Our cold open in the first season finale of Amazon’s Wheel of Time series adaptation shows us the world from before The Breaking, during the Age of Legends where The Tamyrlin Seat, Latra, and the Dragon Reborn, Lews, discuss (entirely in the Old Tongue) Lews’ plan to confront the Dark One. Latra thinks Lews’ approach is too risky, as it exposes the male half of the Power to the Dark One’s influence, and she fears the results could be catastrophic. Lews, however, remains convinced that this is their only real chance to save the world from the Dark One.
In Fal Dara, Egwene, Nynaeve, Lan, and Perrin struggle with what to do now that Rand and Moiraine left them behind. Egwene seems set on hieing off after them, but Perrin convinces her it would be pointless. They have a frank—and mercifully brief—conversation about Nynaeve’s awkward truth bomb, so hopefully that whole “triangle” situation is firmly put to bed. Nynaeve finally answers Lan’s question from episode three on how she tracked them, telling him she didn’t track Lan—she actually tracked Moiraine. She tells Lan to bring Rand back with him, and Daniel Henney delivers Lan’s fan-beloved speech from chapter 48, telling her “I will hate the man you choose because he is not me.”
We later hear horns blaring through the city, and it turns out Amalisa was right, and an overwhelming army of trollocs and fades is about to come roaring through Tarwin’s Gap. Fal Dara leadership settles on a plan: Angelmar will fight at the Gap with every man, and Amalisa will hold the city with every woman for as long as possible, in order to give the rest of the world a fighting chance to prepare for the Last Battle.
Nynaeve is pushing their group to leave Fal Dara with the other foreigners when she hears about Amalisa’s request that every woman in the city who can channel come help her. She and Egwene decide to respond and find Amalisa in the open expanse between the Gap and Fal Dara, where she is standing watch with two others, including the Malkieri woman Nynaeve met through Lan.
Angelmar and his men sacrifice themselves and manage to hold the Gap fortress from before sunset until full dark. Eventually, the trollocs use the corpses the Fal Darans have shot down to climb up several stories and reach the lowest arrowslits. After they’ve taken the fort, there are still thousands upon thousands left to attack the city. Amalisa instructs the gathered women on how to Link, although what she does looks much different from the fully trained Aes Seda Linking in episode four.
She’s shocked by the amount of Power she can wield with Nynaeve and Egwene in a Circle with her, and you see hope and resolution cross her face just before she sends out a decimating shockwave to hold off the first of the trollocs while she rips the rest of them apart with lightning.
After defeating the trollocs, Nyneave tries to get Amalisa to let go of the One Power, but she is unable to release the source before burning out the two original women. She almost burns out Egwene, but Nynaeve sacrifices herself to take over Egwene’s flows. Amalisa finally lets go, but not before burning out and nearly killing Nynaeve, leaving her on the brink of death. Egwene can barely grasp the One Power after her ordeal, but she does manage to pull enough of the One Power to replicate the Healing weave she’d seen Moiraine and the Yellow Ajah use.
Inside Fal Dara, Perrin faces down one the central questions of his character: the one and only time he’s had to use a weapon, a disturbing bloodlust took over. He is terrified of whatever provoked him to such violence and hurting anyone else, but finds the Way of the Leaf constraining. Loial leads Perrin to help Yakota and Uno, who are using pickaxes on the dais below the throne. When they uncover a finely carved box, Uno reveals it’s the Horn of Valere which has the power to call back dead heroes to fight, and it’s intended for the Dragon to use at the Last Battle.
While Perrin is out of the room chasing Padan Fain, Padan doubles back with two Fades to attack the men and Ogier in the throne room. Perrin arrives just in time to see Padan stab Loial with the dagger from Shadar Logoth. Perrin confronts him and learns the Dark One considers all of the Two Rivers kids ta’veren, “focal points for the Wheel,” an extraordinarily rare occurrence.
As Rand and Moiraine make their way to the Eye of the World, they spot the Seven Towers of Malkier, and Moiraine comments it used to be further away, suggesting the Dark One has some sort of spacetime manipulation or reality-warping abilities. They stop for water and rest, and Rand has a dream where the fire-eyed man appears, dressed in Age of Legends-style clothing. He taunts Rand about his heritage and inexperience before Rand “sheathes the sword” to wake himself up.
