Amazon Prime Video's adaptation of The Wheel of Time featured some notable changes from the original books, and fans are still trying to work out how and why all those changes were made. Showrunner Rafe Judkins explained a lot of these changes all at once last month in an interview on Empire Magazine's Spoiler Special Film Podcast. However, be warned that there are spoilers for Season 1 of the TV show and for the source material books ahead.
Judkins addressed the changes his show made from Robert Jordan's books more directly than he has done so far, and he wasn't shy about the process either. He revealed that Amazon handed him a 250-page document compiled by Wheel of Time super fans, which laid out many of the biggest changes they wanted to see in a TV adaptation. The adaptation process is always full of changes and compromises, and of course, turning a 14-book series into a TV show comes with some particularly unique challenges. This document reportedly aimed to improve clarity, pacing and consistency.
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According to Judkins, one of the major complaints in that document was that the character Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) was underdeveloped in the early books. That ultimately led to Judkins and the writers adding in the Cauthon family's tragic backstory in Season 1 to give Mat something more to work with. His intention was for Mat to struggle with the identity of being a "hero."
The changes to Perrin's (Marcus Rutherford) backstory were more about speeding up his development – as author Brandon Sanderson already attested. The idea was to introduce Perrin's hesitancy early and overtly since the slow-burn technique of a 14-book series wouldn't work as well on TV.
As for Perrin's climactic showdown with Padan Fain (Johann Myers) in the series finale, Judkins said that was planned from the beginning. He said that he and the writers saw this as a way to set up Perrin for Season 2, teasing that they have big plans for him that will still divert from the book's main storyline.
Judkins did confirm that there were some rewrites in Season 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruptions, and he said that some of them were major. He did not go into too many details there, however. He hinted that the last few episodes would have involved Mat more actively, but other than that he said he could not share the details that were changed even if he wanted to.
On the subject of Rand (Josha Stradowski), Judkins said that he intentionally kept the hero as a "background character" in Season 1 not just to throw new fans off the scent, but because he felt it was more true to Rand's personality. He also said that there will be big changes to Rand's arc in the next season because he feels Rand is too immature in book 2 to match the rest of the series. Here, he also hinted that Season 2 will draw a lot on book 3, perhaps giving us an idea of how the show will condense the content of the books.
As for the leading ladies, Judkins actually apologized to fans on this podcast, saying that Egwene (Madeleine Madden) and Nynaeve's (Zoë Robins) climactic battle at the end of the season had been misunderstood. He assured them that he did not mean to change the mechanics of magic in the franchise and that death most certainly cannot be healed by channeling. He also joked that they will need an even bigger VFX budget to top that battle scene next time around.
Judkins kept the future of Moiraine's (Rosamund Pike) storyline close to the chest but said that there will be plenty for her to explore during this unexpected shielding issue. When asked about Moiraine's romance with Siuan (Sophie Okonedo), he pointed out that he felt this was essentially canonical in the books, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community himself, he felt it was important to provide that representation.
Finally, Judkins made a lot of comments about the next season or two that fans should take note of. First, he was happy to report that actor Dónal Finn has been performing wonderfully as Mat in Season 2, and he thinks fans will be pleased with the performance even if they are disappointed to see Harris go. He also hinted that Mat's iconic quarterstaff scene from the third book will make it into Season 2 – or at least suggested that he has seen Finn rehearse it in some capacity.
Judkins also teased that fan-favorite character Aviendha has been cast, but he did not reveal who she is yet, and he hinted that fans will see plenty of Aiel in Season 2 – perhaps even the Waste itself. Finally, he said that the final scene of the season held back a lot of detail on the Seanchan because he wants to get the greatest impact possible when they are introduced in earnest in the seasons to come.
Sadly Judkins could not provide any hints about when The Wheel of Time Season 2 might premiere. He said that it will not be coming in mid-2022 as some fans have theorized and that there will be a considerable gap between Amazon's Lord of the Ring: The Rings of Power series and The Wheel of Time. For now, fans can stream The Wheel of Time Season 1 on Prime Video and find Robert Jordan's novels in print, digital and audiobook formats wherever books are sold.