Wheel of Time on TV: The Dark Along the Ways

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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, The Blood Snow. They gave us the Blood Snow. Cadin’sor, check. Shoufa, check. Spears, check. Break out the oosquai. The Aiel have officially entered the chat.

After Episode 6 slowed things down to take us through the politics of the White Tower, episode 7 ticks it up a bit to a jog. But what a jog it is! Thus far, this is the most important episode of the season. And it tells us that the show is ready to shift gears and take things to another level. Let’s get into it.

In my best Bayle Domon: FORTUNE DO PRICK ME, THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

The episode starts in the snow.

There’s the sound of breathing. We follow a figure running across what looks like a battlefield, where amid burned out wagons, splintered war machines, dead horses and debris, the bodies of the slain lay on the bloodied and scorched snow. The figure is wrapped completely in off-white almost brown clothing, with soft boots, carrying a spear while two bloodstained spears are strapped to their back. When the figure stops to turn about, we see it’s a woman (Magdalena Sittova), face concealed by a black veil that shows only her eyes and a bit of red hair. That can only mean one thing. She’s an Aiel, Far Dareis Mai, a Maiden of the Spear. And before this is all done, she is going to without a doubt f**k somebody’s sh*t up. Big time. Cuz that’s what Aiel do.

Above fireballs, as if from a catapult, hurtle across the sky. As she watches them a sharp pain causes her to cry out and she doubles over. When she resumes her run we can see that her face is streaked with blood. Amid her heavy breathing her eyes seem frantic, as if searching for something. As she runs we get a shot of the background and realize she’s on a mountain, whose snowy peak stretches high into the air. From the other side where we can’t see, there’s the cries and shouts of what can only be a battle. The woman seems desperate to escape it, and comes to stop behind a large slab of black rock. Pulling down her mask she’s wracked by another bit of pain and bends to clutch her belly–where we see, that she’s pregnant. She slides down to sit, grimacing through what we can only now guess are contractions.

Did you have pregnant warrior woman on your Wheel of Time bingo board?

But no sooner does she sit, than a sword tries to take her head. Welp! She ducks away, looking up to see a soldier in armor, headgear, and a fancy cape standing atop the rock–the nine golden bees of Illian on his breastplate. Bringing her spear to bear, she does some legwork on him, knocking him down and off the rock. The effort has clearly winded her. Because you know, the pregnancy? But she knows this ain’t done. With a run and a leap straight outta Crouching Tiger, she snatches the soldier by his cape, pulling him off balance until he goes down on his back. Then she lifts her spear and plunges it into his face. Damn. So much for fancy capes.

The fighting causes her to bend down again clutching her belly. But there’s more.

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Several soldiers dressed like the first come up the mountain towards her, their swords drawn. And what happens next, are probably some of the best few minutes of fantasy fighting we have seen on TV. The soldiers come, and she handles them. I mean, HANDLES them. Like you know how John Wick is straight head shots? Imagine that, but with spears. And hella pregnant. Don’t ask me to narrate that sh*t. It would take pages. It’s a beautiful, deadly, and spectacular choreography. You just have to see it for yourself.

But it’s not without its tragedies. During the fight, the warrior woman is stabbed in the side. Uncool to stab a pregnant lady dude. Even one trying to take your head off. The camera gives us a slow motion look at her face, showing the pain at being stabbed, the anguish, and the fear of what it could mean to her unborn child. Going into full mama bear mode, she lets out a battle cry and handles Mr. Stabby. With his own knife. Then she falls to her knees and, grabbing the slain soldiers’ fancy cape, crawls back to the rock she’d first tried to rest against. There, with her back to the stone, she begins to scream and push, attempting to give birth.

Wow.

Only before she can even get some proper breathing exercises down, there’s a sword in her face. C’mon! She looks at the blade then up into the face of the helmeted soldier standing over her.

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Roll Credits.

Okay. Y’all need a drink? Cuz I need a drink.

So, from the moment that opener started, anyone familiar with the book series was shouting Aiel battle songs that startled our pets and children: “Wash the spears while the sun climbs high. Wash the spears while the sun falls low. Wash the spears, who fears to die? Wash the spears, no one I know!” Ever since we saw the image of that figure running in the snow in the early previews, we knew who it was. We knew what it meant. We wondered how the show would pull it off?

Turns out, the answer is ABSOLUTELYFRIGGINAWESOMEHELLYES Exclamation point! Exclamation point! Exclamation Point!

In the books, this is more discussed than actually narrated. And we’ve always wondered how it might play out. Giving us this scene was a gift. A pure gift of love. Bloody, gruesome, deadly love. Thank you. That the show kept this in reserve, for the 7th episode, when there’s only one episode left, also tells us that BIG BIG tings are in the offing. BIG tings. How big tho… we had to watch and see.

When we get through the credits, we pick up where just about everyone else left off. United once again, Moraine (Rosamund Pike), Lan (Daniel Henney), Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Nyaneve (Zoë Robins), Rand (Josha Stradowski), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Loial (Hammed Animashaun) are in a Waygate, with the intent of heading to the Eye of the World–to see which of them is the Dragon Reborn, and possibly fight the Dark One. Yeah, what’s on your to-do list today? Oh one person isn’t with them. Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) for reasons only the show’s writers understand, has perplexingly decided to stay behind. Fool of a Took! Sorry, wrong fantasy.

