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The first three episodes of Amazon's The Wheel of Time adaptation have been released to the world. Fans of the books and those new to the iconic fantasy series are thrilled to have their new episodic obsession akin to HBO's Game of Thrones. However, just like Game of Thrones, viewers are probably looking for some insights to help them better understand the show.
Excited get those details, SYFY WIRE spoke with executive producer Rafe Judkins, and some of his cast including Zoe Robins, the wisdom of Two Rivers, Nynaeve al'Meara; Madeleine Madden, the young magic user, Egwene al'Vere; Josha Stradowski as Egwene's lover, Rand al'Thor and Marcus Rutherford as the blacksmith, Perrin Aybara. We tackle some key scenes in the first three episodes that were some of their favorites in terms of conveying their characters and the spirit of Robert Jordan's books to a new audience.
**Spoiler Warning: If you haven't read either the book or have seen the series, stop reading now.**
Season 1, Episode 1, "Leavetaking"
On the opening scene with Egwene's trial:
Madeleine Madden Egwene al'Vere: Egwene's big character arc moment is obviously her initiation into the women's circle. I think this is a moment she's been waiting for her entire life and it's such a huge test of mental and physical strength, surviving that bungee jump of sorts and then her journey down the river and learning to just trust the river and go with the river which is to trust yourself and just go with the flow. That was a really important moment for Egwene and also an important moment for me. That was one of the first weeks of shooting so it felt like an initiation into The Wheel of Time.
Zoe Robins, Nynaeve al'Meara: I actually think the initiation scenes that we filmed for Egwene's coming into the women's circle really showed the relationship and the dynamic between the two characters in a really beautiful light. Nynaeve is the wisdom of the two rivers and she's done this type of ceremony over and over and over and over again. But if you're watching intensely, you can see that she is breaking character in a way because she loves Egwene so much and the ceremonial tone of it all drifts away a little bit because she really, really wants Egwene to do well. She obviously cares for her and I don't think she really enjoys throwing her off cliffs. [Laughs.]
On fathers and sons:
Josha Stradowski, Rand al'Thor: One of my favorite moments of that first episode was a moment of Michael (McElhatton), who plays Rand's father, when he talks about the Wheel of Time and about life, basically. It's a beautiful way to set up their dangerous journey that they're going on.
On Perrin's transformative moment:
Marcus Rutherford, Perrin Aybara: There's a particular scene with Perrin during the battle sequence that happens in the first episode. It establishes his relationship with violence that he carries out throughout Season 1. It gets right to the core of an inner conflict that he has between the sort of animalistic strength that he has within him, but also this gentle giant side and civilized demeanor that he has. Having that scene in the first episode was something that was quite pivotal for the character.
On the scene they needed to land in the series pilot:
Rafe Judkins, Showrunner: My feeling was in that final scene when the core four ride out of Emond's Field following Moraine and Lan, you need to be emotionally invested enough in them that you want to see what happens next because we don't tell the audience anything about what happens next. We don't say there's a big shadow city around the corner. The only sell of the series is: do you want to follow these people out of this town into what awaits them? For me, that was the key thing we had to do was get you invested enough in those characters that you wanted to watch the next episode because of that and that was a key moment of the pilot.
Season 1, Episode 2, "Shadow's Waiting"
On barfing up bats:
Stradowski: What's so lovely about this show is when you read such a thing in the script, you can trust that it will in the end look good. I actually love those kinds of scenes where it becomes so physical. I saw that scene too and it looks pretty real to me. [Laughs.]
On the the Song of Manetheren scene:
Judkins: I love the moment when they're on the horses and they sing the Song of Manetheren and then Moiraine tells the story. For me, it was one of the first moments that I fell in love with the books, with the Manetheren story. It had an emotional depth to it that also suggested an epic quality to this world. It was this moment where I just felt like when I was reading the books — and there were multiple books out at the time when I first started reading them — I was like, "Oh my gosh! All these pages are full of things like this, and I haven't read them yet. This is so exciting!" To me that was really important to pull off and also the feeling of a journey that felt authentic. A lot of times it's just like characters racing across landscapes with their horses. I used to be a wilderness guide so spending time outside with a small group of people is something I'm very familiar with. I wanted a scene that really felt like what that feels like, of just walking slow on a horse, it's a great day and we're gonna shoot a whole scene on horseback for six minutes, Everyone on production was not sure that was a good idea either so we had to fight through a lot to bring that scene to life. Even though it's a very small moment and a quiet moment in a very bombastic series, it was one that I'm proud of.
On Moiraine discussing magic with Egwene:
Madden: That comes off the back of Moraine taking Egwene under her wing and championing her and supporting her and making sure she reaches her full potential and saying, "This is what you're capable of doing," which is exactly what Nynaeve does. One of my favorite parts of [the book] Eye of the World is the same where Moraine teaches Egwene how to channel. It's such a beautiful scene and it really sparks Egwene's eagerness to learn and understand the world outside of the two rivers and the politics in the White Tower and the rules of the oaths that the Aes Sedai have to follow. That scene is great because you see Moraine drop her guard a little bit with Egwene.
On Perrin's moment with the wolves:
Rutherford: What was wicked was that there are actually these real Czech wolf dogs on set. Although there's beautiful visual effects throughout the season, it's quite cool that for a character that has to have quite a particular bond with these animals, I get to have these real dogs I get to work with. I'm doing it a lot more now in Season 2 and establishing that kind of connection so it's really fun. They're wicked, man. Just that shot when they come through in the woods, I think it's really cool that you have something real to act against as an actor which always helps.
Season 1, Episode 3, "A Place of Safety"
On Nynaeve's dramatic return:
Robins: That sequence took a while to shoot with the running from the Trolluc and the fighting with the Trolluc and then ultimately killing the Trolluc took a good few weeks. There were a lot of nighttime shoots and various Czech forests that were covered in a lot of blood and sweat and dirt. It was intense but I really love those moments. I think it does show a lot about Nynaeve as a character and what she is not willing to put up with and just how much she cares about her people. She survives what I think many assume is an awful death and beats the odds.
On introducing the Dark Friends:
Judkins: One thing that was important to me to do in the third episode was convey this idea of what a dark friend is. They're so important in the series and Mat (Barney Harris) and Rand's journey in the first book has a lot to do with dark friends. I wanted to bring a dark friend to life that you didn't feel like was one-sided. I wanted to bring someone that when they died, you felt empathy for them and you felt like you could understand how you could be them. Because hopefully that will set a tone for all the dark friends that are to come in the series, some of whom we've already met and don't know are dark friends. These people are real humans and they're not just figments of evil. They're real people and they made this choice for a real reason.
On Perrin and Egwene's bond on their long journey:
Rutherford: They've all got such a tight bond, these guys. Obviously, with Rand and Perrin. But Perrin has always been quite fond of Egwene. As they've been thrust into this crazy world, they have to rely on each other to survive, so he sees that relationship in a slightly new way. But I think deep down he knows that Rand and Egwene are always meant to be together. There's so much going on with him with all the baggage that he's carrying as well. He has perhaps different feelings that he's feeling at this time, but also knowing that Egwene is sort of destined to be with his friend, and he'd never really get in the way of that. Like Perrin, there's so much going on in that inner monologue, but that outer surface is still that gentle giant.
On what lies ahead in Season 1:
Rutherford: I think that the first season ends in a place that will be very satisfying to fans of the first book while simultaneously having a fair number of surprises for book book fans. I'm really happy with how the first season ends.
New episodes of The Wheel of Time premiere every Friday on Amazon.