Nynaeve’s Accepted Test Begins In New “Wheel Of Time” Clip


This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

Every day from now until September 1st, fans waiting with bated breath for the release of The Wheel Of Time‘s second season can seemingly expect to be treated to a full scene from the first three episodes being released on social media, each one focusing on a different member of the series’ large (and ever-expanding) ensemble cast. Yesterday, it was a conversation between Rand al’Thor and Logain Ablar, Dragons true and false, in the “sanatorium”, described by Josha Stradowski in interviews, where Rand will be working, undercover, to help male channelers gentled by the Aes Sedai. It was a good scene, very well-written and well-acted, but today’s scene is more special to me personally. The Accepted Test of Nynaeve al’Meara is not only one of the most iconic sequences from The Wheel Of Time‘s second book, The Great Hunt, but from the entire width and breadth of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy series, which spans fourteen volumes and a prequel novel.

Nynaeve al'Meara, wearing a white dress with a wide leather belt, standing framed between the stone pillars of a silver archway standing on a dais in the center of a round stone chamber underneath the White Tower. Candles burn in sconces on the far wall. Behind Nynaeve are Sheriam Bayanar, Leane Sharif, and Liandrin Guirale.
Nynaeve al’Meara | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

And The Wheel Of Time‘s showrunner, writers, and actors have actually done it justice; evidence alone, if you ask me, of why they deserve everything the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have been asking for, because this was no easy feat. Although not every line of dialogue has made it into the show’s version of this scene, all but a few of the actresses’ lines are lifted either directly from the book, or with only the most minor tweaks. The scene opens with Nynaeve, wearing Novice-white (because in the show, I believe she does choose to train as a Novice for Egwene’s sake), warily approaching the three silver arches standing on low daises arranged in a semicircle in the White Tower’s basement. She asks what they are, just as she does in the book, and receives a similar, arguably more informative, answer from Sheriam Bayanar, the Tower’s Mistress of Novices, and Liandrin Guirale of the Red Ajah, who has taken a suspiciously active role in Nynaeve’s training. Below, I’ve quoted the passage from the books, and highlighted in bold the parts that made it into the show, with original dialogue in parentheses. Please forgive my rather, uh, messy presentation.

“Ter’angreal do many things, child. Like angreal and sa’angreal, they are (from before the Breaking, made during a time when women could create objects from the One Power itself) remnants of the Age of Legends that use the One Power, though they are not quite so rare as the other two. While some ter’angreal  must be (are) made to work by Aes Sedai, as this one must (like this one), others will do what they do simply with the presence of any woman who can channel….We don’t know why they were made. We dare use only a handful of them, and the ways in which we do dare to use them may be nothing like the purposes the makers intended. Most, we have learned at our (great) cost to avoid. Over the years, no few (Many) Aes Sedai have been killed or had their Talent (been) burned out of them, learning that.”

– The Great Hunt: Chapter 23; The Testing, by Robert Jordan

As you can see, with just a few tiny alterations, excisions, and additions here and there, that entire passage has made it into the show. And with just one new line of dialogue, the show not only clarifies what ter’angreal actually are for general audiences (without sacrificing any of their mystery in the process), it also subtly establishes that the art of creating ter’angreal is lost to the Aes Sedai of the present day, as well as signaling to attentive viewers that Liandrin is a highly unreliable narrator (possibly Jordan’s favorite writing-device), because her implication that only women ever created ter’angreal is, well, totally in-character for her but simply untrue. That’s good writing right there.

Nynaeve is taken aback by the mention of women burning out, having almost experienced that fate worse than death in the first season, and asks if they expect her to just walk into the arches after that. Leane Sharif of the Blue Ajah, who was not present for this scene in the books, responds to her with a line borrowed from Sheriam, to say that they know how the arches work; entering them brings a woman face-to-face with her greatest fears, which Nynaeve can keep secret to her grave, if she wishes. Dividing the dialogue between these three women helps to break up what would otherwise be a very long and exposition-heavy monologue from Sheriam, giving the scene a little more dynamism, and providing Leane with screentime she was sorely lacking throughout the first season. It’s Sheriam, however, who still delivers some of my favorite lines in the scene.

Two things I (we) will tell you now that no woman hears until she is in this room. The first is this. Once you begin, you must continue to the end. Refuse to go on, and no matter your potential, you will be very kindly put out of the Tower with enough silver to support you for a year, and (but) you will never be allowed back.

Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin Guirale in The Wheel Of Time season one, wearing red and brown, with her long white-blond hair flowing down her back in a mane of intricate braids, standing surrounded by similarly-dressed women in a rugged landscape.
Liandrin Guirale (center) and members of the Red Ajah | arstechnica.com

I genuinely did not expect most of this detail to make it into the show, but I’m so glad it did, because the rock-solid worldbuilding of The Wheel Of Time is one of many reasons why it’s considered a fantasy classic, and while the first book had to be slimmed down a great deal to work as a season of television, with much of that rich detail subsequently being shed for the sake of new fans and casual viewers, the second season won’t suffer from those same limitations and is free to delve deeply into Jordan’s world and mythology. But of course, these words aren’t merely decorative. They hold great relevance for Nynaeve, as she has been looking for an escape-route from the Aes Sedai, and now one is being dangled right in front of her. And at the same time, this entire scene is quietly setting up future storylines involving certain characters who actually took that escape-route.

Second. To seek, to strive, is to know danger. You will know danger here. Some women have entered, and never come out. When the ter’angreal was allowed to grow quiet, they – were – not – there. And they were never seen again. If you will survive, you must be steadfast. Falter, fail, and…” Her silence was more eloquent than any words.

These lines are intriguingly delivered by Liandrin in the show; further evidence that she is beginning to care for Nynaeve, or have concern for her well-being at least, something that never occurred in the books. I’m all for this change, if only because it gives the phenomenal Kate Fleetwood much juicier, more compelling material to dig into as an actress, if her character isn’t innately cold and callous, as seemed to be the case throughout the first season. Obviously, she’s Aes Sedai, and Red Ajah at that, so there’s a lot of calculating going on behind her eyes, but the Aes Sedai are still human at the end of the day, and they ought to have human vulnerabilities. I look forward to later scenes between Nynaeve and Liandrin that build off this dynamic.

This is your last chance, child. You may turn back now, right now, and I will put your name in the novice book, and you will have only one mark against you. Twice more you will be allowed to come here, and only at (on) the third refusal will you be put out of the Tower. It is no shame to refuse. Many do. I myself could not do it, my (the) first time here.

Leane steps forward to speak these words. Again, I can’t help but marvel at the fact that so much of this monologue made it from page to screen. I don’t care in the slightest that it’s Leane in the show, not Sheriam, who declined to take her Accepted test once. It’s never going to be relevant again, I suspect, but what it does is it gives viewers a little bit of background information about Leane that they can use to start forming an attachment to her, which is important because she’s important, more so than Sheriam I’d argue.

Finally, Liandrin comes back with the one and only line in the entire scene that’s completely new, as far as I can tell. “If you are doing this for someone else, you will fail,” she tells Nynaeve, with an expression of genuine compassion once again flitting across her steely features. “Do this for you, or not at all.” Is she…trying to protect Nynaeve? After all, if Nynaeve passes the Accepted test, she comes one step closer to being “raised to the shawl” and made a full Aes Sedai, and with her raw power and status as ta’veren (able to bend the weavings of the Wheel of Time around her) there is nothing the Dark One and his minions will not do to prevent the White Tower from weaponizing her. It also sounds like this is a continuation of some conversation Nynaeve must have had with Liandrin earlier, where Nynaeve must have revealed (or Liandrin must have discerned) that Nynaeve came to the Tower primarily to protect Egwene, though she herself is still opposed to the Aes Sedai and distrustful of her own abilities. Again, it’s surreal that it’s Liandrin bringing this up, but I’m not at all upset.

Zoe Robins as Nynaeve al'Meara in The Wheel Of Time season one, sitting outside on a cliff-edge above water, with her long dark hair pulled into a braid falling down her back. She is wearing a dusty-green tunic. She is smiling faintly at something off-camera, to her left.
Nynaeve al’Meara | vaguevisages.com

Silence falls after she speaks, and the camera lingers on Zoë Robins’ Nynaeve, in whose dark, expressive eyes you can catch glimpses of all the emotions swirling within her – fear, frustration, curiosity – before they finally coalesce into steady determination, and she speaks the words that start the trial: “I’m ready”. She’s passed the point of no return, and now we must wait until September 1st to follow her into the arches. But hopefully we won’t have to wait that long for the next clip from The Wheel Of Time! If the pattern holds, tomorrow we could see either Egwene, Perrin, or Mat, followed by Moiraine and Lan, and then perhaps Elayne, Aviendha, and Min. On the one hand, I don’t want to see that many scenes from the first few episodes before the season premiere, but on the other hand…I kinda do, and I definitely won’t be able to resist watching them if they’re out there. Who are you hoping to see next? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Lightning Round-up: What I Watched The Week Of August 7th – 13th

