Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!
The seventh episode of The Wheel of Time suffers from an awkward start but propels the show into greatness. Much like the first three episodes of the season, “The Dark Along the Ways” covers a lot of ground, both in terms of character growth and literal distance as the characters travel through the Ways and out into new territory. However, unlike the show’s disjointed opening, this week’s episode balances intense action sequences, subtle horror, and poignant revelations into one of the most impactful episodes of the series so far.
The opening sequence reveals an Aiel warrior running through a snowy mountain landscape. The Aiel are a race of people who occupy a desert land known as the Aiel Waste. They are known across the continent as fierce warriors, which is demonstrated through a killer fight sequence between a pregnant Aiel woman and three soldiers. The scene is awe-inspiring and heartbreaking, promising that the Aiel will be as fierce and fascinating as they are in the books.
From there, the episode returns to our main protagonists who have just entered the Ways. Throughout the season, Moiraine has continually stressed the importance of keeping a close watch on all five of the villagers from Emond’s Field as any one of them could be the Dragon Reborn. Yet, at the end of the last episode, Mat did not follow the others into the Ways and the gates were shut before the group could force him to follow them. Everyone wonders how they will get back to him, except Moiraine.
It’s important to note that Barney Harris, the actor who portrays Mat, left the show for unknown reasons just before they were set to film the sequence in the Ways. The writers were forced to rewrite the scene to make Harris’ departure from the show fit in the story, but the editing is incredibly choppy. Of course, the crew can’t be blamed for this. Nevertheless, the scene still felt incredibly disappointing, even if Moiraine gives an explanation to Lan for why she is not bothered by Mat’s departure.
Barney Harris has been one of my favourite actors on the show, so I was devastated and worried about what the rest of the show could look like without him. However, as much as I missed his performance, episode 7 quickly became one of my favourite episodes. We get introduced to Min (Kae Alexander), a fan-favourite from the books who has the ability to see hints of the future in people’s auras. We also learn more about Lan’s past before he warded Moiraine and see him interact with his family in a beautifully emotional scene. My favourite parts of the episode were all the scenes between Nynaeve and Lan. Their chemistry has been incredible since the beginning, but here it is almost palpable as their relationship reaches a new level. I’m sure I’m not the only book fan who was squealing as I watched them.
Another love story was explored in this episode, but I despised it. Love triangles are so overdone and boring that I’m flabbergasted the writers included one, especially since it was not in the books. Hints were dropped about it in previous episodes, but I tried to convince myself that I was imagining it. Sadly, I wasn’t. Granted, the show needed to introduce conflict between the remaining members of the Emond’s Field 5, but it could have been done in so many other ways. I sincerely hope they drop this storyline in future episodes because it was a disgrace to Robert Jordan’s much more complex and believable relationships.
The episode regains its strength with the revelation of the Dragon Reborn’s identity. I hoped the Dragon Reborn would be given more screen time in this episode, but the revelation was still poignant enough that it worked. We get heartbreaking flashbacks about this character’s journey so far that suggest how much they have been suppressing since leaving Emond’s Field. I really enjoyed how the show essentially summarized the character’s entire arc so far and revealed his inner conflict with zero dialogue.
Overall, despite its major flaws, this week’s episode tugged at my heartstrings every chance it got and managed to expand my expectations for the future of the show. The balance achieved between small, but poignant character moments and spectacular manifestations of horror and magic epitomizes the essence of The Wheel of Time. The season finale will have to do a lot of work to give us a satisfying ending that makes sense of all the book changes, but I have high hopes for it.
What did you think of the eighth episode of The Wheel of Time? And keep your eyes open for weekly reviews of future episodes!