He asks Moiraine about her plan; she tells him he should shut the Dark One away for another three thousand years, and hands him a male-only sa’angreal, which he can use to amplify his power. She tells him that when it’s time to finish what he started in a previous life, he should direct all his flows into the sa’angreal. She also reassures him about being able to channel because in her experience the pain, fear, and suffering he’ll feel will cause him to grab the One Power no matter what.
When they arrive at the Eye, it feels familiar to Rand. He catches a few glimpses of his previous life, and then recognizes the symbol on the floor. The moment he touches it, he’s transported to a dream-like state where he’s back in the Two Rivers and has a daughter with Egwene. The person Rand believes to be the Dark One tempts him with his ability to “remake reality” however he wants. The choice between Light and Dark, for Rand, is between sacrificing himself in a life of pain and loneliness or the simple life he dreamed of having with Egwene. He is seriously considering the offer, and does ask the man to show him how.
Back in the real world, Moiraine can finally see the man her charges—and Siuan—have been dreaming about. She immediately attempts to attack him, but he launches a Shield at her and then does something mysterious. I’m personally Team Shield and not Team Severed, because the visual effects are consistent with Logain’s shield but not his severing in episode four, and … future book reasons.
Even depowered, Moiraine is still a competent and wily Cairhienen who brought a knife to a Power fight and makes it clear that she will make good on her threat to “kill them myself before I’ll let the Dark One have them,” a threat the man in front of her seems unable to do anything about. He also hasn’t stepped even a toe off the symbol in the floor, so Moiriane knows he’s still trapped. He tells Moiraine that Rand’s started channeling and mocks her inability to see what he’s channeling to do.
In the dream world, he clearly thinks Rand is succumbing to temptation when suddenly Rand turns on him, and it’s clear Rand only asked for help with channeling because Moiraine’s prediction about pain and fear had failed. He values and loves Egwene too much to take away her agency, no matter how much he wants to spend his life with her. Directing all his flows into the sa’angreal, it starts glowing IRL. Standing and awake now, he blasts the man with the One Power, who disintegrates in a blaze of light … but the man is smirking as he fades and eight branching cracks appear in the floor where he was standing.
After the man is gone, Rand asks if it’s true that men who channel eventually lose control and kill everyone they care about. She confirms that it is, so Rand asks her to convince the others that he’s dead and leaves, refusing to tell her where he’s going.
Lan eventually arrives to find Moiraine still at the Eye, sitting on the floor and examining the shattered stone, which she’s identified as cuendillar, an Age of Legends substance that is supposedly completely and utterly impenetrable to anything, including the One Power. The entire symbol is cuendillar, but looks like stone that’s been smashed with a sledgehammer. She confirms what Padan told Perrin earlier: this was not the end, but only a beginning.
In the outro, an unknown naval armada arrives at the Far Western Shore, speaking the Old Tongue. Gagged women at the front of the ships are dressed in gray, wearing heavy brass gorgets. Behind them are women in blue with a zig-zagging pattern pleated into their dresses, who order the subservient women to cause a massive tidal wave. Every ship in the armada is doing the same.
So, my thoughts on the finale: almost everything I could criticize is due to the loss of Barney Harris as Mat before they returned to filming, or the stringent covid precautions they were required to obey in order to continue (in many shots, it’s obvious when characters stand six feet apart, they eliminated all the crowd and close combat scenes, and were unable to travel to previously selected filming locations). The one thing I’d criticize that was under their control is how the episode lacked a satisfying denouement.
The Eye of the World ends with almost an Endor-level party, but one of the problems with the book’s climax is that it had no stakes, no risk, and no consequences. The only character who dies in the book is one we only saw for a few pages. Adding stakes and consequences in the show is a huge improvement, but it does mean that a massive celebration would be jarring. I know once season two airs I won’t care about this at all, but as a season ending it leaves me feeling unsteady and emotionally unresolved. However, I am very excited about season two now, and feeling very optimistic about the direction of the show overall.
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