The Wheel of Time season 2 turns in an epic finale with “What Was Meant To Be”

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The season 2 finale of Prime Video’s fantasy series The Wheel of Time is out now, and it’s a massive feast for the senses. The battle of Falme is here, and on the other side, nothing will ever be the same for characters like Rand al’Thor, Moiraine Damodred, Egwene al’Vere, and Mat Cauthon. Perhaps nothing will be the same for The Wheel of Time either, because this episode is easily one of its greatest achievements to date. The series stuck the landing for its second season, solidifying it as the must-watch fantasy series of the year.

We’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s get right into it. As always, there will be SPOILERS for The Wheel of Time below.

The Wheel of Time season 2 episode 8

The Wheel of Time Episode 208 review: “What Was Meant To Be”

From a production standpoint, “What Was Meant To Be” is the largest episode of The Wheel of Time yet, weaving together numerous plotlines amid a battle sequence with hundreds of extras, extensive visual effects, and complicated stunts. It’s marvelous. And as with the season’s penultimate episode, “Daes Dae’mar,” it makes fascinating choices about how it adapts an iconic section of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels. In a word, this finale is tremendous. I don’t feel it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s perhaps the most important hour of fantasy television of 2023.

The episode centers around a battle at the coastal city of Falme, which has been occupied by Seanchan invaders from across the sea. But before we get there, we have to go back in time 3,000 years in a flashback featuring the Dragon who preceded Rand, Lews Therin Telamon, and the Forsaken known as Ishamael.

Fares Fares (Ishamael) in The Wheel of Time season 2.
Fares Fares (Ishamael) in The Wheel of Time season 2. /

The Wheel of Time takes us back to the beginning

Just as with the season 1 finale, this episode begins with a scene set during the War of Power, back when the Dragon Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim) clashed with the Forsaken in his fight against the Dark One. This scene shows the Dragon’s ruthless side, as he informs his former friend Ishamael (Fares Fares) that he’s already captured the rest of the Forsaken and plans to seal them all in a dreamlike stasis.

This is a crucial moment in The Wheel of Time mythos, and I may have lost my mind a little seeing it play out onscreen. It says a lot about the complex relationship between Ishamael and Lews, two powerful channelers who were best friends as well as worst enemies. Fares and Karim have great chemistry, the Old Tongue language they speak sounds fluid and real, and the special effects for the sealing ritual look great. I love how the scene ends with the barest glimpse of the yin-yang Aes Sedai symbol, forming the cuendillar seal that contains Ishamael’s prison.

Rosamund Pike (Moiraine) and Daniel Henney (Lan Mandragoran) in The Wheel of Time season 2.
Rosamund Pike (Moiraine) and Daniel Henney (Lan Mandragoran) in The Wheel of Time season 2. /

The stunning vistas of Falme

From there we launch right into the main event at Falme. The episode does a good job of establishing who all the players are before it slams them together. We start with the Whitecloaks, which is much needed since we haven’t seen them since Episode 5, “Damane.”

Dain Bornhald (Jay Duffy) and his father Geofram (Stuart Graham) have gathered their Whitecloak forces for an attack on the Seanchan. They also have Child Valda (Abdul Salis) with them; that’s the Whitecloak who tortured Egwene and Perrin back in season 1. We learn from Geofram and Dain that no one else that the people of Falme asked for help has come to their aid. The show hasn’t given us a ton of time with the Whitecloaks this season, but the episode quickly gets us up to speed on why they’re relevant.

The oasis that The Wheel of Time used to film the Whitecloak camp is the first of many awe-inspiring locations in this finale. In an era when digitally replaced sound stages are becoming prevalent, the actual locations in The Wheel of Time are refreshing.

From the oasis, we cut to the Ways, where Lanfear (Natasha O’Keeffe) leads Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), Lan (Daniel Henney) and Rand (Josha Stradowski) toward the coastal city. O’Keeffe remains a delight to watch as Lanfear; she seems like she’s having so much fun being evil, which allows us to have fun too. She tells Moiraine to raise the banner when the time comes, then ejects her and Land out a stunningly beautiful Waygate in the middle of a sandbar. Again, the location photography is spectacular.

We then get a subtle lore drop of the kind that The Wheel of Time has excelled at this season. As Rand starts freaking out because Lanfear channeled inside the Ways, which attracts that malevolent wind known as Machin Shin, she tells him there are faster ways to travel. As Machin Shin descends on Lanfear and Rand, they simply vanish. This shows that the Forsaken know how to Travel, a type of magical teleportation which has been lost since the time of Lews Therin Telamon. We will see it again at the end of the episode with Moghedien. I love all these little touches The Wheel of Time is including to make the world feel real and expansive.

Marcus Rutherford (Perrin Aybara), Ayoola Smart (Avienda), Ragga Ragnars (Bain), and Maja Simonsen (Chiad) in The Wheel of Time season 2.
Marcus Rutherford (Perrin Aybara), Ayoola Smart (Avienda), Ragga Ragnars (Bain), and Maja Simonsen (Chiad) in The Wheel of Time season 2. /

Outside of Falme, Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) and his Aiel companions Aviendha (Ayoola Smart), Bain (Ragga Ragnars) and Chiad (Maja Simonsen) approach the city on foot. Perrin’s wolf friend Hopper is there too, and he remains the bestest boy. Hopper features in a few key scenes in this episode, and the dog actor playing him, Ka Lupinka, does a fantastic job. Yes, I am commending a dog on their acting.

Meanwhile, in Falme, Lanfear appears in Ishamael’s room to let him know she’s brought Rand to the city. The Forsaken are so complex and fascinating; both O’Keeffe and Fares are impossible to look away from during this episode. Ishamael saying that Rand “won’t choose them” is actually kind of heartbreaking; these are two people who knew Rand in a past life, reflecting on how he’s going to choose the people in his new life over them. Rather than becoming mustache-twirling villains, the Forsaken are gaining layers.

From there, we’re into the Battle of Falme.