The Wheel of Time sets up a big showdown in “The Dark Along the Ways”

Pictured (L-R): Josha Stradowski (Rand al’Thor), Madeleine Madden (Egwene al’Vere)
Pictured (L-R): Josha Stradowski (Rand al’Thor), Madeleine Madden (Egwene al’Vere) /

As The Wheel of Time barrels towards the end of its debut season, its biggest mystery has remained the identity of the Dragon Reborn. Prophesied to either save or destroy the world, fans of Amazon’s adaptation have been kept in the dark as to the Dragon’s identity, something book fans figure out early on in the series. It was an interesting choice, one that added suspense. But now, all is finally revealed.

Caution: SPOILERS follow below.

The Wheel of Time
Pictured (L-R): Sandra Yi Sencindiver (Lady Amalisa), Thomas Chaanhing (Lord Agelmar) /

A cold open shows us a pregnant female warrior fight off armored knights. Eagle-eyed fans will recognize her as an Aiel, of the same people as the hanged warrior we saw Mat grave robbing back in Episode 3. Who or why she’s fighting is a mystery to show-only fans, but book fans will know the scene is pivotal.

As the woman is spent, Rand’s father Tam appears and helps her give birth to her baby. She dies, and Tam now has a son.

The Ways are dark and deep

Back in the present, our reunited heroes are stuck in the Ways, and none too happy that Mat chose to stay behind. It isn’t long before the group realizes it isn’t Mat they should be worried about, but themselves. The Ways, a sort of magical highway that allows you to move from one place to another in the real world much faster than normally possible, is clearly a dangerous place. Once verdant and green, the Ways are now a dark, haunted place only used in the most dire of situations.

Indeed, it isn’t long before the group is attacked by Trollocs, and after they use the One Power in self defense, they attract an even deadlier threat: Machin Shin, a sort of rock storm/cloud that can not only devour you mind and body, but whispers your worst fears into your minds, planting seeds of doubt among even the most stalwart adventurer. And although Nynaeve uses the One Power to hold it off long enough for Moiraine to open another Waygate, it’s clear Machin Shin’s whispers get to the group.

The Wheel of Time introduces us to Fal Dara and Min

Exiting the terror of the Ways and arriving at the Borderland city of Far Dara, the show quickly down shifts into a more neutral gear as our group prepares to travel into the Blight and confront the Dark One, a battle from which none of them may return. As Moiraine and Lan reunite with old friends, we flash back to the Waygate, and see Padan Fain, the merchant from the series premiere, casually stroll out of the Ways and head for the city as well.

Before getting into the meat of the episode, Moiraine implores her host Lady Amalisa to send a message to the White Tower, specifically to the Red Ajah, sending them after Mat. That Moiraine would betray Mat in such a way seems astounding, and speaks to the threat Moiraine believes Mat would pose should he be the Dragon Reborn. Either way, I quickly forgot about it as the episode began to heat up.

The episode introduces us to Min, an important character from the books. Here, she’s a seemingly inconspicuous bar tender in Fal Dara, but we learn that she can see visions of people’s future. Initially Min only sees cryptic hints, including Rand holding a baby, but later in the episode she is able to help positively identify the Dragon Reborn. All the while, Moiraine continues to be mysterious and evasive, as any such wizard is required to be by the laws of fantasy storytelling.

When Moiraine reveals that not only does she not know who the Dragon is, but that anyone who isn’t the Dragon will perish in the confrontation with the Dark One at the Eye of the World, it lands like a bomb among the Two Rivers folk. The four of them argue about what to do, and some truths come to light. For instance, it’s revealed that Perrin has feelings for Egwene, something that is not true in the books.

After sharing a rather tender moment with Moiraine, Lan sneaks off into the city to visit some old friends. Followed by Nynaeve, we later learn (after the two find themselves in bed together), that Lan is last heir of the land of Malkier. The group from earlier are his nominal subjects, but as Malkier was overrun in his childhood by Trollocs, Lan eventually found himself in the service of Moiraine, fighting the evil that robbed him of his family and home.

The Dragon Reborn, revealed

Elsewhere, Rand and Egwene also find themselves in bed together. Afterward, a restless Rand goes into the yard to practice, and we finally have it confirmed that he is the Dragon Reborn. The show flashes between the cold opening, the Trolloc attack on Emond’s Field, and Min reading Rand. It’s a powerful sequence made better by Josha Stradowski’s performance as Rand. We learn that Rand’s father Tam, helped deliver Rand before his mother succumbed to her wounds, and then took Rand back to the Two Rivers and raised him as his own son.

The show also flashes back to all the times it hinted at Rand’s true identity, including when he channeled to escape Dana the Darkfriend in Episode 3 and when he channeled inside the Ways, something we were lead to believe was Egwene. Like the proper brooding hero, Rand is quick to take this information to Moiraine and depart for Fal Dara alone, leaving Lan and his friends behind. Before the episode closes, Moiraine and Rand enter the Blight alone, heading for a confrontation neither is likely to survive.

For a penultimate episode, “The Dragon Reborn” is light on the action, but given the show’s choice to keep Rand’s identity a secret, it nonetheless serves as an excellent setup for the season finale. With large chunks of the episode devoted to characters like Nynaeve and Lan, the episode also manages to deepen characters we may not see much of in the finale, which will probably focus on the fight with the Dark One. All and all, another excellent episode for a very solid first season.

Episode Grade: A

Next. The Wheel of Time producers explain Moiraine and Siuan Sanche’s relationship. dark

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