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Recap: The Wheel of Time: Episode 4, “The Dragon Reborn”

An archer drawing a bow in Amazon's Wheel of Time.

It’s hard to describe how well this episode works as an adaptation, and how much the show is benefiting from Robert Jordan’s completed work. As someone who started reading The Wheel of Time when I was seventeen, I found the amount of foreshadowing in this episode utterly delightful.

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When it comes to Rand, Mat, Perrin, and Egwene, the writers have hewed very closely to the events as laid out in The Eye of the World. Egwene and Perrin are still with the tuatha’an, traveling toward Tar Valon; they learn the group are pacifists and follow “The Way of the Leaf.” Perrin is still reeling from his battle frenzy causing him to mistake Laila for a threat and killing her, and Ila’s piercing question “Has your life been better, or worse, since you picked up that axe?” hits him squarely in the feels.

Egwene, conscious of Perrin’s pain even if she doesn’t know the full extent, tries to keep an eye on him while worrying about Rand. However, when the tuatha’an break out their instruments and begin dancing, Egwene tries to get Perrin to join her. He declines, and we later find him helping fix a broken wagon wheel. Ila strikes up a conversation with him, and we get what is, in my opinion, one of the best arguments for non-violence on TV.

Very often, when stories depict heroes who use violence for good, a way of life like the one adhered to by the tuatha’an is dismissed as naïve. But Ila and the tuatha’an demonstrate the inherent courage in non-violence, as well as the unselfish commitment to a better future they’re making. Maria Doyle Kennedy, who plays Ila, also gives us the magnificent delivery of “What greater revenge against violence than peace? What greater revenge against death than life?”

I’m not embarrassed to admit I cried, and not just because of the way Ila’s story of losing her daughter is a gorgeous counterpoint to one we’ll see later when they adapt The Shadow Rising. Ila’s vulnerability in the face of Perrin’s confusion and self-defensive judgment is beautiful and touching.

Rand and Mat are heading east with Thom on stolen horses. The boys remain uncertain of Thom’s motives, especially since Dana’s revelation that Darkfriends who know their names and faces are actively hunting them. It’s not just trollocs and fades they have to worry about, but ordinary humans.

They approach the Grinwell farm, thinking to sleep in the barn, when they’re caught unawares by the family. Things look like they’re about to end badly when Rand stops the downward spiral by being forthright, genuine, and honest. He comes clean to the father, exposing their vulnerabilities and placing all the power in the Grinwell family’s hands. It’s a brave thing to do, and it’s rewarded by the Grinwells welcoming them.

When darkness falls and Mat and Rand are close to done mucking out the stables as payment for food and a place to sleep, we follow a sickly Mat as he retches out the creeping blackness they barely escaped in Shadar Logoth. Carrying the cursed dagger is having a disturbing, Sméagol-like effect on his health. The Grinwells’ young daughter interrupts him and offers him both a loaf of bread and her Birgitte doll, since “she protects me when everyone’s asleep.” Oh, my heart! Fellow book-readers, can I get an Amen?

As Mat is painfully reminded about his sisters back in the Two Rivers, Thom opens up to Rand about his own history and concerns Mat might be a man who can channel the One Power. He shares a story about his nephew Owyn, who got sick, paranoid, and snappish, who irritated animals, and then threw a rock one day without using his hands. Thom explains what happens to men who can channel when the Aes Sedai find them, that “gentling” leaves anyone who’s already touched the One Power despondent and suicidal. He emphasizes the need to stay very far away from Aes Sedai.

As they’re lying down in the hay, Rand attempts to reassure Mat that he’ll always be there for him; he then falls asleep and has another nightmare. He sees Perrin hammering at a body, Mat sleepwalking with his hand covered in red blood, and Egwene being taken by the ember-eyed man. When Thom wakes him and they realize Mat is missing, they rush into the farmhouse to find the entire family slaughtered and Mat standing in the middle of it.

Mat holding up his dagger in Amazon's Wheel of Time.

Suddenly, Mat’s arm lifts and his spotlessly clean dagger points straight up into the shadowed loft, and he mumbles, “I see you.” A fade appears, to hiss at them before stepping from one shadow to another. Thom fights it off so Rand and Mat can get away.

In The Eye of the World, we follow along with Rand and Perrin while Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve disappear. Here, the writers capitalize perfectly on their source material to introduce a sequence that is incredibly true to the books without being ripped straight from the page. Lan and Nynaeve are given the time to build the connection they’ll have through the rest of the series, we start seeing glimpses of White Tower internal politics (especially the division between the Red and Blue Ajahs), and we’re shown—not just told—how people like the Aes Sedai react to the idea of the Dragon Reborn (hint: not well).

Nynaeve, at first, floats around the fringes of the Aes Sedai camp, holding herself apart and literally above them—she stands on a cliff looking down at everyone. As she becomes more comfortable, she shares dinner, stories, and teasing with the Warders around their campfire and learns a different perspective of the Aes Sedai in the process. (We, the audience, also see how bisexuality and polyamory are welcomed and considered perfectly normal). She and Lan also share a quiet, intimate moment, bonding over shared loss in their past and the rituals that bring them comfort.

Moiraine, after being Healed by Kerene and ending the two-episode search for urgent care, examines Logain, who we know from the cold open is charismatic and genuinely believes he’s the Dragon Reborn. Even captured and shielded, he is confident—which he has the right to be, since it takes the strongest Aes Sedai present working in pairs to keep him caged. After being exposed to his power, Moiraine begins to question the information she has (which, it appears, no one else among the Aes Sedai does) that the Dragon is only twenty years old.

One of the significant things we learn while observing the camp dynamic is what Liandrin did during the first episode is against Tower law—Reds are not supposed to be gentling men in the countryside, but taking them back to the Tower first. Given that Reds are supposedly the Ajah tasked with “making sure no one misuses the One Power, even other Aes Sedai,” and yet Liandrin is openly arguing for the pragmatic decision to gentle Logain here and now, it’s clear not everything is well with the Tower.

In the midst of this, Logain’s army attacks, attempting to give Logain the opportunity to break free since no army can possibly hope to overcome seven Aes Sedai alone, a tactic book-readers should be familiar with. They are almost successful. Kerene, noticing how their shield on Logain is being prodded toward Moiraine and Liandrin, can shield the other two but not herself, and she is killed when Logain manages to puncture their weaves with his own.

Alanna takes on the army single-handedly while the other Aes Sedai arrive just in time to see Stepin, Kerene’s Warder, overcome by the broken bond, launch himself at Logain—who, in turn, merely turns the Power-wrought axes into explosive shrapnel.

Nynaeve, in the rear, barely avoids being struck, while everyone else is critically wounded. She rushes forward to kneel by a grievously injured Lan, whose throat’s been slit by a passing shard (a callback to Nynaeve’s first words to him, showing how much her feelings have changed). Furious at all the death and violence around her, she unleashes a shockwave of the One Power and splits her weaves a half dozen times to simultaneously Heal everyone who’s been wounded, and you can practically hear “what greater revenge against death than life” echo in the scene.

Logain shrinks back from the blast, but the glorious miracle she’s performed confronts him with the brutal realization that he may not be the Dragon after all. The Healed Aes Sedai “link” at Liandrin’s urgent command, and she uses their collective strength to gentle Logain on the spot.

The fallout from this scene is probably going to reverberate for a while. Liandrin defied the Amyrlin Seat and the law of the Tower, and Nynaeve has just abruptly revealed she’s a stronger channeler than all the rest of the women combined, a “raging sun” to their “candles.”

(images: Amazon)

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Author

Samantha Field
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.

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