Welcome to our spoiler review of episode three of The Wheel of Time. Please be prepared for me to be very, very excited about Lan and Nynaeve’s interactions.
(These reviews might contain some minor spoilers for the Wheel of Time book series. Please note that the comment section may also contain spoilers for those unfamiliar with the book series.)
“A Place of Safety” opens with Nynaeve being dragged through the forest by a Trolloc. It stops to kill and eat a wounded compatriot, and Nynaeve escapes. The Trolloc pursues her to the sacred pool, where she kills it with her knife. In the present, Lan tells Nynaeve that the Dark One is coming for her friends, and that Moiraine has fought to protect them. He tries to convince her to help Moiraine. They fight, and he knocks her unconscious.
Rand and Mat climb over mountainous terrain as Rand shouts for Egwene and Perrin. Mat wants to go home, but Rand insists on going to the White Tower.
Perrin and Egwene cross a windy plain as wolves howl. They try to light a fire to keep the wolves at bay, but are unsure if Perrin’s knife struck the spark or if Egwene used the Power. Egwene is sure that Rand will go home, but Perrin insists that he will go to the White Tower to find her.
Nynaeve wakes up tied to a tree. She decides to help, and gathers herbs to make a poultice for Moiraine’s wounds. It helps a little, but she is worried. Lan rides off, leaving her to look after Moiraine.
Perrin wakes in his own bed during a thunderstorm. A figure with burning eyes watches him from outside the window. He finds a wolf eating Laila’s corpse, which looks up at him and whispers “I know.” The red-eyed figure fills his vision. Egwene wakes Perrin from his nightmare to warn him that the wolves are close and they run. Later, they find some wagon tracks heading east and follow them. Egwene suggests that it’s almost as though the wolves led them to the tracks.
Mat and Rand find a mining encampment. There is a corpse in a gibbet cage. They go to an inn, where they listen to a gleeman sing a sad song about the man who caused the Breaking. The barmaid, Dana (Izuka Hoyle) gives the boys wood to chop in exchange for a place to stay. Rand and Mat have a fight, and Mat is depressed and dour. He goes inside to suck up to Dana, who puts him to work serving drinks.
Perrin and Egwene encounter a group of people who ask them if they know the song. Aram (Daryl McCormack) teaches them the ritualistic response to this question, and they are brought to the camp of the Tuatha’an, or Traveling People.
Dana shows Rand to a backroom where he and Mat can stay. He invites her to stay for a drink. That evening, Mat approaches the corpse in the cage. He’s confronted by the gleeman, Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume), who has come to bury the body. He tells Mat that the man is an Aiel, and they discuss myths about that people. Thom allows Mat to search the body for money, then they bury the man together.
Rand avoids answering Dana’s questions about where he’s come from and where he’s going. She talks of all the places she wants to go see, then tries to kiss him. Then she takes his sword and holds him prisoner while she waits for Mat. Rand manages to break through the impossibly strong door to the room. He and Mat flee through the town, pursued by Dana. She corners them and tells them that she will bring the Dragon to the Dark One, and that she’s called a Fade to come get them. Then Thom kills her with a thrown dagger and Rand and Mat leave with him.
Lan returns to take Nynaeve and Moiraine south. After several hours he wakes Moiraine—they have found other Aes Sedai. Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) tells Moiraine that they have captured a man calling himself the Dragon Reborn.
The visuals in this episode are absolutely stunning. Some scenes are a bit darker than I’d like, but those moments are far outnumbered by the lovely way the characters are lit, such as Nynaeve and Lan’s confrontation by moonlight, or Thom and Mat’s torch-lit conversation about the dead Aiel. We get even more sweeping landscape shots (I’m particularly partial to Lan and his horse on that jutting cliff, silhouetted against the sky). I also really like the use of colors; there are a lot of greys and whites in the landscape, but the forest in which Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve travel is filled with brilliant green moss that breaks up the monotonous color pallet and brings a sense of vibrant life—which feels especially poignant while Moiraine’s life is fading and Nynaeve is confronting people that she believes to be her enemies. The sacred pool where Nynaeve kills the Trolloc is also beautifully lit.
