It’s funny how quickly an hour passes when you’re watching something good. This week’s WoT episode ticked right along, throwing half a dozen perspectives at us and expecting us to keep up. Much like the later books, honestly. And it worked.
The episode opens on Logain’s (Alvaro Morte) successful invasion of the kingdom of Ghealdan. The king attempts to flee but is stopped by Logain’s channeling. The white vines of his saidin threads are almost immediately stained with the black of Shaitan’s taint, and it’s a stark reminder of the inevitable madness that claims all male channelers. Logain has started down that dark road already, as the voices whispering to him attest. He even sees their spectral figures made of the One Power. Despite his madness, the king becomes a true believer when Logain allows him to live despite his attempt to kill the ostensible Dragon.
Back in the present, where Nynaeve looks over the Aes Sedai camp from the nearby hilltop. Her distrust of strangers in general and Aes Sedai, in particular, won’t allow her any closer. Green sister Kerene (Clare Perkins) heals Moiraine’s infected wound, though the strain of keeping Logain shielded in shifts makes the effort almost too much. Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) and Green sister Alanna (Priyanka Bose) have him locked in an iron cage, deafened with flows of Air. Liandrin is of the opinion he should be gentled immediately, but the Amyrlin Seat has commanded he be brought back to the city to stand trial. Moiraine offers to shoulder part of the load, now that she’s been healed. She senses his power when she places her shield on him and is startled at his power.
Lan and his old friend Stepin (no relation to the Wolf), Warder to Kerene, are training and trading gossip. We get the sense the Amyrlin doesn’t care for Moiraine any more than Liandrin does before Stepin (Peter Franzen) follows his Aes Sedai into their tent to talk privately. It seems Reds have been gentling men out in the world, against Tower law and custom.
The Tuatha’an are about to set off on their endless search for the Song, and Egwene and Perrin are invited along. They seem too good to be true, and it bothers Perrin. Egwene assures him they can leave without questions as soon as one of them feels it’s time. Meanwhile, Rand, Mat, and Thom are riding away from Breen’s Spring as quickly as possible as Mat’s spooked horse allows. Rand expresses his reasonable suspicion of Thom, given how Dana (RIP) has just told him that anyone could be a Darkfriend. Mat feels more trusting of the man, perhaps because of their similarities, and is more concerned with the fifth potential Dragon Reborn that Dana (RIP) mentioned shortly before her untimely demise.
Moiraine wonders something similar, despite her earlier dismissal of Logain’s claim to the title. She and Alanna speak of old times in the Tower and it doesn’t take Moiraine long to realize Alanna’s probing her for information on Liandrin’s behalf. Despite that, Alanna speaks candidly about her concerns with Liandrin’s eagerness to gentlemen in the world and moreover the potential that the Reds had already gentled the Dragon. We learn more about the Green or Battle Ajah’s mission, to defend humanity in the Last Battle from the Dark One’s forces. Alanna simply never thought it would happen in her lifetime.
Liandrin attempts to probe Nynaeve for information but the Wisdom turns it around on her, Asking about Moiraine still suits Liandrin’s goals and so she answers Nynaeve’s questions along with making the Red Ajah sound like the White Tower version of Internal Affairs. She leaves when Lan approaches. The Warder promises Nynaeve they’ll find her friends, whatever it takes, and invites her to the Warder’s fire for the night.
Rand, Mat, and Thom arrive at the Grimwell farm, hoping to hide in their barn for the night. A potentially tragic situation is diffused when Rand manages to convince the Grimwells to put them up for the night in exchange for chores. It’s a lucky break for the travelers.
Egwene and Perrin learn they had a similar lucky break when Aram (Daryl McCormack) explains the Tinkers would normally never travel this far afield, but that the road had been full of soldiers and other dangerous men best avoided. His grandmother, Ila (Maria Doyle Kennedy) explains the Way of the Leaf to them. A religious devotion to pacificism that accepted death rather than self-defense should escape be impossible sounds mad to Perrin, but he can’t deny the truth of her argument when she asks if his life has been better or worse since he picked up an ax rather than a hammer. As they dance after the Tuatha’an have settled down for the night, Egwene learns Aram doesn’t believe in the Song of harmony they seek, though, as she points out, he has something similar already in his life with the wagons. Aram is clearly developing feelings for Egwene but recognizes she’s in love with someone else. Egwene is strangely sure she would know if Rand was dead. Perrin meanwhile finds some peace in his craft, fixing a broken cart axle in thanks for the Tinkers’ help. He still doesn’t understand how Ila could be so devout in the Way of the Leaf after he learns of her daughter’s violent death, but she believes the best revenge is to live well.
