While last week’s episode of The Wheel of Time was my least favorite of the show so far, this week’s episode is in contention for favorite to date. Though a little bit hampered by the awkward pacing of the rest of the season, “Daes Dae’mar” flows much more seamlessly than previous episodes, which allows the audience to actually pick up on some of the themes that the show has been trying to tackle this season. But before we get into all that, let’s recap.
The episode opens with a flashback to Moiraine and Siuan twenty years ago, the day the Aiel war ended. They discuss their future together, then go to deliver the news of the end of the war to Gitara (Hayley Mills). The aged Aes Sedai has a Foretelling, apparently experiencing the Dragon’s birth as it happens. Gitara tells Siuan and Moiraine not to tell anyone that the Dragon has been born again, and that the two of them must find the Dragon Reborn and prepare the world to follow. Then she dies.
In the present day, Moiraine goes to her audience with Siuan in the Cairhienin royal palace. Siuan tells Moiraine that it is time for the Amyrlin to meet Rand al’Thor. Lan preps Rand for his interview with the Amyrlin, then Rand goes in to meet her. Siuan tells Rand that she has questions for him.
In the Foregate, Mat is attacked and knocked out. He wakes to find himself in a room in Falme, having been kidnapped by Lanfear. She declines to introduce herself. Out in the streets, Elayne wonders why the people of Falme don’t fight back against the Seanchan. Nynaeve wants to go to Egwene, but Elayne insists that this time, she is in charge.
Outside the city, Renna has taken Egwene to train, alongside other sul’dam and damane. Egwene is much more powerful than any of the other captive women.
While the Aes Sedai wait in the courtyard, Yasicca secretly brings Verin an old Ogier map of Cairhien. Ihvon is suspicious of them. Maksim notices that Liandrin has snuck away. Lan confronts Moiraine, asking if she has ever wanted to take her own life after being stilled. Moiraine tells him that protecting and guiding Rand is the only thing that matters. Lan tells Moiraine she can’t do this alone, and that if she won’t trust him, then it should be Siuan. Siuan tells Rand that Tower Law dictates that the Dragon Reborn must be shielded and held by the White Tower until the Last Battle, in which he will be their weapon, not their general. Rand tries to channel but is overpowered easily.
Elayne and Nynaeve manage to speak to Loial. He tells them that Perrin escaped the Seanchan, and warns them that only sul’dam are allowed anywhere near where the damane are kept. Nynaeve promises to rescue Loial. Ishamael visits Mat. He offers Mat a tea that will let him see who he was in his past lives, and through that, his true self.
Aviendha takes Perrin to meet two other Aiel Maidens, Bain (Ragga Ragnars) and Chiad (Maja Simonsen). They have buried one of their companions, and Aviendha has toh for the woman’s death. She takes a beating from Bain and Chiad to meet that toh. Left alone, Mat drinks the tea and has vivid hallucinations of his mother telling him that he will turn out just like his father. He sees himself hurting people, and sees himself being hanged, and begs for it to stop.
Moiraine and Lan demand Siuan release Rand. Moiraine does not believe that Siuan can protect Rand from the Red Ajah and Siuan’s enemies. Siuan tells Moiraine that she failed in her duty, that she has been stilled and so can neither guide nor protect Rand—and she can’t protect the world from him, either. Siuan intends to announce the Dragon Reborn the next day, to show the world that he is under Aes Sedai control.
Taken to a cell, Rand remains shielded by Leane, who guards him as Moiraine explains what shielding is. Rand tells Moiraine that he was going to Falme. Moiraine tells him that the Dragon is prophesied to proclaim himself in Falme. Rand realizes that the Forsaken want everyone to know who he is before they try to kill him.
Liandrin arrives at the Damodred household and Barthanes sends his mother away, claiming that this is royal business. Liandrin has an order from their master—to kill Moiraine. Barthanes must also kill his mother if she begins to suspect anything. Anvaere secretly eavesdrops on their conversation.
Ishamael tells Mat that being reborn over and over is pain, and that all he wants is to be able to die permanently. Mat asks how. In the dream world, Rand asks Lanfear to help him escape. She comes to Cairhien, setting the Foregate on fire with the One Power and causing explosions.
Lan offers Logain the key to his cell in return for information. Logain can see weaves of the male power, and he tells Lan that there are weaves on Moiraine that appear to be held in place without anything being channeled into them, which should be impossible. Lan doesn’t follow through with his bribe.
Nynaeve puts on the a’dam bracelet and she and Elayne capture and collar a sul’dam. Renna tells Egwene the reason the Seanchan have come to conquer everyone—to unite everyone on the planet under the Light so that they can stand together at the Last Battle. She thinks this will make Egwene stop fighting her, but Egwene tells Renna that she is going to kill her.
