The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and finished by Brandon Sanderson) has been a high fantasy staple for years, and in 2017 Amazon Prime announced the start of production on a multi-million dollar, multi-year and multi-country streaming live action adaptation. Amazon seems to have high hopes for the fourteen-book series, reportedly spending an average of $10 million an episode—and from what I have seen it is worth it.
I was given a chance to preview the first three episodes for this article, and while I am not a costume designer for this series, I have worked as a costume instructor for years. This gives me a unique perspective when it comes to theatrical adaptations of the written works, especially from a costuming standpoint, and the costume choices and execution will be the focus of this article.
The series The Wheel of Time is full of descriptive worldbuilding, encompassing fourteen distinct nations (not to mention cultural groups), which all get visited at least once by at least one of the seven main characters. Breaking this down will be an intimidating task. So let’s look at some of the ideas designers think about when turning books into visual media.
Let’s take the first two episodes. The story starts in the backwoods of nowhere, (eventually we will get an interesting contrast between our humble main five and the richer denizens of this world, but later). Who are the characters at their core, and what are they trying to accomplish? In this article we will look at three distinct groups. Our main five characters, just trying to live in a small town, a powerful visitor and a group that wants you to think they are something they are not.
The characters from Emond’s Field (specifically Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene and Nyneave) are just living their lives where things like fashion might be YEARS behind other areas of the world. People in Emond’s Field make things from scratch, they will alter them, redye them, re-style them, until the garment falls apart (we see this in our own history with clothing from “the peasant and working class”). Effectively, who cares if it exactly matches something you already own, it took someone three days to make it after working all day on something else.
Garments might be gifts or have more sentimental or utilitarian appeal than wearing clothes. Emond’s Field is known for their wool production, so any garment you see made from wool or that is woven is more valuable outside the town’s home region of Two Rivers. So clothes for new garments in a place like Emond’s Field is harder to come by. This doesn’t mean they are not interesting—as a costumer you can put in little easter eggs like the color of Nynaeve’s (Zoë Robins) coat for example juxtaposed to the color of the inside lining (foreshadowing future important aspects of her character), or Rand’s (Josha Stradowski) coat, the fact that Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) is the only one actually wearing fur (also foreshadowing) but that is for another article.
On the opposite side of the spectrum we have Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) who is trying not to make a stir when she first appears in Emond’s Field. Not only does everyone know everyone in a town this small but she visually doesn’t fit, even her protector Lan (Daniel Henney) doesn’t (though he fits better). First, she is openly wearing pants, and the fabric doesn’t have any kind of pattern, even the fact that her garments don’t tie or button make her stand out. Her clothes might be made of wool but the clothes themselves are much finer than the townspeople. Her overall silhouette is tall, narrow and streamlined. From a costumer’s perspective, Moiraine needs to be utilitarian — she is traveling a long way through inhospitable terrain, trying not to draw attention to herself but she was raised in comfort (to say the least). From what I’ve seen, she’s sticking out like a sore thumb. Her colors are too rich, her clothes fit well, her silhouette is too sophisticated, someone born to nobility in a city they’ve never seen.
An interesting example of costume theory is the look of The Children of Light, which plays a much more subtle and psychological game than with Moiraine. Commonly referred to as the White Cloaks, these are the group dressed completely in white. I think the costume designers are showing the White Cloaks as THEY WISH to be seen, not how the world actually sees them. They are religious zealots first and foremost, and they need to be warriors out of necessity because they see The Shadow is everywhere. But, they don’t have armor. No one would attack them, and they believe, so deeply, that the Light will protect them, that they don’t need it. They want to give off an authoritative air, but not a threatening one. If they scare the people they are “protecting,” it will make their job harder. This non-threatening appearance is in stark contrast with their actions when we, the audience, are introduced to them, which are brutal and reprehensible.
While I know that this isn’t how they are described in the book, it should end up being more nuanced and more realistic than a heavily armed group of soldiers stomping around the woods for no reason. This way the designer is letting the actions speak and leaning in on the jarring contrast.
