forth.
I don’t believe I’ve ever talked about AI on here, so let me state for the record that I am firmly and unequivocally against this usage of the technology. Selvage and Mondragon intend to train their AI (called The One Power, by the way) on Jordan’s books without his consent or the consent of his estate, scraping his source material for their glorified wiki-page which they claim will be able to answer all your Wheel Of Time-related questions in-character as Padan Fain or whomever. And of course, The One Power will have a visual component as well, “bringing to life the vivid imagery of the story” i.e. combing through Darrell K. Sweet’s iconic book covers and countless pieces of beautiful fan-art on the internet until it can regurgitate some atrocious picture of a person with three-hundred fingers and toes that it will swear is actually your favorite character. AI “art” is theft, plain and simple. There are methods to implement the technology into the creation of art by humans, but that is not what Selvage and Mondragon have in mind.
That’s the really important takeaway from this story, but while we’re here, I do want to address one of the claims I saw being repeated on social media yesterday, that because Selvage and Mondragon are credited as executive producers on Sony and Amazon’s television adaptation of The Wheel Of Time, that this AI must somehow be connected to the ongoing series, or is being implemented into upcoming seasons. Currently, there is nothing to suggest that is the case. Firstly, Selvage and Mondragon have those credits because they still own the rights, and because of the aforementioned legal battle they waged against Jordan’s estate in 2015, at least in part to prevent the estate from courting Sony without their involvement. There is no evidence of them actually having been involved in the series’ production beyond that (on the contrary, Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal and Brandon Sanderson, the author she selected to finish the Wheel Of Time books after her husband’s death, were both involved in the writing and making of the first season). Selvage and Mondragon love to flaunt their EP credits because it’s really all they’ve got, but their press release makes no mention of any collaboration with Sony/Amazon, and Sony/Amazon have not made any comment on this or any of their other projects in the Wheel Of Time universe. I sincerely doubt that they even want to be involved.
Hopefully, that’s all I have to say about this, and it will either go the way of all the other projects that iwot has announced, or else be so totally unremarkable and inconsequential that no one will pay any attention to them ever again. At this point, I’m not planning to cover any of their future endeavors, even if, by some miracle, their live-action film trilogy or their animated film ever gets made. Anyway, share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
It’s not official just yet, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that 2024 will be the year that Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power returns for its second season – filming had already wrapped prior to the SAG-AFTRA strikes that shut down much of Hollywood, post-production is now well underway, and there probably won’t be anywhere near as lengthy a marketing campaign as there was for the first season of the epic fantasy series, which kicked off with a Super Bowl teaser trailer months ahead of its September release to drum up anticipation for Amazon’s expensive venture into Middle-earth. Reception to the first season was mixed, with many critics and viewers praising the grand scale, breathtaking visual effects, and brilliant score, but criticizing the series’ large number of underdeveloped characters and disparate subplots, while hardcore fans of the source material, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings, complained of just about any divergence from the text, but in some cases understandably: certain changes came across as both needless and potentially damaging.
With all that said, I remain optimistic about the second season for a few reasons. Firstly, because I’m a huge fan of The Lord Of The Rings, so I will go into nearly any adaptation of the work wanting it to be good, and hoping for the best. Secondly, because the showrunners have had time and opportunity to take all of our feedback into account, and there are indications that the second season is focused on the characters and stories that fans wanted more of, including Celebrimbor, Sauron, and the Rings of Power themselves. Thirdly, and perhaps naively, because I had similar feelings about The Wheel Of Time‘s first season, and then season two came along and was just phenomenal. Thus, I present you with the ten things I’m most hyped to see from The Rings Of Power season two.