Something new from me today, a compilation of bite-sized reviews for films and TV shows I watched in the past week that I probably wouldn’t be able to review otherwise. I can’t assure that I’ll have one of these posts going up every week, but I wanted to test out the format after considering for a long time how I could review a wider variety of titles without feeling the pressure to write a specific amount of words about each one, or get bogged down simply trying to find images. So without further ado, here’s my “Lightning Round-up” for the week of August 7th to 13th, 2023.

*  – A title I’ve previously watched

(left to right) Yeom Hye-ran, Jo Byeong-kyu, Yoo Jun-sang, and Kim Sejeong in The Uncanny Counter, all wearing black suits, standing in an alleyway filled with blue mist at night.
(left to right) Yeom Hye-ran, Jo Byeong-kyu, Yoo Jun-sang, and Kim Sejeong in The Uncanny Counter | pueblerino.info

The Uncanny Counter (Netflix). The premise: an unconventional family of grim reapers in the business of rescuing souls from evil spirits and leading them to the afterlife lose a member in battle and recruit a teen boy to help take on their greatest threat – a powerful demon being maneuvered by political forces. The sixteen-episode first season is a perfect blend of heartwrenching drama, endearing humor, compelling intrigue, and low-budget special effects, anchored by emotional performances from all the main cast, Yeom Hye-ran in particular. The second season (airing weekly on Korean television and on Netflix, with five episodes released thus far) is tonally inconsistent with the first, and devotes entirely too much screentime to new characters that range from uninteresting to downright grating, but Kang Ki-young and Kim Hieora are genuinely brilliant additions as the season’s primary antagonists, bringing an effortless ferocity to their action sequences, which are longer and more intricately choreographed this season thanks to a higher budget (at the cost of a few episodes). This is probably some of the most fun I’ve had watching a television series this year.

Lee Si-Young carrying Park Na-rae on her shoulders in Zombieverse as they run through a parking lot at night pursued by zombies.
Lee Si-young and Park Na-rae in Zombieverse | undeadwalking.com

Zombieverse (Netflix). The premise: contestants must work together to survive a zombie apocalypse on the streets of Seoul, South Korea. I’ve only watched the first two episodes so far, but I could tell you from the trailer alone that this is the kind of show designed and destined to become a viral sensation (EDIT: I wrote this paragraph earlier in the week; checking back in, it seems that Zombieverse has indeed acquired a large and loyal fanbase, though many viewers are casting doubts on its claims of being “unscripted”, so I was partially right). My anxiety spiked when, at the end of the first episode, a stunt double playing a zombie was seemingly run over by a car and “killed”, along with a passenger in the vehicle. I’m assuming there’s safety measures in place to prevent anyone being seriously injured in the gory chaos? I’m rooting for contestant Lee Si-young, who kept her wits about her in a crisis while most of the others panicked and fled.

Rosamund Pike as Moiraine and Sophie Okonedo as Siuan in The Wheel Of Time, lying together in a wooden bed wearing red nightgowns. Moiraine is sitting up slightly. while Siuan is gazing up at her. They are in a low wooden hut with fishing-nets hanging from the ceiling.
Rosamund Pike as Moiraine and Sophie Okonedo as Siuan in The Wheel Of Time | pt.jugomobile.com

The Wheel Of Time Season 1, Episode 6* (Amazon Prime Video). The premise: Moiraine Damodred fights against time to free herself and her five young traveling companions from the intricate political machinations of the Aes Sedai before her plan to pit the Dragon Reborn against the Dark One is exposed in an episode written and filmed almost exclusively from her perspective. I stand by much of what I wrote regarding this episode in my initial review, though I would add that in retrospect, while it’s still one of my favorite episodes in the first season (purely due to Rosamund Pike and Sophie Okonedo’s phenomenal performances, which should have landed them both Emmy nominations), the writing is inconsistent – and noticeably weakest when it comes to fleshing out antagonist Liandrin Guirale, though if she lacks nuance, at least she’s never boring with Kate Fleetwood in the role, rocking her distinctive crimson get-up. And on that note, costume designer Isis Mussenden finally struck gold with her designs for this episode; Moiraine’s blue satin gown and diadem is iconic as far as I’m concerned.

