MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE WHEEL OF TIME, BOOKS ONE THROUGH THREE, AHEAD!
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.
There’s no particular reason you should be aware if you aren’t obsessed like I am with The Wheel Of Time, but last night, Amazon Prime Video quietly released a full scene from the epic fantasy series’ upcoming second season, attaching it to the very end of the season one finale as a sneaky surprise for fans rewatching the series. The scene in question is an iconic one from the prologue of The Great Hunt, the second book in Robert Jordan’s original fourteen-volume series of novels. Over the years, fans have taken to calling this scene the “Darkfriend Social”, as it depicts a group of cloaked, hooded, and masked Darkfriends mingling in a remote manor as they await new orders from Ishamael, leader of the Forsaken, following his confrontation with the Dragon Reborn at the Eye of the World.
In the book, this scene is viewed exclusively through a keen pair of eyes belonging to “the man who called himself Bors”, a Darkfriend we learn by the end of the chapter is a Whitecloak Questioner. The adaptation takes a different approach, turning the camera on a young girl who is playing by herself in the courtyard, but rushes back inside after encountering Trollocs and scurries under the table around which a multitude of Darkfriends are seated silently, wearing veils to conceal their identities yet still unconcernedly (some might say carelessly) giving away clues as to their ethnicities and social standing through the shifting of black silk to reveal the long lacquered fingernails of Seanchan Blood, or a Great Serpent Ring on a black-gloved hand, or the brightly-colored skirts of a Tuatha’an woman. The man who called himself Bors is seemingly also present, unless a pair of distinctive white gloves belong to another member of his zealous organization. And the peddler Padan Fain, in brazen defiance of Ishamael’s instructions, actually uncovers his face.
A few of the Darkfriends seated around the table might just be extras to fill out the scene, but most will reappear later in the series as antagonists. The Seanchan noblewoman is a character we’ve already seen hanging out with Ishamael in the trailer for season two and in various promotional stills, High Lady Suroth Sabelle Meldarath. The man wearing the black hawk of Shienar on his clothes is almost certainly [redacted], and the black-ringed Aes Sedai, though unidentifiable from a close-up shot of her hand alone, is probably [redacted]. I’m sorry to have to censor the names, but I’m doing it for your own good. As for the man who seems to be the man who called himself Bors (can I just call him Bors from now on? Does anyone mind?), I expect him to turn up again fairly soon, when the Whitecloaks invade Almoth Plain in season two. I’m oddly most interested in the nameless, faceless Tuatha’an Darkfriend, whom the little girl refers to as “Mum” while tugging on her skirt. She’s technically a character from the book, but not one that we ever see again:
“Merchant and warrior, commoner and noble. From Kandor and Cairhien, Saldaea and Ghealdan. From every nation and nearly every people. [Bors’] nose wrinkled in sudden disgust. Even a Tinker, in bright green breeches and a virulent yellow coat. We can do without those come the day.”
– The Great Hunt; Prologue: In The Shadow
There’s never any reference to Darkfriends among the Tuatha’an that I can remember from the books, and it’s hard to imagine what a Tuatha’an Darkfriend could even accomplish with that peaceful people that would help the Dark One. My out-there theory is that she’s some version of the extremely minor character Leya, a Tuatha’an woman killed in a Trolloc raid in The Dragon Reborn, who in this Turning of the Wheel will actually be responsible for leading the Trollocs to the Dragon’s location at some point. Or perhaps she was already responsible for arranging the confrontation between the Whitecloaks and Tuatha’an in season one, which resulted in Egwene and Perrin being captured and nearly killed.
Ishamael overhears the girl trying to get her mother’s attention and interrupts the meeting to crawl under the table and speak with her, telling her not to be afraid of Trollocs. He then takes her by the hand and brings her back outside to play, while the Darkfriends sit in awkward silence, all presumably glaring at the Tuatha’an mother from behind their veils. I don’t necessarily expect the girl to have any significance down the line, but it’s not inconceivable that she grows up to be the young Darkfriend assassin Mili Skane, whose small role in the first book was given to the original character Dana. Though I’d still prefer if Dana was simply resurrected and merged with Mili going forward, I wouldn’t mind this alternate backstory for the villain, who actually has an intriguing connection with Ishamael in the books. Either way, I wholly approve of Ishamael having an unpredictable paternal affection for some of his Darkfriends. He could be The Wheel Of Time‘s version of Silco from Arcane.
The scene ends on a strangely sweet yet suspenseful moment where Ishamael invites the girl to reach out and pet a Trolloc, which had me fearing the entire time as she caressed its face and bloody tusks that her hand would be bitten off, or that Ishamael would leave her there and lock her out. I appreciate that he didn’t, that he actually wants to prove to her that he meant it when he said Trollocs aren’t monsters for being part-human and part-animal, any more than he can reasonably be called a monster for existing in the space between good and evil. Ishamael in the books wouldn’t ever do that, because he’d be too busy running around yelling that he’s gonna crush the Dragon like a worm beneath his heel and then dramatically failing on three separate occasions to do so in just the first three books:
“”The place where you stand lies in the shadow of Shayol Ghul.” More than one voice moaned at that; the man who called himself Bors was not sure his own was not among them. A touch of what might almost be called mockery entered [Ishamael’s] voice as he spread his arms wide. “Fear not, for the Day of your Master’s rising upon the world is near at hand….soon the Wheel of Time will be broken. Soon the Great Serpent will die, and with the power of that death, the death of Time itself, your Master will remake the world in his own image for this Age and for all Ages to come. And those who serve me, faithful and steadfast, will sit at my feet above the stars in the sky and rule the world of men forever. So have I promised, and so shall it be, without end. You shall live and rule forever.””
– The Great Hunt; Prologue: In The Shadow
See what I mean? That’s just an excerpt, but that’s how he talks all the time, unnecessarily capitalizing every other word. It’s exhausting. In the show’s version of events, Ishamael comes across as more cool-headed and patient, less interested in killing the Dragon than in manipulating him into fighting for the shadow, which I think is a smart choice. There are plenty of other Forsaken whose job it is to be campy and over-the-top evil.
Where are the other Forsaken, anyway? The large stone discs standing on pedestals in the courtyard outside the Darkfriend Social likely represent the seven seals on the Dark One’s prison that hold him and the Forsaken captive, with the one broken and lying on the ground being a miniature version of the actual seal broken by Rand al’Thor at the Eye of the World that released Ishamael into the world. On it is carved an ornate eight-pointed star containing symbols of the eight Forsaken in the spaces between its points: what looks to be a spider in a web for Moghedien, something that could be a moon for Lanfear, a guitar for Asmodean, and then a lot of squiggles and shapes whose meaning is still unclear. I believe that with one seal broken and the rest weakened, Ishamael will be able to release the other Forsaken into the world, starting with Lanfear, Daughter of the Night, and that will be the catalyst for much of what happens in season two.
Now you tell me what you think! Have you watched the new scene? Or are you saving the experience for when the season premieres? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!