This has the Two Rivers folks visibly upset. Nyaneve insists they have to go after Mat. But Moraine says he’s made his choice. Rand, all in his feelings, asks if she made the choice for him. Moraine says in Mat’s condition, still recovering from his Shadar Logoth addiction, he doesn’t look like he’d be to handle what’s to come–and that Rand knows this. Tiring of their protests, she tells them they have to get moving and hands a torch to Nyaneve. The Two Rivers folks still hope to retrieve Mat and start talking about opening the Waygate again. Loial shakes his head telling them that’s basically impossible. Because someone would have to channel to do so (a change from the books is that now channeling is needed to open a Waygate) and that would invite Machin Shin to feast on their souls. Perrin asks, what the hell is Machin Shin? Loial, for once, doesn’t feel like giving a lengthy explanation. He’s like, I just told y’all humans that there’s something in here that will eat your soul, and you’re still standing here? Peace. I’m out. Then he bounces.

And that is the Blackest Ogier thing ever.

Rand is still all “ride or die” for Mat. But the others ain’t so sure. Egwene straight up says, look we didn’t leave him behind, he left us. Mmm hmm. Saaay that! Perrin reminds that none of them can open a Waygate, so what we gonna do? Facts. Nyaneve finally gives in, and tells them that when this is all over they’ll come back for Mat. Rand is still pissed. But he’s been outvoted by the Two Rivers committee, so he gets to stepping with them too.

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Meanwhile, up ahead, Lan and Moraine have a convo about Mat. Lan asks if it was right to leave him behind–what if it was him? Moraine replies that there’s an inherent darkness in Mat. That the dagger from Shadar Logoth was feeding on his darkness as much as he was feeding on it. She says that if he’s the Dragon, she wouldn’t take him anywhere near the Eye of the World–for fear that he might be turned to the Shadow.

Okay. I’ve decided. Remember how I really disliked Dark Perrin? I think I dislike Dark Mat even more. The Mat of the books isn’t dark. Dark things do happen to him. But he himself is not a brooding figure from the seemingly only dysfunctional family in the Two Rivers. He actually gets along with his Pops, who goes out to find him when he disappears. The Mat of the books is undoubtedly a rogue. But more in the mold of Huckleberry Finn. He pulls pranks, loves to gamble, always has a devious smile, and has a habit of landing in trouble. He’s heroic, though he’d always deny it–because heroes he’d tell you are fools. Yet, you can always rely on him to (eventually) do the right thing. His alignment is Chaotic Good, no doubt. The best word for him might be scamp. That’s it, yeah. He’s a 100% scamp. With a lot of luck. Why the show seems insistent on so drastically altering one of the series’ most well-liked characters is baffling.

Did Zack Snyder sneak onto the set?

Artist Seamus Gallagher’s rendition of a less broody Mat Cauthon

Anyway, as they journey along the Ways, Loial relates that it used to once be green and lush, and starts relating all the bad things that can happen to them in here now–until Rand says, “we get it.” Meanwhile, Lan has managed to sidle up to the Nyaneve, where he says he owes Moraine three silvers, cuz he’d bet she’d never come along. He assures her that Mat is safer staying behind than in the Ways, which I guess is supposed to be comforting. Just about then Perrin shouts that there’s something far ahead. Lan goes forward to find a stone, defaced with gouging cracks. It’s a guiding stone, essential for traveling through the Ways. Loial is puzzled at who could have done such a thing, but says he can still decipher it if given time.

Moraine tells everyone to rest and wait. They have a day of walking through the Ways, so take a breather while they can. Rand asks Perrin how he even made out that stone far off in the dark. But his friend replies he doesn’t know. Bet you don’t wolf boy. Off to the side, Lan quietly tells Moraine that someone–or something–is following them. Yeah, nothing like being followed through a creepy dark, thundering and lightening time space portal. Good times. Everyone lays down to sleep while Lan keeps watch. Egwene is the one who awakens though, asking if anyone has heard something.

Suddenly, out of the dark, a bestial figure emerges–pouncing. A Trolloc! A weave of the One Power catches it before it can strike, sending it hurtling down into the darkness of the Ways. Everybody’s up now! Loial can’t believe it. A Trolloc in the Ways, he exclaims, should be impossible! But Lan says this explains how the shadowspawn got to the Two Rivers undetected. And who or what defaced the guiding stones, Moraine adds. Perrin inexplicably asks, “y’all cold all of a sudden?”

Uh oh.

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Egwene frantically apologizes, saying she didn’t mean to channel as she was told explicitly that was a bad idea earlier–since it could call up Machin Shin. Nyaneve finally asks what is Machin Shin, though you think after being told it sucks souls somebody woulda demanded an elaboration earlier. Loial explains that in the old tongue it translates as the Black Wind. Moraine insructs that it will speak to them, and they must not listen. Lan laments they’ll never make it to their destination in time. He asks instead how far is the gate to Fal Dara. Loial says he knows the way and Moraine tells them to run.

Everybody runs! As they leave, the lightening illuminates a lone figure where they once rested, watching them in long robes–the peddler, Padan Fain.

Uh oh, again.

