The Wheel of Time season 3 to open with "bonkers" 15-minute set piece, according to showrunner Rafe Judkins

If we had our guess, things are going to get very dicey for the Aes Sedai in The Wheel of Time season 3.
Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video.
Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

The Wheel turns, and we draw ever closer to the premiere of The Wheel of Time season 3. Prime Video's fantasy show wrapped filming on its third season in March, and since then we've had our eyes peeled for any sort of updates. This year's JordanCon fan convention came and went without a peep from the powers that be behind the television show...but lo! Emmy nomination season approaches, and The Wheel of Time cast and crew are out on the awards campaign trail — and what better way to drum up excitement than by dropping cryptic hints about what's coming in season 3?

“The first 15 minutes of Season 3 is one of the most bonkers set pieces I’ve ever seen on television,” said showrunner Rafe Judkins at the Deadline Studio at Prime Experience. “I was just watching it this week and it is absolutely bananas what our team pulled off … just a bunch of women in their 40s and 50s shredding each other, and it is wonderful to behold.”

Cue rabid enthusiasm. Judging by how much The Wheel of Time's scale grew in its second season, I'm inclined to believe Judkins that we've got mind-blowing times ahead on the series. There are only so many things his statement about "women in their 40s and 50s shredding each other" could refer to. Let's discuss after the break — there will be MAJOR SPOILERS for the fourth Wheel of Time book, The Shadow Rising, below.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Sophie Okonedo (Siuan Sanche) in The Wheel of Time season 2. /

Dark days for the Aes Sedai lie ahead in The Wheel of Time season 3

The Wheel of Time is based on the iconic, long-running book series by Robert Jordan, finished after his death by Stormlight Archive author Brandon Sanderson. There are 15 Wheel of Time books in all, counting the prequel novel New Spring, which means the Prime Video show has a deep well of source material to draw from. Since the show is only expected to run for eight seasons, it also means that it must inevitably make changes from the books in order to fit in the most important plotlines and characters beats.

However, we can still make a pretty good educated guess as to what Judkins is referring to here, because the fourth book, The Shadow Rising, features a particularly important sequence of events that reshapes the balance of power for the Aes Sedai sorceresses in the White Tower, many of whom are played by older actresses. The Wheel of Time season 3 will be largely based on The Shadow Rising, and given how much focus the show has put on the Aes Sedai overall, it's hard to imagine it won't include those events.

The short version is this: following the events of the the first three books, a rogue faction of Aes Sedai led by the powerful Red Ajah sorceress Elaida do Avriny a'Roihan execute a coup that sees Siuan Sanche, the Amyrlin Seat and leader of the Aes Sedai, deposed from power. The coup has lasting ramifications for the Aes Sedai as a whole, as well as Siuan as a character, and the books explore both in great detail.

The TV show has already set up the idea that Siuan has many enemies among the Aes Sedai, and there are strong rumblings that Elaida will be played by The Expanse star Shohreh Aghdashloo in season 3. All signs indicate that this storyline is coming in the television show. But it doesn't happen until fairly late in The Shadow Rising. It's hard to imagine a scenario where it would make sense to open the season with it. However, there's another bloody moment for the Aes Sedai that we never actually see in the books which would make much more sense as a way to start the season.

The Wheel of Time Season 2
Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin Guirale) in The Wheel of Time season 2. Image: Prime Video. /

Liandrin Guirale and the uncovering of the Black Ajah

One of the big twists of The Wheel of Time season 2 is that Liandrin Guirale (Kate Fleetwood) is actually a member of the Black Ajah, a secret sect of Aes Sedai sworn to serve the Dark One. Up until now, most Aes Sedai in the Tower don't believe the Black Ajah exist. But that's about to change in season 3.

Liandrin isn't the only member of the Black Ajah hiding in the White Tower; in the books, she has 12 other accomplices, all of whom are secretly working to undermine the Aes Sedai. After her kidnapping of Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) and Elayne (Ceara Coveney), it's hard for the Black Ajah to stay undercover. That would only have worked if Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne were never able to tell anybody about what they'd been through, but since they survived and can now point to Liandrin as the culprit, that means the jig is up.

In the books, Liandrin leads her fellow Black Ajah sisters out of the White Tower, stealing a bunch of powerful ter'angreals along the way. Both the third and fourth novels in the series feature storylines where Nynaeve and Elayne (and Egwene, in book 3) go off hunting for these escaped members of the Black Ajah and their the magical artifacts they took. We're expecting to see this in season 3, since both Nynaeve and Elayne are heading to Tanchico, where they spend time on the trail of the Black Ajah in The Shadow Rising.

Liandrin and the Black Ajah's escape from the Tower happens offscreen in the novels; we only find out about it after they're long gone from Tar Valon. But if the White Tower coup happens later in the season — which I hope it will, to allow more time for Elaida and Siuan's rivalry to flourish — then the Black Ajah escape is really the next most likely scene from this point in the books which could feature "women in their 40s and 50s shredding each other." It'd be pretty wild to watch Liandrin and 12 other Black Ajah sorceresses use their magic to murder a bunch of their former Aes Sedai allies and warders.

This isn't just idle speculation either. At New York Comic Con in October 2023, Rafe Judkins teased that, "You will know right up top season 3 what Liandrin has been up to." So it's sounding more and more likely that the Black Ajah escape could be one of the inciting incidents of season 3. It'd certainly fit well with the reported premiere title, "To Race the Shadow."

What do you think? Will we see Liandrin and the Black Ajah make their move at the start of season 3? Or will they linger in the shadows longer before they're forced to act?

The Wheel of Time season 3 is currently in post-production. No release date has yet been announced, but we're expecting it will probably air sometime in 2025.

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