Greg Hsu in Marry My Dead Body, wearing a white suit, sitting alongside a similarly-dressed mannequin beneath a red canopy in a darkly-lit room.
Greg Hsu in Marry My Dead Body | digitalspy.com

Marry My Dead Body (Netflix). The premise: in Taiwan, the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, a fervently homophobic police officer accidentally marries the ghost of a young gay man killed in a hit-and-run, and together they investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding his untimely death in this zany, oftentimes heartwarming, LGBTQ+ buddy comedy. “Gayer than I expected, straighter than I would have liked” is probably how I would sum up Marry My Dead Body, which plays a cruel bait-and-switch on its viewers regarding the main character’s sexuality in just the first few minutes. And while it teases the idea of its male leads developing a romantic connection (almost having them kiss at a gay nightclub in a scene played not for laughs, but with surprising earnestness and intensity), this subplot trails off towards the end, leaving the exact nature of their relationship up to interpretation. I mean, I ship it regardless, but it’s a bit of a shame the film doesn’t fully commit to the bit, because Greg Hsu has excellent chemistry with costar Austin Lin that ought to have been utilized to the fullest. Still, Marry My Dead Body is a lot of fun and I enjoyed it immensely, particularly for how unabashedly raunchy it is in comparison to a lot of queer comedies that deliberately “sanitize” their characters and depiction of queerness for the sake of straight audience-members.

(left to right) Kato Ago Missile, Shin Dong-yup, Sung Si-kyung, and Cerestia Grown in Risque Business: Japan, standing on a street corner in Tokyo.
(left to right) Kato Ago Missile, Shin Dong-yup, Sung Si-kyung, and Cerestia Grown | netflix.com

Risqué Business: Japan (Netflix). The premise: across six episodes, comedian Shin Dong-yup and singer Sung Si-kyung aim to initiate more open and casual conversations amongst their predominantly Korean audiences about sex and sexual expression by exploring the vivid adult entertainment industry in neighboring Japan. I have so far found the series fairly enjoyable and occasionally illuminating, if somewhat limited in its scope and noticeably lacking perspectives from queer people in Japan (approximately 1 in 10 people in Japan identify as LGBTQ+, according to a 2019 survey). The second season, set in progressive Taiwan, premiering later this month, will hopefully help to make up for this deficiency and boost Korea’s own LGBTQ+ rights movement, which has made only slow progress in recent years. But the series has also received warranted backlash for talking extensively about the AV (adult video) industry without ever touching on the abuse and exploitation of AV stars, so there’s definitely still a lot of refinement to be done with this concept.

Han Ji-min in Behind Your Touch, wearing a white veterinarian's coat and looking down at her hands with a slight smile on her face.
Han Ji-min in Behind Your Touch | m.gohitv.com

Behind Your Touch (Netflix). The premise: a veterinarian in a small town is struck by a meteor that gives her the psychic ability to read the memories of animals when she touches them, unintentionally putting her into conflict with a recently demoted detective bored by life in the countryside. With only two episodes on Netflix so far, the new series starring Han Ji-min has already popped into the platform’s Top Ten, and for good reason; it’s fun, fresh, abundantly quirky, and clever, with charming characters. I’m excited to keep up with this one.

Pretty sure that’s everything. Have you watched any of the titles on this list, or do you plan to? Tell me what sounds most intriguing in the comments below!

“The Wheel Of Time” Season 2 Release Date Revealed Alongside New Images


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?

(left to right) two Seanchan women, Loial, and Ishamael, striding across a sandy courtyard in Falme between rows of Seanchan warriors and civilians. The two women wear long-sleeved rust-colored jackets and coats over teal blue gowns. The woman on the far left wears a sinuous metal face-mask. The woman in the center has her hair shaped into wings on either side of her head, and wears a golden mask covering her entire face except her chin. Ishamael wears a black vest over a white shirt and black trousers, while Loial, behind him, wears a light blue-green tunic.
(left to right) two Seanchan women, Loial, and Ishamael | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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.