We soon see what’s after them tho–Machin Shin! I was wondering how the show would depict it. Here, the Black Wind a shrieking swirling mass of dark shiny objects like bits of stone or glass. That works. They reach the Waygate, but not before the Black Wind is upon them. In their heads they can hear it talking, playing on their worst hidden doubts. It tells Moraine, “you’re wrong about everything. you’ll murder these children and call it herorism.” It tells Egwene she’s an “imposter and a fraud.” It tells Rand that Egwene doesn’t love him like he loves her, and that she’ll leave him–again. Perrin hears that he wanted to kill his wife to get her out of the way, because he was in love with someone else. Lan is told he can’t protect her and will watch her die. Nyaneve is similarly told she can’t protect any of the Two Rivers folk, and she’ll hear their screams like she heard her parents.

Well that’s just rude.

So in the books, Machin Shin doesn’t really do this. It instead tells you to committ chaotic, murderous and self-destructive acts: “Blood so sweet, so sweet to drink the blood, the blood that drips, drips, drops so red; pretty eyes, fine eyes, I have no eyes, pluck the eyes from out of your head; grind your bones, split your bones inside your flesh, suck your marrow while you scream; scream, scream, singing screams, sing your screams…” Very cosmic horror “to look upon the Elder Gods breaks you mind” type of vibe. When Machin Shin’s done, you basically turn into a homicidal maniac. Kinda like what happened to folk who went to that dimension of chaos in Event Horizon.

I dunno how I feel about turning The Black Wind into essentially one of Voldemort’s horcruxes–whispering very mean-spirited things into your ear that erodes your self-esteem. I guess Machin Shin can hurt you in other ways? Anyway that’s what it is here, so that’s what we got. Telling Nyaneve over and over again she can’t protect anyone does get her hella mad, and she walks out towards Machin Shin to let loose a volley of One Power rage that keeps the Black Wind at bay–allowing Moraine to open the Waygate. They escape in the nick of time, as Machin Shin shrieks and the doorway closes.

Sidebar: I just remembered something. No one can see the One Power unless they channel or at least touch the source. Also, women can only see the women half of the Power: Saidar. And men can only see the male half: Saidin. So that little light show Nyaneve put on, would only be seen by Moraine and Egwene. Nobody else had better have been shielding their eyes. So, then how could Logain (back in episode 4), have possibly seen Nyaneve using the power and remarked on its brilliance? Could it be the show has broken this gendered binary so central to Jordan’s magic system? No complaints there… only, if so, they break that rule near the end. I’ll bring it up later. Okay, back to our regularly scheduled recap.

The fellowship all look up to find themselves now in a dry desert region. When Nyaneve asks where they are, Loial answers that they are at the fortress city of Fal Dara–last bastion against the Blight. Moraine tells them it’s a day’s journey past the city to reach the Eye of the World, their ultimate destination. But here they can rest among friends. Everyone though looks shook. Rand is all teary-eyed. Folk are doing the hundred yard stare. Moraine says that whatever Machin Shin told them, they should put it out their minds. Easier said than done though.

In our next scene, we’re treated to a closeup of Fal Dara! In the books, this is a city in the land of Shienar. The region it’s located in borders the Blight, where the Dark One’s power is strong and which is filled with Trollocs, Fades, and worse. Basically, Shienar sits at the border of this world’s version of Mordor. Not ideal real estate. The nations here are often called the Borderlands. Fal Dara was impressively imagined in the TV adaptation. With its tall walls and battlements, it looked like what I envisioned–a city that is always under threat and built for defense. As the crew walks across the bridge towards the entrance we even see Shienar’s signature flags, with the black hawk featured prominently. Nicely done! When it comes to conveying the breadth of fantasy cities this show has excelled.

As they walk across the bridge Loial asks Lan how long it’s been since he’s walked through this gate? Lan doesn’t really answer. But it seems the show is about to give us some much needed insight into his background. Tai’shar Malkier! Bring on the Seven Towers. In the halls of what appear to be a palace, the group are met by several men–all in armor, bearing the signature Shienar top-knots, and with the black hawk emblazoned on their backs. They greet Lan respectfully, hand to heart and bowing, calling him Dai Shin and welcoming him back. The tall one is Lord Kayen Yokata (Amar Chadha-Patel) and the one with the eye patch is unmistakably everybody’s foul-mouthed fave, Uno Nomesta (Guy Roberts). Uno breaks decorum and welcomes Lan home by smiling and calling him a “bloody great bastard”–which is the most Uno thing ever.

They are all led to a palace main hall, filled with various guards, attendants and whatnot–including a regal looking woman in white that is undoubtedly the Lady Amalisa Jagad (Sandra Yi Sencindiver). In the distance is a man standing in a rounded window with his back to everyone–but carrying the demeanor of the dude in charge. He turns to greet the new arrivals, and it’s none other than Amalisa’s brother, Agelmar Jagad (Chaanhing), Lord of Fal Dara. Definitely the dude in charge. Cuz who else rocking feathers on their shoulders? Pimp.

