“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!

“The Wheel Of Time” Casts Dain Bornhald, Sheriam, Bain & Chiad

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend, but JordanCon continues and the cast and crew of Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time remains admirably committed to always showing up for the annual Atlanta-based convention celebrating the late author Robert Jordan and his monumental fourteen-book fantasy series. It’s a small event, hardly worth Amazon’s time in the grand scheme of things, but if nothing else, showrunner Rafe Judkins always has a video message for the fans containing a few tidbits of new information about the series, currently filming its third season in Prague. This year, while he was not at liberty to share the season two release date we’ve been craving for quite some time now, he did introduce four actors joining season two who will be playing important new characters.

Moiraine Damodred, viewed from above, standing in the middle of a ring of white light with her arms outstretched to either side, her neck tilted back, and her face uplifted to the sky, although her eyes are closed as if she is concentrating.
Moiraine | amazonadviser.com

All four were previously rumored to be among the series’ cast, so the names of Jay Duffy, Rima Te Wiata, Ragga Ragnars and Maja Simonsen may already be familiar to those who have been following production closely. Nor did it come as a surprise that Te Wiata would be playing Sheriam Bayanar of the Blue Ajah, something that was first reported several weeks ago by WoTSeries, a highly reputable investigative fan-site. But I was stunned and delighted to discover that Duffy will be playing Dain Bornhald and not Gawyn Trakand as everyone seemed to think, and that Ragnars and Simonsen will be portraying the dynamic duo of Bain & Chiad, two fairly minor but endearing characters I feared would be missing entirely from this adaptation.

A little about each of the characters, starting with Dain Bornhald because his is the casting I’m most excited about. Dain is a character we meet in the books earlier than in the show, in the town of Baerlon to be precise, although it’s not at all obvious from his introductory scene what a prominent role he’ll have in the story going forward, especially as a foil to Perrin, so I can easily understand why they saved him for season two. This way, he can have a proper introduction and audiences will hopefully get to know him first and foremost as a sympathetic character; a young man brought up from childhood in a cult and indoctrinated by everyone around him, including his father Geofram, to believe that the Aes Sedai and all those who can use the One Power are Darkfriends. Dain is a distinctly queer-coded character from my point of view (so is Perrin, making their antagonistic relationship even more compelling), and I have a feeling that might not just be subtext in the show.

Eamon Valda, a man dressed all in white, standing in front of a woman in a yellow dress tied to a stake with smoke and flames rising at her feet.
Eamon Valda interrogates an Aes Sedai | imdb.com

Sheriam Bayanar, an Aes Sedai and member of the Blue Ajah, is the White Tower’s Mistress of Novices when the story opens, instructing Nynaeve al’Meara, Egwene al’Vere, and Elayne Trakand upon their arrival at the Tower. She is particularly skilled at helping channelers overcome their self-imposed Blocks, and for this reason I suspect that most of her scenes in season two will be shared with Nynaeve, whose peculiar Block is an integral part of her character arc. In future seasons, however, Sheriam will get an unexpected promotion and take on a much larger and more pivotal role…and that’s all I’ll say on that subject.

As for Bain & Chiad, these inseparable Maidens of the Spear refer to themselves as “first-sisters”, which in their case means they have been Bonded by their Wise Ones in a ritual that – at least in the books – allows them to simulate the experience of being reborn from a single womb as close as two women can be. I do not believe for a moment that Robert Jordan was at all oblivious to the homoeroticism in his own writing, because the man was basically advertising his fetishes to the world every time a female character in his books found herself naked in Tel’aran’rhiod being chased around and spanked or flogged by other naked women, but I’ve said in the past and I’ll say it again that I don’t think he as a straight man ever seriously considered queer women as anything other than erotic. It’s very telling that most of the implied bisexual women in The Wheel Of Time, including Bain & Chiad by the way, are in polyamorous relationships centered around a single man, while the implied lesbians are mostly sexual predators. Queer men simply didn’t exist in the world of The Wheel Of Time until Brandon Sanderson generously added two to the books he completed after Jordan’s passing.

Ragga Ragnars (Bain), Ayoola Smart (Aviendha), and Maja Simonsen (Chiad) standing in a darkly-lit room, wearing nearly identical brown costumes with hoods, black veils around their necks, and spears on their backs. They all have red hair.
(left to right) Bain, Aviendha, and Chiad | reddit.com

I could go on about this particular subject for hours, but this really isn’t the time or place to be doing so, and I think I’ve rambled long enough anyway. In short, I’m very excited to see these four characters officially join The Wheel Of Time‘s ensemble cast when season two premieres (hopefully later this year), optimistic that we’ll learn who’s playing Lanfear, Elaida, Verin, Suroth, Egeanin, Gaul, Morgase, Galad, and Gawyn long before then, and curious to know whose introduction you’re most eagerly anticipating. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Rings Of Power” Adds Seven To Its Huge Ensemble Cast

Ah, how I’ve missed the Amazon marketing team’s wildly unpredictable strategy for promoting what is reportedly the biggest and most expensive series ever made for television. Coming off a premiere with record-breaking viewership numbers that caused lots of online discourse but nevertheless generated a dedicated fanbase who thereafter kept the series at or near the top of the Nielsen charts for multiple weeks in a row, The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power has fumbled one opportunity after another to keep that fanbase’s undivided attention through what is expected to be a long downtime between seasons. Most casual fans probably weren’t even aware that season two had quietly started filming back in early October, while the first season was still airing, because there have been almost no official updates on the production out of Bray Studios in England.