I am absolutely in love with everything that happens between Nynaeve and Lan. There is a constant interplay over who has the upper hand, and despite their mistrust for each other, there is a lot of chemistry between the two. I like that it ends on a note of Nynaeve being aware that Lan needs her, and the power that gives her in the situation even if she “knows nothing of this world” as he claims. Even if he is an incredible swordsman who can tie her to a tree. She is just such a tough person, stubborn and capable and unyielding… you can see that Lan is as intrigued by her as Moiraine was in episode one.
There’s a bit of playfulness from Lan here, as well. He’s too busy trying to keep Moiraine alive to spend much time on it, but you can watch the subtle expressions on his face as he tries to puzzle Nynaeve out, and there’s amusement in his voice, as well as admiration, when he remarks that Nynaeve actually tried to kill him. Daniel Henney does a wonderful job keeping Lan’s stoic, reserved demeanor while also giving us a lot to work with. Even Nynaeve seems swayed by the tenderness he shows Moiraine as he bends over her, the gentleness of his touch.
We also learn more about the connection between Aes Sedai and their Warders in this episode. Of course Lan doesn’t flinch even if he does feel the pain of Moiraine’s wound, but now we know he feels it, that he knows Moiraine can’t move at all because he is connected to her, can feel what she feels. His care for her is as intuitive as it is studied, or maybe moreso, and one wonders how it feels to have someone you’re connected to in such a way approach death. And yet he treats Nynaeve with surprising care, never raising his voice or threatening her safety, restraining her without harming her.
Although it’s probably not great for her to be knocked unconscious again so soon. That’s super bad for you.
There was something almost holy about the scene in which Nynaeve gathers flowers and bark to make her medicine. The first camera angle places her in a gentle beam of light, framed like an angel in a painting. The green of her coat makes it look like she is part of the forest, connected to the plants she knows so well. Even the chant-like singing in the soundtrack evokes something religious or sacred, and it’s reminiscent of the music that has accompanied Moiraine’s channeling. Let us not forget, after all, that Moiraine told Egwene that the power the Wisdom’s call “listening to the Wind” is the same as the One Power. If that’s true for Egwene, then it might very well be true for Nynaeve, too.
Speaking of soundtrack moments, they are doing something very western with the character of Thom Merrilin. In comparison to the Manetheren song, Thom’s ballad feels very American folk/country, and he has a lot of soundtrack moments that are western inspired, e.g. his confrontation with Mat starts with him stepping into frame to the classic “shootout at high noon” guitar trill, with his dagger framed just like a gunslinger’s holster would be. He even jingles when he walks, like he’s wearing spurs. Honestly, I’m not sure if I like it. It felt a little cheesy, although it does make sense to think of westerns in an episode about two strangers showing up to a mining town that has a dark secret.
This episode has several really great moments between Perrin and Egwene. I particularly loved how easily Perrin accepts the idea that Egwene can channel, with his cute little joke about if she could channel them some food and water. Perrin’s faith in Rand, and Rand’s dedication to Egwene, is also really touching. Of course, it’s pretty understandable that Egwene believes that Rand would only want to go home—much of their conflict revolves around the fact that Rand wants a home and family, and Egwene has chosen a different future for herself. That assessment of Rand as someone who never wants more than the Two Rivers is at the forefront of her mind.
Mat brings up the same thought when he and Rand are deciding whether or not to go on, and I definitely felt for Mat when Rand said the Two Rivers wouldn’t be home without them. It’s a really meaningful moment for Rand, and marks a turning point in this aspect of his journey. But Mat does have people back in the Two Rivers who make it home, and he’s probably as worried about his sisters’ safety as he is about Egwene and Perrin still being alive. Still, there’s a cruelty in the way he suggests to Rand that Perrin and Egwene are probably dead and that even if they are, Egwene wouldn’t do for Rand what Rand is doing for her. It’s the kind of cruelty that’s hiding personal pain, of course, but I think that it’s relevant to note how surprised Rand is by it. He knows that Mat is under a lot of stress—they both are—so his inability to catch what’s happening either suggests that it’s pretty out of character for Mat to turn to this kind of humorless nastiness in times of stress, or that Rand is so preoccupied with his own worry that he doesn’t have the brain space for anything else. Probably it’s a bit of both. However, I think it’s relevant to note that this episode’s “Previously On” opener reminds us of Natti Cauthon’s prediction that her son will turn out to be a “damned prick” just like his father. What exactly does this foreshadow? I suppose only time will tell.
