10 Things To Get You Excited For “The Wheel Of Time” Season Three


The Wheel Of Time recently aired its second season finale, and fans of the epic fantasy series are eagerly looking forward to season three, currently filming in South Africa. So I thought I’d put together a list of the top ten things I’m most excited to see in season three, based on the fourth book in the original series of novels by Robert Jordan. The Shadow Rising, which picks up roughly around the same point in the narrative where the second season ends, is widely considered Jordan’s best book, features some of the most iconic scenes and sequences for which the series is known, and gives nearly every character a strong arc. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Cover artwork of The Shadow Rising, book four in The Wheel Of Time series, by Darrel K. Sweet. A woman in a blue dress and a few men in brightly-colored coats stand around a fire in a landscape of strange stone pillars jutting into the sunset-streaked sky.
The Shadow Rising cover art by Darrel K. Sweet | dragonmount.com

10: Gawyn and Galad and Morgase

Whether due to time constraints or a deliberate choice by the writers to avoid attracting comparisons to Game Of Thrones, The Wheel Of Time has only briefly touched on the complex political situation in the Westlands, going no further than vaguely referencing nations and their monarchs: but politics become increasingly important as the book series progresses, particularly for Elayne Trakand and her family, who have for generations ruled the largest nation, Andor (which encompasses the Two Rivers region, where the story began). In the first book of the series, The Eye Of The World, it’s in the Andoran capital city of Caemlyn, rather than in Tar Valon, that Rand al’Thor reunites with his friends after being separated in Shadar Logoth, and there he meets for the first time Elayne, as well as her brothers Gawyn Trakand and Galad Damodred, and her mother Queen Morgase Trakand (and Morgase’s Aes Sedai advisor, Elaida; more on her later). In season three, with civil war brewing in Andor, these characters will become crucial at long last. They’re low on my list, however, because I detest Gawyn (shocking, I know), I have no strong feelings towards Galad whatsoever, and while I like Morgase, it’s evident that Robert Jordan never figured out exactly what he wanted to do with her, and both he and his successor Brandon Sanderson kept her pointlessly meandering about for a ridiculously long time. Hopefully the show can do better by all three of them.

9: Return of Thom

You probably wouldn’t guess it from how the adaptation has handled his character, but Thom Merrilin, the grizzled traveling bard or “gleeman” that Rand and Mat Cauthon briefly traveled alongside in season one, is one of the main characters in the books. After seemingly being killed by a Fade in The Eye Of The World, Thom reappears in Cairhien during the events of The Great Hunt, shares a few scenes with Rand, and dips out of the story to assassinate King Galldrian for reasons of his own, unintentionally plunging Cairhien into a civil war of its own. It may be that Thom was supposed to do something similar in season two, which would explain why Galldrian was name-dropped several times only to never actually appear, but whatever happened there, Alexandre Willaume ended up having scheduling conflicts with the now-canceled Netflix series 1899. Season three, for which he will finally return to the role, should find the gleeman in his The Shadow Rising storyline, escorting Nynaeve al’Meara and Elayne to Tanchico.

8: Faile

The hunt for the Horn of Valere was very nearly a wasted subplot in season two, but at least now the groundwork has been laid for the introduction of the most famous Hunter for the Horn, Faile Bashere. The thrill-seeking runaway princess of Saldaea first appears in The Dragon Reborn, traveling with a party of Hunters each hoping to win fame and glory for themselves by being the one to recover the fabled Horn and bring it to Illian. Perrin Aybara runs into her in the same small town where he frees an Aiel from a cage and makes an enemy of Whitecloaks, but seeing as that scene already played out quite differently in season two, the setting and circumstances of their meeting will obviously have to change in the show. Faile is a complex and flawed character who, by a supremely unfortunate accident, is presented to the reader from Perrin’s point-of-view before her own. He, like so many of Jordan’s male characters, regards all women as exasperatingly incomprehensible, and treats her with a kind of patronizing affection that only enrages her, leading him to become more confused, and so on and so forth. Their inevitable romance is not much fun to read about. I hope and pray with all my heart that the show does away with most of the miscommunication between them, including every instance of Perrin trying to figure out what Faile is thinking or feeling by smelling her. Ick.