(left to right) Masema, Aviendha, and Perrin Aybara, standing in an alleyway between sand-colored buildings. Aviendha wears garments of beige and brown leather, with a gauzy hood and a black veil covering the lower half of her face. She wields a short knife in her left hand, and hoists a spear in her right. Perrin, carrying no weapons, stands with mouth slightly agape, wearing a gray-and-green leather vest over a faded red shirt and green trousers.
(left to right) Masema, Aviendha, and Perrin Aybara | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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.

Rand al'Thor, wearing a brown cloak and hood, with a sword strapped on his back, walking through a sandy courtyard.
Rand a’Thor | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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.

Egwene al'Vere, wearing a gray apron over a long-sleeved plain white dress, standing at a wooden table in the kitchens of the White Tower, organizing glasses and goblets.
Egwene al’Vere | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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, wearing a plain white shift with her hair braided, standing in a darkly-lit stone chamber, looking over her shoulder to the right with an expression of concern. Behind her stands a silver-gray arch with wide columns.
Nynaeve al’Meara | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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.

Mat Cauthon, lying on a wooden couch with his head leaning against the arm-rest, a single tear running down his left cheek. He is wrapped up in his thin, ragged green coat, and stares blankly at a candle-flame in the foreground.
Mat Cauthon | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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.

al'Lan Mandragoran, wearing a black cape over dark walking-clothes, riding a black horse through a forest. He has a sword strapped to his back, and an expression of surprise on his face.
al’Lan Mandragoran | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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.

Moiraine Damodred in The Wheel Of Time season two, wearing a wide-sleeved dark blue dress over a white shirt, with a blue-and-gold belt. A gold circlet is nestled in her brown hair. She stands in a dusty marketplace, amidst a crowd of people.
Moiraine Damodred | Twitter @TheWheelOfTime

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!

Who Are The Forsaken? The Wheel Of Time’s Villains, Explained.


With the second season of Amazon’s criminally-underrated fantasy epic The Wheel Of Time aiming for a release date later this year (ambiguous, yes, but at least we’re looking at an interval of no more than two years between seasons), and a full-length trailer expected almost any day now, I feel like a lot of returning casual fans will want to refresh their memory of what happened in the admittedly confusing first season finale and what it means for the show’s future, as outlined in Robert Jordan’s daunting fourteen-book series. So get ready, because starting today, I’ll be bombarding you all with details from the finale you might have missed and analysis of certain plot-beats and character moments, which will hopefully give you plenty of reasons to get hyped for the The Wheel Of Time‘s second turning. And I couldn’t think of a better place to kick off this series than with a deep-dive into the Forsaken, characters I can’t wait to see onscreen at long last.

Fares Fares as Ishamael in The Wheel Of Time, wearing a loose black jacket over a white tunic. He has short dark hair, slicked-back, and a beard. His head is cocked to one side, and he is smirking, disregarding the razor-sharp blades of white light encircling him.
“The Dark One” | pajiba.com

The Forsaken, in Robert Jordan’s books, were the thirteen most powerful channelers (magic-users) who joined the Dark One during the Age of Legends, several-thousand years before the events of The Wheel Of Time, receiving the gift of immortality in exchange for helping the Dark One escape from the place outside time and space where he had been imprisoned since the moment of creation. They were ultimately unsuccessful, and as punishment for their treason, they were instead imprisoned alongside the Dark One by Lews Therin Telamon, a male channeler later known merely as “The Dragon”, when he went to the Eye of the World and sealed up the small rift in the fabric of reality that the Dark One had been using to issue orders to his followers. It’s hard to imagine what that was like, being trapped in the cold dark void outside the universe for thousands of years, unable to die, but it certainly didn’t help any of the Forsaken get to a better place mentally and emotionally.

The inevitable weakening of the seals on the Dark One’s prison near the end of the Third Age allows the Forsaken to begin escaping back into the world, just in time to pose a serious threat to Rand al’Thor, a male channeler who discovers that he is the reincarnation of Lews Therin Telamon, the last Dragon, and that he is destined to either save the world, by strengthening the ancient seals, or destroy it, by freeing the Dark One. That’s where The Wheel Of Time, in both the books and the show, begins – although for the first seven episodes of the show, the identity of the Dragon Reborn is a mystery and Rand is just one of several qualified candidates, including his friends Egwene al’Vere, Nynaeve al’Meara, Perrin Aybara, and Mat Cauthon. The Dark One is equally uncertain who is the Dragon, and thus dispatches the greatest of the Forsaken, their leader Ishamael, to begin stalking each of them in their nightmares.

