In “The Wheel Of Time” Episode 4, Gender And Magic Intersect


In the age of streaming television and the controversial “skip intro” button that allows audiences to jump straight into the action of their favorite shows, opening credits sequences are increasingly seen as a vanity – which is how they’ve managed to stick around at all, because they’re almost always strikingly beautiful or creative. But as more and more fantasy streaming series’ in particular forego the opening credits sequence entirely (looking at you, Shadow And Bone and The Witcher), The Wheel Of Time obviously stands out as an exception to this rule.

Wheel Of Time
Alanna Mosvani |

And I suppose that’s why Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s sprawling fourteen-book fantasy has drawn ire from some fans of HBO’s Game Of Thrones, who feel that the opening credits sequences of the two shows have too many similarities to be purely coincidental. Perhaps you could argue that both Wheel Of Time and Game Of Thrones‘ opening credits depict something being constructed, but I see that as an obtuse surface-level reading of both series’ opening credits sequences, as illogical as if you were to say that the two are identical because they share the word “of” in their titles.

The opening credits for both these series’ are more than just pretty animation; they’re an extension of their individual themes. For instance, Game Of Thrones‘ opening credits play over a montage of tiny little mechanical castles and fortresses springing up across the map of Westeros, itself revealed to be nothing more than an elaborate gameboard on which humans play out their power fantasies through artifice and intrigue. But Wheel Of Time‘s opening credits illustrate the story of the gender divide that is central to the series’ worldbuilding and magic system.

That’s why I’ve held off on even talking about the opening credits sequence in my reviews of the first three episodes, because only in episode four does The Wheel Of Time dive into the complex subject of the gender divide, and its consequences on gender roles and gender expression in this world. The episode and its opening credits are thematically intertwined almost as firmly as any of the threads that make up the vast cosmic tapestry being woven in the background while the credits play.

This tapestry starts its journey as a single white cord comprised of many threads, representing the One Power – the magical energy that permeates the world of The Wheel Of Time. In the books, the act of reaching into the One Power, absorbing it into oneself, and expelling or redirecting it is known as “channeling”, and people capable of doing so are called “channelers”, emphasizing that they are in fact merely conduits of a power which flows through them but does not belong to them or derive from them, and can easily destroy their fragile bodies.

This concept has been translated into live-action very literally, with Rosamund Pike’s physical performance as Moiraine Damodred in particular capturing the strength, dexterity, and above all vulnerability required of a powerful channeler in this world. Pike is almost always in motion, her body bending and limbs snaking swiftly yet purposefully as if allowing the One Power to flow directly through her towards her targets without giving it time to build up inside her and potentially burn her to a crisp.

We actually see one Aes Sedai sorceress, Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) of the Red Ajah, come dangerously close to spontaneously combusting in this episode. The One Power burns beneath her skin and in her veins, and all the while more and more strands of magic are flowing into Liandrin’s body; too many for her to absorb and dispel simultaneously. In Jordan’s books, these strands are frequently described as “threads”, and magical constructs built from threads are known as “weaves”. Powerful channelers like Moiraine can wield many threads at once and build elaborate weaves.

Weaving and textile-work is often used in The Wheel Of Time as a metaphor for channeling and other uses of the One Power. Even the titular Wheel is a spinning-wheel which relies upon the One Power to continue endlessly rotating, weaving people and events into the inconceivable Pattern of human history over and over for all eternity. But if that all seems fairly straightforward, this is the part where Robert Jordan suddenly superimposes a rigid gender binary over his magic system, and things get…complicated.

Because Jordan’s fantasy mythology is heavily reliant on dualism, it’s no surprise that the One Power has two halves, which correspond to the nebulous concepts of masculinity and femininity. Jordan really went the extra mile, however, when he decided that men can only access the male half of the One Power (known as saidin) and women can only access the female half (known as saidar). Saidin and saidar are intended to exist in a symbiotic relationship, each challenging and complementing the other but both required to keep the One Power healthy and the Wheel of Time turning.

The show appears to be keeping that concept, but doing away with some of the bizarre rules that Jordan worked into his magic system. Not content with giving men and women two separate forms of magic to use, Jordan was also annoyingly insistent that women can only channel by surrendering themselves to the One Power, while men channel by forcefully taking the One Power. Get it, because, like, women are submissive and men are dominant, right? If we could take that whole concept and throw it in the garbage where it belongs, and then set the trash bin on fire, I wouldn’t be opposed.

