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Recap: The Wheel of Time, Episode 3 “A Place of Safety”

 

In a sequence that launched a thousand memes, this episode finally shows what happened to Nynaeve—and it’s worth the wait. She takes advantage of her captor’s temporary distraction to hide in the sacred pool she was cleaning during “Leavetaking.” In a moment that had the internet shouting “I’m not stuck in here with you, you’re stuck in here with me!” Nynaeve pulls an Arnold Schwarzenegger à la Predator, emerging from beneath the water to steal the trolloc’s own knife and kill him with it. Her signature braid-tug-and-flip had the Wheel of Time fandom practically falling to our knees in worship.

Zoë Robbins’ utterly brilliant casting as Nynaeve al’Meara continues to shine in her interactions with Lan; in a delightful subversion of expectations, Lan confidently assumes Nynaeve won’t actually follow through on her threat to kill him—but she does, lunging for his throat. He’s Lan, though, so while he’s impressed, it only ends up with Nynaeve unconscious and tied to a tree.

When she awakens, he convinces her to use her herbalism skills to treat Moiraine’s injury, and then leaves his unconscious friend in Nynaeve’s less-than-enthusiastic care to seek a sister who can provide Healing. Moiraine, meanwhile, is deliriously mumbling the name “Siuan,” her canonically sapphic girlfriend. Queer book-readers like me have been waiting with bated breath to see if the show would give us on-screen representation and it’s happening! It’s actually happening!

A gif of Kermit flailing.

Rand and Mat are heading due east away from Shadar Logoth, with Rand deciding to continue with Moiraine’s original plan of getting them all to the White Tower because he’s sure that’s what Egwene will be doing. Mat is less optimistic but can’t convince his friend to return home to the Two Rivers. They end up in a drabby mining town called Breen’s Spring and ask Dana, the innkeeper at the Four Kings, if they can work for their supper and lodging. We’re also introduced to a gleeman, Thom Merrilin, who has an interesting set of pick-pocketing and knife-throwing skills for a musician and a deep knowledge of the world’s regions and cultures.

It’s clear that something is eating away at Mat, and he argues with Rand again but this time tries being more direct and cynical about their situation—their friends are probably dead, and even if they aren’t, it’s not like Rand owes Egwene anything. This argument fails as miserably as his first attempt, though, and he goes inside to wait tables while Rand chops wood.

Once Dana decides they’ve earned their keep, Mat heads to a dead Aiel being kept in a cage at the entrance of town to pick over his corpse for money, but is stopped by Thom, who’s only interested in burying a person he sees as the victim of a hate crime. It’s also confirmed here that Mat has indeed taken an obviously Cursed Object from the Shadowed City. Doesn’t he know not to ever pick up a duck in a dungeon? Threatened with a sinuous dagger or not, Thom lets Mat loot the body (he finds a small carved stone dog, a wonderful Easter Egg for readers) but insists they bury him together. Their interaction ends far more amicably than it began.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time.

Back at the Four Kings, Dana and Rand are chatting it up until she leans in for a kiss and is rejected by the fully monogamously committed Rand. Except, turns out, he didn’t just reject a random pretty barkeep but a Friend of the Dark who’s been seeing all their faces in her dreams and knows all their names—as well as the fact that one of them is the Dragon. She takes his father’s heron-marked sword and he escapes by breaking down an, according to Dana, unbreakable door. He finds Mat, but only manages to end up where he began: at the pointy end of his father’s blade.

This is another adaptive change that works incredibly well; in the books, Rand and Mat are pursued by a host of nameless Darkfriends whose motivations we never learn. Dana, though, gets a whole monologue. It’s the Aes Sedai who want to kill the Dragon, but in her view, the Dragon’s real potential is to join the Dark One in Breaking the Wheel and ending all the pointless suffering.

This view is eventually articulated about a dozen books into the series, so it’s nice to see this nuance pulled into the first season. Thom ends her argument, though, with a well-placed knife tossed into the middle of her vocal chords. She’s summoned a Fade (was I the only person who heard John Mulaney saying “didn’t know you could do that”?), though, and Thom offers to help them escape—east, of course. East is good.

Egwene and Perrin, meanwhile, are heading northeast through the Caralain Grass. They’ve spent their time since Shadar Logoth running from wolves, who are continuing to behave quite oddly. At one point, when the wolves are clearly gaining on them, they find a spot where they could possibly quickly light a fire to keep the wolves at bay. Perrin struggles with steel and flint while Egwene tries to channel; it’s unclear who succeeds in lighting a fire first.

They manage to sleep, and Perrin has another nightmare haunted by the presence of the ember-eyed man. He’s back home, in the smithy, looking for Laila, when he comes upon a wolf eating her decaying body. Her eyes jerk to him and she whispers, “I know”—a brutal memory of the way she responded to his “I love you,” or something else entirely?

After this rest and wondering if perhaps the fire caused the wolves to lose interest, they venture out—only to end up pursued again. However, when they stumble into a set of fresh wheel ruts, the wolves stop completely, and Egwene comments on how it’s almost as if the wolves led them to the path. I’d say “herded,” but still. Her point stands.

However strangely the wolves are acting, they decide to follow the wagon ruts until they’re shrouded by fog and confronted by a group called the tuatha’an, the Traveling People—a reference to our real world Romani, who face many of same stigmas an oppressions. The tuatha’an are pacifists, following The Way of the Leaf, and are nomadic because they are searching for what they call The Song. They are welcomed into camp by Ila, clearly a leader of the group, and her charming son Aram, who acts a bit like a cultural liaison.

Each of the first three episodes dropped in the first batch got successively stronger. Many book-readers found the initial pacing of “Leavetaking” rushed, almost at breakneck speed, and some of the interactions seemed a bit stilted as the actors got comfortable with the roles and on-screen relationships. Amazon’s insistence that the season be only eight episodes long is causing a lot of adaptive compression, as well.

However, by “A Place of Safety,” I feel like everyone has settled into their places and the beautiful, complex world is starting to be colored in. Clearly, getting more of Nynaeve and Lan together is a win. Between their wickedly sharp banter and innate competitiveness, things are going to be spicy between these two, and I love it. There a lot of subtle things being hinted at for our other four cast members; I can’t wait to see how things play out this season.

(images: Amazon)

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Samantha Field is a queer writer, gamer, geek, and activist. Her earliest memory is the Star Trek: Next Generation theme song, and she walked down the aisle to the theme from Star Trek: First Contact. She's also read Wheel of Time four times (currently working on her fifth reread). When not writing about the cross section of feminism and culture, her day job is as a children's rights lobbyist.