Episode six of the second season of The Wheel of Time is, without a doubt, the best episode so far. Between family conflicts, heart-warming reunions, and tense confrontations, “Eyes Without Pity” is a carefully balanced episode that leaves you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
It is great to see Nynaeve and Elayne’s relationship grow as they hide from the Seanchan in Falme with the Aes Sedai Ryma. Sadly, the show’s scattered storylines leave little time to flesh out these scenes, but there is still so much packed into them. We already knew how much Nynaeve loves her friends and how she would do anything for them, but seeing her stand up to an Aes Sedai and choose to remain in a dangerous city to save Egwene proved that once again. While Elayne’s motivations feel a little more trivial, she, too, has a lot of strength, and it is clear that she has a lot of respect for Nynaeve. A growing sense of danger builds throughout the scenes with Nynaeve, Elayne, and Ryma, until they are discovered by the Seanchan. A fight breaks out, and Ryma’s use of her healing knowledge to fight her enemies cleverly adds depth to her character and differentiates her from the other channelers.
All of the main characters are tested in the episode, and the show finally gives the actors enough time to explore different sides of their characters. Moiraine, in particular, struggles after needing to let Rand leave as part of their scheme to uncover Ishamael’s plans. Following another confrontation with her sister, we see a new, softer side to Moiraine in a touching moment with her nephew. Moiraine constantly shifts between a ‘good’ guy and a ‘bad’ guy—we want to cheer for her as much as we can dislike her and question her motives. That is part of what makes the character so fascinating and unsettling, and Rosamund Pike delivers that duality perfectly.
Another standout actor in this episode is Dónal Finn as Mat. With his charming smile and playfulness, he immediately makes us care for the character, but he can also convey so much pain, such as when Mat learns about Min’s vision and her betrayal. Mat suffers so much throughout the series, but he never loses his spirit, even in the darkest moments. Finn’s portrayal of that dichotomy exceeds expectations, and I can hardly wait to see what lies in store for Mat in the next episodes.
The books are at their best when the Emond’s Field Five are reunited, and Mat’s reunion with Rand is such a touching and heartfelt moment—something desperately needed given the hell the characters go through in the episode. Though we sadly do not see the two together for very long, it is clear how much they care for each other, which makes Rand’s conflict all the more impactful. He desperately wants to be with the people he loves, but he is convinced that he is a danger to them, as illustrated in a chilling nightmare sequence where we see Rand, covered in blood, weeping over his friends’ bodies. Both Lanfear and Ishamael use Rand’s fears to manipulate him, and their confrontations in the Dreamworld highlight his strength. Rand is young and inexperienced, and his fear is evident as he pleads with Lanfear to know where Egwene is being held captive, but he nevertheless has the courage to stand up to one of the Forsaken. Meanwhile, Lanfear is ruthless in her manipulation, but it is clear that she cares for Rand, and there is so much depth and nuance in every little glance and movement Natasha O’Keeffe makes.
All the performances in this episode are exceptional, but it is really Egwene who steals the show. In the last episode, Egwene was delivered to the Seanchan by Liandrin, but only now do we understand just how dangerous and twisted these invaders truly are. In short, the Seanchan enslave women who can channel. Channelers, whom they call ‘damane,’ are fitted to a collar and treated as weapons, subservient to their handler, called a ‘sul’dam.’ Egwene is physically and psychologically abused by her sul’dam, Renna. She cannot even pretend to acquiesce; every time she tries to remove her collar or merely thinks of harming Renna, the collar hurts her to the point where she can barely stand. She has to completely surrender to the sul’dam. But Egwene does not surrender easily, and for almost the entire episode, she is thrown around her cell, covered in blood, and her anguished screams are truly heartbreaking to hear. I often had to cover my eyes during these horrific scenes, but at the same time, I did not want to miss a single instant of Madeleine Madden’s incredible performance, which left me teary-eyed more than once. I could truly feel her pain, but impressively, even as Egwene crumbles, we can still see glimpses of her fiery spirit in Madden’s eyes.
The only weak strand of the episode is Lan’s storyline. It has been the weakest part of the season since the first episode, but now that we finally see where it was all leading to, it is more confusing than ever. And why would anyone suspect Lan of being a Darkfriend? It makes as much sense as Moiraine stabbing a Fade in the first episode (which is to say, none at all).
All in all, “Eye Without Pity” is a captivating—though, at times, difficult to watch—episode, offering a balance of heartfelt moments and tense, horrifying scenes. With only two episodes left, the show still has a lot of ground to cover, but given the significant improvements in the latest episodes, I remain hopeful that a satisfying conclusion is on the horizon.