Anyway…in the books, men and women were both able to channel until a couple thousand years before the events of the story, when the Dark One permanently tainted saidin so that men couldn’t access it without going mad, even generations later. We see this taint spreading up the rope representing the One Power in Wheel Of Time‘s opening credits before the cord splits into two halves, one white, the other dyed black. The question of where people outside the gender binary fit into this situation has yet to be answered satisfactorily.

The consequences of the rift are visible throughout Amazon’s series, from the very first scene onwards. By the time the story opens, the order of Aes Sedai, which once accepted both men and women into its ranks of channelers, has become an all-female organization with entire subdivisions dedicated to eradicating male channelers. We’re told upfront that the women of the Aes Sedai rule the world and protect it with the One Power, but new fans will have become increasingly aware that that is not the case, and that the reality is…a mess, honestly.

And in episode four, our close focus on Logain Ablar (Álvaro Morte) allows us to go deeper into the messiness and complexity of that situation as we follow his meteoric journey. Even though Logain is only able to channel aggressive tentacles of blackened, decaying saidin that whisper threats and taunts in his ears, the world in which he lives, in which he can declare himself the Dragon Reborn without any proof and win allies in his rebellion against the Aes Sedai from both the peasantry and nobility, is one that still revolves around the notion that men are meant to lead, regardless of whether they can channel without going mad – regardless of whether they can channel or not.

I don’t think The Wheel Of Time wants us to view Logain as a misogynist, to be clear. He does imply at one point that the Aes Sedai are supposed to follow him, but that’s because he’s totally confident in his assumption that he’s the Dragon Reborn – which makes his epiphany at the end of the episode that he’s not the Dragon hurt all the more, because it truly shakes him to his core. It’s only after that, in episode six, that he resorts to overt sexism, and even then it’s in a desperate attempt to provoke the Aes Sedai into killing him. It’s infinitely more interesting to see Logain as a tragic figure buffeted by forces beyond his control.

Because outside of Tar Valon, patriarchal systems of government and society are still alive and well in this world, and the One Power wielded by the Aes Sedai doesn’t necessarily translate into political power. In that respect, and also in their pomp and pageantry, the Aes Sedai are The Wheel Of Time‘s rough equivalent to the medieval Catholic Church (an amusing parallel, given that the latter institution has for centuries exalted one woman as being above all other saints in heaven while oppressing them on earth). The semi-divine authority that the Aes Sedai claim to possess over the entire world is similarly theoretical and dependent on tradition.

The effortlessness with which Logain accumulates followers and support is therefore unsurprising. He’s irresistibly charming and incredibly powerful, of course, but one gets the sense that it wouldn’t matter if he were neither of those things, because as Logain himself acknowledges later, men across the world are looking for any opportunity to test the limits of Aes Sedai power. Logain is merely a weapon of the old patriarchy trying to reassert itself, a shield behind which its true objective could be masked. That the Aes Sedai themselves are hardly a “good” organization muddies the waters significantly.

Wheel Of Time
Logain and Moiraine |

We saw hints of that way back in the cold open for episode one, when Liandrin led a pack of her Red Ajah sisters in a literal man-hunt to find a male channeler and “gentle” him. “Gentling”, the process of removing a man’s ability to channel, is depicted in this episode as violent and torturous – there’s nothing gentle about it. As we learn from Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume) when he recounts the story of his nephew who was gentled by the Red Ajah, and as we later see evidenced in the hollowness of Morte’s Logain after his own gentling, men stripped of their ability to channel are almost always shattered by the experience.

The parallels between gentling (and its equivalent for female channelers, “stilling”) and the heinous real-world practice of conversion therapy for LGBTQ+ people are unmistakable. And throughout this episode, as Thom and Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) struggle to help Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) through the fear and loneliness of even potentially being able to channel, the language they use seems to intentionally play on the idea that the experience of being a male channeler in The Wheel Of Time is vaguely akin to the real-world experiences of many queer people, particularly in oppressive religious environments.

Showrunner Rafe Judkins, himself a gay man raised in a Mormon community, wisely balances out these instances of queer-coded metaphor with substantial queer representation. Following the casual confirmation in episode three that there are no social stigmas attached to same-sex relationships throughout most of this world, the show has a responsibility to show that onscreen – and in episode four, we’re introduced to Maksim (Taylor Napier) and Ihvon (Emmanuel Imani), a pair of queer Warders who love each other as deeply as they love the third member of their polyamorous trio, the Aes Sedai Alanna Mosvani (Priyanka Bose).

