This week on The Wheel of Time, “Daughter of the Night” asks our heroes, and the viewer, important questions about truth and deception, about possession, and about how far we are willing to go to be who we want to be.
“Daughter of the Night” opens with Ishamael breaking another Seal. The One Power pools at his feet, coalescing into the form of a naked woman covered in blood.
Lady Anvaere is informed that she has a visitor, her older sister Moiraine. Anvaere tries to get Moiraine to join her for tea, but Moiraine avoids her.
Out in the Foregate, Selene offers to take Rand up to her family’s cabin in the mountains while her inn is being rebuilt. He resists, but eventually agrees to come with her.
Alanna, Ihvon (Emmanuel Imani), Maksim (Taylor Napier) and Lan stay with Alanna’s family on their way to Tar Valon. Alanna tells Lan that Nynaeve is going to test for Accepted, and suggests Lan might want to be her Warder one day. She also tells Lan that something happened to Moiraine, about two years before Lan met her, that changed her into the cold, determined person he knows.
Moiraine goes to see Logain. She offers him the one thing he wants, the ability to kill himself, in exchange for Logain teaching Rand everything.
Egwene confides in Elayne about the distance between herself and Nynaeve. She wants to be able to support Nynaeve the way she has always supported Egwene. Egwene feels lost in the Tower.
Liandrin receives a report about an attack in the west and interrogates Leane as to what is being done about it. Leane isn’t forthcoming.
Perrin and Elyas run with a wolf pack. Elyas explains that they are both wolfbrothers, and that the wolves communicate by sending visions to each other. Perrin has been sending images to them in his dreams ever since the Trolloc attack on the Two Rivers.
Lan confides in Maksim about Moiraine masking their bond. Maksim tells him that Alanna keeps his own bond with her bond masked except in battle, and in bed. He explains that no two Warder/Aes Sedai relationships are exactly the same.
In a tavern, Min pays an innkeeper to get Mat drunk. She tells the innkeeper that she is waiting for a messenger.
Nynaeve admits to Liandrin that she lost a daughter in the arches, and Liandrin tells Nynaeve her secret to surviving the pain of being as an Aes Sedai. She also tells Nynaeve about the invasion in the west, and that an Ogier and a blacksmith from the Two Rivers were among those captured.
Moiraine finds Anvaere is waiting for her in her room. She tells Moiraine that she alone has rebuilt their house after their uncle disgraced the family name, work that Moiraine abandoned when she became Aes Sedai. If Moiraine wants to know where the boy she is looking for went, she must sit down and ask Anvaere very nicely over tea.
Nynaeve comes to tell Egwene that she is leaving to go help Perrin. She is surprised that Egwene wants to come, and Egwene explains that her dedication to becoming an Aes Sedai is because she wishes she had been ready to help Rand at the Eye of the World. They take the secret exit out of Tar Valon, only to discover that Elayne has followed them. Liandrin emerges from the shadows and channels to knock the girls unconscious.
Min dreams of being forced to tell the fortunes of people who are going to die horrible deaths. The dream changes and she is facing Ishamael. When she discovers who Liandrin has arranged for her to meet, she says she will not help the Forsaken. Ishamael tells her that he is the only one who can lift the curse that is her visions, and instructs Min to take Matt to Cairhien.
In the mountains, Rand is attacked by a Myrddraal and channels to kill it. Rand promises to leave Selene, telling her that men who can channel always go mad and kill the ones they love first. Realizing he loves her, Selene asks him to stay.
Maksim discovers the poem hidden in Lan’s saddlebags and shows it to Alanna and Ihvon. They realize that the Forsaken Lanfear has been set free into the world.
In the cabin, Selene ties Rand to the bed, then tells him that she is a monster too. She begins to shimmer, then is suddenly run through by Moiraine, wielding Rand’s sword. Moiraine frees Rand and he attacks her with the One Power, but she convinces him that the woman is really Lanfear, the Forsaken, who cannot be killed. They flee as Selene’s body begins to stir.
I’m continually astonished by how much each episode of The Wheel of Time manages to pack in without making the show feel really rushed. There is an almost leisurely pace to episode four, until the end when the action starts to pick up. As a viewer, I’m starting to feel a little more settled in the world—the contrast between Alanna and her family and Moiraine and hers was particularly helpful in that, as is the fact that we’ve gotten to see a little bit more of life in the White Tower. We also have learned more about what it means to be a Warder, what it means to be an Aes Sedai, and a little about how everyone outside those the White Tower sees them.