A guard takes Barthanes to Moiraine’s cell, but Barthanes finds it empty. Anvaere locks him in. Barthanes tells her he joined the Dark to help their House, and that Moiraine doesn’t care about them. Anvaere tells him that her sister understands two things better than anyone: the difference between right and wrong, and how much harder it can be to do what is right.
Verin tricks Leane into letting Verin take her place, then frees Rand. Verin has found a Waygate hidden in the city that they can use to escape. Verin and Tomas, Alanna, Maksim and Ihvon cover their escape. Siuan links with eight Aes Sedai to put out the fires in the city. Leane arrives and they realize Verin’s trick. Siuan tells Leane to lead the Aes Sedai in Healing the injured and goes to find Rand.
Lan tells Moiraine that she isn’t stilled, but shielded, and urges Rand to look at her through the One Power. Rand cuts through the knot on Moiraine’s shield and she can channel again. She opens the Waygate but Siuan arrives, shielding Rand again and knocking Lan out.
When Moiraine refuses to close the Waygate, Siuan uses the oath of obedience that Moiraine swore to her on the Oath Rod to compel Moiraine to do so. Lanfear arrives and takes Siuan out, leaving her bleeding on the ground. Rand prevents Lanfear from killing Moiraine. Lanfear opens the Waygate and Rand and Lan follow her in. Moiraine hesitates, looking back at Siuan, then follows.
Siuan Sanche and Moiraine Damodred have my sword, my axe, my bow, and my heart. I’ve been waiting all season to have Sophie Okonedo back on screen and oh boy, she did not disappoint. Her regal presence, dry humor, and the force of her eye acting alone were worth an entire season all by themselves. And Okonedo and Pike are just an absolute powerhouse together.
I was really impressed with the way Siuan and Moiraine’s backstory was revealed to us through the episode, and I’m so in love with the changes the show has made to their relationship. Though Moiraine and Siuan are not romantically involved in the books, most of the rest of the backstory we are given in episode seven fits the original canon. Like the Moiraine and Siuan of the show, they were best friends who planned to travel the world together. Being present for Gitara’s Foretelling put paid to those plans, however, and the Wheel set Siuan and Moiraine on a very different, very difficult path. The show tweaked the original story a little for expediency, and of course changed them from having been briefly lovers in their youth to being truly in love with each other. Which I see as a vindication, really, since they are two excellent characters who Jordan wrote really well except where their respective romances (with men of course) are concerned.
It’s so beautifully painful to be presented in this episode with the dream these two younger, more optimistic women had for their lives, taken from them in one fateful moment. And it’s not just their dreams of being together that are dashed, either; we also learn in the flashback that Moiraine has been missing her family and is excited to be able to visit them. As we have seen in the past several episodes, Moiraine was never able to keep those connections she longed for, and no one has been able to know the real reason why. Because of the danger of Darkfriends, Moiraine and Siuan had to keep their search for the Dragon Reborn a secret, and so they both were forced to change into cold, aloof, seemingly uncaring people… when in reality they are anything but.
When Moiraine comes to Siuan in the throne room, Siuan claims that Moiraine has borne the entire burden of this plan alone, but that is not entirely true. We know from the flashback that Siuan never wanted to stay in the Tower, that she was uncomfortable with the dresses and the rings and the regal life of an Aes Sedai—she still dreamed of her little fishing hut by the river. The Siuan of the flashback is much more lively, and much more open, than the Siuan we see in the present day, whose elegant seriousness speaks of power, but also of a life marked by a very different kind of danger than the one Moiraine has faced. Moiraine alludes to this when she reminds Siuan that the Tower is filled with her enemies.
And so these two women, who love each other and who have been each other’s only allies (except for Lan of course) in the most important, and most secret, quest in the world, are set at odds. Because they both have the same goal, but have very different ideas of how to achieve it. And this, really, is the theme of episode seven, not just for Moiraine and Siuan but for everyone else who has been let in on their secret, for Rand, and in many ways for the entire world.
One of the fundamental questions Robert Jordan asks his characters, and thus his readers, in The Wheel of Time is the question of what it would be like to suddenly learn that you are the chosen one, the prophesied savior of the world, and to have your entire existence defined by that fact. But he also asks what it would be like for everyone else who lives in the world to know that this savior exists and that he is crucial to humanity surviving the war between Good and Evil. The show has not, perhaps, set up these stakes as clearly as it could have, but this episode really does a beautiful job of confronting that theme, and of showing us how confusing and painful it is to be any one of these characters, not just Rand al’Thor.
What may not be clear to viewers who haven’t read the books is that very little is actually known in Rand’s world about what the Dragon Reborn is supposed to do, other than fight and win at the Last Battle. The prophecies around him are hard to interpret, and many only say what he will do, not what is necessary to win the Last Battle. Now, in this episode, we learn that the White Tower believes the Dragon’s fate is to be kept under control and wielded as a weapon by the Aes Sedai. Of course, from Rand’s perspective, and ours, this is a horrible thing. But if we consider what these events look like from Siuan’s perspective, as I think the episode encourages us to do, we might understand why she feels the need to exert some control over the situation.
