In previous reviews, I have often noted my bewilderment at the creative liberties taken by the writers behind Amazon’s The Wheel of Time. Some changes felt wildly unnecessary, and I wondered how all these deviations and digressions would ever come together in a satisfying way. But the penultimate episode of the second season proves that the show can deliver on the promises it makes.
“Daes Dae’Mar” opens with a compelling flashback that shows a younger Moiraine and Siuan Sanche in the White Tower. A twenty-year war has just ended, and they are in love and blissfully unaware of what the future has in store for them. In the present, their relationship is now fraught with unease and distrust, and the sharp contrast underlines the tragic nature of their lives. Siuan is furious because Moiraine failed to inform her that she had been cut off from the One Power and accuses her of failing to train and protect the Dragon Reborn. Now, Siuan wants to imprison Rand and bring him to the White Tower to train him until he can be used as a weapon in the Last Battle, but Moiraine believes that will endanger Rand. Moiraine and Siuan’s falling out is devastating—even more so than in the books, given their romantic connection—and poignantly highlights the sacrifices these women have made in the war.
In fact, all the characters have to make sacrifices as they are torn between fulfilling their duty or following their desires, often at the cost of valued friendships. It is so important, then, that the show spends enough time establishing various relationships and making us believe in them. This episode certainly delivers on this end. The bond between Moiraine and Lan feels more profound and real than ever, Nynaeve and Elayne are learning to trust and respect each other, and we even get a sweet, though short-lived, reunion between Nyaneve and Loial, who have not seen each other since the last season.
But most touching are the interactions between Rand and Lan. At one point, Rand instinctively reaches for his sword and steps into a position taught to him by Lan (roughly adapted from a fan-favourite scene from The Great Hunt). Not only does this moment help establish the dynamics of their relationship, but it also effectively shows how Rand is growing and how much he needs his friends and mentors to prepare him for what is to come.
So far this season, Lan has been one of the least interesting characters, not because of faults in Daniel Henney’s performance (on the contrary, he is Lan in every respect), but because his storyline has been confusing, as I noted last week. The conflict between Lan and Moiraine was painful to watch, not least because it dragged on for so long. However, I can now (partly) forgive the writers for this because it led to a surprisingly compelling moment between Moiraine, Lan, and Rand in this episode, where we see Rand coming into his own and Moiraine learning to trust her companions.
Indeed, this episode proves that some of the deviations from the book, while not necessary, can ultimately prove effective. I wish it had not taken seven episodes to get to this point, but I will not complain. And even if the episode was not as riveting and poignant as the last one, it still delivers a satisfying balance between faithfulness to the source material and new, surprising twists to keep us on the edge of our seats. Even as a long-time fan of the books who knows the outcome of the story, I was still shocked by some of the revelations because they are delivered in unexpected ways. We even get interesting worldbuilding details, including Logain’s ability to see weaves and some intriguing Aiel customs.
The story remains frustratingly split between different characters in different locations, and some minor storylines feel clunky and rushed. However, by the end of the episode, we get a sense of how everything will—or, at least, should—be coming together in the finale. Despite an unstable foundation, The Wheel of Time is really coming into its own this season, and the last few episodes have demonstrated that it has real potential to succeed, especially when it gives its stellar actors time to shine.