YouTuber Nerd Cookies recently uploaded a video where she takes Prime Video and showrunner Rafe Judkins’ The Wheel of Time series to task for not following Robert Jordan’s novels.
In her video titled, “Why I Gave Up On Amazon’s Wheel of Time Series,” Nerd Cookies begins by stating, “While I’m not as familiar with the Wheel of Time as I am with other fictional properties, I admit I was intrigued at the prospect of getting to see Amazon’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s fantasy world on screen.”
“After hearing the initial news regarding the development of the series I began to dive into the lore of the books in order to familiarize myself with the concepts and characters I might expect to see in the show,” the YouTuber added.
She then stated, “I tried to go in with as few expectations as possible, aside from a desire to see a mostly faithful adaptation which fell within the definitive boundaries or lore that Jordan built for this fantasy world.”
However, even these standard expectations for a live-action adaptation were not meant. She explains, “When I finally got around to watching it, I tried to keep an open mind. But that was nearly impossible as I heard the opening lines of the first episode.”
“While I’m by no means a Wheel of Time lore expert, I knew that Robert Jordan established that the central figure of the series called the Dragon Reborn was widely known to be a man. However, the writes of the series changed this to leave it open for a person of either sex,” Nerd Cookies elaborated.
In fact, The Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins explained this decision in an Ask Me Anything on the Television subreddit on Reddit.
He said, “The change we made was not just with the fact that a woman could be the Dragon, the core change we made was that people are NOT 100% convinced that these 3000 year old prophecies are 100% accurate.”
“I think it feels a little bit more true to the world, and you see the characters questioning the prophecies of the Dragon and the details of it much more in the show than in the books (although there are some scenes in the books that show this as well, we’ve just expanded on that),” Judkins continued.
He concluded, “It seems quite trusting for the Aes Sedai, who trust no one, and especially Moiraine, who trusts less than no one, to believe with 100% certainty ANYTHING that was written thousands of years ago.”
While Judkins would attempt to explain this clear deviation from Jordan’s books, it would give Nerd Cookies a clear indication of just how far Judkins would impose his own vision on Jordan’s books.
She asserted, “This turned out to be a clear indicator of what was to come. If they were willing to change something as fundamental as the known sex of the Dragon Reborn, what else would they change?”
“As I watched the rest of the first episode it became clear that the producers of the series were using the books as more of a rough draft as opposed to a definitive source of knowledge,” she remarked.
Nerd Cookies then bluntly stated, “It’s been my observation that the best adaptations of fantasy properties have been produced with a supreme reverence of the source material and it’s apparent that this isn’t one of those cases.”
The YouTuber then opined, “It’s my opinion that the production team involved with Amazon’s Wheel of Time simply wanted to use the author’s work as an avenue to make their own version of Game of Thrones.”
She went on to provide an example, “One major change that I felt demonstrated this was the injection of mature content into the series. In the books, the main characters act far more innocent when it comes to romantic intimacy. However, the TV series dives headlong into depictions of the sexual lives of these same characters.
“While I’ve seen plenty of complaints about scenes that were not included in the show, I find that the content that WAS chosen to depicted on screen was a far more egregious cause for complaint,” she declared.
She goes on to point out the addition of Perrin’s wife and her death as another example, “At first, I thought the addition of Perrin’s wife was odd. However, when I was made to realize the purpose of introducing this character that was never in the books, I was disgusted.
“Many have accused this change as a representation of the misogynist trope called fridging, wherein a male character’s love interest is killed off for the sole purpose of driving his development,” she details.
Nerd Cookies goes on to state, “I must say; however, that I was much less offended by the addition of this trope as I was by the manner of her death. In what was already proving to be an overly long, drawn out action sequence, the gory death of Perrin’s wife was so over the top and revolting that it left me numb for the rest of the episode.”
Interestingly enough Judkins claimed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that he intended to have the show targeted toward an adult audience noting his belief that The Eye of the World is less aimed at adult audiences than the rest of the books in the series.
He said, “I think the whole series of Wheel of Time books is much more aimed at adult audiences than the first Wheel of Time book is. Eye of the World shares way more with Lord of the Rings than it does with Game of Thrones. It’s really very much that high fantasy, adventure storytelling.”
Judkins would also deny that he was chasing Game of Thrones despite the killing of Perrin’s wife purely for shock factor, the burning of an Aes Sedai at the stake by a Whitecloak, and the inclusion of the sex scenes, “So for me, I wanted to infuse the first season of the show with a lot of the things that people love about the Wheel of Time series as a whole. But none of those choices were made to chase Game of Thrones. I think any time people tried to put that in the show — or I tried to put that in the show — it just always felt wrong.”
As for the introduction and killing of Laila Aybara, Judkins told The Hollywood Reporter, “You can’t really afford, in a television show, for one or two of your seven leads to not be characters that really pop until season four, right? (Laughs.) So one of our big tasks was to make sure that each of these five kids from the Two Rivers, you could understand the kernel of the story that they’ll face in season one — and through the whole series — in that first episode.”
Specifically addressing Perrin he said, “For this character that’s extremely internal — you really never get to hear his internal monologue that out loud in the book — we give him a moment at the beginning of the series where you understand why he, across the course of the series, has such a struggle with violence.”
Nerd Cookies would take the fundamental changes to characters like Perrin to task saying, “The fact that fundamental changes to character’s backstories were made in this adaptation without any other reason but to add needless sex and gratuitous violence is incredibly disrespectful to the author’s work and demeaning to the fans as well.”
This opinion would also be held by novelist Brandon Sanderson, who finished The Wheel of Time series based on Jordan’s extensive notes following his death.
“Mostly Perrin. Objectionable might not be the right term here,” he wrote. “Also, the gore has been a little over the top in places. Not to give spoilers, but there are several later scenes that made my wife pretty nauseous.”
Sanderson elaborated, “I wouldn’t, for example, show the show to any of my kids–and I let them play Doom Eternal. (Granted, that gore is cartoony and over the top on purpose.)”
Nerd Cookies would then take the show’s writing to task, “Audiences can generally sense when writers are being lazy and the whole first episode felt like a plodding attempt to adapt this material in a way that resembled the dark and mature tones found in Game of Thrones.
“And therein lies the problem. You can’t shoehorn other fantasy properties into the mold of Game of Thrones and expect it to be a success. Wheel of Time is a well established series in its own right, and it’s unique enough to earn its own look and feel,” she continued.
“It seems that the showrunners and creators had no real sense of how to approach this adaptation in particular when it comes to dialogue and establishing the world building elements,” Nerd Cookies detailed.
“They somehow managed to turn this intricate high fantasy series into a dull show with garbled tones,” she elaborated. “While I admit some of the scenery throughout the show was truly beautiful, the gore, and over the top violence presented on screen really left me soured on the whole experience.”
“But more importantly, by the end of the first episode I found myself not caring about any of the characters, with no inclination to watch the continuation of their stories,” she asserted.
Later in her video Nerd Cookies said, “I feel like one of the critical failures with Amazon’s Wheel of Time is the idea on the part of the showrunners that it’s acceptable to play fast and loose with a story that is so well known.”
“And with all the changes that have been made in the first few episodes, it seems that they’ve shaken off and lost quite a few viewers and fans,” she added.
The YouTuber also notes, “And with a series that has strayed so far from the source material, the damage done appears to be pretty much unsalvageable.”
“As is the case with all book to screen adaptations, I’m happy to know that the true beauty of Robert Jordan’s unique universe will forever live on in his writings,” she concluded.
What do you make of Nerd Cookies’ takedown of Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time?