I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around what I just watched. I’ve tried for a little while to gather my thoughts in order to write an intelligent article on the Wheel of Time pilot, but I honestly feel as if the purely unintelligible series of images I just witnessed left me with a lower IQ. I read about the nature of this pilot and how it came about, but I was simply not prepared for how godforsakingly awful it would turn out to be. A lot of what I’m about to write is going to be vague; there’s no IMDB (that I could find) on the episode, and there’s no way I’m going to watch the whole thing again to figure out names and backstory, but you’ll find out soon enough why it wouldn’t even matter if I did. Without further ado, let’s talk about the televised abomination that is the Wheel of Time pilot.
I won’t spend that much time on how this atrocity came about, that’s not why I’m writing this article. As far as I can tell, Red Eagle Entertainment had television rights (amongst other forms) to the popular Wheel of Time series, but the rights were about to expire. In order to keep them, they hastily filmed a pilot and aired it in the dead of night, granting them more time to figure out exactly how they were REALLY going to handle the show. I sincerely hope that was their intention, anyway. I sincerely hope that this was not the show they had in mind. Let’s talk about why.
I know literally nothing about the Wheel of Time series. Unfortunately, it seems knowledge of the series is a prerequisite for watching its pilot, because I can honestly say that I have almost no idea what happened in the thirty minute runtime. Turn back now if you don’t want anything spoiled for you, because there’s no way I’m not going to perform an autopsy on this thing and pick apart exactly why it is so spectacularly terrible. Let’s start with the introduction sequence. There’s a voiceover hurling nonsensical exposition at you against the backdrop of what appears to be a wheel with the special effects equivalent of an educational computer game from the 90’s.
The first scene opens up on an elegant, empty ballroom. Unbeknownst to the viewer, this ballroom is where 99% of the pilot takes place. That’s not an exaggeration; we leave the ballroom for perhaps two minutes before coming right back. So the episode opens on the ballroom where a man we later come to know as The Dragon is calling out for his wife whose name is… Illiyana? Liyana? I’m not sure. The Dragon is calling for her, over and over and over and over and over, and this goes on until a child’s voice calls to him. The Dragon is delighted by this and begins calling out the child’s name, over and over and over and over. Then, another child. He calls out THAT child’s name, you guessed it, over and over and over and over. This hide-and-seek from hell goes on for about a minute and a half. No one else enters the scene. It’s just The Dragon calling out names and walking around this very small ballroom in complete silence. For a minute and a half. Just picture a really awful show whose jokes go on for way too long and understand that the amount of time it takes for that to happen is roughly twenty seconds. Now try and fathom a man walking around calling out names for a minute and a half and you’ll see the problem.
Mercifully, The Dragon is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a very suspicious-looking man in a black cloak. An assassin? I thought to myself. Things are finally picking up! The stranger says “I’ve come for you”, and instead of grabbing the closest sword and hacking the intruder apart, The Dragon welcomes him and asks absolutely zero questions about why he’s there or what in the world he meant by his ominous statement. The stranger tells The Dragon to snap out of it and remember, to which The Dragon responds by resuming his game of (apparently) one-man hide-and-seek. For another thirty seconds. The stranger tries to get The Dragon to remember his past (apparently) by telling him things that make absolutely zero sense to us as viewers. “You’re The Dragon! You summoned the nine rods of dominion!” The audience, apart from Wheel of Time fans, would have no idea what’s going on, and that’s essentially how the pilot is set up: so much exposition is forced onto the viewer that I felt as if I had sat down and started watching this show in the middle of its fourth season. There were names thrown around, a lot of names. What is the “one power”, who are the “100 companions”, what in the hell are the “nine rods of dominion”?
To make an excruciatingly long and boring story short, The Dragon (apparently) attacked someone known as the “Dark Lord”, went mad, and killed his own family. The whole hide-and-seek sequence was all evidently in The Dragon’s mind, a realm of madness he had concocted for himself that the stranger pulled him away from. The stranger, who I suppose is a servant of the Dark Lord (it’s never really explained), tells The Dragon that if he serves the Dark Lord, his family will be brought back to life. The Dragon says “naw” and declines and goes back to playing hide-and-seek with his imaginary family. Cut to 90’s educational computer game wheel graphics and roll the credits. THE END!
That’s it. That’s literally it. From my writing, it seems like the pilot is boring at worst, but I can assure you, everything about this pilot’s production is awful. The actors aren’t great, the writing is abysmal, the effects are horrid, the plot is nonsensical, and the music… well, I was honestly too busy saying “what?” out loud to notice the music. Maybe it’s fine. You may think this article is a joke, “ha ha, he just didn’t like it and is being hyperbolic”. You would be wrong. There is no saving grace. Calling this an episode of television is an insult to shows like Two and a Half Men.
This pilot has all the charm of a gas station robbery.