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… also, there’s an Ogier in this house!
After a pretty solid and action-packed episode 4, Wheel of Time on TV slows down to do some much needed worldbuilding. Also, some Whitecloaks get what’s coming to em. Let’s recap.
We’re first treated to the Aes Sedai in the wake of Kerene Nagashi’s death. There’s lots of mourning as the Ajahs manage to come together to bury their own. They’re also putting others into the ground, including the tragic King of Ghealdan, who lost his life following the False Dragon Logain (Alvaro Morte). Stepin (Peter Franzén) walks with Kerene’s body, depositing her into a grave. Lots of keening to go around. There’s an interesting shot as the camera zooms out, and we see that the shrouded and buried bodies are arranged in a circle–an allusion to the Wheel one must assume. This has been a theme throughout the show, where we see certain symbols–like the Dragon’s Fang–appear throughout, the latter appearing made of blood.
When we start the episode proper, we find out everything we’re seeing going forward takes place one month later. That’s some good realistic epic fantasy pacing. After all, everyone travels around here by horse. That takes a minute. So yeah, it’s gonna be a month before our adventurers get to wherever they’re going.
Turns out, that’s Tar Valon. Whaaaat?
So what you need to know about Tar Valon: it’s where the Aes Sedai stay at. That makes it hella important. Aes Sedai are the center of the city. It is their home and power base. You want to train to be Aes Sedai, they don’t have chapters or lodges or a franchise chain. You gotta take yourself to Tar Valon, and to the magnificent Aes Sedai White Tower: the centerpiece of the city that stands out starkly. A whole lot is gonna happen here in this story. In that White Tower especially. So it was a thrill to see it displayed.
And did they display it! The production crew must have spent a ton on their budget for this. Tar Valon from the distance just looks as fantastic as it should: a true fantasy city, with the White Tower rising into the sky. Even loved the architecture: a mix of numerous Eastern influences blended with more “traditional” westernized fantasy. The inside of the city was no less impressive, with its many roads and corridors–and all the people, with their camels or horses, in different dress, selling food, with merchant shops and even a place to get ya’ wig tight. Seriously, there was a dude getting his head shaved in a particular shot. This is the first time we’re treated to an actual living and breathing city in the series–a stark contrast to the village Emond’s Field in the backwater of the Two Rivers. No Shadar Logoth don’t count, as it was dead and crumbling and haunted. This was Tar Valon, in all its splendor. Really well done!
Eat your heart out Gondor!
The first scenes feature Moraine (Rosamund Pike) and Lan (Daniel Henny) approaching Tar Valon, where we get glimpses of the White Tower in the distance. They’re part of the Aes Sedai entourage bearing a captured Logain for trial–though against protocols, he’s already been gentled. The Reds are there as well, including Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) along with the Greens like Alanna (Priyanka Bose). At their head is a sober Stepin, leading Kerene’s horse and boots.
They’re not the only ones heading to Tar Valon. We see Rand (Josha Stradowski) and Matt (Barney Harris) simultaneously following a smaller group of travelers headed to the city. Matt don’t look so good. Pale, sunken eyes, snapping at kids. Looks like he’s gotten hooked on some Shadar Logoth. Rand is concerned, but he’s taken by the sight of Dragonmount–created by the last Dragon Lews Therin in his final act of suicide. Rand feels a familiarity to it. You don’t say Rand…
When the two get to Tar Valon they are the proverbial bumpkins in the big city–gawking at the tall structures and all the people. They manage to make it to an inn mentioned to them by Thom Merrillin (Alexandre Willaume) who we last saw trying to fight a Fade single-handed. Rand’s hope is that there they can clean up before going to Tar Valon, where they’re hoping to run into Moraine and everyone else–though a skeptical Matt thinks they’re all dead. Here’s a little something–when they enter the inn we’re treated to several glimpses of someone watching them. In once scene, we see him in the corner, mostly a hand showing dazzling rings. That would be one smuggler Padan Fain. Who it seems, has shown up before. Now what’s he doing here? Hint–ain’t nuthin nice.