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Agelmar walks down to face Moraine and Lan, who both bow. He welcomes Lan back warmly, and greets Moraine as an Aes Sedai…maybe a bit less warmly. Do I detect shade? When Moraine greets him back and says she’s come to bring a warning, Agelmar cuts her off with a “yeah Imma stop you right there.” Oh yeah, definitely shade. As he walks to his throne he says, “Lemmee guess. My sister wrote Tar Valon claiming Shienar is about to get overrun by Trollocs and so the Amyrlin sent you to advise me.” That’s an exaggeration, he says. Shienar can handle its business without Tar Valon getting involved. Thanks but no thanks. Whew. Whole lotta heat coming off that throne! Moraine reacts to all this by saying she has no intention of telling the Lord of Fal Dara how to conduct Shienar’s affairs. But Trollocs are now using the Ways to travel. So y’all wanna send out some soldiers to pave that joint up or nah?

Welp!

This was a surprising exchange, especially since Moraine had claimed earlier that in Shienar they had friends. That wasn’t all that friendly. And what a change from the books! In the series, Aes Sedai are all but revered in Shienar. Unlike in other lands or kingdoms where the women of Tar Valon are whispered about in rumors, feared, or outright hated–in Shienar people worship the ground they walk upon. Part of this has to do with the fact that in the Borderlands, the threat of the Blight is ever present. Every Shienaran is a warrior damn near from birth, and expect Trolloc raids and attacks like other folks expect rain. This is a vast difference from say, the Two Rivers, which thought Trollocs a myth until that night of Bel Tine. So in Shienar, Aes Sedai, the White Tower and the Amyrlin are treated as the greatest allies in the ceaseless war against the Shadow. At the most Agelmar (in the books) is disappointed that Moraine isn’t there to help him lead a charge against a mounting Trolloc threat–as one Aes Sedai is worth a hundred soldiers. But even in his disappointment, he is exceedingly deferential. In Shienar you even DREAM about disrespecting an Aes Sedai you betta wake up and apologize!

But I guess not so much in this adaptation. Go figure.

Hearing the news about Trollocs in the Ways takes Agelmar’s shadiness down a notch. He actually offers a kinda apology for his rudeness, reaffirms the alliance Shienar has with Tar Valon and offers Moraine and her guests lodgings. He also sends some folk out to wall up the Ways. But not before we’re treated to a scene of a lone figure stepping out of the Waygate–the peddler Padan Fain, just sauntering down the steps like it ain’t nuthin, damn near strutting.

Bruh.

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Afterwards, Moraine is being escorted by the Lady Amalisa to her rooms. Moraine makes mention that she wants to see a seer named Min, who’s in Shienar. Waitaminute. Did she say Min? Amalisa shows off a bit, using the One Power to light a few torches. She’s also wearing the serpent ring. We learn that she was a novice in the White Tower, but didn’t have enough power and talent to become Aes Sedai. When she asks Moraine why their crew was traveling through the ways, she gets no answer–of course. Instead, Moraine asks for her discretion. The Lady Amalisa makes plain that whatever her past ties to the White Tower, her allegiances are to Sheinar, first and foremost. But she listens. Making certain no one can overhear, Moraine leans forward and asks the Lady to get a message to the White Tower, to seek after a young man–Mat Cauthon. Whut? When Amalisa asks precisely who the message should go to, Moraine says: “The Red Ajah?” WHUUUT?

Is it just me or does that seem a bit off-character, both for the Moraine of the book series and the one they have established here? If anything, her conflicts with the Reds seem MORE intense in the television adaptation. Whatever concerns she has over Mat, why would she get Reds involved? The same Reds who if they found out she even thought he (Mat) was the Dragon would have her stilled and executed? Didn’t we go over all this in the very last episode? All this just to keep running with the Dark Mat thing huh? I dunno fellas. But we’ll see how that works out.

Back outside, on the way to their lodgings, the fellowship is kinda somber. Moraine leads the way. Egwene is looking worriedly at Rand who seems despondent and lost in his own thoughts. Guessing that he must still be thinking about what he heard in the Ways, she tells him not to worry about what any supernatural creepy wind with mean girl tendencies has to say. Perrin meanwhile, doing his brooding big guy thing, by chance catches a glance of someone familiar–a certain peddler–strolling the streets. He tells as much to Nyaneve, that he thinks he just saw Padan Fain. The Wisdom dismisses this though, saying the peddler had to have died the night of the Trolloc rad at Bel Tine. Uh huh. Y’all are in for a surprise. Perrin remarks wistfully that it seems like another life, back at Bel Tine. Ain’t that the truth.

In the next scene, we’re at a bar–because what’s a fantasy world without endless bars? The younger Two Rivers folks are joking a bit, as Perrin tries to explain the eating habits of the Traveling Folk. But Nyaneve shushes them, as she’s nosily trying to mind Moraine’s business. Moraine is at the bar. Not ordering drinks though. She’s there to speak to a young lady bartender–the one and only Min Farshaw (Kae Alexander)! Woot!

