Review: “The Dragon Reborn” is the best episode of The Wheel of Time yet

The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time /

After two solid but somewhat slower episodes of The Wheel of Time, “The Dragon Reborn” strikes a nice balance between action and smaller character moments, starting with the opening where we’re properly introduced to Logain Ablar (Alvaro Morte), a man claiming to be the same “Dragon Reborn” Moiraine has been searching for. Logain can channel in ways we’ve not yet seen, and displays power on a level to rival Moiraine. In a flashback, we see him attacking the kingdom of Ghealdan and eventually making an ally of its king.

Flash forward to the present, and we see Logain captured by the Aes Sedai, who are fighting amongst themselves over what to do with him. Nominally the Aes Sedai are all of the same side, but there are rivalries among the different Ajahs, who are segmented by color. We also learn about Moraine and Lan’s standing among the Aes Sedai; even among this group, they are treated as outsiders.

The Wheel of Time
Pictured: Alvaro Morte (Logain). Credit: Jan Thijs. © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC and Sony Pictures Television Inc /

That reputation is well earned, as Moraine later confronts Logain in an attempt to determine whether or not he’s the Dragon Reborn. Moraine is clearly playing a different game than her fellow sisters, who seem more focused on the status quo than on looking towards the future. Thus far the series has done a solid job of expanding our sense of the world, from the power of the Aes Sedai to the legend of the Dragon Reborn, and what it means to the different factions fighting for power.

The battle at the end of the episode where Logain’s army tries to break him free is the highlight of the episode — it’s awesome and brutal — I most appreciated a small moment between Nynaeve and Lan, when they pray over lost loved ones. It’s the beginning of an attraction between the two, and for book-readers like myself it’s an improvement over their relationship in the books, where their romance seemed to spring out of midair. All of their interactions in this episode are solid gold, and hopefully something we get more of it as the season goes on.

In some ways, The Wheel of Time improves on the books

Elsewhere, our heroes remain scattered after the events in Shadar Logoth; Egwene and Perrin remain among the Tinkers, finding their pacifism hard to believe. Mat and Rand actually have reason to distrust their mysterious guide, the gleeman Thom Merrilin, but after he seemingly dies trying to defend them from a Fade there can be little doubt of his intentions.

Before the showdown, we begin to get hints that things are not quite right with Mat. We don’t know why actor Barney Harris was replaced by Donal Finn in the upcoming second season, but it can’t be a problem with the performance. Harris is great as the troubled young man; you can see the pain on his face when he’s interacting with a wholesome farming family, remembering his troubled home life. The casting as a whole has been stellar so far, from Mat to Thom to Egwene to Perrin.

The Wheel of Time
Image: The Wheel of Time/Amazon Prime Video /

“The Dragon Reborn” breaks from The Wheel of Time canon

Adapting a series as beloved as The Wheel of Time was always going to be difficult, but this episode strays from canon in some major ways, particularly when it comes to Logain. From the physical manifestation of the madness that taints a man’s ability to channel whispering in Logain’s ear to his later killing of a major Aes Sedai, none of these events occur in the books. What consequences that will have down the road remains to be seen.

The show also appears to be highlighting Lan and Moraine’s lack of physical intimacy. There was the chaste hot tub scene in the premiere, and now they watch one warder after another follow their Aes Sedai to bed; the show seems to be pointing out that Lan and Moraine are not sleeping together. Why the show would highlight this is anyone’s guess.

Stacked with solid performances and solid action sequences, “The Dragon Reborn” is The Wheel of Time’s best episode yet. Like any great show, action alone cannot carry it; we must have emotional connections with the characters or it’s all just noise. Happily, The Wheel of Time is well on its way to making fans care.

Episode Grade: A+

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