Rand, tiring of Matt’s complaining and hygiene (dude didn’t bother to clean up before hopping in a bed…nasty), decides to check out the library at the inn. There he begins reading a book where we get to see a larger map of this world and he mutters to himself The Karaethon Cycle which is a big big deal and made anyone familiar with the series go WHOOP! Did you catch the drawing of a dragon? But what really had us at the edge of our seats, was what we KNEW was coming next. Rand at an inn, at a library, could only mean one thing…
THERE’S AN OGIER IN THIS HOUSE!
Sure enough, while Rand is reading, a tall and broad figure that is in no ways human enters the room, books in hand. Rand freaks and pulls out his sword, yelling “Trolloc!” But the big fellow only grins to show blockish teeth. When he mentions the keyword “stedding” Rand realizes this isn’t a Trolloc–but an Ogier, one of the other non-human sentient races in this world. This one is probably one of the most favorite characters from the book, Loial–son of Arent, son of Halen.
I’ve been waiting to see Loial since the series started. And I was as overjoyed as probably everyone else who was waiting to see him so early, by episode 5. So what did I think? This Loial has that rumbling voice and there was no doubt when I first saw him that this was an Ogier. However, I have to admit that between the excitement I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for…more…from an Ogier. In the books, they are massive–tall enough to brush the ceiling. This Ogier looked more like a really big guy. Like he shops at the Big and Tall store. Also, unlike the Ogier from the books, there were no tufted ears that twitched or long drooping eyebrows. Turns out, they have a good reason for not going all out on Loial–money. In an interview, showrunner Rafe Judkins made plain that they just couldn’t afford to spend all their SFX on some CGI Loial. And that’s absolutely understandable. The actor playing Loial (Hammed Animashaun) does a fabulous job conveying the character (though I hope the more childish whimsy and innocence Loial gives off in the books appears later) and the makeup artists should be commended! So, disappointed. But appreciative for what the show did with the budget they had. For those of you still griping, as my mother might have said, “You got CGI Loial money?” Okay then. Let it rest.
(But whatever y’all got going on up top on my man’s head, nah. Y’all gotta fix that quick fast…because…well, damn. That ain’t it.)
Loial, true to form, talks Rand’s ear off. He is both amused and bemused by humans and their rash ways. He also mentions interestingly that Rand must be an Aiel. Rand of course, insists he’s not, which Loial also finds curious. We all find that curious Loial. There’s also a mention of Jain Farstrider–an adventurer and traveler who is larger than life in the books. Rand eventually has to leave Loial (Ogier are chatty as heck) because about this time they’re bringing the False Dragon through the city streets. He’s joined by Matt and the two sit outside windows high above, watching as Logain is paraded in a cage. People hiss and boo at him, throwing assorted vegetables and stones his way. He ignores them all–now a gentled man, and not even a threat. He only breaks his silence when he happens to glance up and spies Rand and Matt. Something about seeing them, sends him feverish and laughing maniacally. The show seems to be implying that it’s because of Matt, in this head fake they’re trying to pull off. Sure thing guys.
Now what’s most interesting about these scenes is that they represent a strong deviation from the books…sort of. In the original novels, we don’t get to see Tar Valon until Book 2, The Great Hunt. In the first book, Eye of the World, Rand, Matt and company do end up in the same place–but that’s Caemlyn, another city in a country called Andor and just about the closest we get to merry ol’ England in this world. Caemyln, Camelot, get it? Anyway, the show has decided to just take us to Tar Valon straight off. And all the stuff that happens in Caemyln (like meeting Loial or seeing Logain paraded) happens here now. Economical worldbuilding. Because we ain’t got 700 pages here.
Back at the White Tower, Lan and Moraine are helping Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) settle in. The Wisdom is pissed because there’s no sign of the others she’d hope to find. Plus ever since she showed out with the One Power last time, she’s hella feeling herself–talmabout maybe the Aes Sedai of the White Tower need to be checking for her. Excuse you? Moraine has to be like, aye yo ease up homey. This ain’t whatever bumpkin Emond’s Field you used to. This is THEE White Tower. The Aes Sedai in here will eat you alive. So watch yourself. Besides, you just scared because you touched the One Power and now don’t know how to act. You think you aren’t the same person and wonder if you can go back. And the truth is, you can’t. Real talk.
