The season two finale of The Wheel of Time is absolutely epic. Weaving together numerous plotlines amid a massive battle, “What Was Meant To Be” is the biggest and bloodiest episode yet, but it is so much more than that. Though some of the twists and revelations do not always live up to their potential, the episode nevertheless made me smile, laugh, and even cry, and that is all thanks to our captivating protagonists, who are finally coming into their own.
The episode centers around a battle at the coastal city of Falme, which Seanchan invaders have occupied for the whole season. Prophecies state that the Dragon Reborn will declare himself in Falme; it is one of the most iconic scenes in The Wheel of Time books, and the whole season has been building to this moment. I could list many elements from the episode that bother me because they stray from the source material, such as the confrontation between Rand and Ishamael, but it is just so thrilling to see this part of the story on screen that I can set aside my grievances.
Unlike the season one finale, which glossed over key character moments in favour of an underwhelming battle, this sprawling and action-packed finale maintains its focus where it should be: on the protagonists. The Battle of Falme is a crucial moment for our heroes, and the episode gives each of them time to shine. As the battle rages, Nynaeve and Elayne set off to rescue Egwene, who, as a damane, is fighting alongside the rest of the Seanchan army. Perrin is a force to be reckoned with as he helps protect the Horn of Valere while Egwene gets her sweet revenge over her sul’dam before standing up to one of the Forsaken to protect her friends—an all the more incredible feat given that she is still only a novice. It is also worth noting that the action takes place in broad daylight, so we can actually see all the intricately choreographed fight sequences and the mind-blowing special effects when Rand, Egwene, and Moraine channel. This is in stark contrast to the season one finale, which presented a nighttime battle riddled with special effects reminiscent of a cheap video game. Hopefully, other fantasy shows will learn from this one.
Rand’s confrontation with Ishamael is slightly undermined because—rather than facing his enemy alone as he does in the book—he needs his friends’ help. However, earlier in the episode, he executes a band of soldiers using the One Power with a mere tilt of his head—a truly thrilling moment that had me jumping in my seat (though I also had to cover my eyes because of the soldiers’ gruesome injuries). The fact that Rand can channel with just a flick of his hand is also a testament to his power; Moiraine, in contrast, makes many hand movements when channelling, and the weaves take a while to form. Rand’s power, then, brings him closer to Lanfear and other Forsaken, who also channel with much more ease than the Aes Sedai. These subtle details add so much depth to the show and cleverly establish the breadth of knowledge that has been lost during this Age.
I have to take a moment to say more about Lanfear, as I have sorely neglected her in previous reviews. Lanfear—or Selene as she was known in earlier episodes—is a standout of the season and one of the most faithful depictions. She is powerful, unpredictable, and seductive (seriously, what is it about villains?), and although she is a ruthless murderer, I actually found myself cheering for her more than once. Maybe it is simply because I loved seeing her manipulate Ishamael and demonstrate that she is just as threatening as he is, or perhaps it is simply because of the alluring way Natasha O’Keeffe would flick her fingers to channel.
Unfortunately, this episode is not without its faults. Since the beginning of season one, the show has struggled with the immense breadth of material to be covered. Sometimes condensing storylines works, and sometimes it does not, and it becomes startlingly apparent in the finale why five minutes on screen is not enough to capture some arcs that took up hundreds of pages in the books. Take, for example, the Horn of Valere. The importance of the Horn—which has the power to summon the great heroes of the past—cannot be understated, but the show devotes so little time to it that it is unclear why it is so valuable and everyone is hunting it, to the detriment of the finale.
Mat blowing the Horn is one of the most important events in The Great Hunt, and it is a moment that fundamentally changes his character. In the show… it is very underwhelming. I did still enjoy the blowing of the Horn and the appearance of the legendary heroes because it is one of the scenes I was most excited about seeing on screen, but it could have been so much more impactful, and I could not help but wonder how someone unfamiliar with the books would respond to these scenes. And speaking of the Horn—last I heard, it was in the hands of the Seanchan, and Loial was their prisoner, but in the finale, Loial, along with a few others, has somehow escaped the Seanchan and stolen the Horn. Offscreen.
I still do not understand how that happened.
Despite its flaws, this episode reminded me of why I love The Wheel of Time, and it illustrates how much potential the show has. Season two faced many of the same issues as season one by not spending enough time on exposition, thus undermining the dramatic and emotional impact of later scenes. Eight episodes is insufficient to adapt any installment of Robert Jordan’s series. Still, in the second half of the season, the show began to feel more balanced, and though it may not be the most faithful of adaptations, it remains a compelling story and cements its status as one of the greatest fantasy shows of recent years. I simply cannot wait for the next turn of the wheel.