Look, I have no doubt that Bridgerton‘s Calam Lynch will be a truly endearing Celeborn, or that his romantic chemistry with Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel will be absolutely magical. But he is still playing Celeborn, who I know as the vaguely xenophobic, almost curmudgeonly character he had become by the time the Fellowship of the Ring rolled up to Caras Galadhon and met him and Galadriel at the end of the Third Age. Granted, that’s roughly three-thousand years after the events of The Rings Of Power, which is set during the Second Age, but even then, in Unfinished Tales, Celeborn is recorded as having traveled over the Misty Mountains to and from Lórien while Galadriel took the much shorter route through the underground Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm, because he couldn’t stand Dwarves. Sure, his resentment towards them goes back to the Sack of Menegroth and the murder of his cousin Elu Thingol, but Thingol was denying payment to his Dwarven workers who were being commissioned to turn one of their own ancestral heirlooms, the Nauglamir, into a piece of pretty jewelry for the Elven-king. Anyway, I’m just saying that The Rings Of Power will have to actively work to make Celeborn less of a jerk, because it’s one of the few personality-traits Tolkien ever gave him (he is, essentially, what Peter Jackson’s films made Elrond out to be).
9: Politics In Khazad-Dûm
Speaking of the Dwarves, the last time we checked in on their subplot in the first season, Crown Prince Durin IV and his wife Disa were plotting to transform the isolated kingdom of Khazad-dûm into the flourishing hub of trade and commerce we know it will become, if only briefly. As long as Durin’s stalwart father Durin III is seated on the throne, they can’t do much, but that’s where I think the legendary Dwarven craftsman Narvi (to be played by Shadow And Bone‘s Kevin Eldon) will enter the picture in season two, as an influential ally to the Prince and Princess. Tolkien tells us that Narvi became a close friend of Celebrimbor and with his help designed the password-sealed doors that would protect Khazad-dûm’s secrets for many centuries after their deaths and the kingdom’s destruction from within. I think it’s highly likely that in the show, Narvi will also assist Celebrimbor in the forging of seven Rings of Power for the Dwarves, and in their distribution to the great lords representing each of the seven Dwarven clans. But it will be the ambitious and forward-thinking Durin IV on whose finger he places a Ring, the very Ring that would later be passed down to Thrór, the father of Thorin Oakenshield, and ripped away from him after much torment in the pits of Dol Guldur, to join the bouquet of stolen rings on Sauron’s hand.
Mithril is a bit of a controversial topic in the Tolkien fandom nowadays, thanks to The Rings Of Power‘s bizarre invention of an admittedly apocryphal, plothole-ridden origin story for the precious metal, involving a Silmaril, a Balrog, an unnamed Elven warrior, and a tree growing in the Misty Mountains. Don’t even ask. It’s a hard sell, but I’m ready to accept that mithril (in the show; this is nowhere implied in the books) contains a reflection of the purifying light of a Silmaril, and could therefore slow or halt the erosion of Elvendom for a time. Obviously not forever, because, well…we know it doesn’t, but maybe the Elves could scrape by for a few extra years by adorning themselves and their abodes in mithril. So that’s what I want to see. I want the paranoid obsession with this metal’s supposed death-defying properties to have fully set in, and for Elven lords like Gil-galad and Celebrimbor to be pleading with the Dwarves to supply them with more, threatening them with war or blockade if they do not. The light of the Silmarils inspired in the Elves an insatiable lust that drove them to defy the Valar and chase Morgoth halfway across Middle-earth – the effects of mithril will have to be almost as ruinous if I’m to believe they’re one and the same. Also, I just don’t want the costume designers to miss the opportunity to dress all the Elves head-to-toe in mithril‘s radiance.
Jumping across the map for a moment, the Númenórean outpost of Pelargir is mentioned near the end of the first season as the next destination for Arondir, Bronwyn, Theo, and the displaced citizens of the Southlands, now Mordor. It’s one of the oldest cities of Men in Middle-earth, predating Osgiliath, Minas Anor (later Minas Tirith), and Minas Ithil (later Minas Morgul). The city sits at a literal and figurative crossroads between the lands of Harad and Khand in the southeast, Númenor in the distant southwest, Mordor in the east, and the lands of Elves in the northwest. It’s going to be a very different environment than what Bronwyn and her son Theo are used to, and I strongly suspect that they’ll end up entangled in the burgeoning conflict between the Númenórean colonizers and the oppressed “Low Men” of Middle-earth. And Sauron’s human form, Halbrand, still believed to be the rightful “King of the Southlands”, will almost surely waltz in at some point and drop the match that starts a firestorm.
