The Wheel of Time Screentime, Season 1
Can you believe that S1E8 of The Wheel of Time came out more than three weeks ago? It seems like yesterday and forever ago, so I guess I am feeling The Longing.
Since I still cannot watch, or read, or listen to, or talk about anything that isn’t directly related to WoT, I guess I can spend a bit more time doing some math and sharing the results with you.
I am looking at screentime, which is just a number among others that can be used to talk about something (in our case, a TV show). It can provide some interesting information, but it should not be used, for example, to prove the irrefutable quality of a plotline. A minor character can have a significant screentime in a given episode for being in the background of major scenes (*cough* Leane Sharif in Ep6 *cough*). Similarly, a major character getting more screentime than another doesn’t enforce that they also have more development (and I will come back to that later on).
I computed those screentimes, and I am far from perfect. Mistakes and approximations can exist. While doing that Season 1 breakdown, I still found some minor mistakes on earlier episodes. Moreover, not everyone working on this would compute screentime the same way. While I aimed for consistency during my work, other people may come up with different numbers, and this would be perfectly fine.
If you have missed the breakdowns for the different episodes, links are below. I am also linking the speaking time breakdowns, made by @far-dareis-me.
WoT Screentime: e1 | e2 | e3 | e1-3 | e4 | e5 | e6 | e7 | e8
WoT Speaking Time: e1-3 | e4 | e5 | e6 | e7 | e8
Also, for a quick reminder, I will mostly be talking about two types of screentime:
Total screentime: it includes whenever a character is present in a scene (either physically or through voiceover), no matter its state of consciousness (so, conscious, asleep, unconscious, or even dead).
“In-scene” screentime: it includes whenever a character is physically present in a scene and conscious.
Now that the serious talk is done, please expand below for a bunch of (hopefully) fancy charts!
After removing the recaps, title sequences and ending credits, the first season of The Wheel of Time ran for about 7h13m13s, or an average of 54m09s per episode. We encountered 55 named characters, which shared 23h06m40s of total screentime and 22h05m54s of in-scene screentime.
The total screentime distribution per character was as followed:
With 2h52m29s of total screentime (12.4% of the s1 total screentime), Moiraine came up first, with Rand closely following her with 2h41m39s (11.7%). The rest of our main cast followed, with Egwene (2h21m23s, 10.2%), Lan (2h01m57s, 8.8%), Perrin (1h55m50s, 8.4%), Nynaeve (1h45m25s, 7.6%) and Mat (1h32m40s, 6.7%).
We can compare those total screentime to the show length/duration:
Overall, this means Moiraine was on our screen (or in voiceover) 39.8% of the time, Rand 37.3%, Egwene 32.6%, Lan 28.2%, Perrin 26.7%, Nynaeve 24.3% and Mat 21.4%. We obviously have a large gap with secondary characters, with Liandrin and Siuan being on our screen respectively 8.1% and 7.2% of the time.
The ordering switches a bit when considering in-scene screentime:
Moiraine now falls behind Rand, as she spent 17m13s either on voiceover, asleep, unconscious (13m13s!) or dead in Rand’s dream. This represents about 10% of her total screentime, this girl really needs a break.
Main Cast Details
We can also look at our main cast screentime in more details:
Some of the differences in screentime between main characters can be explained by looking at their breakdown per episode.
There’s a few things to note from this chart:
Nynaeve’s lower screentime is obviously explained by her absence at the end of Ep1 and in Ep2. While her screentime was pretty decent in following episodes, it was hard for her to catch up on the 25+ minutes of (mostly group) screentime others got in Ep2.
Before being written out at the end of Ep6, Mat had a very decent screentime. In a world without Covid and with the original Ep7/Ep8 scripts, Mat probably would have gotten a screentime similar to Lan or Perrin (if not higher). Alas, it is what it is. Barney, I hope you’re doing good, and I will miss your Mat!
Rand had the top total screentime up to Ep5. It’s only during the very gay Ep6 that Moiraine got to take the lead.
We can look at the similar in-scene screentime chart:
Here, Moiraine lost quite a bit of time in Ep2 and Ep3 due to her being unconscious. She still took the lead in Ep6, but Rand managed to catch up on her with Ep8.
Similar charts can be made regarding the gender distribution of screentime.
Overall, men had 1h15m58s more total screentime than women, and 1h33m more in-scene screentime than women. While men were more asleep than women, women had 3.5 times more unconscious time than men, and almost twice their dead time.
Again, we can look at the breakdown per episodes:
Women had about 3h less in-scene screentime than men by the end of episode 5. Ep6 helped a lot in reducing the gender screentime gap, but it was not enough to close it, and the following two episodes slightly increased that difference further more.