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Why the woot? Because this is THEE Elmindreda “Min” Farshaw. Min is probably one of more beloved characters from the books. And she’s kind of a big deal. As in, expect to see her. Lots. In the books, Rand meets Min much earlier in a town called Baerlon–which is absolutely nowhere near Fal Dara or the Borderlands. But again, economical worldbuidling gotta do what it do. There are some things however that are reminiscent of the Min from the books: the short hair, a dislike of authority, and even a stint (albeit very short) working in a tavern she mentions. Most importantly though, is Min’s ability to see and read visions in the Pattern that foretell the future. These can be just about anything, and usually the people more important to the Pattern have them. No one knows why Min has this talent–as she can’t channel the One Power. But it’s thought perhaps it’s an ancient skill, come again. The Wheel turns…

Sure enough, here she’s regarded as a seer. And Moraine has come to ask her what she sees in the Two Rivers folk–hoping Min’s visions might help suss out who exactly is the Dragon. That way she can take just that one to the Eye of the World, and not the others who won’t survive. Min is reluctant, saying that’s invasive–and asks if the Two Rivers folk know about her. Moraine responds that no one knows what she is, except the Aes Sedai. She jokes that if everyone knew what Min was she’d be hounded all day. Then she drops the smile to add, an “or worse.” Ohhh. Moraine got joke threats. It’s like that? Min relents, and takes a look.

Around Nyaneve and Egwene she sees a white flame–no doubt this stands for the flame of Tar Valon, hinting that both women will eventually become Aes Sedai. She also sees one of the women with a gold ring–wonder who that belongs to? Ahem. She sees yellow eyes and blood running down Perrin’s chin. And, really wild, sees Rand with a baby. They all appear to be linked she says, which is unusual. And all about them is what looks like a struggle between the Light and the Dark. Min doesn’t offer what the visions mean when Moraine presses. And true enough, in the books sometimes she knows–and sometimes she doesn’t. One thing she can’t tell, is who is the Dragon. Moraine is disappointed by this, then notices Min looking intently at her. She asks if the seer sees something–which she should; in the books, Min is forever seeing things around Aes Sedai and Warders. Min again relents, and says she sees the Amyrlin Seat, in full regalia–and that she will be Moraine’s downfall.

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That night, Moraine meets with the Two Rivers folk. She tells them they leave for the Eye of the World at dawn. Rand asks who the bartender was that Moraine met earlier. She responds a woman she’s known since she (Min) was young. Nyaneve interjects, “don’t lie to us.” Moraine whirls on her and reminds her that being Aes Sedai, she can’t lie–much as she wishes she could. She tells them that Min can see glimpses in the Pattern and she’d hoped to learn which of them was the Dragon–so that they wouldn’t all have to go to the Eye of the World. Because, again, whoever is not the Dragon, will die: “ground to dust between the two forces of nature.” Everyone is quiet at that, until Egwene asks, “well which one of us is it?” Moraine breaks the news that she doesn’t know. And now she is going to be forced to take all four of them to the Eye of the World, knowing three will not return.

This, understandably, sets folk off. Perrin says Moraine can’t know that. Moraine says using “doubt as a crutch” ain’t gonna change what is. She tells them she didn’t choose this path, but she’s gonna follow it to the end. No matter what. Because it’s right. Nyaneve retorts that the Aes Sedai may have made her choice, but she can’t drag all four of them there on her own. Moraine steps up and says that running or hiding, won’t undo the weaving of the Pattern. Make whatever choices you gotta, but we all leave at dawn. Then she’s gone.

Also understandably, this puts everybody in a dark place. Egwene breaks the quiet, saying they left the Two Rivers for a reason, to save their village. That ain’t changed. She’s going. When Nyaneve says she’s just believing whatever Moraine says, Egwene retorts that the Wisdom is letting her own pride and distrust of Moraine impact her ability to do what’s right. Rand says they’ve lost too many people already and he can’t lose anymore. Perrin again asks, what if Moraine is wrong and we’re throwing away our lives for nothing? What if NONE of us are the Dragon? What if it’s Mat? Egwene rolls her eyes and scoffs at this…and that’s when everything goes downhill.

Rand is insulted for Mat, and tells Egwene she doesn’t know him–and his struggles, in the hard knock streets of …the Two Rivers. She answers back that he left them. Rand, stung, replies that she’s the only one that’s ever left him. This sets off Perrin who jumps up and gets in Rand’s face, demanding he, apologize. Nyaneve tells them to both stop fighting like Egwene is a possession to have. Ruh roh. There’s an awkward silence and Rand asks what did you just say? Then he laughs wryly. Perrin almost growls what’s so funny? Rand looks between he and Egwene, and asks how he couldn’t see it before. He insinuates (pretty blatantly) that Perrin only married his wife after he realized he couldn’t get Egwene. Perrin is swole now! Really growling , he ays the only woman he ever loved was his wife. Before things can come to blows, Rand backs off and walks away. Soon everyone does, leaving Nyaenve alone.

Whew! Ain’t no drama like that Two Rivers drama! Okay, this scene did have a WB feel to it–somewhere between One Tree Hill and Smallville. But hey, you gotta build up that tension before the big thing. So I get it.

In the next scene we see Moraine and Lan. Moraine looks out at the night in Fal Dara, pondering. Lan tries to reassure her, saying she’s given the Two Rivers folk a semblance of a choice–and that should do. She doesn’t really respond, instead remarking that the air in the Borderlands reminds her of when the two of them met. She turns serious, saying she feels like she’s taken everything from Lan–and there has to be more to life than her mission. He replies that she hasn’t taken anything from him; on the contrary, she’s given him a reason to live. Moraine doesn’t respond to this, but asks if there aren’t people he should be saying goodbye to in the city. Lan nods and turns to leave. Just then Moraine says to his back, “I like her you know. The Wisdom.” Take the hint Lan.