I actually did not even think of the possibility that Dana might be a Darkfriend. It feels obvious in retrospect, but I give a lot of credit both to the script and to Hoyle’s acting for getting me so completely engrossed in her character. She’s sharp enough to match Mat quip for quip—who am I kidding, she surpassed him by a mile—and also plays an empathetic vulnerability that pairs well with Rand. Her feelings about being trapped in this small, dirty town with no future are revealed slowly over several conversations with both Mat and Rand, and the viewer connects as much with her as the boys do. Not that I held onto that empathy when she turned out to be a Darkfriend—the show has made it clear enough what kind of threat the Dark One is, and we’ve seen Trollocs and Fades, so we have some pretty intense associations around anyone who would, as Thom put it, swear body and soul to the Dark One.
But that empathy and backstory is still useful context. One can imagine Dana won’t be the only Darkfriend Mat, Rand, or the others encounter on their journey, and she is very clear about why she has turned to him. Dana speaks of the turning of the Wheel and the cycle of rebirth very differently from how Tam did back in episode one. For Tam, the chance to live again and maybe do a little bit better was a comfort. For Dana, it seems like a curse on humanity, dooming them to endless lives of suffering. It’s a big claim she makes, that the Aes Sedai want to kill the Dragon while the Dark One wants him to save humanity by breaking the Wheel.
There was one moment between Perrin and Egwene that I didn’t like, however. He has been subtly protective over her both in this episode and the last, and I’ve enjoyed the way those moments project their friendship and also the way they are all each other has left. But when Perrin demands to go on ahead to make sure the owners of the wagons aren’t dangerous and Egwene insists that he doesn’t have to protect her, she tries to tell him that Laila’s death wasn’t his fault. It hadn’t really registered with me that Perrin might be making Egwene’s safety even more of a priority because of his guilt over Laila, and it reminds me why I dislike the narrative choice of her death. To me, it reduces Perrin’s character, his protective and gentle nature, back to that plot point. Now that we’re here, though, I wish he’d just tell Egwene the truth of why he feels so guilty. It would be more interesting to watch the two of them grapple together with that situation, rather than watching him continue to hide it, while she assumes that he is feeling guilt over not being able to protect Laila, rather than over something he accidentally did to her.
Last week, Moiraine told the four that dreams have power, and asked them to tell her if they had any more dreams of the fiery-eyed man. Unfortunately for Perrin, he doesn’t have that option, but he’s not the only one having dreams. Dana also tells Rand and Mat that she has seen “the five of you” in her dreams, so that’s probably something to keep an eye on as well.
Interesting Notes and Easter Eggs:
- “A Place of Safety” is the title of Chapter 8 of The Eye of the World.
- It is significant that we encounter both the Tuatha’an and the Aiel in this episode, although we’ve not learned enough about them yet for new fans to know why.
- Take note of that name, Ishamael, the last man to bring the Dragon to the Dark One.
- Rand tells Dana that this is the first time in his life he’s given much thought to the Wheel before, and that for the first time he doesn’t know what the right thing to do is. It reminds me of Tam’s speech to him, and I wonder if it’s in Rand’s mind, too.
- Daniel Henny looks so pretty with those little tendrils in his face like that.
- Favorite Quote: “It’s not a demand, it’s a threat.”
- Runner up: “They say all roads lead [to the White Tower].” “That’s not how roads work.”
Check back here next Saturday for our review for episode four: “The Dragon Reborn.”
Sylas K Barrett is a writer, actor, and long-time fan of epic journeys, heroes, and magic. You can find other reviews and op-eds here on Tor.com, including his ongoing Reading the Wheel of Time series, in which he reads the novels for the first time and engages in both critical analogy and a fair bit of fanboy glee.