This is particularly significant in the case of Moiraine and Liandrin. Both are shown to be grappling with the fact that Aes Sedai age less rapidly than ordinary humans—Liandrin’s son is an old man, and Moiraine’s little sister now appears to be her elder. Liandrin admits to Nynaeve that she kept her son in Tar Valon because she needed to hold on to the one thing that truly belonged to her. Meanwhile, Moiraine returns to her family home and is confronted with everything that she left behind when she became Aes Sedai—and the fact that those things have in many ways left her behind, as well. Her old room is dusty and faded, the sister who once idolized her no longer seeks her approval, and the connections and spies she had in her home city now belong to someone else.
Just as Maksim points out to Lan that no two Warder bonds are the same, so we see three different Aes Sedai handle their relationship to their families differently. Alanna seems to have a very healthy relationship with her extended family and clearly visits fairly regularly—they even know her well enough to tease her about her love life. Moiraine, on the other hand, cut her family off entirely. And Liandrin kept her son a secret, possessive over him to the point where it appears he has no one else in his life.
This theme of change and loss also extends to Selene, now revealed to be the Forsaken Lanfear and a channeler herself. She speaks often to Rand of a man she once loved, someone for whom she tried to change herself, to be only what he wanted her to be. She implies that she lost him when he eventually saw the rest of who she really was, which is a different kind of being left behind, but one that still fits very well thematically.
There is also an interesting parallel between Rand’s relationship to Selene and the relationship Nynaeve has with Liandrin. In each case, the older woman is winning the younger person’s trust, as well as subtly manipulating them by sharing vulnerable truths about herself. Selene tells Rand stories about the man she used to love, relating to Rand’s loneliness. She takes him up to a cabin in the mountains that reminds Rand of his own home, that makes him feel like she values the same things that he does. She knows he is running from the world and himself, and shares stories about times she did the same. When he embraces that aspect of himself by channeling against the Myrddraal, she attempts to reveal more of herself in turn.
Liandrin, on the other hand, connects with Nynaeve’s desire to be treated as an equal by those around her. She earns Nynaeve’s trust by sharing her own feelings of doubt, her own struggle with what being an Aes Sedai means. She was furious at Nynaeve for discovering the secret about her son, but quite willing to bring him up in their very next conversation, when she realized that this is something else that she can use to show that she understands and relates to Nynaeve. But it is also notable that there are some vulnerabilities, some truths, that she is unwilling to share—she talks about her son, but then deflects Nynaeve’s question about that impending loss by bringing up the information about Perrin’s capture.
Several times, both Liandrin and Moiraine make a point that Aes Sedai cannot lie, and therefore their respective listeners must know they are speaking the truth. In the books, the question is often raised by non-Aes Sedai as to whether the truth an Aes Sedai speaks is the same as the one you hear, as Aes Sedai are well known to be skilled at stating things in a way that encourages certain interpretations over others. The show has made less of a big deal of this, though it is mentioned to Rand by Tam in the beginning of Season One. Now, however, two Aes Sedai themselves are choosing to bring the matter up, to draw their listeners’ attention to it. A theme of deception within truth, and truth within deception, has begun to take center stage in the narrative
Now that Selene is revealed to be the Forsaken Lanfear, and Liandrin is revealed to be an ally of Ishamael, the viewer is asked to ponder the question of how much truth was really in their lies. Even if every word Liandrin said to Nynaeve was true, she clearly had other designs on her than she let on, and she was perfectly willing to manipulate Nynaeve at every turn. Lanfear could have made up every word she said to Rand, but her explanation that she was choosing him as a new lover because she lost the previous one fits with the poem that foretells her return. “Her new lover she seeks, who shall serve her and die, yet serve still.” She may have been deliberately telling him many true things, spinning them to get the reaction she wants from him. Both Lanfear and Liandrin might even believe the things they are saying to themselves, may not see these deceptions as lies at all.
And it is not just the villains whose truthfulness is being called into questions. We knew at the end of Episode Three that Min was working for Liandrin and deceiving Mat, but we had no idea what she was going to do with him, or what her motives were. She does not seem to have known that Liandrin was in league with Ishamael, and her immediate instinct was to reject him, so she is not a villain in that sense. However, episode four has left her with some important questions. How far is she willing to go, now that she knows who she is working for? What does she believe the consequences to Mat will be? “Bring him to Cairhien” doesn’t exactly sound menacing, until you know who’s giving the orders—she could easily lie to herself, pretend that she isn’t really doing anything that bad.
Even Aes Sedai can lie to themselves, as Liandrin points out to Nynaeve.
Lan’s continued pondering over his relationship to Moiraine and his understanding of her motives and desires also invites the viewer to wonder with him; we know more than he does about what she is up to now, but very little of her thoughts are exposed to us. We are afforded little glimpses and see the way she hesitates outside Anvaere’s room, the way she sometimes physically reaches for the One Power only to find nothing, but that’s it. Like Lan, we feel cut off from her in a way that we didn’t in Season One.