(Before we continue, I feel like I should reiterate that this post contains one major spoiler from the ending of The Dragon Reborn, the third book in The Wheel Of Time, which is also a spoiler for the opening of season two, but only very minor spoilers from the rest of books two and three, so if you’re just starting the books after finishing the first season or if you plan to, turn back now and be warned that certain things will happen earlier in the show than in the books, which may impact your enjoyment of the books).

Ishamael, affectionately referred to as “Ishy” by the fandom, is the mysterious man with flaming eyes played by Swedish-Lebanese actor Fares Fares who appears prominently in both Rand and Perrin’s dreams and is immediately misidentified as the Dark One. He reappears after Rand confirms to himself that he is the Dragon, and has a conversation with him, or rather with the soul of Lews Therin Telamon, where he gleefully mocks Lews for taking the form of a weakling shepherd, but again Rand is oblivious to a whole bunch of clues and thinks he’s talking directly to the Dark One. At the Eye of the World, he faces Ishamael a third time, and this time Ishamael uses Rand’s ignorance to his advantage, deliberately posing as the Dark One and letting Rand obliterate his physical body with the One Power, all while standing on a prominent seal embedded in the floor that Rand unintentionally shatters as he’s attacking the man he thinks is the Dark One.

Not just any seal. One of the seven seals, long thought to be unbreakable, that the last Dragon sacrificed his sanity to install so that the Dark One could never escape again. And Rand just broke it (he can’t help it, he’s a himbo). One could argue that none of this was clearly conveyed in the actual episode, but my counterargument – and the reason I’m telling you all of this – is twofold: firstly, the episode ends with Moiraine and Lan investigating the broken seal and discovering that it’s made of cuendillar, a supposedly unbreakable substance, which a shaken Moiraine cites as evidence that the battle with the Dark One isn’t over, far from it, and secondly, enough time has passed since the finale that the folks over at Amazon don’t seem to care if people know that the man Rand fought wasn’t the Dark One, because the teaser trailer for season two outright confirms that he’s the Dark One’s “strongest lieutenant”, not the Dark One himself, and that Rand’s actions set the Forsaken free. I think it’s safe to assume that all of this is going to come out early in the season premiere anyway, before Moiraine and Lan presumably set out to find Rand and inform him of what happened.

Three votive statues, prominently displayed in The Wheel Of Time's first season, carved from brown stone, standing on a mantel-piece surrounded by burning candles. The statue on the far left depicts a tall man holding a guitar. The middlemost statue depicts a short man with vague, angular features. The statue on the far right depicts a woman with long hair, a large bosom, and wide hips.
(left to right) Votive statues of – presumably – Asmodean, Demandred, and Graendal | reddit.com

But will they reach him before one of the Forsaken does? I won’t spoil anything the show hasn’t deliberately chosen to spoil already, so you’ll just have to watch and find out, but I can tell you a little about each of the Forsaken. In the books, there are thirteen – Aginor, Asmodean, Balthamel, Be’lal, Demandred, Graendal, Ishamael, Lanfear, Mesaana, Moghedien, Rahvin, Sammael, and Semirhage – but the show has seemingly whittled that number down to a more manageable eight, at least going by the number of sinister votive statuettes that the Warder Stepin uses to ward off the Forsaken in episode five. The figures represented by these statues are not immediately distinguishable in all cases, but the general consensus among fans is that the eight Forsaken we’ll meet in the series are Asmodean, Demandred, Graendal, Ishamael, Lanfear, Moghedien, Sammael, and Semirhage.

And that’s fine by me. Sure, a handful of folks will miss Mesaana, and there’s some stuff she and Rahvin do in the books that I suppose will have to be done by other Forsaken in the show, but we still have plenty to go around, any one of them a hundred times more compelling than all of the remaining Forsaken combined. Aginor and Balthamel were some of the first Forsaken introduced in book one, The Eye Of The World, yet even their powers combined weren’t enough to prevent the former being taken down by an untrained teenager, and the latter by a tree. And as for Be’lal…well, I’m wracking my brain, but I have to be honest, I don’t remember if he spoke once in fourteen books. There’s nothing we gain from having them all around, and the advantage to dropping them is that the Forsaken in the show won’t be competing with a bunch of corny villain-of-the-week types for more screen-time and more significance to the story.