Somewhere in the city, Nyaenve is mos definitely not minding her business. Instead, she’s skulking about following after…Lan. She does a peeping Tom thing, watching as he walks into a home where he is greeted and welcomed like long lost family–who starts to serve him food. Lan pauses before eating and Nyaneve decides then to stop her peeping. She turns, and there’s Lan. Yeah, don’t try to get away from a Warder. He asks if she’d rather come inside than skulking about. Embarrassed, she takes up the offer. Inside, she’s welcomed by the family, and finds herself sitting down to a meal, watching in wonder as Lan interacts with them warmly. They tell Lan they think she cute too. He tries to play it off tho’ like he cool. Cha!

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After their weird first date, Nyaenve escorts Lan back. They small talk and laugh. Then when they reach his room, there’s that awkward post first date “what’s gonna happen now?” A visibly restrained Lan tells her goodnight, goes inside and closes the door. And that’s that I guess. BUT IT AIN’T! The Wisdom knows what she wants. While Lan is getting undressed, showing a back full of scars, she walks up into the room bold as brass. Gon’ head girl! She asks Lan if he wants her to leave. His response is to walk closer. The kiss we been WAITING for finally happens. And then, well… use your imagination.

I almost clapped at this. The romantic and sexual tension between these two been tighter than Lan’s man bun. Bout time! I mean, everybody could die tomorrow. In the books, Lan and Nyaneve are definitely an item. But, the novesl (the early ones anyway) being very PG, the courting is long and drawn out. I swear it must take like four or five books before the two even kiss. Sleeping together doesn’t happen until Lan makes her an “honest woman.” Most of the time early on we see Nyaneve throwing herself at Lan, and he talmbout he like her but can’t commit cause he has nothing to offer her but a widow’s shroud. Dude. Shut all the way up with that. The show writers basically say later for that noise. This Nyaneve goes after what she wants. And premarital sex is a thing. Fine by me!

The two do what they gotta do, and later we see Nyaneve sitting on the edge of the bed, playing with her braid and ready to go. Lan wakes up and is like, you just gonna rush off? She asks him why folk call him Dai Shin? Weird post sex question to keep you up, but okay. He tells her it’s a title, and reveals who he really is: the prince and heir to the long lost kingdom of the Seven Towers: doomed Malkier, swallowed up by the Blight. He was one of the few survivors, and the family he visited that past night was one of his father’s arms men—who smuggled him to safety as a boy, while his parents were slain. He is thus a king without a kingdom. Nyaneve is like, that explains things. That a boy without a family, and a king without a kingdom, would go tying himself to Moraine to fill the void in his life. As she says, now he belongs to “her.” Damn son. She psychoanalyzed you quick fast. Lan takes her hand however, and says Moraine doesn’t own him. That he’s no more owned by Moraine than she is by the crew from the Two Rivers–and bound by her own oaths: “a Wisdom never weds.” Before it can go any further tho he cups her face and says two words: “Hey. Stay.” Seems to work.

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

Somewhere outside, Rand has decided now is the perfect time to practice with the bow. Whom amongst has never decided a little night archery was in order? Only he can’t hit his targets–as if distracted. Egwene shows up, arms crossed, looking to finish their fight. She’s upset that Rand even thought she didn’t care about Mat. He responds he was scared and that he doesn’t want to lose her. She says he won’t. That Moraine is wrong about one thing–that they’re all going to come back. Rand tells her she needs to follow the power inside her and go to the White Tower. She responds though that she’s not leaving him, as she made that mistake once. Rand smiles at this, saying he’ll come with her to Tar Valon. After all, every Aes Sedai needs a warder. Cue the breathless kissing. Egwene tells him she’ll always stand by him, no matter what happens, and what comes.

Uh huh.

The show has been pushing Rand and Egwene together even more as they head out into the world–when it seemed they might not make it back in the Two Rivers. In the books, it’s sorta opposite. In the Two Rivers, both mostly accept they’re destined to be together. But once they get out into the world, they begin to grow apart day by day. Egwene especially becomes very focused on going to the Tower–Rand ain’t gotta tell her that, she’s choosing it openly. And as her horizons expand to see more than the predestined life she’d left behind, Rand recedes bit by bit. It’s interesting that the show has taken this route, making Egwene seem to be going back to Rand. I think I get why, to cue up the drama that’s bout to go down when Egwene learns more about who Rand is. But it may come at the expense of her losing that autonomy she shows in the books.

Perrin meanwhile must be sleeping like a goddamn baby. Gon’ head Perrin. Catch them Zzzs.

