Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Wheel of Time: Winter Dragon

Yesterday my Facebook feed began blowing up with news of the Wheel of Time pilot tv episode that was going to air overnight on FX or one its sister channels. This was news to me--I've been a long time fan of the Wheel of Time book series (written by Robert Jordan and finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan's death), but I hadn't heard anything about a tv show in the works.

I did some poking around on the internet and on the FX website, but couldn't find anything confirming that a Wheel of Time pilot was going to air. I went to bed without giving it another thought. 

And then! When I woke in the morning it was to the news that the pilot episode had aired, but in the middle of the night on FXX, under the guise of paid programming. So what does it all mean?

Well, to make a long story short (too late), the company that owns the film and tv rights to Wheel of Time was going to lose them on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 unless some action was taken. In order to prevent the rights from lapsing back to the Jordan Estate, the company quickly and on a shoestring budget produced a 15 minute "pilot" episode they dubbed Winter Dragon. Buy some air time on a little viewed cable channel and BOOM. You get to keep your media rights and hopefully sell them to someone for huge amounts of money in the post-Game of Thrones fantasy market. While it's not clear if the gambit will be successful, you can catch the "pilot" on You Tube or at the blog linked to above. 

In case you don't have 15 minutes of spare time sitting around (there's about 10 minutes of commercials to pad it out to 30 minutes), never fear, dear readers, because I have watched the episode and am happy to report my thoughts!

First of all, let's not call this a pilot. It's more of a prequel or an introduction. In fact, it only covers some of the prologue of the first book, and even then leaves out a lot. The show is basically Lews Therin Telamon (the Dragon) wandering around his mansion looking for his family in a madness-induced fugue. He keeps bumping into Ishamael, the right-hand man of the story's Dark Lord, who is like, "Dude, you are so crazy. You know you killed your family, right? But me and the Dark Lord can totally bring them back if you join us." Lews Therin finally comes to his senses (when Ishamael heals him) and decides to kill himself instead.

There's some other stuff, including a somewhat nifty voiceover before and after the action takes place, but all in all...not a lot happens. Unless you could the revelation that it is BILLY FUCKING ZANE playing Ishamael.

The script isn't terrible, the acting isn't terrible, it isn't even bad. It's just kind of there. It's just...completely unnecessary. I'm not going to worry/freak out/expend any more mental energy on it. I think this is just one of those weird things that happens when you're dealing with media rights and if something ends up coming of it, well, I'll withhold judgment until then. I always thought of the Wheel of Time as basically unfilmable, but with the success of Game of Thrones, who knows? 

"The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the First Age by some, called today by others, there was a secret 30 minute Wheel of Time based episode, put on in the middle of the night. Called Winter Dragon, the episode was a bit of a mixed bag." From io9.

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