The Pitch: Can’t wait for that other big-budget film adaptation of a classic fantasy series to arrive on Amazon? Well, 10 months before The Lord of the Rings‘ scheduled debut, here comes The Wheel of Time. Drawn from the novel series created by Robert Jordan, the series aims to deliver both human stakes and wild fantasy action, with a largely unknown young cast and a lot of world-building to get through.
The Hero With Five Faces: If you’ve spent any time studying the concept of the monomyth, as identified by scholar Joseph Campbell, then The Wheel of Time begins in a place you’ll find eerily comfortable. The series kicks off when the magically gifted Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) arrives in the small town of Emond’s Field, in search of a prophesied figure who may one day become the reincarnation of the Dragon, a person capable of wielding immense power that might either save the world or destroy it. Once in Emond’s Field, she identifies five of the local youths who might be said Dragon Reborn, and brings them from their homes on the path to a new adventure.
So, that’s five different potential Luke Skywalkers who Obi-Wan Kenobi plans to teach about the Force before the returning darkness curses them all, and one of the show’s strongest qualities is the level of development each gets as the series moves forwad. While the characters get split up sooner than you might expect on their journey, there’s at least something unique to each of them to make them intriguing characters, with Egwene (Madeleine Madden) standing out initially as the most engaging.
The rest of the ensemble (including Josha Stradowski, Marcus Rutherford, Zoë Robins, and Barney Harris) also have plenty of potential, but to be clear, the very best thing that Wheel of Time has going for it is Rosamund Pike. That’s meant not to put down the rest of the series, but to celebrate her role in it. For one thing, the sheer fact of her star power makes this a show to take seriously, but in addition it’s hard to imagine an actor better able to master all of the complicated aspects of the role: the gravitas along with the physical demands seem to come to her as natural as breathing.