Brandon Sanderson Heavily Criticizes ‘Wheel Of Time’ Season 2 Finale: “What Are The Arcs? What Is The Theme?”
Brandon Sanderson, who finished the Wheel of Time books for Robert Jordan following his death and serves as a consultant on the Prime Video show, provided some harsh criticism for the show after watching the Season 2 finale.
Sanderson appeared on The Dusty Wheel livestream to watch the Season 2 finale live. Before watching the finale, Sanderson admitted, “This time I read episode 8 and was able to give feedback on it. I didn’t get to do that last time because seven and eight had to film. They did it very rushed and they didn’t send them to me.”
As the live watch and react began he also asserted, “I should mention that I haven’t seen the whole season. … I’ve read all the scripts. I have not seen the whole season. This is the first chance I’ve been able to sit down and watch.”
As their viewing of the finale continued, Sanderson interjected at one point, “The show is doing a lot of things fantastically, and it’s really good at scenes. But one of the things I keep arguing for is what are the arcs? What is the theme? And arc and theme seems to fall by the wayside for cool scenes quite a bit and that worries me particularly going into book four, where it’s the strongest Wheel of Time book and that’s partially because of the themes of self-sacrifice and things like this.”
After watching the entire episode and commenting along the way, Sanderson would share more of his thoughts, “What I remember writing to them is like, ‘If you can earn this, this will be…’ A lot of the problems with this episode are actually previous episodes in that the scenes are all good, a lot of them are good, but what you’re having happen doesn’t feel built to character-wise for a lot of the characters for me. And that might be me too clouded by the books. It’s totally possible.”
As he continued to provide commentary, Sanderson said, “Season 2, like the scripts even, and I haven’t seen all of season 2, just they’re doing a really good job with a lot of things. And it’s a step up from Season 1. And this ending is a step up from Season 1.”
Circling back to his criticism of the show not earning its moments, Sanderson provided an example, “I know people are going to dislike this. Instead of that half hour, we get Moiraine and her family drama. … It’s their strongest actor doing good drama pieces, right? But the problem is the cost is this because you have these scenes then you can’t do this justice. And so either the whole show should lean into the Moiraine drama stuff or all it’s doing is preventing you from having the time to set up Perrin’s arc and even Egwene’s arc.”
“Like Egwene has the strongest arc,” Sanderson continued. “Egwene does so much in this season and nobody else get to do anything. Rand gets to stab Elan, but what does that mean? Like earlier he wasn’t even using the sword. What does the sword mean to him? He doesn’t draw it to fight the blade master, but he draws it fight The Forsaken, why?”
Sanderson later elaborated on his criticism, “I still think my complaints stand even if you’re not a book reader. In that it’s spectacle whereas I want media, where characters arcs mesh with thematic arcs mesh with physical arcs. And when Rand stabs Elan, it’s not just a cool scene. It is a cool scene that is the culmination of his character arc and of the themes that the media has presented.”
He then offered Star Wars as an example, “I want an ending like when Luke blows up the Death Star. The theme being trust in the Force and those who you love will be with you regardless. And, yes, it’s a very simple theme for Star Wars, but they hit it. They show he can’t do it then later on he can. He trusts in Obi-Wan and it’s kind of trusting in your forefathers and things like this. And I want moments like that. And I want to be able to look at when this happens and say that’s what this means.”
Sanderson then heavily criticized the episode, “If Perrin hadn’t been there and Mat hadn’t been there, how would it be different? If Elayne hadn’t been there how would it be different? They needed Egwene. … But if Mat hadn’t been there he doesn’t get wounded. If Mat hadn’t been there then they don’t need Elayne to heal him. Nynaeve didn’t do anything. Perrin has a shield. What does that even do? So really what’s happening there is that Rand needs Egwene to do all the work and stab a guy.”
“Rand didn’t need to be there,” Sanderson posited. “Egwene just needed a sword.”
Despite his tough criticism, Sanderson would add, “Let me say, these things are really hard. What else is really hard? Is finding good casting and directing it well. And they cast and directed really well. And I don’t want to downplay how good the stuff that’s good in this episode was good.”
“But it still bothers me that so many of the characters didn’t have to be there. And so much of it doesn’t seem to mean anything,” he added.
Still later, Sanderson asserted, “I want to love it, and I like it. The issue is I think people are going to enjoy watching this, but I don’t think they’ll come back to it. Because what brings you back are those moments where things culminate. You don’t come back for cool scenes because you can get cool scenes over and over again.”
“For me, I love a good character arc and if I know a character’s arc ending is weak I can’t enjoy the middle if that makes sense. So maybe that’s coloring my perspective. And I know this is a me thing that is not necessarily as tied to a lot of viewers’ enjoyment of narrative. I need set up and payoff for me to really, truly love something. And if I don’t get that then it’s going to be really hard for me,” he shared.
Sanderson also expressed that he’s worried the show will quickly begin contradicting their new rules they have created. “I’ve warned them about that and they’re already doing it with channeling. There’s things they’ll say one time it has to be a certain way and then another time it isn’t. I warned them about that with teleportation, ‘You can do this because the Forsaken would totally be able to do this, once you do it I’m going to start asking.’ And in the scripts I pointed out three places where I’m like, ‘If they could teleport. If Elan can teleport why isn’t he behind the shield the moment she throws it up?'”
He added, “The moment you start breaking Jim’s metaphysics then suddenly you have some big problem at every step of the way. And this is their own internal logic. Why didn’t he teleport behind her?”
What do you make of Sanderson’s criticism of the season finale and the show at large?