7: The Battle of Emond’s Field

Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara in The Wheel Of Time season one, standing in the Two Rivers with wooden houses behind him and a mountain vista. He is wearing a leather apron over a green-blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up. He has short dark curly hair.
Perrin Aybara | winteriscoming.net

Having just put book Perrin on blast, let me clarify that show Perrin has done nothing wrong in his entire life, and behind Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara, he is indeed my favorite of the Emond’s Field Five (technically, that holds true for the books as well, but book Perrin trails the two women by a much larger margin and it says a lot about how much I don’t care for either Rand or Mat in the books that they’re still behind him despite that). Reaching and maintaining a balance between the wolf and the man within himself has been Perrin’s greatest challenge. He first wanted nothing to do with the wolves, perceiving them as manifestations of his worst instincts, and that resulted in failure. In season two, he took steps to learn about and embrace being a Wolfbrother, which led to the death of Geofram Bornhald at his hands. He needs to make peace with himself, and that will only happen when he finally comes to terms with what happened to Laila, his wife, in season one. Returning home to Emond’s Field in the Two Rivers will provide him with that necessary closure, and it just so happens that’s exactly where his The Shadow Rising storyline takes him (and Loial, Faile, Bain and Chiad). Much has changed there since he left, however, and Perrin will find himself reluctantly leading an uneasy coalition of Two Rivers folk, Whitecloaks, Tuatha’an, and Aes Sedai to repel an army of Shadowspawn led by the mysterious “Slayer”, an amalgamation of souls bound to the Dark One, in the Battle of Emond’s Field. If done well, this could be what ensures a fourth season for The Wheel Of Time all on its own – it’s that epic.

6: The Aiel Waste

Though his destiny does not lie in the Two Rivers, season three will be a homecoming of sorts for Rand as well. At the beginning of The Shadow Rising, he learns that he must go to the Three-fold Land (called the Waste by outsiders) beyond the Spine of the World, and there reconnect with his heritage as a long-lost son of the Aiel, the nomadic warriors who have lived in the Three-fold Land since the Breaking of the World, adopting a unique and complex system of honor and debts called ji’e’toh that informs nearly everything they do. Rand, like the spear-maiden Aviendha introduced in season two, belongs to the Taardad Aiel, one of twelve clans further divided into dozens of individual “septs” – his the Iron Mountain, hers the Nine Valleys. Each clan has a chief and a governing body of Wise Ones (the Aiel equivalent to the Aes Sedai of the Westlands), and to become either of these things means venturing alone into the ruins of Rhuidean, a city built shortly after the Breaking of the World by the now-extinct Jenn Aiel, glimpsing visions of the past through the glass columns ter’angreal, and returning burdened with the knowledge of where the Aiel came from, who they were, and what they did to become what they are now. Men who pass the test (and only men, because…sexism, mostly) come out bearing a dragon tattoo on one arm. As you can probably guess, Rand will have to undergo this test and experience for himself what awaits in the glass columns.

5: The Sea Folk

While I know I’ll hear some grumbling about their placement on this list over the Aiel and the Battle of Emond’s Field, I absolutely adore the Sea Folk, and I was overjoyed to learn that showrunner Rafe Judkins evidently does as well, from how he excitedly teased their introduction in season three at New York Comic-Con. The Sea Folk, or Atha’an Miere, are a seafaring people (obviously) who live on ships in the Aryth Ocean, making landfall in the Westlands very rarely except to trade their priceless porcelain and goods from the land of Shara in the east. Their elected leader is named the Mistress of the Ships, and rules alongside a Master of the Blades, often her consort. When the story opens, the Mistress of the Ships is Nesta din Reas Two Moons. Among the Atha’an Miere, most women who can channel do not go to the White Tower to become Aes Sedai but instead act as “Windfinders”, using secret weaves of Air and Water to calm the oceans, alter the weather, and turn the winds in their favor, propelling their peoples’ ships further and faster around the world. As a rule, the Atha’an Miere do not allow Aes Sedai passage on their ships for fear that their Windfinders will be found out. However, in The Shadow Rising, Nynaeve and Elayne negotiate with the Sailmistress Coine din Jubai Wild Winds to take them and Thom to Tanchico onboard the raker Wavedancer, and the two women cross paths with the Atha’an Miere regularly after that.