This article only covered costumes, but I hope it gives you some sense of the wheels turning behind the scenes. While there are fans of the books who have loved them for years, who may be hesitant that the story will be done well, we will need more new fans to love them if we are going to see the Last Battle come to life. On that front, I can tell you that those who cherished the books will love this adaptation, if they go in with an open mind and remember that no one can make everyone happy all the time. Those who have never read the books should be able to follow with no trouble. For those who like to binge watch and rewatch, there is more to discover with each viewing. I was driving after watching the first three episodes and found myself slapping the steering wheel yelling “Blood and bloody ashes, how did I miss that! That was amazing!” Overall, I’m very excited for the direction that this show is taking, and look forward to breaking down even more costume theory as the show progresses through the story!
Welcome to the Penultimate Mostly-Kind-Of-But-Not-Really Accurate WoT Show Meme Recap!
(Warning: Spoilers for Episodes 1-7)
Episode 7, titled “The Dark Along The Ways,” begins with a pregnant Aiel woman just trying to give birth in peace. But for some reason, a bunch of dudes in armor really don’t want her to. She is amazing, though, and proves Edna Mode correct in her assessment on capes. She beats the soldiers soundly so she can relax and give birth in the nice comfortable snow.
Back in the show’s present, our protagonists, with the help of nice Ogier Loial and some keen eyes from Perrin, navigate through the ways.
They find a navigation stone, but Loial, being as slow as an Ent, needs time to read it. He doesn’t get it, though, as Trollocs show up. Someone accidentally channels and Machin Shin comes running, so they sprint for the closest Way Gate. They make it, but Machin Shin overcomes them and reveals uncomfortable truths (lies?) to them.
They stumble out of the Way Gate at Fal Dara. But most of the crew has never left the Two Rivers and demand an explanation.
They enter the city and seek out its head to deliver a message, but Lord Agelmar does not want to hear it.
He apologizes and makes a generous offer.
Their business with Lord Agelmar complete, Moiraine takes the Two Rivers folks to a bar. But along the way, Perrin notices something suspicious…
In the bar, Moiraine meets with Min, a seer who glimpses imagery from the pattern around people. She tells the Aes Sedai what she sees around the Two Rivers folk.
Later that night, everyone has a big fight because the story gods demanded it and they split up. Nynaeve follows Lan to a group in the city he secretly knows.
Most everyone else attempts to get some rest, but Nynaeve stays with Lan and asks the important questions.
She’s not the only one who needs answers, though. Rand goes to Min and finds out that, yes, he does continue to look like a certain Jedi.
But apart from that, she also confirms he is the Dragon Reborn. With the assumption that all but the Dragon will die when he faces the Dark One, he sneaks off with Moiraine and the episode ends with them heading into the Blight.
Episode seven was my favorite yet! Or maybe it’s right behind four… They’re both pretty close. The opening with Tigraine was FANTASITC, and the rest of the episode really proved how the show could adapt the books without being exactly like it. The location was spot on and the character arcs were the right ones for our characters, just brought forward from later in the books, and the world building was great. It was great seeing Min and her visions and the Blight, though different than how I imagined, just looked right. I can’t wait to see what the finale brings!
Now it’s time for your free meme template! This one comes from the current episode, and it involves Moiraine’s warning about the Eye of the World.
Now let’s see what you’ve got! What weird or silly metaphors does Rand have?
Until next week, remember: the Wheel memes as the Wheel wills.
(Though, with so many episodes dropped at once, this first recap will be mostly discussing the general adaptation so far.)
(Warning: Spoilers for Episodes 1-3)
I was first introduced to Wheel of Time in college. It was around the year 2000, and I had a couple of friends who had been reading since high school who loved to talk about the series and theorize about the next books. I didn’t read it immediately, but I enjoyed hearing about the Forsaken and when they’d finally see Mat again. A few years later, I finally gave into their incessant pleas to join them and began reading.
Of course, I loved it. But also, as a young movie buff, I immediately saw the potential for transition to the screen and spent endless hours both in my head and discussing with my friends exactly how “I” would do each scene and concept. It was all extremely hypothetical though, as none of us ever truly thought we’d see it realized for film or television.
Twenty years later, it finally happened.
How did it compare to what idealistic young me envisioned? Well, we’ve only had three episodes so far, but even with so little there is quite a lot to unpack.