First and foremost among the Forsaken stands Ishamael, the Betrayer of Hope, who is considered the strongest characters in the series behind Lews Therin Telamon. During the Age of Legends, his name was Elan Morin Tedronai and he was a revered member of the Aes Sedai (back when the organization accepted both male and female channelers), but his studies into the workings of the Wheel of Time led him to the horrific conclusion that in every Turning of the Wheel, the Dark One would attempt to break free from his prison and do battle with the soul of Lews Therin Telamon, the so-called Dragon. Tedronai became convinced that the Dark One’s eventual victory was assured, as he would need to succeed only once to break the Wheel of Time, rip up the Pattern, and end the cycle of rebirth that allowed the Dragon to challenge him over and over throughout history. Deeming it safer to be on the Dark One’s side when this day came, Tedronai betrayed the Aes Sedai and became the Dark One’s strategist and representative on earth, leading to later generations conflating the name of Ishamael with that of the Dark One himself. Though he was sealed up alongside the other Forsaken, Ishamael was able to escape much earlier than the others, allowing him to set the stage for the Dark One’s return by orchestrating the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Hundred Years.

Lanfear, the Daughter of the Night, is believed to be the strongest female channeler in The Wheel Of Time alongside Semirhage, but in the books she is outranked by all of the male Forsaken for no good reason except that in Robert Jordan’s gendered magic system, even the weakest male channeler starts out stronger in the One Power than a strong female channeler, and the cap on his abilities is much higher than for a woman. Women are supposed to be more “dexterous” with the One Power, which theoretically evens the playing-field, but in Lanfear’s case it just makes so much more sense thematically if she’s second to Ishamael, both in strength and in the Dark One’s eyes, because being second to Lews Therin Telamon (and second to Ilyena in Lews Therin’s heart) was what originally drove her to the Shadow. In fact, it was in an effort to outdo Lews Therin that she accidentally drilled the hole in the Dark One’s prison through which he was able to influence the world (and behind which she was later sealed). The bitter irony of her story is that she’s extremely powerful and intelligent in her own right, but there’s always just one person standing between her and first place whom she can’t help but become fixated on tearing down. Fittingly, she’ll also be the second Forsaken introduced in The Wheel Of Time‘s second season.

Demandred, the One who Twists the Blade, is a somewhat enigmatic character who deliberately avoids the spotlight until very late in the book series, making it difficult to say where he ranks among the Forsaken. Of the eight suspected to appear in the show, I have him in third place behind Ishamael and Lanfear because he was said to be one of the strongest male channelers alive during the Age of Legends, and was often mentioned in the same breath as Lews Therin Telamon, although the two were rivals from the moment that both men fell in love with an Aes Sedai named Ilyena. When she chose Lews Therin, Demandred (or Barid Bel Medar, as he was then named) channeled his jealous rage into his research. He is credited with the rediscovery of sword-fighting and military strategy, art-forms which had been lost to the people of that blissful Age, but he fancied himself a real general because of this, and believed that when war broke out between the Dark One and the Aes Sedai, he would be chosen to command the forces of the Light – only for Lews Therin, the Dragon, to steal the coveted position and the honors it entailed. Demandred joined the Shadow soon after, becoming the Dark One’s greatest military leader.

Lews Therin Telamon and Latra Posae Decume, from The Wheel Of Time, standing in a sleek, futuristic, yet comfortable room with brown stone arches, flooded by sunlight from high windows. Lews Therin wears a black military uniform, with leather boots. Latra Posae, facing away, wears a shapeless white garment, and has her brown hair pulled into a severe bun.
Lews Therin Telamon and Latra Posae Decume | winteriscoming.net

In fourth place I have to put Semirhage, the Promise of Pain, because again, while the books state that the female Forsaken are weaker than all of the male Forsaken, I personally refuse to accept that as canon and you can’t make me – and in any case, Semirhage is said to be so dexterous with the One Power that she’s probably equivalent in strength to Lanfear, who I placed second behind Ishamael. Once a renowned Healer named Nemene Damendar Boann, she single-handedly rid the world of all illnesses and ailments during the Age of Legends, but found herself increasingly bored as her work decreased and she she realized she could accomplish nothing further through the One Power unless she began inventing new diseases and injuries. Torture became her one passion in life, and when the Aes Sedai tried to sever her from the One Power, the Dark One offered her a place at his side where she could do whatever she wanted with those unlucky souls who fell into her hands. Her unspeakable cruelty to prisoners-of-war earned her a reputation for being the most terrifying of all the Forsaken.