6: Númenórean Imperialism
On that note, let’s talk more broadly about the subject of Númenórean imperialism in Middle-earth. Now, one major downside to The Rings Of Power compressing the timeline of the entire Second Age into the span of a single human character’s lifetime, as I’m sure I’ve talked about before, is that we lose the profound sense of the massive scale of Númenor’s empire-building efforts; how long it took them to become a superpower and how long they clung to that power through increasingly brutal methods as successive generations of kings and queens, each one more fearful of death and resentful of the immortal Elves than the one before, took out their anger on those they deemed inferior to themselves just to assure themselves they still could. In The Rings Of Power, all of this history and nuance will have to be crammed into the space of a few years at most, and it gives the show an excuse I hope they don’t take to place the blame for Númenor’s degradation squarely on Ar-Pharazôn, rather than on Númenor itself. Ar-Pharazôn is a symptom of the problem. The problem is Númenórean exceptionalism and racism – which is never treated, and reemerges in the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor that sprang up after Númenor’s eventual downfall. I’m not particularly confident that The Rings Of Power will address these subjects directly, but I would be ecstatic if it did, and did so well.
5: The Faithful vs The King’s Men
Something I know will be addressed is the divide within Númenor between the followers of Ar-Pharazôn, named the King’s Men, and the so-called Faithful led by Elendil and Tar-Míriel, who wish to reestablish ancient bonds of friendship with the Elves and assist them in their fight against Sauron. I will say something possibly controversial here and point out that while the King’s Men are very much pro-imperialism, the Faithful aren’t exactly anti-imperialism, and ultimately take a very similar approach to dealing with the Men of Middle-earth as the King’s Men, but that’s a whole separate topic and I seriously don’t trust The Rings Of Power to touch on that idea at all. Elendil and Míriel’s joint struggle is not about grappling with the fact that the Faithful are no better, but about accepting the incalculable sacrifices that the way of the Faithful demands – which is also a valid central theme for this subplot, and vaguely more religious.
One of the earliest promises made by Rings Of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne was to more fully explore the lands of Middle-earth that bleed off the sides of the map J.R.R. Tolkien drew and to which he generally constrained the scope of his stories – the lands of Harad, Far Harad, Khand, and Rhûn. Everything that Tolkien wrote about these places and their inhabitants, even combined, is barely enough to fill a single page, as well as being vague and carrying some racist undertones (the question of whether Tolkien was racist has been debated for decades in fandom and academic circles, and is probably impossible to answer definitively – but what is inarguable is that he had the blind-spots typical of even the most well-intentioned Western European white man born in the 19th Century whose primary literary influences growing up would have been mostly other Western European white men). Anyway, I can’t wait to see Rhûn for the first time onscreen alongside Elanor Brandyfoot and the Stranger in season two. The places they visit and the people they meet there will obviously have to be entirely original inventions of the writers, but this is one area of Tolkien’s legendarium that is long overdue for expansion and some revision in the process.
3: Nine Mortal Men Doomed To Die
It’s ironic, given how significant the Rings of Power are to the overarching story of Middle-earth’s Second and Third Ages, that we know so little about most of the Ringbearers. The Three Rings, as we all know, were given out to the wisest and most powerful Elven lords; Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Círdan the Shipwright (who could have been a whole separate entry on this list). The Seven Rings, as mentioned previously, were distributed amongst the mostly unnamed leaders of the seven Dwarven clans. And the Nine Rings were gifted to just about anybody. Okay, so canonically we know they were given to human kings, sorcerers, and warriors, three of whom were Númenórean lords (probably governors of Númenórean colonies in Middle-earth). One was from Rhûn and was named Khamûl (but that name only appears in Unfinished Tales, so Amazon probably doesn’t have permission to use it). The foremost among them was a powerful sorcerer, and probably one of the three Numenoreans, who would go on to become the Witch-king of Angmar (possibly, but not necessarily, indicating a prior connection to that northern region of Middle-earth, which was never a Númenórean colony as far as I’m aware). As these Ringbearers were all personally selected by Sauron with the intention of corrupting them, it is very likely they were chosen for their unique susceptibility to the Shadow. So who among the ensemble cast of The Rings Of Power is a future Ringbearer and Nazgûl? Ar-Pharazôn’s non-canonical, weak-willed son Kemen is a particularly strong candidate, as is Bronwyn’s angsty son Theo – and frankly, Bronwyn herself. Some fans would predictably throw a fit over one of the Nazgûl being a woman, but the Ring-verse refers to Galadriel as an “Elven-king”, and Tolkien used the capitalized word “Men” as an umbrella term for human men and women, so the loophole is there if the writers want to exploit it.