Where I count named characters
I’ve often heard critics of screentime breakdowns related to bias induced by group scenes: a character may have significant screentime due to being a member of a group, while being under-developed. While the following section cannot fully solve this issue, it may gives us hints of characters seemingly more impacted by this problem.
But first, let’s look at the first season as a whole. When considering the 7h13m13s duration of the show, how much of it was spent on scene with no named characters or k number of named characters?
The maximum number of named characters in a scene was 13, which happened at the end of Ep1, as our EF4 left behind their family to follow an Aes Sedai and her Warder. The maximum numbers of named characters for all S1 episodes were as followed:
Ep1: 13 named characters, 13 in-scene named characters.
Ep2: 8 named characters, 8 in-scene named characters.
Ep3: 10 named characters, 10 in-scene named characters.
Ep4: 10 named characters, 9 in-scene named characters.
Ep5: 9 named characters, 9 in-scene named characters.
Ep6: 8 named characters, 8 in-scene named characters.
Ep7: 11 named characters, 11 in-scene named characters.
Ep8: 5 named characters, 5 in-scene named characters.
If the difference between named characters is a bit confusing, we can look at the ending scene of Ep4, in which we had 9 in-scene (i.e. conscious and present) named characters (Logain, Liandrin, Moiraine, Alanna, Stepin, Lan, Nynaeve, Ihvon, Maksim) and 1 dead named characters (Kerene), bringing our total to 10.
Overall, both the total and in-scene distribution revealed that a significant amount of time was spent on scenes with a small number of named characters. 45% of the time, only two in-scene named characters were on our screen. More than 75% of the time was spent on scenes with 4 or less named characters (whether we are looking at in-scene or total time).
Again, we can look at this breakdown per episodes:
In know, those charts are not significantly different, but people asked for charts, and I find them aesthetically pleasing. You can play spot the differences with them. Some I have found: dead Leila and unconscious Tam in Ep1, unconscious Moiraine in Ep2/Ep3, dead Kerene in Ep4/Ep5, dead Stepin in Ep5, sleeping Siuan and Perrin in Ep6, dead dreamed-Moiraine and frozen (which I considered unconscious) dreamed-Egwene in Ep8.
Those charts do give us some interesting data regarding the length of each episodes. Ep1/Ep8 were the shortest, while Ep4/Ep6 were the longest. IMO, Ep6′s length was increased to take into account Barney’s departure, and Ep8′s length may have been reduced because of cost and time constraints following Covid. Maybe Ep1 got cut short because of all those exec-notes Rafe received? Who knows. I’ve seen many non-readers commenting that the first episode was a bit too slow, which is hilarious as readers thought it too fast, but this may have resulted in execs asking Rafe to cut some Two Rivers pre-battle scenes short. *crossing fingers for some deleted scenes*.
Also, someone on Twitter asked me whether Covid had impacted the number of characters per scene in Ep7/Ep8. Overall, there’s not a clear trend. Ep7 does have quite a lot of bigger group scenes, and the smaller number of named characters per scene in Ep8 makes sense on a plot point of view. Covid definitely affected the set (see that CGI battle against Trollocs and Fades), but maybe not in term of named characters.
Last but not least... What about our main characters?
I only looked at in-scene time for this, mostly because that’s the time were characters actually matter. While this is not always true, the more a character is in smaller-sized scenes, the more opportunities for development they get. The big exception to this is Moiraine: even when many people surrounds her, she tends to be in the center of our attention. The Weep for Manetheren scene is a nice example of it.
Some fun things to note:
Can you notice Moiraine’s big jump for the scenes with 6 named in-scene characters? The Hall scene at the beginning of Ep6 probably plays a role in it.
Perrin and Egwene have a jump for scenes with 5 named in-scene characters. It may reflect their scenes with the Tuatha’an.
Rand is the top character for solo scenes and duo scenes. He had 10min more duo scenes than Moiraine, and 27min more than Egwene. While it’s okay to be disappointed by his development in the show, especially for those who love book tEotW Rand, it’s factually wrong to say he had no more development than, say, Stepin or another recurring/secondary character (which is an exaggeration I’ve been told quite a few times).
Talking about underdeveloped characters, Perrin had less duo scenes than Mat, who was absent for two episodes. Hopefully the Hunt in the next season will give him more growth opportunities... If you remember my mention of a major character getting more screentime than another but being less developed at the beginning of this post, Perrin is who I was referring to (again, IMO). He technically had more screentime than Nynaeve, but with a larger proportion on group scenes, for which our quiet man happily stayed in the background. I don’t blame the show writers for that, though: introspective characters are tough to adapt.
Aaaand that was my last chart! At least, for now. I may end up doing a shorter post on each of our main characters, because this last part leads to a new question: who has been spending time with who?
As always, here’s a link to most of those numbers. If there’s something missing that you would like to know about, you can message me about it, either here or on Twitter (RationalNerd there).