Examining the sacred bond between an Aes Sedai and their Warder(s) proves to be a large part of both this episode and the next. People tied together by the bond become true soulmates, gaining an almost telepathic ability to communicate their thoughts and emotions from one to the other – thereby allowing them to bridge them the gender divide of their world. For some, the partnership is completely platonic, as is the case with Moiraine and her Warder, Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney). For others, it’s romantic and/or sexual. But on every level, the bond increases a person’s capacity for love and empathy.

Of the two groups, however, the Warders clearly receive more love from a screenplay that favors their perspective on Aes Sedai teachings and practices to those of the Aes Sedai themselves. Through Nynaeve al’Meara (Zoë Robins), whose animosity with Lan in the previous episode is quickly developing into mutual curiosity and affection, we’re invited to spend time with the Warders around their campfire as they idly chit-chat and share stories. And it’s through the raw grief of the Warder Stepin (Peter Franzén) that we experience for the first time the severing of the bond after his Aes Sedai, Kerene Nagashi (Clare Perkins) is killed by Logain.

This choice would make more sense to me if the Warders were depicted as clearly the more relatable of the two groups, and the Aes Sedai as enigmatic and aloof as they were typically shown in the books – or even in The Wheel Of Time‘s opening credits sequence, where the tapestry being woven slowly resolves itself into an image of seven women arranged after the seven spokes of the Wheel of Time, representing the seven color-coded Ajahs of the Aes Sedai. But that sequence promises a mystique and magnificence that I feel we don’t quite get from the Aes Sedai in episode four, and even thereafter only see in quick glimpses.

Of course, there’s the caveat that the group of Aes Sedai we meet in episode four have been on the road for months, and are worn down by the exhaustion of trying to hold Logain captive without gentling him. But it’s harder to feel the effects of that mental and physical toll when we’ve barely gotten a chance to admire the full power and glory of the Aes Sedai – even Moiraine, awesome as she was in the battle of Emond’s Field, spent a fair amount of episode two and all of episode three wavering on the edge of unconsciousness after a single injury sustained in that fight.

And then there’s the costumes. I haven’t been impressed by many of the costumes on this show, but the Aes Sedai in particular were a missed opportunity to flaunt Amazon’s big budget with luxurious fabrics, unique textures and patterns, stylish cuts, and priceless jewelry. Even taking into account that they’re traveling, the Aes Sedai are always keenly aware of their image outside of Tar Valon for reasons I think I made clear above – what they lack in political power, they make up for with their influence. Look to the Catholic Church, and there’s a richness and brilliance to the traditional papal vestments that is designed to inspire awe.

But in the show, outside of a few stylish leather pieces like Liandrin’s knee-high boots and accessories like Moiraine’s shoulder-pads, the costume design is severely lacking when it comes to accentuating any sense of ostentatiousness or grandiosity that the Aes Sedai are supposed to have cultivated around themselves. Alanna’s costume perhaps comes closest to achieving a balance between practicality (which, for a member of the Green Ajah, is a top priority) and showiness (a little gold ornamentation here and there, nothing too outlandish really), but the rest are just…drab.

This lack of synchronization between the costumes and the characters wearing them is exacerbated by the overly bright lighting, which continues to be a major problem for this show but here really gets into every nook and cranny of the spotless soundstage that serves as the Aes Sedai camp, exposing just how little effort has gone into making this look like a lived-in environment with dirt and grime and wear. There are moments, particularly during action scenes, when the camp looks like a bad cosplay convention or an overly polished historical reenactment.

But if the Aes Sedai are lacking any depth and substance to their costumes, the far greater problem is that their subplot throughout this episode is itself devoid of much nuance. After being warned by Moiraine that Aes Sedai are master manipulators each with their own hidden agenda, we’re introduced to a group of Aes Sedai whose motives are shallow and obvious, and whose schemes are only half-baked. How much more compelling would Liandrin be as a villain if, instead of openly voicing her desire to gentle Logain, she only subtly encouraged debate of the topic and allowed others to prove her points for her?