We didn’t get to see much of him in season one, but I’ve warmed up to Charles Edwards’ characterization of the Elven-smith Celebrimbor. In personality, physical appearance, and demeanor, he’s certainly not at all like the Celebrimbor I picture in my head while reading, but he’s valid, and I actually like him quite a bit now that I think I get what the show is going for with him. That being said, we do need more of him. The story of the Rings of Power is as much his story as it is Galadriel’s or Elrond’s, more so even than either of those characters, and yet the adaptation currently has him relegated to drifting in and out of the peripheries of the tale. I hope that Celebrimbor is spotlighted in season two, because it’s not just that he deserves it, as the literal maker of the Rings of Power, it’s that the show is speed-running through the events of the Second Age so fast that, uh, we may not have much time left with him after this season…if any. There’s a lot to get through, the distribution of the Three Rings, the forging of the Seven and the Nine Rings, the partnership with Narvi and the alliance with Khazad-dûm – and on top of all that, we still don’t actually know Celebrimbor very well in the context of the show, so it would be nice to have some flashbacks or even exposition that gave us more insight into his motives.
You knew he had to be number one, didn’t you? After taking the form of a scruffy human man named Halbrand throughout the first season, the shapeshifter Sauron will reportedly return with at least two different actors jointly playing the part – Charlie Vickers reprising the role of Halbrand, and Gavi Singh Chera, according to Fellowship Of Fans, appearing in both flashbacks and in Eregion alongside Celebrimbor as the “ethereal”, presumably more Elven-looking original form of the character – which I will go out on a short limb and say is very likely The Rings Of Power‘s amalgamation of Sauron’s angelic first form, Mairon, and the similar fair form he took while dealing with the Elves of Eregion, named Annatar. The latter name only appears in Unfinished Tales and other books to which Amazon does not have the rights, but is apparently being used in some capacity on the series, whether only behind-the-scenes or in dialogue (it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve managed this somehow; they used the name Armenelos in season one, despite it only appearing in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales). Not only am I excited for the Annatar storyline to play out, even if it is heavily abbreviated, in general I’m just extremely hyped for another actor’s interpretation of Sauron. The character’s shapeshifting was something I was missing in the first season, and while I’m not familiar with his work, Gavi Singh Chera definitely has the looks and the poise.
The Rings Of Power is such a massive series that I could honestly keep going and going (I didn’t even get to talk about Adar! Expanded storylines for the Orcs! The Mystics! Isildur stranded in Mordor! Aldarion!), but I limited this list to just ten entries. Anyway, I want to hear what’s on your lists now. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
Not many people ever watched it, for reasons that should become clear before the end of this sentence, but way back in February 2015, late at night and without any advertising, Winter Dragon, a roughly half-hour long adaptation of the prologue of Robert Jordan’s The Eye Of The World starring The Price Is Right‘s Max Ryan as Lews Therin Telamon, and Wheel Of Time super-fan Billy Zane of Titanic fame as the Forsaken Ishamael, aired on the FXX Network. I have seen it. It is not good. But the bizarre short film was never really intended to attract a sizable audience, or even appeal to fans. It was self-produced by Red Eagle Entertainment (or Manetheren LLC, or Ree Productions…they change their name every few years), a company cofounded by Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon in 2003, which had bought the film and television rights to The Wheel Of Time from Jordan in 2004, sold them to Universal in 2008, got them back when Universal decided not to move forward with a film adaptation of The Eye Of The World, and then sat on them until the year that the rights were set to revert back to Jordan’s estate, at which point they frantically put together Winter Dragon for the sole purpose of preventing that from happening.