Back to Rand. He’s laying in his chambers with Egwene. She’s sleeping. But he’s wide awake. And he’s thinking up some thoughts. Remembering things from the past. He recalls the night when the Trolloc attacked his farmhouse in the Two Rivers, and his father Tam (Michael McElhatton) drawing a heron marked blade, the sword of a blademaster–that Rand now carries with him. In the books, that sword gets him lots of looks and questions, and some trouble, as it’s odd for anyone so young to earn it. And he’s puzzled by what his father, a tabac farmer, is even doing with it. Now in the TV show, it seems Rand is having those same thoughts. Thinking of that night makes him sit up in bed, but the memories won’t go away. He recalls hauling his injured father through the night, hoping to get him to the village. Along the way, wracked by pain and delirious with fever, his father is spilling secrets like a drunk uncle at a family reunion. He seems to be talking to his dead wife: “Kari. I didn’t mean to find her there. But I had to get away, up the mountain into the snow. He was crying. He was so tiny.”

Now I’ll have to go check, but I don’t recall this happening in the first episode–and I was really looking for it. But it definitely happens in the books! And for the length of that entire first novel, Rand is troubled about it like he is here, troubled by Tam’s fever dream confession, that he’s not actually his father. Like about every other page Rand is in denial, insisting, “Tam al’ Thor is my father!” The show holds this back in reserve, to show him troubled just this one night. But we get the feeling, this been weighing on his mind for a MINUTE.

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

By now, Rand has gotten up, dressed and is walking the halls. He ends up back at the archery yard, once again drawing his bow. This time, his first shot hits its target perfectly. Kerchunk! Looks like someone emptied all their troubles into that flame in their mind, and found the void. As the first arrow strikes, he gets another memory. He’s in that mining town, behind held captive by a darkfriend. The door locking him in is made of ironwood that no one should be able to break down. Yet he somehow manages to, sending it off his hinges, allowing his escape. We see that scene again now but with an additional detail: a flow of One Power tainted with black. Saidin, the male half of the power. Uh oh. Grimacing Rand pulls back the bow, and another arrow strikes home perfect, bringing another memory. Kerchunk! Him and Mat on the outskirts of Tar Valon. There’s a snowy mountain in the near distance, and Rand swears it’s familiar. Yeah. You think? Gon’ head. Put it together. Third arrow goes kerchunk! Now he remembers being back in the Ways. The Trolloc attacks and Egwene channels to send it hurtling. Only, no. It wasn’t Egwene. IT WAS YOU DUDE! IT WAS TOTALLY YOU! YOU CHANNELLED THE ONE POWER! Then he remembers being caught by Machin Shin. The Black Wind wasn’t saying no nonsense bout him and Egwene. It was telling him, “It’s you. You’ve always known it’s you deep down. No matter how fast or how far you run, you cannot escape your fate.”

Say it Machin Shin… SAAAAAAY IT!

“You are the Dragon Reborn!”

Yeah y’all. Rand al’ Thor is the Dragon Reborn. He’s always been the Dragon Reborn. Wasn’t gonna be no other way. In the books, Jordan does try and headfake you a bit–but there’s clues enough to make it pretty evident after a while. For instance, in the first novel, the darkfriends have him trapped like in the show–only he calls down lightening to break the door down. And from then on, you’re like, oh yeah, it’s you dude. The show has been playing it a lot more coy, insinuating it might have been Mat because of the dagger. Nah. Or Perrin because of his eyes. Please. Even Nyaneve because of her power display. Okay, that was a good headfake. But also, nah. Rand al’ Thor is the Dragon. Make your peace with it. Cuz it’s the biggest and most important reveal of the entire series. It’s all Randland from here.

Sidebar: On my earlier puzzlement at Logain being able to see Nyaneve’s weaves and thinking maybe the show got rid of the binary gender restraints on the Power. That seems out the window, cuz Rand was channeling and none of the women appear to have seen it at all. Hmmm.

With this new admittance, Rand goes to the only place he possibly can–the bar, where Min works. He comes in hot, asking her to tell him he’s not the Dragon Reborn. Min blows him off, then when he’s insistent asks him if he really wants to hear what she has to say–because once he does, there’s no going back. Guess he says yeah, because the next thing they’re sitting down over a drink. Min says that her very first vision came back when she was a streetkid in Tar Valon. There, she saw a man in armor with a heron marked sword–that would be the very heron marked sword Rand is carrying!

The show flashes back, taking us to the episode’s opening. The Blood Snow. Right where we left off. There, an armored man is standing over the Aiel woman giving birth on a snowy mountain–a sword pointed at her. But instead of killing her, he takes off his helmet. And who is underneath, but Tam al’ Thor. Of course. Tam al’ Thor, who as a young man left the Two Rivers seeking adventure, and became a soldier (a captain even) for Illian during the Aiel War, where he earned a heron marked blade. Tam al’ Thor, who returned with a baby to Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers, who he raised to believe was his own son, born to an outlander mother. Tam al’ Thor who put away his sword, and tried to forget about that past life until the Trolloc attack.

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

In the books, much of this is dripped out over the course of the first and second novels, and the bit about an Aiel mother not until the fourth–though (as in the show) just about everyone outside the Two Rivers often mistakes Rand for an Aiel. Remember Loial’s perceptive eyes on their first encounter? In the books, Min has just about nothing to do with this revelation. Nor do I recall her ever seeing Tam al’ Thor in Tar Valon. But, again, the show has to do some understandable economic worldbuilding. So it’s through Min that we learn all this. As she narrates we see Tam al’ Thor decide to spare the Aiel woman’s life. He takes both her hands, and amid a bloody battlefield, these two enemies join together to help bring forth life–a baby. Tam’s face is filled with wonder at this seeming miracle. He uses his very sword to cut the umbilical cord, ready to hand the child to his mother. She only gets to see his birth and smile however, before succumbing to her wounds–and dies.