This part of Perrin’s journey is building very slowly, though as a book fan I was delighted by Hopper’s arrival into the narrative. The show does a good job tweaking the wolfbrother experience for a visual narrative. In the book the communications between wolves are long paragraphs of impressions and interpretations Perrin receives from the wolves, and I liked the idea of having those impressions be sent via visions. It’s an efficient way to get the communication across, and also ties Perrin’s abilities into a vocabulary that includes Min’s, which helps streamline the world building for a television format.
I greatly enjoyed “Daughter of the Night,” and I liked how well it set us up for the action that is clearly coming in the next few episodes. But although I’m mostly impressed by how much material the show is managing to get through, there are still some important details and plot-significant lines that tend to get swallowed up. In part this is because of the general downgrade in sound quality and mixing that plagues media these days, but I also do think that it is also because the show is trying to get so very much done in such a short period of time.
In particular, I noticed that it seemed very unclear whether or not Lan could read or understand the poem he found in Moiraine’s saddlebags. Alanna mentions that it is in the Old Tongue, which she and Ihvon can clearly read, and it seems like Maksim can too, since he immediately grasped the fact that it was about Lanfear. But Alanna also says that Lan must not know who it’s about.
It’s a little unclear if Alanna is deducing that Lan doesn’t know who the poem is about or that she is saying that it’s important that he doesn’t find out, but presumably she worries Lan’s willingness to let Moiraine be without him would be affected by knowing that she might soon be tangling with Lanfear. It’s also unclear if Alanna believes that Lan doesn’t know the poem is about Lanfear because he can’t read the Old Tongue or because he might not understand the riddle of it.
The viewer might be wondering why Lan, who is a (former) Warder to an Aes Sedai, would not be able to read or understand something that Maksim, Alanna, and Ihvon all recognize instantly? Book fans might be extra perplexed since this detail differs from the original story, but even someone new to the series would probably find this state of affairs a little confusing.
On the other hand, this episode does seem to indicate that Lan’s relationship to being a Warder, to the Tower, and to Aes Sedai is somewhat different from standard. The advice he receives, and the questions he asks, seem to indicate that he has little knowledge of how the bond works for other Warders and Aes Sedai, while Ihvon and Maksim seem more experienced even outside their own little trio. Ihvon is surprised that Lan would want to think of himself as an equal to Moiraine. Maksim seems to have given a great deal of thought to how other Warders handle their connection to their Aes Sedai, and his own ability to cope with having the bond being masked.
There is a sense in Season Two that Lan has always been somewhat isolated from White Tower life in a way that your average Warder probably isn’t. His isolation is in the questions he asks of his friends, but also in the way he is framed by the cinematography, appearing somehow alone even when in a group—and being constantly followed by Ihvon or Maksim whenever he tries to take a moment alone. This isolation is juxtaposed with Moiraine’s scenes in her family home, the way she hesitates as though she might approach Anvaere, only to decide not to again and again until Anvaere finally traps her into conversation. We also learn from Alanna that something happened to Moiraine two years before she met Lan that changed her. Alanna doesn’t know what happened, but since Lan is one of the few people who knew Moiraine was searching for the Dragon Reborn in Season One, the viewer wonders if he has put those pieces together.
Just as the viewer wonders if he knows more about Moiraine’s plans and desires than he is letting on, perhaps even to himself.
Easter Eggs and Fun Moments:
- Perrin worrying that he was going to metamorphose into a wolf.
- Ihvon and Maksim’s little food fight in the background during lunch with Alanna’s family. Ihvon and Maksim in general, really.
- The visual juxtaposition of Lanfear rising after being freed from the Seal and her body language as she prepares to reveal herself to Rand was absolutely beautiful. The fact that she is covered in blood in both (the second time because of Moiraine’s attack) calls back to the lines of the poem.
- Twice now there has been a mention of an Aes Sedai named Cadsuane. The first was by Elayne when she met Egwene. She was then referenced again in this episode by Alanna, who compared Nynaeve’s speed in rising to Accepted to someone named Cadsuane Sedai. Book fans recognize the name, of course, and we are left wondering if this is just a fun easter egg, or if Cadsuane will eventually show up in the series.
- Favorite Quote: “The Three Oaths bind us to speak the truth to others, not ourselves.” Honestly, Fleetwood’s performance as Liandrin is just incredible. She packs so much nuance into every facial expression, ever word and tone. I’m on the edge of my seat whenever she is on screen.
- Runner up: “I can see why they don’t let you teach novices.”
In addition to the show reviews, Sylas K Barret runs a weekly read of The Wheel of Time here on Tor.com!