It’s a good thing Rand and his companions found the Grimwell farm when they did because Mat Cauthon is not well. He’s listless and pale and has to abandon mucking out stalls in favor of vomiting in the yard. What comes out is Mashadar, the corrupting shadow from Shadar Logoth, though Mat doesn’t seem aware of this fact. He’s startled by the Grimwell’s daughter, who reminds him strongly of his sisters back in Two Rivers. She in turn trusts him and worries about him and gives him her doll, Birgitte. “She’s always wanted to see the world,” she solemnly tells him.
Thom thinks he knows what’s wrong with Mat, who displays symptoms similar to those of his nephew Owyn. Owyn could channel, you see, and one day while Thom was away the Reds came for him. They gentled him on the spot and left him behind. Rand doesn’t think that sounds too terrible until Thom explains that men and women both lose the will to live when they lose their connection to the One Power. Owyn survived only a few weeks before cutting his own throat at the dinner table. Rand is confused about how a simple gleeman could know so much of the world, but Thom explains the silly name hides a deeper knowledge of history and the world than most people find comfortable. Rand tries to comfort Mat before they sleep, and is immediately in one of the strange nightmares Moiraine feared. Perrin, Mat, and Egwene are all there, trapped in their own hells as Rand sees the dark figure haunting him clearly for the first time. A featureless face of melted flesh surrounding eyes and mouth of fire wake him at the same time Thom shakes his shoulder. The horses are freaked and Mat is missing. They run to the house and in their horror discover Mat standing, dagger in hand, surrounded by the Grimwells’ corpses, children, and all. They suspect Mat of killing them in his madness but instead they discover a Fade blending perfectly into the shadows above him. It melts first out sight and then back in a different location - Fades can travel by shadow, as well as blend in perfectly with the dark. Mat is controlled by Mashadar once again, the evil in him hungering to kill the Shadow in the Fade. Thom sacrifices himself so the boys can get away. Mat awakens from his trance in time to see the corpse of his little friend. As they escape Birgitte, the doll named for a Hero of the Horn falls from his horse and lies abandoned in the mud.
Nynaeve bonds with the Warders, finding in them a welcome much warmer than that of the Aes Sedai. They explain a bit of the Bond they share, the symbiotic relationship that transfers strength, endurance, and a deeper understanding of one another than any romantic relationship. Nynaeve is a bit shocked to realize Alanna is sleeping with both her Warders, Maksim and Ihvon, and wonders about Lan and Moiraine. Lan, for his part, reminds Moiraine that Logain is years too old to be the Dragon, and wonders if he’s powerful enough to be a candidate. Moiraine has her doubts and doesn’t believe even the Dark One knows who truly is the Dragon.
The next day, Lan and Nynaeve are bonding over their similar pasts when shouts and Kerene’s broken wards alerted the Tar Valon party to the advance of Logain’s army, now led by the King of Ghealdan. Alanna Sedai springs into action, first halting a wave of arrows before turning it on the charging soldiers. During the distraction Logain breaks free of first the shields and then the cage, knocking out Kerene and Liandrin in the process. Moiraine arrives and confronts the channeler. When she learns he hears voices of what he thinks are past Dragons she decides he can’t possibly be the Dragon Reborn. Together with Kerene and Liandrin she holds off Logain until he strikes with hardened Air. Kerene places her shield atop Moiraine’s and Liandrin’s, saving their lives but losing her own as a result. Stepin feels her die in the midst of his own battle and goes a touch insane. Alanna unleashes her own strength, wiping the attacking army from the map in a spectacular display of carnage that kills their King. Liandrin is nearing the end of her strength when the Warders and Aes Sedai arrive. Stepin immediately attacks with a pair of axes that shatter from Logain’s counterstroke. The steel and wooden fragments scythe down the Tar Valoners. Moiraine is impaled through the abdomen and Lan’s throat is cut. Nynaeve, miraculously untouched, snaps. Her channeling envelopes the entire room in the One Power. In a heartbeat she has healed everyone in the room, a task thought impossible and more powerful than Logain or any living Aes Sedai. Alanna arrives and together the refreshed sisters link their powers and still Logain. The fight immediately goes out of him, and he weeps on the floor like a broken man.
