Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time. (image: Amazon)

The Wheel of Time Recap: Episode 7, “The Dark of the Ways”

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I had a baby last year, and emotionally speaking, my birth experience is basically equivalent to fighting off a half-dozen Illianer Companions and getting stabbed in the side while in labor. Watching Tigraine Mantear be a magnificent BAMF was honestly quite cathartic for me. Having struggled through pregnancy and motherhood during the pandemic, I felt such a deep resonance watching her fight for her life and her baby.

I’ll never be physically as capable as her, but god damn if those four minutes weren’t such a beautiful, compelling encapsulation of what it’s like to be a birth-giver right now. We’ve had to go through this time in our lives sometimes totally alone, cut off from help, and with the looming threat of death hanging over every moment. And still, we’ve fought on.

Anyway, that’s how I reacted to one of the best action sequences on television. What’d you think?

When we rejoin The Wheel of Time’s main group inside the Ways, they’re debating what to do about Mat; Loial makes it clear that reopening the gate with channeling isn’t an option because of Machin Shin, which is the thing that makes traveling the Ways so dangerous. Nynaeve promises them all they’ll find Mat when this is all over, and they hurry to catch up with Moiraine.

As they traverse the pockmarked stone paths, Loial describes what the Ways used to be like and unconsciously terrifies them all with ominous warnings about bottomless pits and “worse things.” Rand eventually steps in, cutting him off, but so gently and warmly I just wanted to hug my sweet little sheepherder.

The show’s artists also did an excellent job, in my opinion, capturing the oppressive darkness of the Ways, how it seems difficult for the firelight to make it very far. Despite that, Perrin sees something through the dark ahead of them, and Moiraine and Loial rush forward to discover it’s an intentionally damaged Guiding—something that should not exist.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time. (image: Amazon)

They rest and nap while Loial interprets the damaged Ogier script. Familiar whistling wakes Egwene, and we suddenly get our answer to a few questions: turns out it was trollocs that destroyed the Guiding, and they used the Ways to reach the Two Rivers undetected. As one trolloc bull-rushes Egwene and Rand, a burst of channeling rips it apart, and the group is faced with a problem far worse than trollocs in the Ways.

Lan and Moiraine redirect to Fal Dara instead of the Eye, and they run for their lives to the exit. Machin Shin catches up with them, and it turns out it’s basically depression but with soul-feasting locusts. Everyone hears the worst thing they believe about themselves, except Machin Shin made a critical error and tried to tell Nynaeve what she can’t do. In another channeling explosion (Nynuke? N-bomb? Nynova?), she keeps Machin Shin at bay while Moiraine opens the Waygate.

They’re greeted by old friends in Fal Dara and escorted in to see Lord Agelmar, who’s annoyed at his sister, Amalisa, for asking the Aes Sedai for help. They can handle this, he insists to Moiraine Sedai. She seems more amused than anything at being cut off and told why she’s there, but finally explains the threat of trollocs in the Ways and encourages Agelmar to block the Waygate. Her warning comes too late, however, as Padan Fain almost cheerfully exits the Ways. He’s certainly not slowed down by the Intrusive Thoughts Bees.

Side rant here: If you’ve read the books, then you’ve noticed how Waygate operation differs—and I’m sure you’ve thought of how it might affect things moving forward. However, there’s a promotional still for this episode of Padan Fain holding a stone chora leaf. This isn’t the first time promotional photos have shown material from deleted scenes, but I am screaming my annoyance at Amazon for cutting this one. We got a stone dog off the body of an Aiel, but we can’t see Padan holding a trefoil leaf?

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time. (image: Amazon)

After a brief conversation where Moiraine asks Amalisa to send a message to the Red Ajah for them to look for Mat, Moiraine takes the four to see Min, a Seer the Aes Sedai have been protecting. She bluntly reminds Min what her life would be like without the Aes Sedai (Threat? Remembrance of a debt owed? Both?), and we get to see what Min’s visions can look like. As clear as they are, though, what we see doesn’t specifically identify the Dragon.

Our gang gathers back up at the Keep to discuss their options. Moiraine reveals she took them to Min to see if she could discover who’s the Dragon and save the others, as everyone else “will be ground to dust between two forces of nature,” and leaves them to make their decision. Egwene wants to go because she thinks it’s the right thing to do, and Perrin and Nynaeve don’t find Moiraine particularly credible, while Rand is not afraid for himself, but his friends.

Their debate comes to a head when Nynaeve loses her temper and blurts out Perrin’s crush on Egwene, promptly halting the conversation. And here’s where we get side rant #2: This episode does a lot of things incredibly right, and I love almost all of what they’ve changed … which makes me ask why didn’t they change this.

Perrin does confess his feelings to a character who hasn’t appeared in the show (“I love her. She isn’t like a sister. But she and Rand…”), but supposedly they’re trying to age up the characters, and this silly, inconsequential “love triangle” is such a YA trope I’m struggling to see why they bothered keeping this.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time. (image: Amazon)

Lan goes on to have an eventful evening on what he’s expecting to be the last night of his life. He tries to reassure Moiraine she’s given him a reason to live as well as a reason to die—but she is laser-focused on reminding him of everything else he has to live for, encouraging him to visit his friends in Fal Dara, as well as his fledgling romance with Nynaeve.

He’s entertained by Nynaeve’s attempt to shadow him through Fal Dara’s streets and invites her to dinner with his friends. They say goodnight at the door to his room, but a few minutes later, she boldly enters as he’s undressing, clearly having rethought how she wants to spend her last night on Earth.

After a fade-to-black, Nynaeve is about to leave when she asks him about the honorific people keep using. His story of how his father’s armsman—oh, right, he’s the uncrowned king of Malkier—smuggled him out of the palace as it fell to the Blight illustrates to Nynaeve how much they have in common. Both are orphans looking for belonging. Both are duty-bound to protect others, and whatever they may feel for each other, neither can fully act on it.

Still from Amazon's Wheel of Time.

Rand and Egwene meet in the training yards to resolve their conflict from earlier, reassuring each other of their commitment to support each other no matter what happens. We get some more this-might-be-our-last-night-on-Earth coitus, and Rand, who’s experiencing some much-needed “post-nut clarity,” returns to the training yards and processes everything he’s been through.

We go all the way back to Bel Tine to hear Tam’s revelation that Rand’s adopted. Dana’s astonishment at Rand breaking through her ironwood door gets an explanation, since his super-strength was just channeling. That mountain he recognized outside Tar Valon … yeah, it’s called “Dragonmount” for a reason. He’s the one who channeled inside the Ways, and one of the things he hears from Machin Shin only confirms his darkest fear: He’s the Dragon.

Knowing who Min is now, he finds her at the tavern, and it’s clear she didn’t reveal all her cards to Moiraine, but was waiting for him. She describes her first vision, how she saw Tam’s future of raising an adoptive son in the Two Rivers. When he asks if he’ll survive going to the Eye, he takes her silence as his answer. He then heads straight to Moiraine’s room, and in the most in-character moment for both of these drama queens, they decide to head off into the Blight alone.

At dawn, the others gather in Nynaeve’s delightfully unslept-in room, and all are agreed they’ll be heading to the Eye. Lan, however, enters with the news that Moiraine didn’t mask their bond to give Lan some privacy, but to stop him from following her on her suicide mission.

As someone who’s read the ending of Eye of the World twice in the last week trying to parse the Kubrick-style fever dream, I am so excited to see the show’s interpretation. Maybe it can finally give me a cohesive explanation for what the hell happened at the Eye that makes sense with the rest of the books.

(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.