So who else is on the road heading to Tar Valon? The Tinkers–joined by Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden). It’s all chuckles and jokes with the Tuatha’an until they’re all stopped by some Children of the Light, led by Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis), who we met before. He’s coming asking if the Tinkers know anything about the False Dragon. And that might have been all, if he didn’t also spot Egwene and Perrin, who he’d last seen in the company of Moraine. Damn. Valda demands the two be given over to them. The Tinkers refuse. Using their non-violence ethos they link arms and try to turn the other cheek–for which they get beaten bloody. Aram (Daryl McCormack) tries to lead Egwene and Perrin to safety, but some Children of the Light surround them on horseback, knock him (Aram) out and capture the two. Klan Cloaks are THE WORST!
Back at the White Tower, Stepin is getting prepared to mourn Kerene. He relates to Lan and Alanna’s warders that he was once a mean drunk–and tried to challenge Kerene who laughed in his face. Next thing, he was her warder. When Lan suggests maybe he allow himself to bond with Alanna though, Stepin snaps back at the suggestion. He eventually takes Kerene’s ring to what we must suppose is the actual “flame of Tar Valon.” Throwing it into the flames, it melts One Ring style–and Stepin finally weeps. Lan goes to Moraine, where he contemplates what it might mean to lose her.
The Klan Cloaks now have Egwene and Perrin. Her they bathe and purify in a weird uncomfortable ritual–down to the most awkward manicure ever. Eamon Valda is once more eating some odd meat when he has Egwene seated, her wrists bound down by ropes. He tells her basically he suspects her of being Aes Sedai, or a woman who can channel, and does a Child of the Light spiel on why that’s evil blah blah blah. She denies this, even gets froggy with him. But he’s already had Perrin bought in, bound as well. He takes out a knife, and starts torturing Perrin by cutting into his back. And he gives more Child of the Light philosophy, sounding like a deranged angel. As he tortures Perrin, interestingly it turns his eyes golden. Well. Well. Valda finally relents, but tells them either she’ll have to show she can channel (for which he’ll kill her) or Perrin dies.
In the Tower, Stepin wanders around drunk and ends up seeing Nyaneve. As she’s a Wisdom, he’s wondering if she has anything to help him sleep. Turns out she does, and hands him a packet of herbs. Against Moraine’s orders, she leaves her room and starts wandering herself. In the halls, she comes across none other than Liandrin–who tells her a bit about warders. When Nynaeve asks it’s true if Reds hate men, Liandrin replies that it’s women who (now) hold the One Power, but it’s men who still rule much of the world, and they aren’t kind to even girls who show a spark of being greater than they are. It’s Liandrin who tells her she should check out the gardens now that she’s out of Moraine’s cage. And it’s there, by random chance, that she bumps into Loial who then takes her to Rand and Matt and before you can say “reunited!” there they all are.
Okay, so the main characters getting separated then reunited is a tried and true fantasy practice. Always happens. Always love the reunion. That being said, gotta say this felt a bit rushed. I get that they wanted to just get to this unifying part quickly. But it’s just too convenient. We don’t even get to see Loial meet Nyaneve. Someone just happened to mention a garden (randomly) at a time (also randomly) someone else of import would be there. Unless the point here is the Liandrin knew Loial was in the garden and wanted this meetup on purpose? That don’t make sense tho. Blargh. Not a fan of that bit of storytelling.
Anyway, when Nyanaeve tries to get close to inspect Matt he goes all wild-eyed and snappish. Rand confides to the Wisdom that he’s worried Matt can channel and that these are the symptoms. *head fake!* Rand is worried about taking him to Moraine, for fear that they may gentle him. Nyaneve tells him they don’t need Aes Sedai help. Keep Matt there and when Perrin and Egwene find them, they’ll sort it out on their own. Yeah. You do that. With a Shadar Logoth blade. Relating a story of how Egwene nearly died of a disease as a child, Nyaneve assures Rand that she (Egwene) will survive because she’s unbreakable.
Back at Klan Cloaks central, Egwene is trying to get free. Perrin tells her not to try and channel. He confesses (finally!!) that he killed his wife, accidentally, that night of the Trolloc attack. He says that perhaps he deserves to die. Just then Valda arrives, ready to do some torturing. As he starts cutting into Perrin’s back, Egwene cries out that the death of his wife wasn’t his fault. And that he shouldn’t be ready to sacrifice his life. Then she sits back, and tries to channel. We see a weave that becomes a small fireball in her hand. She sends it at Valda but it’s pretty weak and he flicks it off laughing. But Egwene’s real target wasn’t him–it was Perrin’s ropes. They burn away enough for him to break free. And when he stands, he’s growling, and his eyes are golden.
