Brandon Sanderson, who finished the series after Robert Jordan's death, doesn't want the epic fantasy saga -- and huge ratings hit -- to try and be "a tonal 'Game of Thrones' replacement."
It was inevitable that Amazon's ratings juggernaut "The Wheel of Time," which sits atop the streaming charts with a whopping 1.16 billion minutes viewed across its first three episodes, would be compared to HBO's "Game of Thrones."
But one comparison co-author Brandon Sanderson was hoping to avoid was the "grimdark" of it all, as he put it on his blog. Sanderson stepped in after Robert Jordan's death to finish the epic fantasy saga, based on Jordan's extensive notes, wrapping it up with 14 total volumes.
While "The Wheel of Time" predates George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" book series by publication date, the latter would hit the small screen first. In doing so, it would create a grim and gritty take on fantasy that proved a little too influential, according to Sanderson.
Martin's book series is also grim and dark and foreboding, with far less overt magic than Jordan's high fantasy world. And while both deal with the battle between good and evil, Jordan does so with more of a PG-13 rating than Martin's at times very hard R.
That's why Sanderson has been a little unhappy with some of the darker choices Rafe Judkins has made in adapting the world he helped develop and bring to a close to television audiences. While "Wheel" hasn't delved into the excessive nudity of HBO's "Thrones," it has matched it in violence at times.
"The gore has been a little over the top in places," Sanderson said in response to a fan question on Reddit, as detailed by Bounding Into Comics. Suggesting that there might be worse yet to come, he added, "There are several later scenes that made my wife pretty nauseous."
"I wouldn’t, for example, show the show to any of my kids -- and I let them play Doom Eternal. (Granted, that gore is cartoony and over the top on purpose.)," Sanderson continued. While he mostly has praise for the work being done on the show, he emphasized, "I do wish it weren’t trying quite so hard to be grim and dour."
But even that isn't his biggest grievance with the show. For him, it's a dramatic departure from the source material for the character of Perrin, portrayed by Marcus Rutherford, that he found most "objectionable," though he conceded that may not be the best word for his feelings.
To add some context to the change, one of the first things Judkins did was age up most of the main cast from the teenagers they were when Jordan's books began. Now in their 20s, he further decided to easier explain Perrin's brooding nature by adding both a wife for him to start the series with, and then quickly dispatching her.
Even worse, he had Perrin take her out himself, accidentally swinging his axe into her gut while the two were fighting off Trollocs (Jordan's hideous human-animal hybrid monsters) in their home. It was a heartbreaking scene, but Sanderson thinks it went too far.
He detailed a little more of why he found it so problematic in his written reaction to the premiere of "The Wheel of Time," noting that it feeds into the Women in Refrigerators trope, named after a comic book death that came to symbolize the killing of women to enhance male character's story arcs.
"First off, it feels a lot like the disposable wife trope (AKA Woman in the Fridge.)," wrote Sanderson. "Beyond that, I think the trauma of having killed your wife is so huge, the story this is telling can’t realistically deal with it in a way that is responsible."
"Perrin killing his wife then going off on an adventure really bothers me, even still," he added. "That kind of trauma, dealt with realistically and responsibly, is really difficult for an adventure series to deal with."
His suggestion would have been for Perrin to instead perhaps kill his blacksmithing mentor, Master Luhann, instead. "As much as I hate to do Luhhan dirty like that, I think the idea Rafe and the team had here is a good one for accelerating Perrin’s plot," he explained. "Accidentally killing your master steps the trauma back a little, but gives the same motivations and hesitance."
Much of Perrin's journey in the early books is cerebral, which is certainly harder to explore on-screen. Thus, Judkins came up with this pivotal moment in his life to inform the darkness he carries within him.
While there have already been departures from the source material, there is still much for book fans and new fans alike to enjoy, and clearly they're doing just that. Amazon banked on what they were seeing, already picking up the show for a second season before its first had premiered.
But their ultimate goal is to tackle all 14 volumes, as well as the prequel, though its unlikely they'll take 14 seasons to get it all out. One comparison that can't be made to "Game of Thrones" is the complaints from fans that "Thrones" lost its way once it went beyond Martin's books, as Jordan and Sanderson's series is complete.
"The Wheel of Time" wraps its first season Friday on Amazon Prime Video.