Madeleine Madden plays Egwene al'Vere in the second season of 'The Wheel of Time'.

The Damane Truly Are the Most Terrifying Piece of Worldbuilding in Season 2 of ‘The Wheel of Time’

That sixth episode was brutal.

The Wheel of Time, Prime Video’s adaptation of author Robert Jordan’s fourteen-novel book series of the same name, has officially aired the final episode of its second season. I think we should take some time to reflect on what was undoubtedly the most terrifying new addition to this story’s fascinating and intricate worldbuilding.

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I am, of course, talking about the damane—and the Seanchan in general, whom we saw for the first time in the very last scene of the show’s first season. By the time season two picks up, the Seanchan have established a stronghold in the city-state of Falme, on the western shores of the continent.

*** This article will contain spoilers for the final episode of the second season of The Wheel of Time, so be warned. ***

The Seanchan Empire is located on the continent of the same name, founded after the Trolloc Wars by a legendary warrior, Arthur Hawkwing, who actually hailed from the Westlands—which is why the Seanchan have always had the idea of returning to the continent and conquering it in the back of their collective mind. 

In the show, we saw this plan getting put into motion, thanks in no small part to the machinations of Ishamael of the Forsaken. This is all an attempt to prepare the chessboard ahead of the Last Battle in a way that is favorable to the Dark One.

Like all other cultures in The Wheel of Time, the Seanchan have unique characteristics that immediately set them apart from everyone else, and that were brilliantly captured by the show’s production design and costume teams. Still, the thing about Seanchan culture that is bound to strike viewers the most is the role that the damane play in their society.

So who are the damane?

To the Seanchan, women who are born with the ability to channel—whether that ability is big or small—are seen as dangerous and in need of control. They are no longer considered people the second they are found capable of channeling. Instead, they are seen as no better than somewhat intelligent animals, and are treated like slaves within Seanchan society.

The Seanchan control female channellers through the a’dam, a collar that is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to remove. That’s because the collar itself is a ter’angreal, an object made of the One Power—those who wear it can’t take it off themselves or others, can’t channel without feeling incredible pain, and can’t touch anything that they consider to be a weapon. Damane is the term the Seanchan use to refer to all collared channellers.

Those who hold the leash of a damane collar are called sul’dam, women who have been trained specifically for this purpose. They wear a bracelet that is still part of the a’dam and that allows them to form a sort of bond with the damane. It’s not an equal bond by any means, with the damane being at the mercy of the sul’dam.

A Seanchan damane and sul'dam as they appeared in the show The Wheel of Time
(Through the collar, the sul’dam controls the damane’s access to the One Power. Image: Prime Video)

Most damane born in Seanchan have been raised since birth to accept their place and truly consider themselves no better than useful tools. But the incredible pain of the a’dam is enough to break even those women who have grown up outside of Seanchan culture. And that’s exactly what we saw happening throughout the course of this season of The Wheel of Time.

Egwene’s time with the Seanchan

When Liandrin Sedai reveals herself as a servant of the Dark One and a member of the secretive Black Ajah, she does so by kidnapping Egwene, Nynaeve, and Elayne—three of the most powerful channellers Tar Valon has seen in quite some time—and bringing them to Falme, with plans to collar them and turn them into tools for the Shadow.

While Nynaeve and Elayne manage to escape, Egwene doesn’t. The a’dam is put on her and she is thrown into the kennels, where the Seanchan in Falme keep their damane. That’s where she meets Renna, her sul’dam, and where the truly terrible process of breaking her down both mentally and physically begins.

A good chunk of episode 6, which was aptly named “Damane,” focuses on Egwene. Thanks to Madeleine Madden’s brilliant performance, we see every facet of her struggle with the a’dam as she attempts time and time again to resist its power and free herself from both the collar and Renna. Eventually, however, the a’dam wins. Egwene is able to pour out a glass of water for Renna from the same jug she had failed to touch time and time again, holding on to the belief that it could become a weapon and help her escape.

Egwene, played by Madeleine Madden, becomes damane in The Wheel of Time
(No matter how strong one channeler is in the One Power, the a’dam will always take hold. Image: Prime Video)

Her desperation in those final moments of episode 6, when she realizes that the a’dam has started to break her, is truly heart-wrenching to see. And yet, Egwene is nothing if not stubborn and tenacious, as we saw during this week’s season finale.

How did Egwene free herself?

During the battle for Falme, Egwene and Renna are summoned to the city walls together with the other damane and sul’dam as part of Falme’s defense. And there Egwene refuses to channel, openly defying Renna and ready to accept the consequences of it—until a catapult lands a massive rock right over their battle stations and wipes out a good number of damane and sul’dam.

That’s when Egwene gets her hands on an a’dam after it fell off the neck of one of the deceased damane. She comes to the same realization that Nynaeve and Elayne had reached at the end of episode 7: that the sul’dam must have some tie to the One Power as well, or they wouldn’t be able to connect to the damane and bind them to channel.

Egwene manages to slip the collar on Renna’s neck, which activates it just the same as any of the other damane. This new piece of knowledge obviously shocks Renna who, like all other sul’dam, has always believed herself superior to the damane. This locks the two women at a standstill, both the sul’dam and the damane of the other.

Egwene takes her vengeance on Renna in the season two finale of The Wheel of Time
(What we have all been waiting for! Go Egwene! Image: Prime Video)

The difference, of course, is that Egwene has had time to mature her determination and is fueled by a burning, completely understandable need for revenge. So Renna lets go of her hold over Egwene’s collar, finally freeing her, while Egwene does not do the same with Renna and watches her die. And I dare say to no small amount of cheering from the audience on this side of the screen.

(featured image: Prime Video)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.