For our introduction to the Aes Sedai, that weak writing coupled with poor costuming threatens to tear apart the tapestry so carefully constructed in the opening credits, but there are moments that save this episode for me. Balancing the badly-lit battle between the Aes Sedai and Logain’s army is a duel between Thom Merrilin and a Myrddraal that, while significantly shorter, is so up-close and personal that you can’t help but shudder in admiration for the practical effects used to achieve the Myrddraal’s hideous physical presence. Balancing the weak emotional impact of Kerene’s death is the pain and horror we feel from Nynaeve when she thinks she’s lost Lan.

(Without getting into spoilers for the books and presumably the season one finale, there’s not much I can really say about the incredible power display from Nynaeve at the end of this episode except that…well, it’s incredible. I think there are as many downsides as there are upsides to prolonging the mystery of the Dragon Reborn’s identity, and I hope new fans are allowed in on the big secret soon so we can all theorize together).

Wheel Of Time
The Aes Sedai |

So while I can’t say that I loved this episode, it’s still very enjoyable and is interspersed with enough excellent scenes and heartfelt character moments to warrant just as much praise as criticism. Director Wayne Che Yip again delivers a thematically rich story that draws upon Robert Jordan’s fantasy cosmology and theology for inspiration, and if it’s less bold with regards to gender than episode three was with morality, it still has fun tinkering with the rules that Jordan laid out for his world and improving upon his dated representation.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

“The Wheel Of Time” Episode 3 Dives Deep Into Robert Jordan’s Cosmology


It brings me great joy to report that The Wheel Of Time‘s third and fourth episodes, two of its best, were both helmed by director Wayne Che Yip. His resume is extensive, but it’s his work for Amazon Prime Studios that’s of pertinent interest to me. In recent years, he’s become one the streaming service’s go-to directors, having contributed to some of their biggest series’, including The Wheel Of Time, Hunters, and, yes, The Lord Of The Rings. I’m sorry that it’s always on the back of my mind, but if The Wheel Of Time is any indication, then the four episodes of Lord Of The Rings that Yip directed will be extraordinary.

Wheel Of Time
Nynaeve al’Meara |

In just two episodes of The Wheel Of Time, Yip broadens the scope of the entire series to include a spiritual or metaphysical dimension. Just as the extensive mythology of Tolkien’s Middle-earth was created not as a supplement to his published writings but as the backbone of his entire legendarium, Robert Jordan’s fantasy world (which I guess now is a good time to point out is technically just our world in another “Turning of the Wheel”) and all the stories that take place therein are built on a staggeringly vast and intricate cosmology partially inspired by Hindu and Buddhist theology.

And although The Wheel Of Time wades confidently into the deeper end of that pool, Yip uses purposeful direction and cinematography to weave Jordan’s themes of repetition, rebirth, and the permanence of human nature into the fabric of Amazon’s series so that any information you don’t get in the dialogue you’re still absorbing through recurring motifs and subtle details. This is a show that I know will stand up on a rewatch, as fans scour every episode for clues they missed the first time around.

That being said, it’s also clear that The Wheel Of Time has no intention of upholding the rigid binary systems around which Jordan’s cosmology is structured. Dualism is another prominent aspect of his novels, from the conflict between good and evil that spans the entire Wheel Of Time series, to the rift between men and women in Jordan’s world, which itself is derived from another clear-cut divide between saidin and saidar, the masculine and feminine halves of the One Power that permeates the cosmos and fuels the Wheel. To “channel”, i.e. use magic, men always tap into saidin, women always into saidar.

For the 1990’s, that seemed really progressive. But our understanding of all these subjects is constantly evolving, and Amazon’s Wheel Of Time reflects that by blurring the lines between the broad concepts that Jordan positioned as clear opposites in his books. The series depicts a world where gender and sexuality are more fluid, to the point where even the prophesied Dragon Reborn, who in Jordan’s books is always a man regardless of whatever else changes in his appearance, personality, and the circumstances of his birth and upbringing, is not locked down to being male or female.

And in keeping with Jordan’s own deconstructions of fantasy tropes like the chosen one, the series plants that persistent seed of doubt in our heads that this Dragon Reborn, whoever they are, will actually be able to fix the world – assuming they don’t just tear it apart in a mad rage, as everyone in-universe agrees is just as likely. In episode three, we meet our very first Darkfriend, a barmaid named Dana (Izuka Hoyle) who just wants the Dragon to break the Wheel of Time and let her and all of humanity escape from an endless cycle of pain and suffering. Until she attempts an abduction, her only crime is demanding better from the world.

