After a first season heavily focused on world-building, it feels like Amazon’s The Wheel of Time is finally hitting its stride with Season 2, weaving some fascinating new plotlines and leaning heavily on some stellar performances from its cast. It’s clear there’s much more emotion going into each of these character’s arcs, and four episodes in, it’s already paying off.
Season 2 picks up shortly after the events of the last one, as the group of young heroes from Two Rivers are now scattered across the realm. There’s a short recap for anyone who may not remember the flurry of events from Season 1, but The Wheel of Time is based on the books of the same name, set in a high fantasy world where a magic called The One Power runs through everything.
Men that touch The One Power go mad from its influence, but women can access it at will, leading to a largely matriarchal society where a group called Aes Sedai command the scales of power.
At the end of the first season, we learned about Rand’s identity as the prophesied “Dragon Reborn,” a legendary figure that will forever change the balance of Light and Shadow. Season 2 leans heavily into the decades of lore established through the expansive book series, and it’s better for it.
The Wheel of Time is starting to feel markedly different from the glut of other fantasy properties out there because of its interesting and different power dynamics, but also because of how Season 2 focuses on making each main character reckon with their newfound fate in different ways.
There are multiple plotlines running through the season that the show bounces between: Nynaeve (Zoe Robins) and Egweene (Madeleine Madden) learning to become Aes Sedai at the White Tower, Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) on the hunt for The Horn of Valere to help fight off the darkness, Rand (Josha Stradowski) taking on a secret identity and grappling with his new power, Matt (Doal Finn) grappling with his betrayal of the group, and Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) conducting some cloak and dagger style espionage.
That may sound like a lot to keep track of, but this season already has impeccable pacing that gives everyone their chance to shine. On top of that, because these characters are separated, the individual performances have more room to breathe with the help of supporting characters.
“The Wheel of Time is starting to feel drastically different from other fantasy properties aesthetically, which is fitting for Jordan’s book series that it’s based off.”
Through these explorations of character, we also start to see the cracks forming in The Wheel of Time’s world and society. Through Nynaeve we see the hypocrisy of The White Tower and more of the political war between Aes Sedai factions, through Perrin we see the introduction of some harrowing new villains and wider cultures, and through Rand we start to see more of the separation between rich and poor, and the expectations thrust on individuals.
Clearly, there’s still a lot happening in The Wheel of Time, but it feels like there’s real stakes now, and with a season under the show’s belt, we have more of a reason to care about these characters. That’s exactly why it’s interesting to see them start to break out of their trope-y moulds and develop more flavour.
For example, Rand isn’t just the bright-eyed hero anymore, but someone with a massive weight on his shoulders who tends to make the wrong decisions even if he means well. Meanwhile, Nynaeve emerges as a real star of this season because of the immense struggles she goes through and the determination that blossoms from it, backed up by a truly stellar performance from Zoe Robins.Matt’s new actor, Donal Finn, also emerges as a highlight, bringing an interesting kind of sincerity and humbleness to the character, even while his cockiness is still present.
“While we were only given access to the season’s first half, it’s off to a roaring start.”
Interestingly, there’s also a growing sense of dread that seems to be slowly building up across this second season. Dark forces are starting to emerge and truly show their power, and their influence is clearly seen on each of the main cast. Perrin’s arc gives us the first glimpse of the Seanchan, an invading militaristic empire that has an unforgettable introduction scene.
The Dark One (Fares Fares) also has plenty of screen time, and the character is seemingly becoming more and more cryptic and unhinged. Season 2 seems to be developing a cast of villains alongside our cast of heroes and doing a good job of it. This season has a certain kind of angst or edginess, but it’s seemingly working.
At the same time, The Wheel of Time is starting to feel drastically different from other fantasy properties aesthetically, which is fitting for Jordan’s book series that it’s based off. Season 2 does a spectacular job with making sets and costumes feel culturally distinct and rich, blending together an array of styles that make for an eclectic feeling.
While we were only given access to the season’s first half (four episodes), it’s off to a roaring start. The Wheel of Time is making good on all that world-building and slow development from the first season and creating a compelling fantasy epic that puts its characters first and foremost. If the second half of the season, and the eventual season 3, can continue the trend, The Wheel of Time might turn into something truly special.