There were a lot of elements that were dead accurate to the books.
The Trollocs were spot on. And even the Myrdrall design grew on me since the trailers. Seeing Bel Tine was just how I envisioned it, and the battle that came near its end was breathtaking. Shadar Logoth was even better than I could have imagined. The Tinkers were somehow both very colorful, but also dusty and travelworn. And unlike another big budget high fantasy property, the songs were not cut.
The casting was all perfection. The standouts for me being Rosamund Pike as Moiraine and Madeleine Madden as Egwene. They both just felt like their characters even before I heard a word from them. But everyone else quickly became their respective roles for me and none of them were at all jarring.
There were some unexpected surprises.
There were definitely some changes that I did not expect. One, involving Perrin, reminded me a bit of things mentioned in a “fake spoiler” thread we created on the JordanCon Facebook group where we threw out impossible situations for a laugh. But honestly, after sitting on it, I think it not only works, but helps fix some issues I have with him in later books. Apart from that, most of the changes do make sense in context, even if some scenes were cut or certain things happened out of order.
Though, I do hope we get some “blood and ashes” in the future.
Overall, at it’s heart, this was The Wheel of Time.
Sitting and watching these first three hours was like meeting back up with old friends with new stories to tell. It was amazing to see them walk and talk and feel. To experience channeling in a new way. To hear the countless words that were mostly in my head for so long said out loud – AND CORRECTLY! It’s both completely different than what I imagined while at the same time being exactly what I imagined. The Trollocs were Trollocs. The Whitecloaks were very much Whitecloaks. And the Aes Sedai were Aes Sedai all the way down to the Three Oaths.
Overall, I can’t say all my anxieties have been quelled, and there are certainly some things from the books that I miss, but I can’t wait for episode four and hope this show continues on until the end.
Since this Meme Recap is, as Ben Wyatt would say, “about the memes,” I’m going to give you a free meme template. But first, I’m going to make use of it myself to point out an outstanding performance in these episodes. And that is none other than Johann Myers as Padan Fain.
He’s so good at seeming just the right amount of off that you just know he’s evil enough to prefer the Trollocs from the cover of The Great Hunt to the ones in the show. I think we’re going to see some spectacular performances from him, and I can’t wait until I hear that creepy whistling again.
Until next week, here’s the template. And remember: the Wheel memes as the Wheel wills.
Close up of Nynaeve and Egwene. Nynaeve whispers “Be strong” to Egwene. Zoom out to see Nynaeve pushing Egwene off a cliff into a river.
Cut to black.
0:05 – 0:14
Scenic view over a river. The Amazon Prime Video logo is superimposed.
Transition to a shot of the Village of Emond’s Field, focusing on The Winespring Inn. Mountains are in the background, and there are people bustling about the village. Children seem to be playing around a large tree at the center of the village. Moiraine’s voiceover starts.
Moiraine VO: “The Wheel of Time Turns, and ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend.”
Cut to inside The Winespring Inn. Rand, Mat, and Perrin are sitting at a table, talking and laughing with each other. Perrin takes a sip of his drink while Mat makes him and Rand laugh.
Cut to Egwene walking into The Winespring Inn with a smile on her face. She’s wearing a simple dress, belted at the waist.
Cut to Rand with a wide smile.
Cut to Nynaeve with a slightly reserved smile.
Cut to black.
0:15 – 0:16
A wide shot of six individuals on horseback riding along a river. We can’t quite tell who they are, but one is on a white horse. There are mountains with fog in the distance (possibly The Mountains of Mist).
0:17 – 0:18
A man kisses a golden ring, tears streaming down his face. Flames are in the foreground. This is Stepin, Karene’s warder.
0:19 – 0:22
Egwene emerges from water, seven colors of paint surrounding her in the seven Ajah colors: red, green, brown, blue, gray, white, and yellow. As she comes out of the water, the Ajah colors stay on her face, streams of red, white, and yellow predominant. She takes a breath and opens her eyes, as if realizing something.
0:23 – 0:27
The dark streets of a city, likely Tar Valon. It seems to be either sunrise or sunset. Superimposed is “Based on the best-selling book series.”
