This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of The Wheel of Time.
Amazon’s new The Wheel of Time series is heavy on internal world-building, mythology, and lore – a natural result of the massive source material (14 novels, a prequel, and two companion books) upon which it is based. But the sheer scope can feel daunting for new viewers who are unfamiliar with the intricacies of Robert Jordan’s sprawling fantasy world.
From multiple protagonists, a dozen unique cultures, and a complex philosophical underpinning that involves repeating patterns spread throughout time, there’s a lot to unpack in this universe. But The Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins clearly doesn’t mind the challenge of introducing new viewers to the rich world that he himself already loved.
“I tried to make sure that we were staying true to the things in the books that ultimately bring people in,” Judkins says. “Like when you first pick up that book, you don’t know anything about the world either.”
One of the most important elements in the world of The Wheel of Time is the One Power, a form of magic that often feels eerily similar to the concept of The Force in Star Wars. And much like The Force, it can only be wielded – or channeled as it’s referred to here – by a specific group. In Jordan’s series that group is women, primarily a powerful order known as the Aes Sedai.
Though the inner hierarchies of their various orders can seem complicated at first glance (different color groups known as Ajahs indicate their specific subgroup’s purpose), one of the most important facts about them is that almost all Aes Sedai choose to bond with a bodyguard known as a Warder.
After bonding, Warders gain enhanced abilities, such as increased stamina and strength. But they also develop a unique relationship with the Aes Sedai to whom they are now magically tethered, a connection that often transcends things like physical location. But explaining the specifics of that bond to new viewers is a somewhat daunting task.
The primary relationship of this type that we see in season 1 is between the Aes Sedai Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) and her Warder, Lan al’Mandragoran (Daniel Henney), who begin the series on a journey to the small village of the Two Rivers in search of the answer to a long-prophesied mystery.
“I always like to try and introduce fantasy information in some kind of emotional context,” Judkins says. “So you learn about the bond between the Aes Sedai and their Warders through seeing the relationship of Moiraine and Lan, instead of [saying] “this is the [how the] bond between an Aes Sedai and “Warder [works]. You actually just see and observe it and feel like it’s a natural part of the real world.”
long the way, we’ll get the chance to see how the bond between the two functions up close, and how each wields the power they’ve been granted – both separately and together.
“Their relationship – It’s a tremendous commitment and loyalty,” actress Rosamund Pike, who plays Moiraine, says. ”The bond, it is not only a call of duty, [but] it’s also something palpable. He literally feels what I feel: If he’s hungry, I’ll feel it. If he’s in pain, I’ll feel it. So when I get wounded, he feels it. It’s deeper than a psychic connection. And that’s very, very interesting. We’ve had fun with all the kinds of micro exchanges we’ve got.”
Though some Aes Sedai marry their Warders, Moiraine and Lan are not romantically attached, despite their unique closeness. Yet their relationship is still one of the most important in the series, and will hopefully drive its story for seasons to come.
“It’s kind of – I guess it’s kind of like a marriage without the intimate benefits,” Daniel Henney, who plays Lan, says. “I probably take the trash out and put the toilet seat down and go out in the mornings to walk the dogs.”
“You saddle the horses too,” Pike laughs.
Part of the pair’s closeness is also due to their unconventional lifestyle, which sees the two of them undertake a quest to find the prophesied Dragon Reborn, who is destined to either destroy the world or save it, and often leaves them with only one another to count on.
“I’m always interested in playing people where the other characters don’t quite know where they stand with them. God, I enjoy that!” Pike says. “And I think Daniel and I, as Warder and Aes Sedai, have quite enjoyed those [scenes]. We are both outsiders, and I think the idea that these two are always strangers wherever they go – it always creates a sort of frisson and something that’s interesting dramatically.”
“It’s an incredible relationship and we’ve had so much fun exploring it,” Henney adds. “It’s a deep, deep love that exists between them. But I think it’s a new type of love – one we’re excited for people to see.”
Conveying the depth of the connection between these two characters – as well as the specific oddities of their bond, such as their ability to not only feel one another’s pain, but to draw strength from each other – to those who are unfamiliar with Jordan’s books is a particular challenge of The Wheel of Time’s first season, but one both actors are eager for viewers to get the chance to see.
“It’s a really fun relationship,” Henney says. “And especially for the non-book readers, it’ll be interesting to see [how they] pick up on that and see how they perceive that bond.”
“I think Lan is going to come off extraordinarily well,” Pike laughs. “And I think everybody’s going to wish they had a Lan in their lives.”