But a well-timed knife throw from the gleeman Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume) puts an end to all her dreams of escaping the mining town of Breen’s Spring and being uplifted to a place alongside the Dark One for her accomplishments. The other characters are forced to leave her body crumpled in an alleyway, while Yip’s framing of the moment forces us to seriously contemplate what is right and what is wrong, who gets to draw the line between the two and where, and how we enforce that often arbitrary distinction.

The Wheel Of Time poses these same questions over and over, just as the titular Wheel weaves endless variations of the same people and events out into the tapestry of human history, over and over. That the Wheel is sentient to some degree, and weaves into existence whatever it feels is needed at any particular moment to preserve the overall integrity of the pattern, is taken for granted the world over. As far as I remember (and to be fair, I haven’t read the books recently), nobody except the Dark One wants to break the Wheel, and even that’s just to fulfill an archetypal mission of chaos and cosmic destruction.

Here, it feels a bit more nuanced than that, which I appreciate. We don’t really know anything about the show’s version of the Dark One yet (apart from that vague title), but as evidenced by Dana, the Darkfriends at least seem to have opinions of their own on whether the Wheel is a good or a bad thing. Even the prevalent theory that Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford)’s wife was a Darkfriend before she died in the first episode indicates that in Amazon’s adaptation, the Darkfriends aren’t just randomized vices in human shells. They’re humans, and their motives are understandable, if not sympathetic.

But The Wheel Of Time presents an alternative to their ideology that, while not without flaws of its own, is aimed at freeing humanity from the violent cycle in which they’ve been trapped for eons. In this episode, Perrin and Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) run into a band of the nomadic people known as the Tuatha’an. Heavily inspired by the Irish Travellers, and in the Amazon series also by the Amish, the Tuatha’an don’t believe in breaking the Wheel by force. Their “Way of the Leaf” preaches that nonviolence begets nonviolence just as the opposite is also true.

Although the Way of the Leaf is focused on more heavily throughout episode four, I’ll talk about it in this review because, well, I’m behind on reviews anyway and the first five episodes are out at this point, but also because it makes such a fitting counterbalance to the Darkfriend philosophy represented by Dana in episode three. The Tuatha’an aren’t scared by the Wheel’s endless turnings, because they don’t regard themselves as trapped in it. Instead, they see it as sobering that if they work harder to make the world a better place in the lives they have now, then the world into which they’re reborn will be better because of it.

Because most of this is explained through a very touching monologue in episode four, however, it doesn’t excuse the fact that in episode three itself the Tuatha’an feel like a detour. Egwene, who for the first two episodes was almost by default the series’ lead, is reduced to a supporting character in the series’ third-most important subplot as she and Perrin walk around the Tuatha’an camp looking baffled by their surroundings. Even given the state of their world, I find it hard to believe that pacifists are really the most shocking thing they’ve ever seen when they literally just escaped from a city that wanted to eat them.

Wheel Of Time
Perrin and Egwene |

With Rosamund Pike’s Moiraine Damodred unconscious throughout most of the episode courtesy of an injury sustained in episode one that conveniently waited until Shadar Logoth to knock out the powerful Aes Sedai, the burden falls on Zoë Robins to carry the series’ primary subplot. And after being given only a handful of scenes in episode one, Robins’ Nynaeve al’Meara is revved-up and ready to go when she returns in full force to let you know, dear viewer, that she’s not a damn side character, and it’s gonna take more than a Trolloc to stop her.

From her opening scene in this episode, in which the introverted village Wisdom brings down the aforementioned Trolloc on her own turf, to the revelation that she somehow tracked Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) from Emond’s Field to Shadar Logoth, Nynaeve is clearly formidable and impressive on many levels. But she’s not invulnerable, and she’s not above feeling frightened just because she outwitted one Trolloc. She’s scared for herself, and you genuinely get the sense that she’s terrified for Egwene and for the others through Robins’ raw line-delivery and physical performance.

Reading the early books of Jordan’s series, I didn’t feel anywhere near as strong a connection between Nynaeve and the other characters (least of all Lan, with whom she’s suddenly in love one day; the premise of most of Jordan’s romances). Granted, it’s been a minute since I’ve read the books, but Nynaeve’s decision to join the group there is framed as something of a reluctant obligation, if I remember correctly. And from that point on, she falls into a semi-comedic babysitter role; constantly distracted yet self-righteous, controlling yet completely ineffective at monitoring the others.