4: Elaida’s Coup

Shohreh Aghdashloo as Avasarala in The Expanse, striding through a snow-covered field wearing a fur-lined crimson cape with a hood over a jacket of the same color and mustard-yellow trousers. She has fur gloves, large earrings, and a silver belt.
Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Expanse | Twitter @PrimeVideo

I told you we would circle back to Elaida eventually. Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan of the Red Ajah is one of The Wheel Of Time‘s great antagonists, more enduring and more efficient – if only by sheer accident – than any of the Forsaken in the books, dividing the White Tower against itself at a time when it needs to be whole, and driving a wedge between Rand and the Aes Sedai. In The Shadow Rising, Elaida discovers evidence of collusion between Siuan Sanche and Moiraine Damodred to secretly assist the Dragon Reborn, something so antithetical to the Red Ajah’s entire philosophy that Elaida has no choice, as she sees it, but to orchestrate a coup against Siuan and ascend to the Amyrlin Seat herself, in a last-ditch effort to save the world. The fact that she genuinely believes she’s doing the right thing makes her all the more dangerous, because there’s no reasoning with her. Of course, in season two, Siuan was uncharacteristically written to share many of Elaida’s opinions on how to handle the Dragon (seemingly, at least), and the Aes Sedai all saw her try to shield and cage Rand before he escaped with Moiraine, so Elaida will have a much harder time convincing them that Moiraine and the Amyrlin are working together, but that will hopefully only make Elaida even more compelling, if she’s positioned as the underdog. The Wheel Of Time is lucky to have Oscar-nominated actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (unofficially) onboard to play this phenomenal character in season three and beyond.

3: Black Ajah

One of the major plot twists in season two involved the so-called “Black Ajah”, a faction of Aes Sedai that, far from being loyal to the Amyrlin Seat, are secretly sworn to the Dark One and have strived for decades to destabilize the institution of the White Tower from within. I will say that the early books in the series did more with the Black Ajah than the first two seasons of The Wheel Of Time, and I would have liked to see some reference to how they carried out the assassinations of various Aes Sedai over the years, including the Amyrlin Seat before Siuan and every other searcher for the Dragon Reborn besides Siuan and Moiraine (not for lack of trying). But the Black Ajah will have a more prominent role in season three, as antagonists to Nynaeve and Elayne in the coastal city of Tanchico. In the books, Liandrin brings her Darkfriends there to steal a version of the Seanchan a’dam designed specifically for male channelers, hoping to use it on Rand. Seeing as that particular storyline kinda goes nowhere in the books, it’s entirely possible the circumstances will change, but either way Rafe Judkins has assured us that from the get-go, we’ll know what Liandrin and the Black Ajah have been up to.

2: Tel’aran’rhiod

Tel’aran’rhiod, the “Unseen World” or “World of Dreams” as it is more often called, refers to the infinitely vast, intangible yet treacherous labyrinthine dimension accessible through dreams, which encompasses and connects all of the alternate realities brought into being over the course of the Wheel of Time’s turnings. It was the setting of some particularly memorable sequences in season two: Nynaeve stepping through a stone archway ter’angreal into a version of the world where she left the White Tower to be with Lan; Ishamael and Lanfear casually infiltrating each other’s dreams, and exerting their mastery over Tel’aran’rhiod to manipulate the environment around them; Lanfear taking Rand to see Egwene while they were both asleep, with hundreds of miles between them. It’s a place where the protagonists are immediately out of their depths and at a disadvantage compared to their centuries-old opponents, but that’s all about to change in season three. Egwene and Perrin are both “Dreamwalkers”, and equally powerful there as any of the Forsaken, though their two paths could not be more different. Egwene is on her way to the Waste to learn from the Aiel Wise Ones, while Perrin will delve into the Wolf-dream, where wolves dead and alive congregate (whether the wolves will talk in Tel’aran’rhiod, as they do in the books, remains to be seen). However, it’s Nynaeve, not a Dreamwalker, who will soon face the greatest opponent lurking in the World of Dreams.