Soon thereafter, Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal voiced her frustration with Red Eagle Entertainment, and they took the very smart and rational approach of suing her for slander. Though the legal battle was not long, and directly resulted in the joint announcement of the Wheel Of Time television adaptation from Amazon Studios which this year released its critically-acclaimed second season, the fandom has not forgotten or forgiven Red Eagle Entertainment for their underhanded methods, and the prevailing attitude towards them and all of their independent ventures ranges from mild bemusement to open disdain. But that hasn’t stopped Red Eagle Entertainment, or should I say “iwot Productions” as it was renamed (again) in 2021, from trying to get several of their own projects off the ground, with…uh, varying degrees of un-success.
Just in the past two years, iwot has announced (1) a trilogy of live-action films set long before the events of the book and television series during the fabled Age of Legends, to be written by Zack Stentz and executive produced by Eva Longoria, (2) an animated film centered around the White Tower, to be written and produced by Zack Stentz and directed by Jay Oliva, best known for Justice League: War, and (3) most recently, an “immersive adaptation” of the books that will use “360-degree visuals and sound, holographic projections, and spatial storytelling, to create a riveting entertainment experience”…whatever the heck that means. Nothing in iwot’s history suggests that any one of these projects will ever make it past the indefinite pre-production stage in which they’re all currently stalled, but the most ambitious, the live-action film tentatively titled The Age Of Legends and intended to kickstart a trilogy, now has a director attached.
And Kari Skogland, who previously directed all six episodes of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, as well as episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead, is not exactly nobody. That’s not to say she can magically save iwot from their own proven ineptitude, or make something great from a Zack Stentz script (X-Men: First Class is considered some of his better work, and the first Thor movie is an example of his worst), but I know I can trust Skogland to tackle the intricate philosophy of Jordan’s invented cosmos, dive into the dark complexities of his painfully human heroes and villains, and bring us some awesome action sequences using the mechanics of the One Power to the fullest extent. If this were being produced by anyone else, I might actually be excited.
If you’re new around here or in need of a refresher, The Wheel Of Time is set in a world, technically our world, in which time literally forms a loop, meaning that history endlessly cycles back around on itself in what is referred to as a “Turning”. Every Turning may not be the same length, but they are all divided up into seven Ages, and a new Turning begins when the Seventh Age ends. Every Turning is different, too, sometimes only slightly, sometimes dramatically, but there are certain consistencies across time. The First Age is this one, the modern world in which we live, and it is always followed by the Second Age or Age of Legends, the almost utopian sci-fi fantasy world in which the One Power is rediscovered and one half of it tainted by the Dark One, and that event is probably always followed by the Breaking of the World, which leads into the Third Age, the fantasy world into which the Dragon is eventually reborn to defeat the Dark One.
In the Turning during which Jordan’s books take place, the end of the Age of Legends is presaged by the Drilling of the Bore, when a physicist and Aes Sedai named Mierin Eronaile opens a rift in reality that allows the Dark One, who has been caged outside the universe since the Moment of Creation, to seep into the world. Mierin, later known by the name Lanfear, becomes the first of many powerful Aes Sedai to join the Dark One in his mission to break the Wheel of Time itself. The thirteen most powerful of these ambassadors are named the Forsaken, and their ranks include representatives of every field, from philosophers, surgeons, and military historians, to athletes, singers, and psychiatrists. Their tragic tales could each be spun into compelling and dramatic feature-length stories.
The question that a lot of fans are asking is whether the film trilogy will aim for some semblance of continuity with the Amazon series, or whether iwot will try to establish their own competitive aesthetic for the world of The Wheel Of Time. Depending on which approach they take, iwot might approach Natasha O’Keeffe, Fares Fares, and Alexander Karim to reprise their roles as Lanfear, Ishamael, and Lews Therin Telamon, respectively, though I have a gut feeling that will not happen, and that they will instead try to hitch some unsuspecting high-profile Hollywood actor to this project next. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. We don’t even know if they’ll make it that far. Here’s hoping, though. I’d genuinely love to see Wheel Of Time enter the mainstream in a way it still hasn’t quite been able to, even after fifteen best-selling books and two fantastic seasons of television. Maybe a film trilogy is what it takes. But Winter Dragon, the only thing that iwot (or Red Eagle Entertainment or whatever you wanna call them) has ever released on their own, doesn’t inspire much confidence.
