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Recap: The Wheel of Time: Episode 5, “Blood Calls Blood”

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time adaptation episode 5 Blood Calls Blood.

This episode is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s bookended by two funerals (or, should I say, it has a circular ending), and the middle bits feature nonviolent resistance, suicide pacts, torture, stabbings, and political maneuvering. Whoof.

We pick up right where the previous episde, “The Dragon Reborn” ended, with an Aes Sedai funeral for all the fallen, regardless of which side they fought for, treating the Ghealdan king with the same respect they give Kerene Nagashi. The bodies are also laid out in a wheel, and I want to say how much I appreciate the show building out this aspect of the lore.

Each culture Robert Jordan built out in the source material comes with a rich set of traditions and rituals—Moiraine references a Borderlander funeral rite in this scene, honoring Kerene’s heritage, but sometimes the idea of the Wheel itself didn’t seem as dominant as it perhaps should have been. But all throughout the front half of the season, many characters reflect how the Wheel affects their beliefs, choices, and actions. Seeing it represented at a grave site, as well as in simple things like the line dancing we saw in “Leavetaking,” is an elegant, light-handed touch.

We skip forward a month (and thank goodness—I was not up for a month-long tavern crawl), and each of our separated travelers are arriving at Tar Valon.

Egwene and Perrin have partied ways with the tuatha’an across the Caralain Grass, but just when it seems everything is over and they might be safe again, Valda appears and, true to his word to never forget their faces, immediately demands Perrin and Egwene be brought to him.

The tuatha’an locking arms together to resist the Whitecloaks was some flawless storytelling. Quick lore dump: The tuatha’an descend from a pre-Breaking pacifist group who faced a rogue Aes Sedai man by linking their arms together and singing to him, buying time for the people in the city to escape.

Yeah, I cried, and not just for that reason, but also because they embodied the very core of nonviolent resistance, articulated incredibly well by Kelly Hayes: “It is a form of direct action in which you are giving authority a moral choice. You have made your moral choice, and they have to make theirs … [it] forces a confrontation between morality and that which would subdue it.”

The Whitecloaks make the choice we expect—they begin assaulting the tuatha’an, who stand firm to give Egwene and Perrin a chance to escape. They almost make it, but are run down by Whitecloaks on horseback. Egwene is subjected to a Whitecloak “purification” ritual, and Salli Richardson-Whitfield’s direction is a breath of fresh air.

This highlights the obsessive, misogynistic, and fundamentalist methods of the Questioners while centering Egwene, whose bodily autonomy and identity are being literally ripped away from her—and not for a single moment sexualizing any of it.

Afterwards, Valda (who has a creepy thing for eating whole baby animals—first the ortolan in “Shadow’s Waiting” and now a suckling pig) has Perrin strapped down to a rack and explains his ultimatum to Egwene while filleting Perrin’s back to ribbons: she channels and dies, or doesn’t channel and Perrin dies. However, even after Perrin’s confession to her about Laila, Egwene chooses the third door: She uses Valda’s assumptions against him, throwing a channeled firecracker at his chest while burning Perrin’s restraints.

The howling wolves in the background have reached a crescendo, and Perrin’s eyes flash golden yellow, utterly terrifying a screaming Valda. Egwene stabs him, then snatches Valda’s trophies and her clothes before they burst out into mayhem. Wolves are everywhere, attacking everyone … except the two of them. Fascinating.

Rand and Mat’s arrival into the fabled city is ushered in by a certain whistle that had me muttering oh s***, and some raven-eyed fans have spotted Padan Fain at three separate moments in this episode. For a variety of reasons, most of what happens in Caemlyn in Eye of the World happens in Tar Valon instead; Rand finds an inn Thom recommended to him, tries to get Mat settled (he refuses to stay settled, causing Rand no end of panic), and we get to meet Loial in the inn library.

Just in case the audience missed Thom’s observation of how “it’s unusual to see hair that [red] color outside the Waste” in “A Place of Safety,” Loial tells a baffled Rand how excited he is to meet an Aiel.

Outside, the returning Aes Sedai have placed Logain in a new cage and are parading him through the streets, and it seems the citizens of Tar Valon have no more love for the idea of the Dragon than anyone else does. To them, it’s not just that Logain claimed to be the Dragon but isn’t. We hear shouts of “kill the Dragon!” signifying that anyone who actually is the Dragon probably isn’t going to get a hero’s welcome anywhere, either.

As Rand and Mat watch them go by, a horribly sick and woefully depressed Mat begs Rand to promise him that, if he is the Dragon (which seems a definite possibility to him, as he thinks he’s responsible for killing the Grinwells), Rand will make sure he doesn’t end up like Logain.

In the White Tower, Moiraine tucks Nynaeve away in the Warder’s Quarters in order to keep her as safely removed from Aes Sedai politics as she can. Nynaeve is frustrated and impatient (so … Nynaeve), and Moiraine tries to soothe her frazzled nerves by offering some reassurance about Nynaeve’s identity crisis. After Stepin returns Kerene’s ring to the source of all Aes Sedai rings, a molten golden circlet around an eternal flame (Fan note: so that’s the Flame of Tar Valon. Very cool.), he comes to Nynaeve and asks her for more of the herb she gave him to help him sleep.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time episode 5 Blood Calls Blood.

After helping Stepin, Nynaeve ignores Moiraine completely and is immediately discovered by Liandrin, who offers a sympathetic rendering of the Red Ajah’s motivations alongside a recruitment pitch before directing her to the Gardens and, theoretically, a way outside. Nynaeve doesn’t have to be told twice, and the next scene is a happy reunification.

An immeasurably proud Loial put two and two together, spotting Nynaeve’s iconic braid, and figured she’s probably the Two Rivers girl Rand was mooning over in the inn library earlier. He brings her back, and both of the boys are very relieved to discover she’s not dead. It doesn’t take Nynaeve more than a moment, though, to realize Mat has a bad case of Gollum, and Rand tells her he suspects Mat can channel.

Moiraine speaks briefly with Liandrin and visits with Alanna over the course of the day, highlighting the age-old animosity between Reds and Blues, as well as the traditional alliance between Blues and Greens. We learn from Alanna that Siuan Sanche’s position as Amyrlin is being undermined by Liandrin’s coalition—an outcome no Blue or Green would want—and Moiraine is in a position to capitalize on that imbalance. It sounds like the politics Moiraine has spent a couple decades actively avoiding may be catching up to her.

Lan, meanwhile, is just having a miserable twenty-four hours of being confronted with his own mortality. He spends the day with Stepin, basically on a self-imposed suicide watch that is … unsuccessful, but only because Stepin drugged him with Nynaeve’s herbs. Because he feels he failed in his duty to Stepin, he takes on the role of chief mourner at Stepin’s funeral and is asked to “relieve them of their grief,” which he does in the performance of the week.

Nynaeve is also present, perhaps also sharing Lan’s sense of guilt, and gets a front-row seat to what might happen to Lan if Moiraine were to die. Given the danger of what they’re facing, that isn’t a possibility easy for anyone to dismiss.

While I continue to thoroughly enjoy myself watching this show, I must admit I wish we had spent slightly less time with Stepin so we could have seen Loial go looking for Egwene and find Nynaeve instead. Oh well. I guess I’m off to write some fanfic!

(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.