1: Moghedien

Laia Costa as Moghedien in The Wheel Of Time, sitting in a chair before a fireplace in a dark room. She is wearing an oversized white dress-shirt, and wide black trousers. Her fingertips are blackened. She has short black hair in a bowl-cut with a topknot in the back.
Moghedien | Twitter @dailylaiacosta

Coming in at number one on my list is Moghedien, which might be confusing to some as she is widely regarded to be the weakest of the Forsaken in physical strength. But this small and slight villain, played by Laia Costa in the final minutes of season two, takes her name from a species of inconspicuous spider with a fatal bite discovered during the Age of Legends, and uses similar tactics, silently stalking her prey from the safety of Tel’aran’rhiod, waiting until their guard is down before delivering one decisive strike and retreating back into the shadows whence she came. In the World of Dreams she is more experienced than any of the Forsaken, even Lanfear, and to challenge her there, on her territory, is nothing short of suicidal. Her sprawling webs ensnare even the wariest Dreamwalkers, and once you’re tangled up in them, there’s no escape.

Well, that’s my totally subjective ranking of the top ten things I’m most excited to see from The Wheel Of Time season three. What’s yours? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Wheel Of Time” Season 2, Episode 8 Finishes Off Strong


I’m not gonna lie, I was worried that the second season of Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time wouldn’t be able to stick the landing. The consistently larger scale action sequences and higher quality visual effects somewhat assuaged my fears that we’d see a repeat of season one’s disappointing final skirmish between an entirely CGI army of Shadowspawn and a handful of Shienarans, but ultimately, none of that would matter if the characters weren’t handled well and season arcs didn’t reach satisfying (albeit only temporary) conclusions. And season one kinda failed on that front, too, stranding certain subplots in the weirdest places. Factor in the penultimate episode’s mischaracterization of Siuan Sanche, and going into the finale, I was justifiably stressed.

Donal Finn as Mat Cauthon in The Wheel Of Time, breaking into a run as he leads a small group of colorfully-dressed warriors into battle on a stone battlement. He is wearing a faded olive-green coat over a dirty light brown shirt and brown trousers with dark brown leather boots, and is carrying a wooden quarterstaff. He has short brown curly hair.
Mat Cauthon | press.amazonstudios.com

And for the first fifteen to twenty minutes, I remained stressed. Characters move around at a rather hectic pace as they all become belatedly aware that it’s the finale and somehow they’re not in place yet even after eight episodes. Things just start happening abruptly because there’s no time left to properly establish why, for instance, the Whitecloaks are attacking Falme today, and many crucial scenes, like the theft of the Horn of Valere, were obviously cut for time, or flow, or because scenes in earlier episodes had already been cut. But once everyone is settled down, the episode begins anew. By remaining laser-focused on specific characters throughout the rousing action, the writers (mostly) succeed at crafting an epic, high-stakes, and engaging finale that should keep viewers invested until the third season (which has nearly finished filming).

There’s a lot of moving parts in this episode, so I’m gonna go character-by-character, in no particular order, to break it all down.

Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) has never been more popular. She single-handedly holds back Ishamael (Fares Fares), the strongest of the Forsaken, and it’s of course awe-inspiring, a scene destined to make its way into every end-of-the-year tribute to women in movies and television, but it’s not even Egwene’s best moment in this episode. Placing a collar around Renna (Xelia Mendes-Jones)’s neck, putting her through the same torture that Egwene suffered at her hands and letting it kill her, that’s the moment where I think Egwene comes into her own fully. The woman who stands and silently watches as her cruel sul’dam dies gasping out her name is not and never will be the same woman she was before. She is more dangerous now, more cunning, and still as capable as ever, despite all the attempts by the Seanchan to break her indomitable spirit. Those who underestimate her do so at their own risk. It’s kinda surreal to see the fandom finally come around on Egwene, when it used to be that you couldn’t admit to Egwene being your favorite character in the books without eliciting some shocked or horrified responses (why yes, I’m speaking from personal experience), but hey, at least we can all agree now that Egwene is the best.