Cut to an overview shot of the city of Tar Valon, The White Tower rising at the peak. Dragonmount is in the background, a huge mountain with a jagged peak.
0:28 – 0:32
A figure opens a door. The shot is of their wet boots.
Cut to a woman, Moiraine comes into focus and removes her hood, beginning her voiceover.
Moiraine VO: “The power inside you. All over the world, there are different names for it. But it’s one thing… One Power… and women who can touch it… we protect the world.”
0:33 – 0:36
An overhead shot of a river rushing during the day. You can see a figure in the waves.
Cut to Egwene floating on her back in the river, her eyes closed.
0:37 – 0:39
A circular room with many columns, presumably The Hall of the Tower. Three representatives from each Ajah (except Green, which has two representatives) stand from their chairs, with Leane Sharif holding the staff of the Keeper of the Chronicles. Three groups of women stand separately in the center – two groups of three and one group of two. At the center group of three is Moiraine. All of them are looking towards the largest chair: The Amyrlin Seat.
Cut to Siuan, sitting in the chair, tattoos on her chest. Her eyes open, and her stare is unreadable.
0:40 – 0:41
Moiraine is laying on a bed with her eyes closed. A woman wearing a Great Serpent Ring has her hands above her. Moiraine’s chest rises.
Zoom out to see Karane Nagashi in a green dress weaving The One Power into a wound on Moiraine’s chest.
0:42 – 0:44
A zoomed out shot of Emond’s Field on fire at night. Tendrils of The One Power stretch out in every direction, centered on Moiraine, who is standing in the middle of the Village Square.
0:45 – 0:46
Four women wearing red (presumably Red Ajah Aes Sedai) look determinedly at something in the wilderness. One of them is Liandrin.
0:47 – 0:48
Leane Sharif slams her staff down in The Hall of the Tower.
Cut to black.
0:49 – 0:54
A shot from the back. We can see Nynaeve, Alanna, and three men looking at a tent. One of the men has a shield, the other wields two axes, and the last has a bow and arrow.
Cut to Alanna channeling The One Power. The warder with a bow and arrow is behind her, looking up.
Cut to a hail of arrows in the air.
Cut to Alanna flinging her hand out, stopping the arrows as they are about to hit the group. You can see three of the women in Red from a previous shot, Alanna and her two warders, Lan in front of Nynaeve, two other women in green, and four other men.
0:54 – 0:56
Overview shot of the island of Tar Valon at sunset. You can see two bridges coming out from the island to the left. The White Tower stands high in the middle of the island. Superimposed is “THIS NOVEMBER”.
0:57 – 0:58
A scenic shot of two individuals on a rocky mountain, looking at a fully walled city in the distance (presumably Shadar Logoth).
Tam VO: “No matter what happens, all the pain we face, the heartbreak, the wheel keeps turning.”
0:58 – 1:04
Rand looks up, drawing a longbow to his cheek.
Cut to Mat picking up and examining the ruby-hilted dagger in Shadar Logoth.
Cut to Rand, Perrin, and Egwene looking at a black shadow, presumably Mashadar, overtaking a statue in Shadar Logoth.
Cut to Egwene hurriedly running up stairs onto a wall surrounding a city, frantic.
Cut to Egwene and another figure (likely Perrin) on top of the wall.
1:05 – 1:06
Mat turns around to look at something. In the background, we see a dead man hanging in a cage too small for his body.
1:06 – 1:07
A wolf barks and snarls.
Cut to Perrin, flinching back and moving away.
1:07 – 1:09
A shirtless Rand sits down next to Egwene in a room, a fire crackling in the foreground. Egwene’s knee is up to her chest, and she seems to be wearing a blanket with nothing else.
Cut to Egwene quickly looking away from Rand. Her expression is sad.
Perrin and Mat sit against a crumbling wall, looking haggard.
Tam finishes his voiceover, saying “the wheel keeps turning.” There seem to be tears in his eyes – he looks defeated.
1:12 – 1:15
An aerial view of two circles of people dancing, presumably in Emond’s Field at Bel Tine.