A terrified Valda backs away from him, giving enough time for a freed Egwene to put a knife in his shoulder. While he’s down, she snatches the collected Aes Sedai rings he’s holding, and she and Perrin run outside to find–wolves! We’d heard them howling all this time in the background. And they’re all over the camp, tearing into Klan Cloaks. YESSSS! When a Klan Cloak gets in their way, a wolf goes for this throat. One last wolf says a few snarly things to Perrin, before bounding off. And the two take their chance to flee.
So I guess this was the point of Dark Perrin? So we could have this whole exchange. Okay. I guess. Just so that it’s out of everyone’s system…
Back at the tower, there’s a Liandrin and Moraine meetup in the halls. They have one of those frenemy talks, mostly regarding which sorority Nyaneve is gonna join. Elsewhere, Lan comes across Stepin burning some sage (we gonna go with that) to ward off the Forsaken. A Forsaken mention! Drink! As Lan recounts, the Forsaken were 13 of the most powerful Aes Sedai (men and women) from the Age of Legends, who sold their souls to the Dark One. Now they are bound like he is, sealed away by the last Dragon. Lan says, enough of this, and that he’ll stay up with Stepin in his grief.
Moraine arrives at her rooms to find Alanna there, sitting on her bed and eating. The two banter like co-eds in a dorm room, but about serious things–like what and where Moraine has been at all this time? Of course, Moraine ain’t telling. Alanaa also informs her the Amyrlin Seat is heading back to Tar Valon to hold them all accountable for Logain’s unsanctioned gentling. And rumor is, the Amyrilin ain’t a fan of Moraine. Added to this, is that Liandrin is growing in power and has the ear of more than a few sisters–not just Reds neither. Alanna tells Moraine that Tower politics is changing, and that she (Moraine) has made some powerful enemies. Before she goes, Alanna also relates that perhaps one day Moraine will find a way to trust others with her secrets–before they scour her away. As if to underscore the point, once Moraine is alone she goes to a golden molding on the wall that turns out to be a secret door. When swung open, it reveals a picture of a woman looking at a light out of a window. No idea what that is and what it means. The internets is full of rumors. But I’m intrigued.
Stepin and Lan spend the night drinking and talking–about him (Stepin) becoming Alanna’s warder and Lan’s thoughts on Nyaneve. Uh huh. Morning hits Tar Valon and Lan awakes to find himself alone, and groggy. Stumbling to his feet he finds his drinking cup has been spiked with some herbs. Searching about, he finds Nyaneve’s packet. Also, a knife is missing from a wall. Almost at once he puts two and two together and goes racing out of the room, running through the tower halls until he finds Stepin. The warder is on his knees, head bowed–and he’s plunged a knife into is gut, committing suicide.
Damn. Now, as I said already, in the books Kerene and Stepin are pretty much side characters who die at sea (or were likely murdered). Everything in this episode and the last is new material. It seems the ultimate purpose of their re-imagined roles was to illustrate the depth of the bond between warder and Aes Sedai. In the books, Aes Sedai are forever grieving if one of their warders fall. And warders are so distraught at the death of their Aes Sedai they are known to either become beserker violent or go off seeking vengeance–even if it means certain death. These episodes have done a good job in explaining this bond, so that everyone understands just how close the Aes Sedai are to their warder–and vice versa. After the scene of Stepin’s death, we’re treated to a very emotional warder funerary ritual–where Lan bears the depths of his grief in an anguished end-of-episode scream.
Whew. That one was hard. Gotta say, this Lan displays a lot more emotion than the one from the books. And that’s a good thing. As much as happened in this episode, it definitely felt like a slowdown in the pacing (which is sometimes necessary) to push a lot of pieces into place on the board. Now that things are arranged, we’ll see where they plan on going next.
So that’s it this week.
Till episode 6, where we’ll get to meet a very fiery tongued Amyrlin with an Illianer accent.