If there’s one downside to Egwene becoming completely self-reliant this early in the story, it’s that it throws Nynaeve al’Meara (Zoë Robins)’s arc off-balance. Nynaeve is terribly underused in this episode, and I’m tired of having to explain this, but it’s not that I wanted her to magically break through her Block and overcome all her trauma because it’s the finale. What I and other fans of Nynaeve actually wanted was for her to not be benched just because she can’t channel the One Power. Nynaeve has never been a character who relied on the Power. That’s not even how she’s been depicted in the show, where she uses her wits and brute force to solve problems more frequently than weaves of earth, water, fire, air, and spirit. In The Great Hunt, she has a key role in rescuing Egwene from the Seanchan by capturing the sul’dam Seta (Jade Eleena-Dregorius), collaring her, and marching into the kennels with Seta disguised as her damane – and that’s exactly where Nynaeve’s subplot in the finale appears to be going until about halfway through, when Seta abruptly dies before they ever make it to Egwene, Elayne Trakand (Ceara Coveney) gets injured, and for maybe fifteen minutes Nynaeve stares blankly at her arrow-wound – until it falls to Elayne to remind her that she used to be the Wisdom of the Two Rivers, and that she can probably treat this injury in her sleep.

Apparently nobody on the production team studied how to treat an arrow-wound, however, because Nynaeve simply pushes the bolt through Elayne’s leg, fletching and all, and within moments Elayne is miraculously able to stand and climb to the top of a tower just in time for the climactic showdown with Ishamael, with enough energy left over to heal Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) from a life-threatening injury of his own. I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s bad. It’s as if halfway through filming, the decision was made to have Egwene rescue herself and Nynaeve’s role in the finale had to subsequently be reduced to this. It’s arguably worse than when Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) ran around doing nothing in the first season finale.

Perrin, at least, has a much meatier role in this episode. He really only does one important thing – killing Geofram Bornhald (Stuart Graham) in revenge for Bornhald’s merciless slaughter of Perrin’s wolf-companion Hopper (Ka Lupinka, an incredible actor who really sells the animal’s last moments) – but it marks a turning-point in his journey towards reconciling the vastly different identities of the wolf and the man tangled up within him to form what is known as a “Wolfbrother”. And he now has Geofram’s vengeful son Dain Bornhald (Jay Duffy) to worry about heading into season three. A shame, that whole situation. Those two were were cute together, fighting back-to-back in the streets of Falme with a dexterity and speed that would give anyone the impression they had known each other for more than a few hours, at most. My only disappointment is that Perrin didn’t get a meaningful scene with Ingtar (Gregg Chillingirian) before the latter’s sudden death, which might have had a chance of resonating with viewers if a scene confirming that he was a Darkfriend seeking redemption (as in the books) had not been cut from the episode.

Madeleine Madden as Egwene al'Vere walking alongside Xelia Mendes-Jones as Renna through a stone colonnade. Egwene is wearing a large gold collar over a long-sleeved gray dress, and has a golden disc in her mouth as a gag. Her dark hair is braided. Renna wears lightweight red-brown leather armor like the carapace of a beetle over a dark blue long-sleeved shirt. Her dark hair hangs in two long braids, and the lower face of her face is painted dark blue.
Egwene and Renna | ew.com

Ingtar at least steals the Horn of Valere back from the Seanchan, so he’s not a total waste of precious screentime in an episode that needed to be a half-hour longer, but of course it’s Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn) who eventually blows the Horn – which has a very silly design and is distractingly reminiscent of a plastic bottle of laundry detergent – summoning an equally silly troupe of Renaissance Faire-goers to fight for the Light. To be fair, some of them look pretty cool: Amaresu (Hélène Tran), mentioned in the books to be the female counterpart of the Dragon Reborn in other Turnings of the Wheel, is absolutely stunning, and I want to see more of her (I hope that her taking the Horn from Mat is an an indication that we will). But it’s hard to believe this was “probably the most expensive shot in season two”, when most of the other Heroes, including fan-favorite Birgitte Silverbow, are portrayed by uncredited extras on whom the camera lingers for only a few seconds.