How about you? Are you excited for The Age Of Legends? Does Skogland boarding the subject actually make it any more likely that this thing ever gets made? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME SEASON TWO AND BOOKS ONE THROUGH FOUR, AHEAD!
The Wheel Of Time recently aired its second season finale, and fans of the epic fantasy series are eagerly looking forward to season three, currently filming in South Africa. So I thought I’d put together a list of the top ten things I’m most excited to see in season three, based on the fourth book in the original series of novels by Robert Jordan. The Shadow Rising, which picks up roughly around the same point in the narrative where the second season ends, is widely considered Jordan’s best book, features some of the most iconic scenes and sequences for which the series is known, and gives nearly every character a strong arc. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
10: Gawyn and Galad and Morgase
Whether due to time constraints or a deliberate choice by the writers to avoid attracting comparisons to Game Of Thrones, The Wheel Of Time has only briefly touched on the complex political situation in the Westlands, going no further than vaguely referencing nations and their monarchs: but politics become increasingly important as the book series progresses, particularly for Elayne Trakand and her family, who have for generations ruled the largest nation, Andor (which encompasses the Two Rivers region, where the story began). In the first book of the series, The Eye Of The World, it’s in the Andoran capital city of Caemlyn, rather than in Tar Valon, that Rand al’Thor reunites with his friends after being separated in Shadar Logoth, and there he meets for the first time Elayne, as well as her brothers Gawyn Trakand and Galad Damodred, and her mother Queen Morgase Trakand (and Morgase’s Aes Sedai advisor, Elaida; more on her later). In season three, with civil war brewing in Andor, these characters will become crucial at long last. They’re low on my list, however, because I detest Gawyn (shocking, I know), I have no strong feelings towards Galad whatsoever, and while I like Morgase, it’s evident that Robert Jordan never figured out exactly what he wanted to do with her, and both he and his successor Brandon Sanderson kept her pointlessly meandering about for a ridiculously long time. Hopefully the show can do better by all three of them.
9:Return of Thom
You probably wouldn’t guess it from how the adaptation has handled his character, but Thom Merrilin, the grizzled traveling bard or “gleeman” that Rand and Mat Cauthon briefly traveled alongside in season one, is one of the main characters in the books. After seemingly being killed by a Fade in The Eye Of The World, Thom reappears in Cairhien during the events of The Great Hunt, shares a few scenes with Rand, and dips out of the story to assassinate King Galldrian for reasons of his own, unintentionally plunging Cairhien into a civil war of its own. It may be that Thom was supposed to do something similar in season two, which would explain why Galldrian was name-dropped several times only to never actually appear, but whatever happened there, Alexandre Willaume ended up having scheduling conflicts with the now-canceled Netflix series 1899. Season three, for which he will finally return to the role, should find the gleeman in his The Shadow Rising storyline, escorting Nynaeve al’Meara and Elayne to Tanchico.
The hunt for the Horn of Valere was very nearly a wasted subplot in season two, but at least now the groundwork has been laid for the introduction of the most famous Hunter for the Horn, Faile Bashere. The thrill-seeking runaway princess of Saldaea first appears in The Dragon Reborn, traveling with a party of Hunters each hoping to win fame and glory for themselves by being the one to recover the fabled Horn and bring it to Illian. Perrin Aybara runs into her in the same small town where he frees an Aiel from a cage and makes an enemy of Whitecloaks, but seeing as that scene already played out quite differently in season two, the setting and circumstances of their meeting will obviously have to change in the show. Faile is a complex and flawed character who, by a supremely unfortunate accident, is presented to the reader from Perrin’s point-of-view before her own. He, like so many of Jordan’s male characters, regards all women as exasperatingly incomprehensible, and treats her with a kind of patronizing affection that only enrages her, leading him to become more confused, and so on and so forth. Their inevitable romance is not much fun to read about. I hope and pray with all my heart that the show does away with most of the miscommunication between them, including every instance of Perrin trying to figure out what Faile is thinking or feeling by smelling her. Ick.