Min relates that in the visions of the Pattern she saw for that armored soldier, Tam al’ Thor, there was blood and snow. She saw a baby being born on the slopes of Dragonmount. And the man would take the impossible baby born in the middle of a battle to an Aiel woman, to raise as his own: in a wooden house, besides fields of sheep, in a sleepy village between two rivers.

On the slopes of Dragonmount shall he be born,
born of a maiden wedded to no man.
He will be of the ancient blood, and raised by the old blood.
When the winds of Tarmon Gai’don scour the earth,
he will face the Shadow and bring forth Light…
–the Karaethon Cycle: The Prophecies of the Dragon

Rand listens to it all, then asks Min what she sees of him now. She smiles, answering rainbows and carnivals and three beautiful women. Dunno bout the rainbows and carnivals. But the three women are definitely a thing. And you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you Min? Rand then asks if she sees whether he’ll make it back from the Eye of the World. When she doesn’t answer but instead gets up and walks away, he takes this as confirmation that he won’t.

It’s morning next in Fal Dara. Egwene has gone to find Nyaneve. But the Wisdom isn’t in her room. Or, as Egwene notices, her very untouched bed. When Nyaneve shows up, she teases her properly. The two make up from their prior spat just as Perrin walks in. Nyaneve asks if they’ve made their decision, and both say they’ve decided to go to the Eye of the World. Then Egwene asks after Rand. Perrin answers he assumed he was with her. We then see Rand walking the halls and stopping before a door. He hesitates then knocks. Nyaneve opens a door, but it’s not Rand. Ohhhh! We been duped! The door Rand knocks on opens to reveal Moraine. And he tells her, “It’s me.” The door Nyaenve opens lets in an anxioous Lan. He says Moraine masked their bond then left. And not by herself. Egwene is the one who figures it out. She says one word, Rand.

The final scene of the episode shows Rand and Moraine walking together towards some really screwed up looking trees. Likely they’d left a long time ago, enough to put them far ahead of the others and at the edge fo the Blight. Moraine says they have to go through it to get to Eye of the World. She steps inside, and Rand follows. The camera pans out as eerie music plays, showing us the twisted jungle of dark trees extending as far as the eye can see.

Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures

Whew! What an episode. This week was all about the reveals. And it certainly didn’t disappoint. We got to see some new important characters and learned more about Lan’s background. We got not only the backstory about Rand’s mysterious birth (in epic fashion), but as well solved the mystery over who exactly is the Dragon Reborn. As always, there were lots of changes from the books. A few were baffling. Most were quite understandable. And some, clear improvements.

In the books, Rand’s big reveal doesn’t actually happen until he’s at the Eye of the World. And it happens BIG big. In fact, it’s after the events that take place there that he realizes what he’s done–channeled. That’s a blow. Any man who channels is destined to go mad because of the Dark One’s taint. So finding out you can channel as a dude is akin admitting you eat babies–people will flee from you or try to kill you outright. Then you might go crazy and kill everyone in turn. Oh, you also quite literally begin to rot while alive until you’re dead. Not surprising then, that even at this point he doesn’t accept that he’s the Dragon Reborn. He’s just mostly trying to hide the fact that he can channel—which itself is a death sentence, or worse. It takes an entire other book and a final dramatic battle for him to proclaim himself the Dragon, and even then reluctantly–not really embracing it until the end of Book 3.

It’s a big deal that the show has him just outright saying, yeah I’m the Dragon. Part of this may be that the show has Moraine straight up claiming one of them could be the Dragon from the jump. In the book, she mostly claims the Dark One is after Rand, Mat, and Perrin for unspecified reasons, as motivation to get them to leave the village. Egwene and Nyanve come of their own volition. Not until the end of Book 1 at the Eye of the World, when Rand channels, does she reveal (and only silently to herself) that he may be the Dragon Reborn. That doesn’t become something said directly to Rand until Book 2. Being a man who can channel is bad enough.

So it’ll be intersting to see how they have Rand deal with this revelation–both that he is a man who can channel (one of the most feared and hated things in the world) AND the Dragon Reborn (the only thing feared and hated more). Cuz that is some heavy sh*t to all roll down at once.

Well, till next week, the final episode. Lots of loose ends to tie up. What’s going on with Mat? What aboiut the man in their dreams with the eyes and mouth of flames? What’s Padan Fain up to? Where the hell is Loial? Ogier went MIA like the whole episode since arriving in Fal Dara. Hopefully some of those get answered. And we meet a certain Green Man.

2 thoughts on “Wheel of Time on TV: The Dark Along the Ways

  1. I was thinking the flows of magicky light probably have to do with the transition into a visual medium – the inconsistency being probably proportionate to the plot and visual demands of the show.

    I was one of those people who read through ( . . . checks wiki . . . New Spring?) and said this is never going to end, after having been able to figure out even before I knew anything about writing, that this guy is S T R E T C H I N G out this series, and dropped the whole thing. So I cheer to see them compress the plot a bit, because I’d like to see this series completed before Bezos moves into low Earth orbit.

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