Quickly cut to an overhead view of two circles of bodies wrapped in white. The people standing among them are similar to those in the scene with Alanna using The One Power to deflect the arrows.
Cut to an overhead shot of The Hall of the Tower from previous shots. It is a very tall room, at least five stories high. Siuan is walking towards The Amyrlin Seat.
Lan VO: “The Dark One is coming for your friends.”
1:16 – 1:20
In a dark and misty forest, a dark figure wrapped in black sits on horseback. You can only see the outline of his mouth, which seems too large for his face.
Cut to Lan in the same forest, wearing the hadori, speaking the last of his voiceover. A sword is pointed to his throat. From the dress being worn, it seems that Nynaeve is the person holding the sword.
Cut to a band of trollocs being led by a myrddraal on horseback. The horse the myrddraal is riding has an inhuman skull attached to its chest.
Quickly cut to Mat and Rand running through the chaos of Bel Tine with Emond’s Field on fire.
Cut to a forest in daylight where four men and one woman are wielding swords, looking ready to attack someone.
Cut to Lan attacking one of the men with his sword.
1:20 – 1:21
A close-up of Logain in a cage. He looks beaten and bruised. He channels The One Power, blowing away the two women sitting in chairs with the blast that comes from him. One of the women hits a broken pillar. They seem to be in a cave—a crack of sunlight is seen through the top of the cave’s ceiling…
1:22 – 1:23
Nynaeve, in the same foggy forest, braces herself against a tree. She is wearing a simple green dress with tufts of fabric coming out at the seams. She looks shocked. You can see her breath as she exhales. There is a figure behind her, kneeling on the forest floor.
Siaun VO: “The Last Battle is coming. The only thing that matters is what you do. Whatever happens now, there’s no turning back.”
1:24 – 1:32
Moiraine leaves The Hall of the Tower. The three Brown Ajah Aes Sedai behind her are looking away from her. There are women outside wearing green, white, and red that turn to look at her when she leaves.
Quickly cut to Siuan, saying “The Last Battle is coming.” We cannot see who she is speaking to, but they are wearing a gold earring similar to the one Nynaeve is wearing in her other scenes in the trailer.
Cut to trollocs out of focus in the distance, an orange haze around them.
Cut to Moiraine riding Aldeib through the forest in daylight.
Cut to Lan, leaning over something (or someone) just out of frame. He looks up towards something, coming more alert.
Cut to a rush of people—not soldiers—running across a river wielding weapons.
Cut to Nynaeve protecting Egwene. Nynaeve pulls a dagger from her waist.
Cut to a man leaping in the air with two axes towards a shielded figure on the ground. A figure in the background maintaining the shield. They seem to be in the same cave that Logain was in with the two women in an earlier scene.
Cut to Lan attacking three trollocs. Weaves of The One Power are visible around the trollocs as he attacks them.
Cut to black.
1:33 – 1:36
Four figures ride up to a structure we now know is a waygate. One of them seems to be Rand with a longbow, and another is Nynaeve, her braid visible. Moiraine and possibly Lan are waiting at the Waygate.
1:37 – 1:46
A dark figure walks into a village (presumably Emond’s Field). Rain is pouring.
Quickly cut to a hooded figure without eyes screaming, rows and rows of pointed teeth visible.
Quickly cut to trollocs running in a burning village.
Quickly cut to Lan turning, concern in his eyes, a burning village in the background. A white glow seems to be in front of him, illuminating his face; the light is different than that of the burning village.
Cut to Moiraine, her arms at her sides, turning as she weaves The One Power with the village of Emond’s Field on fire behind her. Lan rolls behind her, sword in hand, killing a trolloc that was about to attack her.
Cut to an overhead shot of all the strands of The One Power coming in on her. Lan is off to the side, a trolloc dead at his feet. There are other bodies surrounding Moiraine, both trolloc and human.
Cut to Moiraine, her eyes closed, the One Power around her, as seen in the short teaser clip introducing her. Her eyes open and a flash of lightning comes from the sky into the village, blasting a trolloc.
1:47 – 1:56
Metallic scales spin in a circle, revealing The Wheel of Time series logo. Superimposed on the top is “Amazon Original Series”. Below is a date: “November 19”.
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