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The Wheel Of Time season 2 review: Richer, more engrossing, and just plain better

The stakes certainly feel higher for Prime Video's epic fantasy series, which, considering they were sky-high last time, is no small feat

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Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred
Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred
Photo: Jan Thijs/Prime Video

Robert Jordan’s sprawling fantasy epic, which spans a whopping 14 novels and a prequel, was never going to be easy to adapt for TV. Still, Prime Video has given it a jolly good try (and thrown a lot of money at it, too) in a bid to give Jeff Bezos his very own Game Of Thrones. And, to be fair, the first season of The Wheel Of Time was the streaming platform’s most-watched original series of 2021. It just—how do we put this?—wasn’t all that beloved by those who watched it, is all.

Most of us agreed that the world-building was amazing—as was, naturally, Rosamund Pike. But a lot of us also all concurred that that the eponymous wheel took far too much time to get spinning. Still, despite the lukewarm reactions from many critics and viewers, we have been gifted a second season, which premieres September 1, to … well, we’d say sink our teeth into, but The Wheel Of Time is a bit more like an aged whiskey. You sip it, you savor it, and you consider its many merits—all while wondering whether, y’know, if you actually like whiskey.


A lightning-quick recap, for those of us who don’t remember (or for those of us who, possibly as a result of losing a dare, are diving into season two blind): The Wheel Of Time is set in a matriarchal land overseen by the Aes Sedai, magic-wielding women who channel the so-called One Power to keep the peace. Once upon a time, men were able to get their magic on as well, until they were all corrupted by the Dark One and ruined it for themselves. Cue the Aes Sedai taking it upon themselves to hunt down and kill the few magical men left alive (it’s for their own good, okay?)—and Pike’s Moraine to [checks notes] hunt down the Dragon Reborn, defeat the Dark One, and save the world. No biggie.


As anyone who watched The Wheel Of Time’s season one finale will tell you in no uncertain terms, Moraine’s mission is far from a successful one. The Dragon Reborn himself, Rand al’Thor, ditches her at the Eye of the World when he realizes he’s slowly going mad. Yet another new threat lurks on the horizon in the Seanchen, too, which spells trouble for episodes to come. And, on top of all that, Moraine is left unable to even touch the True Source or wield the One Power. So is it any wonder that the season two premiere finds her filling buckets of water, lugging them up hills, pouring them into bathtubs, and taking emotionally sudsy soaks? (We get it: It’s how we handle bad news, too.)

Basically, the stakes certainly feel higher this time around which, considering they were sky-high before, is no small feat. The battles are every bit as bloody and bawdy as we remember; the looming threat on the horizon every bit as … looming, we suppose. It looms wonderfully well. And the Aes Sedai are every bit as impressive and frightening in their coolly detached approach to their life’s work, too. Hell, we even get to learn more about them (via our beloved Nynaeve al’Meara, of course) here, including The Arches, which form the basis of some of the sisterhood’s more twisted novice trials. (Anyone who has watched The Empire Strikes Back will undoubtedly have a flash of deja vu when Nynaeve is forcefully ushered into a magical portal to face her worst fears, but we were still here for it all the same.)

To put it bluntly, the second season is an improvement on the first, not least of all because it feels more assured. Don’t get us wrong: It’s still slow and ponderous (what epic fantasy series isn’t?), and it’s still positively overflowing with vastly overcomplicated and convoluted plot points. And, yes, the background music is every bit as distracting as we remember. (Note to the producers: Sometimes silence is better.) But everything that showed such promise about the first season—the outstanding performances, the worlds so real that you feel like you can reach out and touch them, the rich lineup of female characters that aren’t forced to parade around naked to be ogled and shamed simultaneously—are more than just still there. They’re somehow richer and more engrossing.

The Wheel of Time Season 2 - Official Trailer | Prime Video

Unlike Thrones, though, there’s still infinitely less universal appeal to The Wheel Of Time. Yes, there’s politics and intrigue, and, yes, the acting is ace, but it all feels less human than HBO’s fantasy epic. Or, if you prefer, it’s all a bit much for the uninitiated—and that’s coming from folks who play Dungeons & Dragons and Magic The Gathering on a weekly basis.


The Wheel Of Time may still spin a little too slowly, then, for those unused to the beats of high fantasy. That unhurried pacing may lose the attention of even the most captive viewers here and there—especially as it sometimes feels as if we need to watch the show with a glossary of its most used terms to hand, just in case. And, yes, some faces may have inexplicably changed (we see you, Dónal Finn, and don’t think we don’t). On the whole, though, this ambitious TV project makes for a satisfying sit and it’s absolutely piqued our interest for the confirmed third season. We guess patience really is a virtue, eh?

The Wheel Of Time season 2 premieres September 1 on Prime Video