7: TheBattle of Emond’s Field
Having just put book Perrin on blast, let me clarify that show Perrin has done nothing wrong in his entire life, and behind Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara, he is indeed my favorite of the Emond’s Field Five (technically, that holds true for the books as well, but book Perrin trails the two women by a much larger margin and it says a lot about how much I don’t care for either Rand or Mat in the books that they’re still behind him despite that). Reaching and maintaining a balance between the wolf and the man within himself has been Perrin’s greatest challenge. He first wanted nothing to do with the wolves, perceiving them as manifestations of his worst instincts, and that resulted in failure. In season two, he took steps to learn about and embrace being a Wolfbrother, which led to the death of Geofram Bornhald at his hands. He needs to make peace with himself, and that will only happen when he finally comes to terms with what happened to Laila, his wife, in season one. Returning home to Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers will provide him with that necessary closure, and it just so happens that’s exactly where his The Shadow Rising storyline takes him (and Loial, Faile, Bain and Chiad). Much has changed there since he left, however, and Perrin will find himself reluctantly leading an uneasy coalition of Two Rivers folk, Whitecloaks, Tuatha’an, and Aes Sedai to repel an army of Shadowspawn led by the mysterious “Slayer”, an amalgamation of souls bound to the Dark One, in the Battle of Emond’s Field. If done well, this could be what ensures a fourth season for The Wheel Of Time all on its own – it’s that epic.
6: The Aiel Waste
Though his destiny does not lie in the Two Rivers, season three will be a homecoming of sorts for Rand as well. At the beginning of The Shadow Rising, he learns that he must go to the Three-fold Land (called the Waste by outsiders) beyond the Spine of the World, and there reconnect with his heritage as a long-lost son of the Aiel, the nomadic warriors who have lived in the Three-fold Land since the Breaking of the World, adopting a unique and complex system of honor and debts called ji’e’toh that informs nearly everything they do. Rand, like the spear-maiden Aviendha introduced in season two, belongs to the Taardad Aiel, one of twelve clans further divided into dozens of individual “septs” – his the Iron Mountain, hers the Nine Valleys. Each clan has a chief and a governing body of Wise Ones (the Aiel equivalent to the Aes Sedai of the Westlands), and to become either of these things means venturing alone into the ruins of Rhuidean, a city built shortly after the Breaking of the World by the now-extinct Jenn Aiel, glimpsing visions of the past through the glass columns ter’angreal, and returning burdened with the knowledge of where the Aiel came from, who they were, and what they did to become what they are now. Men who pass the test (and only men, because…sexism, mostly) come out bearing a dragon tattoo on one arm. As you can probably guess, Rand will have to undergo this test and experience for himself what awaits in the glass columns.
5: The Sea Folk
While I know I’ll hear some grumbling about their placement on this list over the Aiel and the Battle of Emond’s Field, I absolutely adore the Sea Folk, and I was overjoyed to learn that showrunner Rafe Judkins evidently does as well, from how he excitedly teased their introduction in season three at New York Comic-Con. The Sea Folk, or Atha’an Miere, are a seafaring people (obviously) who live on ships in the Aryth Ocean, making landfall in the Westlands very rarely except to trade their priceless porcelain and goods from the land of Shara in the east. Their elected leader is named the Mistress of the Ships, and rules alongside a Master of the Blades, often her consort. When the story opens, the Mistress of the Ships is Nesta din Reas Two Moons.Among the Atha’an Miere, most women who can channel do not go to the White Tower to become Aes Sedai but instead act as “Windfinders”, using secret weaves of Air and Water to calm the oceans, alter the weather, and turn the winds in their favor, propelling their peoples’ ships further and faster around the world. As a rule, the Atha’an Miere do not allow Aes Sedai passage on their ships for fear that their Windfinders will be found out. However, in The Shadow Rising, Nynaeve and Elayne negotiate with the Sailmistress Coine din Jubai Wild Winds to take them and Thom to Tanchico onboard the raker Wavedancer, and the two women cross paths with the Atha’an Miere regularly after that.