Joseph Mawle as Adar in The Rings Of Power
Joseph Mawle as Adar | comicbookmovie.com

Until Thursday morning, when Amazon chose to randomly spring on us a total of seven new casting announcements for The Rings Of Power season two – with one, unfortunately, being the unexpected recasting of a major character. Nobody behind-the-scenes seems to have considered how slipping this important piece of information into a press release might completely overshadow what should have been a celebratory moment for the seven new actors joining the world of Middle-earth, or how a day of warm welcomes would inevitably turn into a day of solemn farewell messages directed at Joseph Mawle when it got out that he would not be returning as “Adar”, the darkly seductive leader of the Orcs that so many of us had grown to love.

Samuel Hazeldine, best known for his work in Peaky Blinders, The Sandman, and The Last Duel, will assume the role going forward. Knowing nothing about Hazeldine and his acting process, I only hope that he isn’t compelled to mimic Mawle’s mannerisms too closely, or worse, directed to do so – while there should be a sense of continuity between their two iterations of the same character, Mawle’s Adar was by all accounts the end-result of meticulous research and immersion into Tolkien’s mythology for the Orcs, and I (along with many others) would ideally like to hear that Hazeldine took a similar journey before settling on his own, subtly unique, characterization for this enigmatic antagonist. Beyond that, I can guarantee that fans will be comparing the two actors, and a few will be coming into this season downright mad about the recasting and mad at Hazeldine through no fault of his own, so channeling Mawle might just have the undesired effect of drawing attention to his absence.

With that out of the way, there are six other actors joining The Rings Of Power who are lucky not to have the shadow of another looming over their heads, and it’s time we moved down the list. First up, there’s Gabriel Akuwudike, who comes from a background in theatre and has had various small roles in film and television (including 1917, Game Of Thrones, and Cursed). He’s around the same age as Morfydd Clark and very handsome, so naturally everyone in the fandom has jumped to the conclusion that he’s playing Celeborn, Galadriel’s canonical husband who has not yet appeared in The Rings Of Power (in a significant deviation from what Tolkien wrote on the subject, the series’ version of Celeborn has been believed dead for centuries, which is already a hell of a lot more interesting than anything he ever did canonically; sorry, someone had to say it). Of course, this is all just speculation, and it’s just as likely that Akuwudike is playing an original character.

Rings Of Power
Yasen Atour | vanityteen.com

Next on the list is Yasen Atour, and his face might already be familiar to some of you as that of the Witcher Coen in the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher. He struck me as very funny and likeable there, so I’m excited to see what kind of energy he brings to The Rings Of Power, whether his character is dramatic or comedic. My most out-there theory is that he’s Theo’s nameless father, who disappeared from Tirharad before he was born (and at one point was widely suspected to be Halbrand), but the mystery surrounding that character and Theo’s origins in general weirdly trailed off without a proper resolution halfway through the season, around the same time the Orcs attacked Tirharad. With Theo and his mother Bronwyn presumably safe and sound in Pelargir at the beginning of season two, maybe there’ll be time for the show to address all our burning questions regarding Theo’s bloodline, and his connections to Mount Doom and Sauron.

Moving on, we have Ben Daniels – an acclaimed British actor with a long and distinguished career on the stage (his performance in All My Sons at the Royal National Theatre in 2001 earned him a Laurence Olivier Award, and he is a three-time nominee), as well as in television and film (globally, he is probably best known as Antony Armstrong-Jones in the third season of Netflix’s The Crown, but he has also had major roles in House Of Cards, Merlin, and Jupiter’s Legacy). With that resume, I have to imagine his character in The Rings Of Power is someone of significance: Círdan the Shipwright perhaps, or Amandil, the grandfather of Isildur, if Amazon obtains the rights to his remarkable yet tragic story.

Amelia Kenworthy and Nia Towle have similar backgrounds in theatre and to date have had only a few film and television acting credits between them. For Kenworthy, in fact, The Rings Of Power will be her television debut – although the RADA graduate has previously appeared in several productions of Shakespeare’s work, including as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Towle, who graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, received very strong reviews for her performance as Lettie Hempstock in the West End debut of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, and most recently appeared briefly in Netflix’s anachronistic adaptation of Persuasion.

And that brings us at last to Nicholas Woodeson, who has been working in theatre since the early 1970’s, when he started out at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. Looking at his enormous body of work, which includes numerous appearances in film and television, including Heaven’s Gate, Conspiracy, Skyfall, and the HBO series Rome, I see a similar career trajectory as the one Sir Ian McKellen took to the role of Gandalf, which made him a household name globally. Looking at Woodeson, I could potentially see him as another wizard – one of the Blue Wizards, perhaps – or as a Harfoot, if there are any new characters yet to be introduced from that group. He could be Círdan (he’s certainly closer in age to how I would imagine the Shipwright than anyone else in the cast), but something about him doesn’t fully scream Elvish to me.

The Rings Of Power
Nicholas Woodeson | bbc.com

Well, that’s everything I know about everyone joining the cast of The Rings Of Power in season two. There are probably still a few more names that haven’t yet been revealed, important ones too, but I’d be surprised if we saw many more new additions to the cast – after all, there are still over twenty returning characters from season one. Whose introduction (or return) are you most excited for, and is there anyone from the books you think we’re seeing here for the first time without even realizing? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!