Robins’ Nynaeve is still stubborn and impatient and endearingly irritable, but we get to see a more fiercely caring side of her in her interactions with the injured Moiraine, and even with Lan; not because she cares deeply about him (yet), but because he stands in the way of her finding her friends again. When forced to work together for their mutual benefit, Nynaeve and Lan quickly develop real tension and chemistry that foreshadows their eventual romantic relationship in the books.

Speaking of romantic chemistry, I can’t not mention that the first barely audible word out of Moiraine’s lips when she wakes from sleep near the end of the episode is the name “Siuan”, a nod to one of my favorite characters in the books, Siuan Sanche. Like many of the women in the Aes Sedai order, Moiraine and Siuan were canonically lovers in their youth, but Jordan’s books explain this away as a consequence of there not being any men around. In other words, it’s queer enough for straight men to fetishize their relationship, but not queer to the exclusion of straight men. That’s the kind of queer representation that fills The Wheel Of Time.

But in the Amazon series, I’m hopeful that Moiraine and Siuan’s relationship will just be queer, without any caveats or asterisks. Episode three indicates that the world of The Wheel Of Time is accepting of queer relationships, with Dana misreading Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) and Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris)’s relationship as more than platonic, only for Rand to tell her that if he wanted a man, he could do much better than Mat. Harsh, but true.

It’s not that I don’t like Mat (although I’ll admit that Harris’ performance hasn’t blown me away, and the news of his recasting for season two doesn’t fill me with sorrow as it does others), but I still feel that we didn’t get enough time to know the real Mat in the first two episodes before getting stuck with the mean and temperamental post-Shadar Logoth Mat. His best scenes involve him bouncing off of Thom Merrilin, who is simultaneously sympathetic to Mat’s plight and unprepared to waste precious time humoring his nonsense.

Perhaps the most obvious example of a character whose been changed in the adaptation process, Amazon’s Thom is a far cry from Jordan’s version of the traveling gleeman with his harp and gaudy, brightly-colored patchwork cloak. For one thing, he no longer carries a harp, and his patches are more subdued – a mere flash of color in the folds of his coat, quickly hidden away. These and other physical changes to the character may have their critics (even I was taken aback by the lack of mustaches), but Amazon’s Thom isn’t meant to be the stereotypical, instantly recognizable bard of Jordan’s books.

The craggy, gravelly-voiced Thom of Amazon’s Wheel Of Time, who stuns a crowd speechless with songs of grief and madness accompanied by plaintive guitar-strumming, owes more to modern folk-singers and rock-stars than to medieval bards. But that makes total sense for a character whose responsibility as a gleeman is to preserve ancient oral histories and traditions, because as I pointed out above, The Wheel Of Time takes place in what is implied to be our far-distant future. Cars and computers didn’t survive the Breaking of the World, but someone in the future is looking out for Led Zeppelin, and I think that’s beautiful.

Thom takes that responsibility seriously, too. He may not be as garrulous as his counterpart in the books, but when he does share a story or a monologue or even just a few words of advice, it’s always to pass along some piece of profound wisdom enriched by personal experience. When Thom finds Mat attempting to rob a corpse so he can afford to get back home, that’s the moment where we expect him to step in and gently dissuade the younger man. But Thom stands aside, not because he approves of Mat’s actions, but because he knows what desperation is and you feel in Willaume’s performance that he knows it intimately.

All he asks of Mat is that he have the decency to bury the dead after he’s finished. And on my first time watching the episode, I misinterpreted Thom’s words as a subtle jab at Mat, but by the tone of Willaume’s voice you can tell he means it sincerely, not as an insult or some kind of burn, but as a plea to Mat to never lose his humanity even when dark times force him to do terrible things. Because sometimes the wrong way is the only way, as we see when Thom himself kills Dana to save Rand and Mat.

Wheel Of Time
Thom Merrilin |

And in true Wheel Of Time fashion, that brings us full-circle to the question of what is right and what is wrong, a question to which there is no easy over-arching answer. The best we can usually do is find a balance between doing what’s right by others and what’s best for our own wellbeing, but the capacity for good and bad, even heroism and villainy, exists in all of us. And as long as Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time continues to play in that inherently gray area that is the human heart and soul, I believe the series will continue to feel faithful to Jordan’s spirit of exploration.

Episode Rating: 8.5/10