4: Elaida’s Coup
I told you we would circle back to Elaida eventually. Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan of the Red Ajah is one of The Wheel Of Time‘s great antagonists, more enduring and more efficient – if only by sheer accident – than any of the Forsaken in the books, dividing the White Tower against itself at a time when it needs to be whole, and driving a wedge between Rand and the Aes Sedai. In The Shadow Rising, Elaida discovers evidence of collusion between Siuan Sanche and Moiraine Damodred to secretly assist the Dragon Reborn, something so antithetical to the Red Ajah’s entire philosophy that Elaida has no choice, as she sees it, but to orchestrate a coup against Siuan and ascend to the Amyrlin Seat herself, in a last-ditch effort to save the world. The fact that she genuinely believes she’s doing the right thing makes her all the more dangerous, because there’s no reasoning with her. Of course, in season two, Siuan was uncharacteristically written to share many of Elaida’s opinions on how to handle the Dragon (seemingly, at least), and the Aes Sedai all saw her try to shield and cage Rand before he escaped with Moiraine, so Elaida will have a much harder time convincing them that Moiraine and the Amyrlin are working together, but that will hopefully only make Elaida even more compelling, if she’s positioned as the underdog. The Wheel Of Time is lucky to have Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (unofficially) onboard to play this phenomenal character in season three and beyond.
3: Black Ajah
One of the major plot twists in season two involved the so-called “Black Ajah”, a faction of Aes Sedai that, far from being loyal to the Amyrlin Seat, are secretly sworn to the Dark One and have strived for decades to destabilize the institution of the White Tower from within. I will say that the early books in the series did more with the Black Ajah than the first two seasons of The Wheel Of Time, and I would have liked to see some reference to how they carried out the assassinations of various Aes Sedai over the years, including the Amyrlin Seat before Siuan and every other searcher for the Dragon Reborn besides Siuan and Moiraine (not for lack of trying). But the Black Ajah will have a more prominent role in season three, as antagonists to Nynaeve and Elayne in the coastal city of Tanchico. In the books, Liandrin brings her Darkfriends there to steal a version of the Seanchan a’dam designed specifically for male channelers, hoping to use it on Rand. Seeing as that particular storyline kinda goes nowhere in the books, it’s entirely possible the circumstances will change, but either way Rafe Judkins has assured us that from the get-go, we’ll know what Liandrin and the Black Ajah have been up to.
Tel’aran’rhiod, the “Unseen World” or “World of Dreams” as it is more often called, refers to the infinitely vast, intangible yet treacherous labyrinthine dimension accessible through dreams, which encompasses and connects all of the alternate realities brought into being over the course of the Wheel of Time’s turnings. It was the setting of some particularly memorable sequences in season two: Nynaeve stepping through a stone archway ter’angreal into a version of the world where she left the White Tower to be with Lan; Ishamael and Lanfear casually infiltrating each other’s dreams, and exerting their mastery over Tel’aran’rhiod to manipulate the environment around them; Lanfear taking Rand to see Egwene while they were both asleep, with hundreds of miles between them. It’s a place where the protagonists are immediately out of their depths and at a disadvantage compared to their centuries-old opponents, but that’s all about to change in season three. Egwene and Perrin are both “Dreamwalkers”, and equally powerful there as any of the Forsaken, though their two paths could not be more different. Egwene is on her way to the Waste to learn from the Aiel Wise Ones, while Perrin will delve into the Wolf-dream, where wolves dead and alive congregate (whether the wolves will talk in Tel’aran’rhiod, as they do in the books, remains to be seen). However, it’s Nynaeve, not a Dreamwalker, who will soon face the greatest opponent lurking in the World of Dreams.
Coming in at number one on my list is Moghedien, which might be confusing to some as she is widely regarded to be the weakest of the Forsaken in physical strength. But this small and slight villain, played by Laia Costa in the final minutes of season two, takes her name from a species of inconspicuous spider with a fatal bite discovered during the Age of Legends, and uses similar tactics, silently stalking her prey from the safety of Tel’aran’rhiod, waiting until their guard is down before delivering one decisive strike and retreating back into the shadows whence she came. In the World of Dreams she is more experienced than any of the Forsaken, even Lanfear, and to challenge her there, on her territory, is nothing short of suicidal. Her sprawling webs ensnare even the wariest Dreamwalkers, and once you’re tangled up in them, there’s no escape.
Well, that’s my totally subjective ranking of the top ten things I’m most excited to see from The Wheel Of Time season three. What’s yours? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!