Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!
After three promising but unbalanced episodes, The Wheel of Time has finally found its footing. The fourth episode, “The Dragon Reborn,” finally strikes a balance between action and compelling character moments, allowing for deeper immersion into the world and the magic system.
The group remains separated, so we are following three main plot lines. Egwene and Perrin make their way toward Tar Valon with the Tinkers—a nomadic people who live by a pacifist philosophy. Mat and Rand are now travelling with the gleeman Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume), whom they still do not trust entirely. Thom is a fan favourite, and it is a delight to see him portrayed so faithfully and stirringly. Meanwhile, Lan and Nynaeve reach the Aes Sedai camp, where they will find someone who can heal Moiraine.
Each of these plot lines focuses, in part, on a central question: Who is the Dragon Reborn? In the books, the Dragon is easily identifiable because Jordan focuses on their point of view. In the show, the prophesied hero’s identity is even more difficult to determine. Before leaving Emond’s Field, Moiraine claims that the Dragon Reborn could be Rand, Mat, Perrin, or Egwene. But now it is revealed that there are actually five, rather than four, potential candidates. Thom is convinced that Mat can channel (the ability to access the One Power), further underlining the possibility that he might be the Dragon. It is also confirmed that Nynaeve can channel, though the previous episodes have already hinted at this.
Then there is Logain (Álvaro Morte), the man who was captured by the Aes Sedai at the end of the last episode. Logain claims to be the Dragon Reborn, but the Aes Sedai believe he is only a False Dragon. Still, the opening sequence establishes that he is powerful, and through close-ups and hurried conversations between the Aes Sedai and their warders, it is clear that they are afraid of him. This is where the show proves it can do more than the flashy action sequences of the previous episodes. The conflict is much more subtle and complex, as each Aes Sedai responds to the threat in different ways, foreshadowing contention within the White Tower itself.
One Aes Sedai driving these slowly growing tensions is Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood). Book fans will immediately appreciate her ambivalent nature. One moment she seems to be developing into a fearful and unpredictable antagonist, and the next, she sympathizes with Moiraine’s concerns about the Dragon. Although the trollocs and the Fade make for terrifying antagonists, I always find it even more frightening when you cannot know who to trust—the show, like the books, delivers this perfectly.
Rosamund Pike’s performance only gets better. Moiraine shoulders a lot of emotional weight, which becomes all the more vivid as she struggles with her lack of knowledge about the Dragon’s identity. While much of these struggles and doubts are internal, she admits them in a touching scene with Lan and later in an even more poignant discussion as she confronts Logain in the episode’s climax. It is not easy to bring to life a distant and stoic character as Moiraine, but Pike does so with grace, adding subtle depth to the character in each of her expressions.
The true highlight of the episode is Zoë Robins’ Nynaeve and her interactions with Lan. Nynaeve and Lan are two of my favourite characters from the books, and I could not wait to see how their relationship develops on screen. Book fans will surely have noticed all the subtle details woven into each of their exchanges, but I must abstain from describing how much I loved them to avoid spoilers. Still, even those who have not read the books will appreciate the intimate and touching moment they share when they pray over their lost ones together.
The episode has many more stirring moments such as these, as when Rand attempts to comfort Mat by telling him that they will always be friends no matter what happens. Such moments are contrasted with moments of intense suspense and horror; I found myself jumping in surprise one instant and on the verge of tears the next. “The Dragon Reborn” is the strongest episode so far, and although there have been many book changes, some of which I am less enthusiastic about, the show is finally weaving a tale that captures the essence of the books.
What did you think of the first three episodes of The Wheel of Time? And keep your eyes open for weekly reviews of future episodes!