To the delight of many, however, one-eyed warrior Uno Nomesta (Guy Roberts) returns as a Hero of the Horn, allowing the character – who did not die in the books – to show up again in the future. But the biggest surprise is that Mat, too, is a Hero. It’s a change, and it will have consequences, but it might not be such a bad idea. His arc has been building to this moment of much-needed catharsis, where he realizes that he is not, in fact, bound to the Dark One in every lifetime, and if having your soul cosmically linked to a musical instrument for eternity sounds only marginally better to me, it’s still huge for Mat’s character development. Since childhood, he’s been told that he’s not a good person or capable of becoming one, and everyone from his parents to total strangers have made him believe it. But there’s a goodness in Mat Cauthon that nothing and no one can suppress.

Still, though, that pesky cursed dagger he stole from Shadar Logoth tempts him, and even Mat’s solution of tying it to the end of a quarterstaff so he doesn’t come in contact with it ultimately backfires, as he tries to impale Ishamael with his makeshift weapon and accidentally stabs Rand in the stomach, fulfilling Min Farshaw’s viewing of him “killing” Rand with the dagger, albeit not quite how she envisioned. Luckily, the dagger which has corroded most of its other victims from the inside out in a matter of seconds takes its sweet time with Rand, or Elayne might not have been able to save him. In all seriousness, it’s not that big a deal, but it is a little convenient.

Rand, controversially, spends much of the episode lying glassy-eyed in a pile of rubble while his friends hold off Ishamael, shielded by Seanchan damane and suffering from the injury in his side. Between killing the High Lord Turak (Daniel Francis) and his elite bodyguards with a volley of highly precise armor-penetrating fireballs and somewhat meekly pushing his burning sword through Ishamael’s chest, he doesn’t do anything particularly flashy with the One Power, certainly nothing on the level of Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) blowing the Seanchan fleet to smithereens from miles away, and his big moment – telling Ishamael to his face that he will never serve the Dark One, because “in a thousand lives, I never have” – falls flat without the full weight of the Flicker, Flicker, Flicker sequence from The Great Hunt underscoring his words. The Wheel Of Time keeps putting off Rand’s truly epic and iconic scenes for another season, and it’s a worrisome trend.

With that said, Rand being less powerful than in the early books makes sense for where he is in the show – he’s only reached out to the True Source a few times, after all, mostly without thinking, and he hasn’t had any training outside of a single short conversation with Logain, who was cut off from the Source and therefore of very little help to Rand. But it’s worth noting that Nynaeve has had almost the exact same experience, and when she wields the One Power, the extent of her strength seems almost infinite. When Rand channels, I always get the sense that he’s holding back, using threads of the Power when he could be pulling on the very tapestry that makes up reality itself. At least he has plenty of room to grow from here, but it has to happen soon. The Forsaken are coming, and I’d rather we see actual, evenly-matched battles between them and Rand as opposed to…whatever the heck happened with Ishamael.

Ironically, Ishamael’s defeat isn’t all that different from how it plays out twice in the first three books, but if it was underwhelming then, it’s doubly so in a visual medium. Especially because the show is trying to do better by the Forsaken, and was on the right track giving them nuance, complexity, and depth to their motivations. It was refreshing to see a soft-spoken yet devastatingly competent version of Ishamael, completely unlike his snarling cartoonish counterpart from the books but far more engaging. To be fair, it’s heavily implied in the show that he went into the confrontation with Rand assuming he would die and even looking forward to it, which is very in-character for him, but he exerts too little of his power to make the charade seem believable. We’re talking about a character who could easily be teleporting behind Egwene’s barrier to catch her off-guard, and he’s standing still the whole time, firing off insignificant bullets.

