MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME SEASON TWO AHEAD!
Mark your calendars for September 1st, everybody. Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time is returning after a hiatus of almost two years, and its second season promises to be even bigger in scope, nearly rivaling The Rings Of Power, Amazon’s flagship fantasy series. The journey of our main characters, antagonists included, can be traced through eight new photos obtained by Entertainment Weekly that reveal stunning locations, magnificent costumery, jaw-dropping production and set design, and some startling team-ups. Let’s get right into it, shall we?
This image of two unidentified but obviously important Seanchan women walking alongside Ishamael and Loial of all people seems specifically designed to generate heated discussion and fervent theorizing. It appears that the Seanchan have begun their invasion of the Westlands and what we’re seeing in this image is a triumphant procession through the streets of conquered and colonized Falme, the coastal city that hosts the climactic battle of The Wheel Of Time‘s second book (and presumably its second season). With that context, it becomes very likely that the masked woman occupying the center of the frame is the victorious Seanchan admiral, High Lady Suroth Sabelle Meldarath, a callous but clever villain in the books. The dead giveaway is the extraordinary length of her bladed fingernails, a sign of status amongst the Seanchan.
But for all her wealth, power, and military prowess, Suroth is a puppet on the Forsaken’s strings, and in this image she may be flanked by not one, but two of the Dark One’s most dangerous lieutenants. I mean, obviously that’s Fares Fares as Ishamael on her left, looking quite dashing in a cleaner, more streamlined version of his season one outfit. But at her right hand, with eyes downcast behind a sinuous metal face-mask resembling a spider’s web, could that be Moghedien, the weakest yet most devious of the Forsaken? Sure, it’s infinitely more likely to be Alwhin, Suroth’s so’jihn or herald (herself an interesting character), but the thought of multiple Forsaken appearing onscreen together in season two, foreshadowing the chaotic tea-parties they’ll share in future seasons, is the stuff of my dreams.
There’s no mistaking Loial, however, even though the Ogier, who looms over the rest of the human cast, seems almost matched in height by Ishamael. I can’t even begin to imagine how he got caught up in this procession, whether he’s in Falme as an honored guest of the Seanchan or as their prisoner, and what this means for his traveling companion, Perrin Aybara, who ought to be somewhere nearby.
Ah, there he is – definitely in Falme, judging by the scenery, though clearly under very different circumstances. The veiled woman beside him in this image is Aviendha, played by Ayoola Smart, a member of the Far Dareis Mai, or Maidens of the Spear, warrior-women from the Aiel Waste who have recently crossed the Spine of the World in search of the Car’a’carn prophesied to lead all the Aiel. Leaked audition-tapes for season two hinted that Perrin would share the screen with Aviendha, but seeing as the two have virtually no relationship in the books, there was some confusion and doubt over whether this would actually play out. It seems we can now confirm that, for better or worse, Aviendha and the Far Dareis Mai will be teaming up with Perrin in season two, leading me to the sad but inevitable conclusion that she is probably taking the place of Gaul, the Aiel man whom Perrin rescues from a cage and befriends in the third book of the series. Bain and Chiad, two Maidens married to each other and to Gaul in the books, have also been cast, and will appear in season two.
What keeps me hoping that Gaul will appear later in the series is that Aviendha can’t fill his role in the story entirely without literally being in two places at once – because her path leads back to the Aiel Waste alongside the Dragon Reborn, Rand al’Thor, at the same time that Gaul is headed in the opposite direction with Perrin. Speaking of Rand, we see him in Falme, flanked by banners bearing the symbol of the Seanchan Empire, cloaked and hooded, with his heron-marked blade strapped on his back. It’s impossible to say exactly what’s happening in this image without more context, but I’ll just point out that if Rand and Ishamael are in Falme simultaneously, I suspect there will be some kind of confrontation between them.
On the other side of the continent, far removed from the threat of the Seanchan invasion, Egwene al’Vere begins her training to become an Aes Sedai at the White Tower…and finds it a far less enjoyable experience than she’d imagined, as the Mistress of Novices puts her to work in the kitchen alongside Elayne Trakand, the Daughter-Heir of Andor and a channeler almost as powerful as Egwene herself. Egwene is pictured here with an expression of barely-disguised annoyance, as if daring anyone at the Tower, Novice or Aes Sedai, to get on her nerves after another day seemingly wasted scrubbing pots and washing floors.
Nynaeve al’Meara, ironically, is moving much more quickly through the ranks of the Aes Sedai and can be seen mentally preparing herself for the rigorous test that Novices usually undergo several years into their training, following which they may either be “Accepted” or be rejected by the Tower…assuming they survive. The test takes place in the basement underneath the Tower, between three silver arches which together form a ter’angreal (a tool or practical object made using the One Power), which allows the user to face a manifestation of their greatest fears from the past, present, and future. Panicking once inside the silver arches will result in a fate worse than death; being lost outside time and space in a labyrinth of nightmarish alternate dimensions. And mind you, Nynaeve hasn’t even had a full day’s training yet and she’s already been pushed to the front of the line for this abhorrent trial.
Deeper still than the kitchens and the basement are the White Tower’s dungeons, where it seems we’ll find Mat Cauthon languishing in the care of the Red Ajah, Aes Sedai who punish the misuse of the One Power by men like Mat, who may not be able to channel but might be capable of much worse if he discovers that he’s able to manipulate the Pattern around himself, like Rand, Egwene, Nynaeve, and Perrin. It’s uncertain whether The Wheel Of Time will continue to explore the idea, introduced in season one, that Mat is especially susceptible to the Dark One’s corrosive influence, or if that was only ever an excuse to get Mat out of the picture after the original actor, Barney Harris, abruptly left the series more than halfway through filming. Dónal Finn, our new Mat, sheds a convincing tear either for his current plight, or for the fact that he hasn’t gotten a costume change like the rest of his castmates.
He can take comfort in the fact that Lan Mandragoran apparently hasn’t changed either, and is probably the least remarkable of the returning characters because of it. He’s riding a horse, through a forest. That’s really all I have to say.
On to Moiraine! The undimmed star of The Wheel Of Time, Rosamund Pike’s iconic queer sorceress returns to her hometown of Cairhien in season two with a stunning new outfit reflective of her noble origins and her description in the book. Moiraine does surprisingly little in the second book of the series, but her role in the show took an unexpected turn when she was shielded in the first season finale, losing access to the One Power and the Bond between her and Lan, her Warder. Returning to Cairhien, the one place in the world where she doesn’t need the Power or the help of her Warder to give her authority, is therefore a smart move for her and for the show, which is now presented with an organic opportunity to explore her character’s backstory and flesh out her relationship with the Damodred family, humanizing her.
Now that you’ve seen all the new images from the second season, I want to hear from you. Who looks the coolest (for me it’s the Seanchan), who could have used a costume change (Lan, sadly), and whose upcoming arc are you most excited for (Egwene, without a doubt)? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!