The first two episodes were made up of very standard fantasy elements (many of which, in fact, mapped directly onto elements of The Fellowship of the Ring), but the third episode did have one moment that surprised me. Since then, things have been improving week-to-week.
The Wheel of Time (the show) exists, reportedly, because Jeff Bezos said, “I want my Game of Thrones.”
Which has led to a lot of articles comparing the two series, but I think that’s a waste of time. Bezos was not making a genre request — he was making a request (demand) for a show which would attract attention and eyeballs and buzz and, as we used to say, “ink.” In other words, water cooler discussions (as we also used to say).
And, frankly, a too-obvious an attempt to create “another GoT” would have been immediately called out for what it was. WoT was written before GoT, and it relies on a lot of the tropes that GoT deconstructed (and/or trashed).
I’m not a big fantasy buff, but there is one specific reason that I’m enjoying the show as much as I am.
There’s a main character named Moiraine. She’s basically the Gandalf character (magic user, from a group of magic users, wandering the world for reasons of her own, befriending and protecting and leading, or trying to lead, the — much younger — main characters).
Unlike Gandalf, though, Moiraine does not travel alone.
She’s an Aes Sedai, one of the society of women who use magic in this world, and, like most Aes Sedai, she has a Warder, named Lan. A Warder is a man who travels with an Aes Sedai — a bodyguard, a confidante, a sounding board, a partner. They are magically linked, so they are always aware of each other’s feelings and situation. Some Aes Sedai/Warder pairs are also lovers, and some are not, and it seems that they don’t usually advertise which it is. (Moiraine and Lan are apparently not lovers, but they did share a long soak in a hot tub in the first episode.)
The Aes Sedai is generally in charge, but the Warder apparently has some leeway when there is danger or potential danger, as a bodyguard should.
(Lan has noticed that Moiraine has muted their psychic connection for the evening — for personal reasons.)
Lan: Get back before dawn.
Moiraine: Is that an order?
Lan: Did it sound like a suggestion?
You can probably guess why I find this relationship interesting.
Update: A couple of caveats after the most recent episode.
1) The show is a “chosen one” story (definitely my least favorite fantasy trope), and now, of the five possible chosen ones, the least interesting character (by a wide margin) appears to be It.
2) A good deal of this episode was taken up with adolescent hormones and angst, which was a bit annoying because, unlike in the books, the characters in question are quite a bit past adolescence. I understand the need to “age up” young book characters when making a TV show (Game of Thrones did it, too), but sometimes you have to then do some rewriting to make it work.