Sammael, the Destroyer of Hope, is vying for the fifth spot with Rahvin, an almost identical character with a similar role in the story – ultimately, I believe the two will be merged, and if I had to pick a name for this composite character, I’d go with Sammael. He was an exceptional athlete named Tel Janin Aellinsar in the Age of Legends, and a close friend of Lews Therin Telamon. But at some point during the war between the Dark One and the Aes Sedai, Aellinsar randomly grew jealous of Lews Therin’s military prowess and joined the Shadow. Hot take, maybe, but the show can only improve upon the books when it comes to fleshing out each of the Forsaken’s individual motivations, because we’ve already got two characters whose defining personality trait is jealousy, specifically of Lews Therin Telamon, and I don’t think we need a third – for Sammael I’m thinking we make him the character who turns to the Shadow out of repressed, unreciprocated love for Lews Therin, because the Forsaken are too fundamentally queer-coded of an organization for there to not be any queer Forsaken in the show (since problematic bisexual Balthamel is probably getting cut). Just imagine the angst when Sammael is instructed to exploit his friendship with the Dragon and betray humanity.

Sixth place goes to Graendal, the Vessel of Pleasure, who has a nauseating talent for reducing people to willing, worshipful slaves with the use of a complicated Compulsion weave. The other Forsaken regard her with disdain, because she deliberately gives them reason to believe she wastes her time collecting attractive prisoners to fill the ranks of her personal harem and forcing them to engage in…activities…while she watches on dispassionately, but the truth is that she’s the most competent multi-tasker of any of them, using the Compelled to carry out her dirty work in every corner of the continent. She is also, ironically, something of a willing slave herself, and takes great pride from shepherding her fellow Forsaken when they get out of line and start double-crossing each other and the Dark One. During the Age of Legends, she was a celebrity psychologist named Kamarile Maradim Nindar, who advocated for a lifestyle of restraint, without luxury or adornment. But as the Age careened to a close, she abandoned her principles and indulged in the pleasures she’d denied herself up to that point, including everything the Shadow had to offer.

Asmodean, whose name means merely Musician, is that and little else, as far as the Forsaken and the Dark One are concerned. During the Age of Legends, he was an acclaimed singer and songwriter named Joar Addam Nessosin who was also fairly strong with the One Power, but nonetheless he struggled with such a severe case of imposter syndrome that he turned to the Shadow solely for the opportunity to burn the entire music industry to the ground and arise from its ashes as the world’s only bard for all eternity. He blinded other songwriters whose work he envied, cut out the tongues of every talented singer he could find, and for whatever reason severed his own Aes Sedai mother from the One Power before throwing her to the Dark One’s Shadowspawn and watching them tear her to pieces. Still, because he never dedicated himself to training with the Power, he ranks seventh among the Forsaken.

Moghedien, the Spider, trails far behind the other Forsaken in terms of strength, and she knows better than anyone how easy it would be for her enemies to crush her, like her namesake, if they ever caught her in the waking world, on the field of battle. But that hasn’t happened yet, because Moghedien never puts herself in harm’s way and falls for no traps. She scurries silently through the World of Dreams, targeting an opponent’s weaknesses and withdrawing into the shadows too swiftly for their groggy counterattacks to land, re-emerging only when it’s safe. The other Forsaken regard her as a coward, but Moghedien, who once operated the Dark One’s intelligence network behind enemy front lines as an investment advisor named Lillen Moiral, bears their contemptuous remarks with patience. She knows her way works. And she certainly knows better than to risk a confrontation with any of them.

Three votive statues displayed prominently in The Wheel Of Time's first season, carved from brown stone, standing on a mantel-piece. The statue on the far left depicts a woman with a square headdress, whose dress has a web-like pattern. The middlemost statue depicts a woman with long hair and a collar of rings. The statue on the far right depicts a short, stout man with a beard and an angry expression.
(left to right) Votive statues of – presumably – Moghedien, Semirhage, and Sammael | reddit.com

Assuming these are, in fact, the eight Forsaken represented in The Wheel Of Time‘s first season as small, harmless statuettes, there are at least three who will probably appear in season two. Ishamael is a guarantee, as we’ve already seen him in the teaser. Lanfear is a guarantee, as she’s a major character in the early books. And Moghedien, I think, ought to be introduced or teased near the end of this season. As for the other Forsaken…well, you’ll just have to wait and find out when and where they’re introduced. But please, feel free to share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!