At this point, the only storyline close to the Eye of the World is that of Egwene and Perrin and their Tuatha’an rescuers. Apart from the lack of Elyas, everything else is spot on. Perrin, naturally kindhearted and gentle, is drawn to the Way of the Leaf even though he knows it can never be a place for him. His accidental killing of Laila and the inevitable violence of his future as a ta’veren and potential Dragon ensure that. But he would like it to be, and it’s only in his work as a blacksmith that he can find peace. Maria Doyle Kennedy gives a wonderful performance as Ila, and it makes sense why Perrin would be so drawn to a life free of further violence. Egwene does her best to enjoy life while she can. Her confidence Rand is alive dead was interesting, and I wonder if it was meant to suggest she Bonded Rand in some way, or if it was just a random bit of dialogue.
By comparison, Rand and Mat’s journey to Tar Valon is significantly different. Thom, who originally joined the party back in Two Rivers, stayed with Rand and Mat until he was lost in a fight with a Fade in the town of Whitebridge. The pair then stayed for a brief time with the Grimwell family, who survived the experience. Mat was sickened from the dagger but did not have Mashadar hiding inside him, and it didn’t take him over so much as suck the life from him and leave him deeply paranoid, not unlike the One Ring. Speaking of the Grimwells, the moment Mat shared with Helga (Robyn Betteridge) was touching and, in retrospect, tragic. The doll, Birgitte, is named for the legendary archer who, as sometimes happens, gets bound to the Wheel of Time as an eternal hero. Think of her as one of Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table and you’ll be close. She lives, dies as a hero, and is reborn to do it all over again. Only between lives does she know her own full history. Thom’s story about his nephew Owyn remains the same. We get our first real glimpse of the burning man in the foursome’s nightmares, known as Ba’alzamon. Who he is, exactly, remains a mystery for now, but he’s clearly not a force for good.
Everything happening to Lan, Moiraine, and Nynaeve is new, which doesn’t make it bad. The battle scenes of the Aes Sedai unleashing their powers were impressive as hell. Alanna Sedai is a true badass, and the effects of her sending Earth flows through the ground to explode at the soldiers’ feet was fantastic. The duel with Logain was a bit uninspiring at points, the effects of black saidin lost in the dark surroundings. Watching the Fade emerge from the darkness only to vanish again at the Grimwell farm was deeply disturbing if brief. Nynaeve’s sudden mastery over the One Power is because she’s what’s known as a wilder. A natural gift for channeling is held back by a mental or emotional block. It can be released through different therapies involving various levels of physical discomfort, but until the block is gone only extreme emotional stress can trigger her talents. But her power is immense, equal to that expected of the Dragon. Her dress of green and yellow is deliberate, I suspect, combining the Battle Ajah with the Healing talents that are the Yellow Ajah’s focus. It seems certain she is the fifth potential sought by the Shadow, despite the age difference. It suggests she’s also ta’veren, as does her emerging unscathed from the shrapnel of Stepin’s axes.
It’s not the only time the Two Rivers folk have uncanny luck. The Tinkers being in the right place at the right time to meet Egwene and Perrin. Rand convinces the Grimwells to take them in. The thing about ta’verens in the Wheel of Time is their existence alters the probabilities of the universe. At the low end of the effects, a tossed coin may land on edge, or a tossed die show sixes every time. At the far end, people surrounding the ta’veren might make unlikely choices. People may die through freak accidents, or make a last-minute saving throw. It cuts both ways, but it might be why our heroes are experiencing certain events.
It was a solid, fast-paced episode. Egwene and Perrin’s journey is a bit dull unless the philosophical questions posed by the Way of the Leaf inspire you to rewatch The Good Place. Like Libertarianism and MoviePass, the Way seems a philosophy best suited to hypothetical scenarios, rather than the real world. Particularly when in that real world a Myrrdraal may come for your daughter.
This week’s wait between episodes may be the death of me. Tune in next week to my recap of Episode 5: Warders Gone Wild.
Header Image Source: Prime video screenshots