I have faith, still, that this was a poorly executed but deliberate choice, and that Rand will not be able to blow through the remaining Forsaken like so much paper. Ishamael was the only one who so eagerly anticipated the Wheel of Time’s annihilation and his own along with it that he would sacrifice himself on Rand’s sword without hesitation if it could potentially result in the Dark One’s final victory over the Light and the unmaking of the Pattern. The others, with the possible exception of Lanfear (Natasha O’Keeffe), may fear the Dark One and at times revere him, but none would not happily betray him if they felt safe doing so. They each have an agenda. Take Lanfear, for instance. I don’t think she’s seriously considered breaking the Wheel for one moment; her goal is and has always been to win back the heart of Lews Therin Telamon (Karim Alexander), whose soul now resides in Rand’s humbler body, and to rule the world alongside him, never letting him leave her again. She won’t let the Dark One have him.

I’m curious to know what drove Laia Costa’s Moghedien to the Shadow in the first place, and what she wants now. From the little time we spend with her at the very end of the episode, I’m honestly not sure if she has a single coherent thought in her head, but the books do tell us that during the Age of Legends, she was named Lillen Moiral, and worked as an investment advisor, violating every rule of ethics in her pursuit of material power. As a relatively weak channeler, she had to master the art of fading into the background, letting her opponents walk all over her until she had gotten them to lower their guard, and then striking with deadly precision, disappearing before the body hit the floor. She uses this exact tactic on Lanfear, playing at being helpless and child-like until she suddenly has the stronger Forsaken tangled in her webs. She can’t kill Lanfear, but she leaves her with a warning to stay away from Rand: “He’s ours now. All five of them are.”

With Ishamael dead and the series caught up to the ending of The Dragon Reborn, the characters are poised to begin their Shadow Rising arcs; Rand, Egwene and Mat heading to the Aiel Waste for the kind of training they can’t receive elsewhere, Perrin returning to the Two Rivers to deal with the unresolved issue of Padan Fain (Johann Myers), and Nynaeve and Elayne hunting the Black Ajah in Tanchico, while at the White Tower Siuan will face the greatest challenge to her authority as Amyrlin Seat. The Shadow Rising is widely regarded to be one of, if not the, best book in The Wheel Of Time, so expectations are understandably high – and the third season needs to be a hit, because season four was not greenlit far in advance and the second season’s viewing numbers, while relatively strong, were obviously impacted by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes preventing writers and actors from doing promotion on their social media or attending premieres and events, not to mention Amazon’s already sparse marketing (a single trailer, that’s all we got) and the gap of almost two years between seasons.

Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred and Daniel Henney as Lan Mandragoran in The Wheel Of Time, standing in shallow water on a beach with clear skies above them. Behind them looms a sandstone gate on a dais with steps leading up to it. Moiraine is wearing a dark blue long-sleeved gown over a knitted white blouse. She has long brown hair. Lan is wearing a gray tunic and trousers, with a sword strapped to his back. His dark hair is worn in a topknot.
Moiraine and Lan | ign.com

But The Wheel Of Time deserves to keep turning for a long time yet. The second season, even this imperfect but wildly enjoyable finale, earns the series its place alongside many of its higher-profile competitors in the fantasy genre (dare I say above most, including the more expensive but not as instantly engaging Rings Of Power). The vast world that Robert Jordan created and The Wheel Of Time‘s production designers, set designers, propmakers, costumers, hairstylists, and makeup-artists made into a richly detailed reality is one in which fans can immerse themselves for years and still discover something new. The magic system, vividly realized by the VFX artists and fight coordinators, is among the most intricate that exist, and its depths were unplumbed even by their originator. Most importantly, the characters ripped off the page and brought to life by the series’ incredible cast of actors, from established stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney to relative newcomers Madeleine Madden and Zoë Robins, can support at least as many stories as any of the minor historical figures mentioned in The Lord Of The Rings and A Song Of Ice And Fire who now lead movies and series’. The Wheel Of Time has reached the big leagues. In fact, it got there before the season midpoint. But whether the average viewer knows it will entirely depend on word-of-mouth as long as Amazon’s promotion continues to be nonexistent. And not to be too pushy, but I kinda need that fourth season (and a fifth, and a sixth, and so on), so, uh, go watch it maybe?

Episode Rating: 8.5/10

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!