Siuan knows that Ishamael was set free at the Eye of the World, that Moiraine either has been stilled or has lied about being stilled, and that the Dragon has been reborn as a man, which means he is subject to the taint on the male half of the One Power, a taint which will eventually corrupt his mind. The Aes Sedai have been leaders of the world for thousands of years, and are the only people (as far as Siuan knows, at least) who know anything about channeling. Now she has the ability to take the Dragon Reborn into custody, even as she must face the fact that the original plan she and Moiraine came up with has apparently failed—not to mention that any misstep could literally doom the world.
Rand’s experience being interrogated and imprisoned by Siuan is contrasted in the episode with Egwene’s ongoing “training” as a damane. I really appreciated that the show didn’t feel the need to bring in more physical torture; what we were shown instead was highly effective. The revelation that the Seanchan are also preparing for the Last Battle, that they believe that they are the ones who are meant to unite and lead the world, adds another layer to the theme, and it is important to note that even some of the bad guys believe in fighting for the Light. The Seanchan are a culture of hierarchy and slavery, a people who believe in conquering others and building an empire. They are not a good society, and Renna is an abhorrent person—and yet she, and her people, believe that they are fighting for Good, with a capital G. Again, I have to praise Mendes-Jones’s performance, because when Renna speaks, you fully believe that Renna believes what she is saying to Egwene. That Renna genuinely experiences hurt when Egwene rejects her, and that Renna is fully committed to the idea that the sul’dam and damane will have an important place in fighting the Last Battle and saving the world.
The show also tackles this theme from the other side. Barthanes’s actions and choices aren’t about the Dragon Reborn, but in learning that he swore himself to the Dark in order to help his family, we are presented with an evil choice that was made for what must have seemed to Barthanes to be a good, perhaps even noble reason. All the Darkfriends and Forsaken we have met so far have reasons that go beyond just a lust for power (though they all have that, too). Liandrin didn’t want to lose her son; Lanfear had a broken heart; Ishamael believes that the cyclical nature of Time and reincarnation perpetuates endless suffering on the human race and wishes to end that suffering (mostly for himself, of course, but still).
I found myself wondering if Anvaere always believed those two things about her sister, or whether learning what her son had become made Anvaere view Moiraine in a different light. Certainly it can be true that someone can be both cold and unfeeling and capable of doing the right thing when it really counts. And of course, Barthanes is right about Moiraine, in a way—although she does care deeply for her family, she is well aware that she can’t put her personal feelings above her need to serve the greater good. She is willing to walk away from her family and never see them again, if that is what her path requires. And Anvaere’s strength, I think, is that she can understand both truths at the same time, and differentiate between them.
Lan makes the same point to Rand before he has his audience with the Amyrlin: that it is selfish for Rand to only think about protecting the people he loves when he is meant to be the savior of all the people in the world. We can see that Moiraine has been carrying a burden that she will now share with Rand, that will become increasingly his burden as he steps into the role he was born to fill.
And speaking of Lan, where was this all season? I think the show could have had detective Lan emerge a little bit earlier—a lot of the philosophical questions he and Ihvon and Maksim were debating were great, but the show lingered there too long, I think. We needed to get Lan’s story moving along more quickly—or the show could have just left some of that traveling out for an episode or two and replaced it with Mat and Min’s story. Thematically I think that both Mat and Min’s struggles would have fit better in the first half of the season, contrasted with Egwene and Nynaeve and Rand and Perrin all trying to figure out who they are, and what their relationship to their abilities and to their place in the world should be. Finn’s portrayal of Matt continues to be perfect, and I would be interested to actually see more interactions between him and Ishamael, whose “the world is suffering” shtick is pretty boring without anyone to play it off of.
I was excited to see Bain and Chiad in this episode, as I really like them in the books. But I thought the scene where Aviendha meets her toh was out of place, not to mention badly executed. It doesn’t add anything to the story at this point, or do a good job at explaining to the audience how ji’e’toh works; it just seems like Aviendha was unable to save her friend and as a result has to take a beating. I also thought that the use of Maiden handtalk, as it is called in the books, should probably have been explained somehow to the viewer, as it seems to come out of nowhere.
The scene between Lan and Logain was very good, but it brought up another problem with the worldbuilding and what the show doesn’t make clear to the audience. Because of the need to show channeling to the audience, we have always been able to see the flows of both male and female channeling, but it has never been clear whether or not non-channeling characters can see the One Power being wielded.
