February 18, 2015

The Wheel of Time is Better Than Game of Thrones and How I feel about the Winter Dragon Pilot

Published in 1990, The Eye of the World promised a venture into Fantasy of epic proportions, but it's possible no one could have predicted The Wheel of Time series would be a huge story that took two decades, two authors, and fourteen volumes of over four million words. Author Robert Jordan died while working on the twelfth book, which he expected to be the last, but the series was completed by Brandon Sanderson in three more books.

The fourteenth and final volume, A Memory of Light, was completed January 2013, a dazzling conclusion that was applauded for the most part by readers who never thought they would find themselves wanting any more of The Wheel of Time. But there have always been rumors of the possibility of an adaptation, and with the widespread success of Game of Thrones as a TV show, Wheel of Time fans have been waiting and wishing to see the books brought to either the big screen or the little screen.

On Feb 9, despite the hoards of fans with an ear open for any of the first whispers of a TV series, a pilot called Winter Dragon was aired without anyone, not even Robert Jordan's widow Harriet, expecting a thing.

Starring Billy Zane as the bad guy, the pilot took the short (maybe ten page?) prologue and turned it into a boring and unfocused 30 minute affair plagued with late night commercials that's available in no better than 480p on YouTube after being recorded off someone's TV screen in the middle of the night.

Please don't watch the Eye of the World pilot if you haven't read The Wheel of Time. It doesn't make sense and leaves out a crucial event in the Eye of the World prologue, when Lews Therin in his insanity and guilt kills himself and creates Dragonmount. That didn't make it into the pilot for some reason. He and the hundred companions have pretty much destroyed civilization and killed just about everyone, a point that's mentioned but not really drawn out well enough to hit home with someone who isn't familiar with the series. As someone who has read the entire series, I can't even imagine how boring this pilot would be for someone who hasn't; it's barely enjoyable as someone who already knows the importance of this chapter.

Personally, my biggest concern is that I want everyone to know that The Wheel of Time is better than Game of ThronesThe Wheel of Time kicks GOT's ass. That's just where I'm coming from. Too much hinges on a good adaptation of this series, because the world needs to know that Robert Jordan is better than George R. R. Martin. I like A Song of Ice and Fire, but most everything I once loved about it is already dead (i.e. the characters that have been killed off, heroes and interesting villains alike, not to mention the Dire Wolves that have been killed so far). The Winter Dragon pilot gives me no confidence that a Wheel of Time adaptation will come anywhere close to competing with HBO's Game of Thrones, and I won't be able to tell all my friends how I knew it was cool all along.

There's not really enough to Winter Dragon to call it awful. It sticks fairly closely to the way the prologue of The Eye of the World was written; Lews Therin wanders his palace in a delusion that all is well and his wife Ilyena is playing hide and seek with the children, when really they are all dead and everything has been destroyed. Ishamael shows up calling himself Elan Morin Tedronai, and makes Lews Therin see the truth: he killed his family. Ishamael tempts Lews Therin to become a servant of Shai'tan, promising to return Ilyena to life in exchange for service to the shadow. To me this is a scene with a lot of potential — I love the madness and the temptation, Lews Therin grappling with what he did in madness, and resisting Ishamael's offer. Red Eagle's pilot doesn't tap into that potential. It's a long, drawn out mess of crucial moments that either fall flat or are straight out omitted.

Possibly the slowness is due to the fact that I can read the prologue to The Wheel of Time in under ten minutes; Winter Dragon turns that into thirty minutes of screen time. It's excruciating. It doesn't bode incredibly well for a series potentially coming out of this studio.

io9 is covering the story of why this pilot was made and whether an adaption will be realized. Read the latest update here.

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