Siuan appears to be able to tell Rand is channeling. She could have guessed, but there is no reason for the audience to think that’s what happened. Then we find out that Logain can see the male weaves on Moiraine, which implies that non-channelers and women can’t see male weaves—otherwise Alanna and Verin would have known that Moiraine was shielded. But Logain has also been gentled, and lost his ability to channel, so how would he still be able to see weaves?
In the books only men who can channel can see the male half of the One Power being used, and only women channelers can see the female half being wielded. Non-channelers, including those who have been stilled/gentled, can’t see either. And while it is perfectly fine for the show to adjust the mechanics of the One Power to fit its needs, it does need to be clearer about what those mechanics are. At this point it’s just confusing for everybody, book fans and new viewers alike. The signing Aviendha, Bain, and Chiad do is not subtitled, presumably because the audience is supposed to experience it through Perrin’s point of view—except one time we do get subtitles, because that time the show needs us to know what was being said. The lack of congruity in these things makes for a frustrating viewing experience at times.
I really like most of the costumes in the show, and in this episode in particular—shout out to everything Siuan wears, but especially her Blue Ajah outfit—but some of the choices do stand out in an awkward way. I find it particularly interesting that Ishamael and Lanfear are often dressed in clothing that looks more modern, like his oxford shirt or the fantastic jumpsuit she is wearing when she kidnaps Mat, but I’m not sure how well that plays for the audience. Book fans know that the Age the Forsaken come from was very technologically and socially advanced, and the costuming choice is clearly trying to show that they stand out a little bit in this comparatively archaic time period, but I’m not sure it plays as intended, even if fans remember the outfits and flying cars that we saw in the season one flashback with Lews Therin. I am, however, absolutely obsessed with Lanfear’s cape-dress situation that she wears when she storms Cairhien.
Also, those metal pacifiers the damane wear are so, so distracting.
There were a few other moments that stood out to me in this episode. One was Egwene putting her fishtail braid back in while back in her cell. This is a perfect harkening back to her introduction in the premiere, when Nynaeve told her that her braid connects her to her home, and all the Two Rivers women who came before her. It’s a great way of symbolically communicating Egwene’s internal strength and determination in a moment where she can’t really display it outwardly. Madden’s delivery of the line about killing Renna was also just perfect, and I’m impressed with how much she is able to convey despite having few lines and having to mostly do lots of “I’m being tortured” acting.
As I said above, detective Lan is great, and should have been utilized earlier. I was really touched by the reminder of his dedication to protecting Moiraine, the way Ihvon reminded him that a Warder is supposed to. Lan’s line about how Moiraine must trust someone, that she can’t do everything on her own, and the reminder that Lan and Siuan are the closest people to her in the world was really moving—and more than that, was reminiscent of an important journey Rand has in the books. I liked that this episode illustrated how much Moiraine’s burden as the one responsible for finding and preparing the Dragon Reborn is very similar to the burden Rand himself must face.
Although Alanna is the Aes Sedai and ultimately in charge, I noticed that when Ihvon was suspicious of Verin, she and Ihvon and Maksim appeared to vote on whether or not Ihvon should follow Tomas. This aspect of democracy in their relationship is really interesting. Also the exchange between Alanna and Maksim about the dangers they will face was incredibly touching. I love this trio, and if anything happens to them I will be very, very upset.
Loial! More Loial, please! He is in many ways a tertiary character in the books, but I think the show is making a mistake in not using him more. Even though Animashaun hasn’t been given that much to do, he has such an incredible presence anytime he’s on screen, and he brings Loial’s kindness and warmth to light in such a beautiful way.
Easter Eggs and Fun Facts
- Daes Dae’mar means “the Great Game” in the Old Tongue. More commonly called the Game of Houses, this tradition of social and political moving is played by the nobility of most countries in The Wheel of Time, but most heavily and expertly in Cairhien. The Aes Sedai also have their own complicated system of social maneuvering which Moiraine finds very similar to the Game of Houses. “Daes Dae’mar” is also the title of Chapter 30 of The Great Hunt.
- In the books, Lan spends the time between the events of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt teaching Rand swordsmanship, including “sword forms.” These all have names like “The Boar Rushes Down the Mountain,” and “Leopard in High Grass.” In the second scene of this episode, Rand uses “Heron Dips the Wing,” and Lan advises him to use “Cat Crosses the Courtyard” when he goes to face the Amyrlin.
- Favorite Quote: We would have been so much better off if you were a girl.
- Runner up: Did you expect we would fight the Last Battle against an army of kittens.
- Second Runner up: If you have ever loved me, don’t do this.
Next week is the eighth and final episode of the season, and I am looking forward to, hopefully, seeing all of our Two Rivers friends reunited. Will they rescue Egwene? What choices will Mat make? And will Rand declare himself as the Dragon Reborn?
Well, we’ll have to come back next Friday to find out.
Sylas K Barrett is only a little embarrassed to admit that this is the first episode of the show that made him cry. Twice, actually.