Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead!
“Blood Calls Blood,” the fifth episode of The Wheel of Time, finally sees our protagonists reaching Tar Valon, the city of the Aes Sedai stronghold. They have all suffered on their journey, but from Mat’s deteriorating health to a horrific torture scene with Perrin and Egwene, this episode makes it clear that their troubles are only beginning.
The first to arrive in Tar Valon are Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan. Moiraine attempts to keep Nynaeve away from the other Aes Sedai because, after her spectacular and surprising demonstration of power at the end of the last episode, Nynaeve is sure to become a figure of interest to the other Aes Sedai. Much of the episode is dedicated to how the Aes Sedai mourn the loss of their sister who died in the last episode at the hands of the False Dragon. Peter Franzin as Stepin—the warder of the deceased Aes Sedai—delivers an especially powerful and haunting performance. Lan and Moiraine are also deeply affected by this, and I enjoyed seeing their bond explored in greater depth.
It is also important to note that Moiraine has been absent from Tar Valon for two years, which makes her almost as much of an outsider as Nynaeve. Yet, that does not help the two women see eye to eye. The Tower is a site of complex politics, as Moiraine warns Nynaeve that each Aes Sedai “has her own goal, her own agenda, her own pride and ambition.” This only seems to fuel Nynaeve’s contempt for the Aes Sedai, evident in each of her expressions of simmering distaste.
Nynaeve is not the only one growing distrustful of Aes Sedai. Rand is now convinced that Mat can channel, and after learning about what happened to Logain, he fears that the same may happen to Mat. Both new and old fans will understand that, through these dynamics, higher-stake emotional conflicts are being set up. But for book fans especially, the foreshadowing is so subtle and chilling—I was holding my breath the whole time as Ran confessed to Nynaeve about his fears concerning Mat and channelling. Apart from the bonding between Lan and Nynaeve in the previous episodes, these hints about the characters’ futures are my favourite part of the show so far. Their anxieties about potentially being the Chosen One are incredibly relatable—especially seeing as they are barely out of their teens—and they will be even more poignant and heartbreaking on subsequent rewatches.
One of the most compelling performances of the episode comes from Madeleine Madden. While journeying with the Tinkers—a group of pacifist nomads—Egwene and Perrin are caught by the Whitecloaks, led by the same man we saw burning Aes Sedai in episode 2. Now that we know Egwene can channel, their appearance is truly frightening, and the interrogation scene that follows between Valda, a Whitecloak leader, and Egwene and Perrin is blood-curdling. Seriously, it is not for the faint of heart—I shuddered even as I shut my eyes because of Egwene’s screams. Marcus Rutherford’s performance as Perrin is also commendable. Again, to avoid spoilers, I cannot say much about that shocking moment when his eyes turned yellow as wolves attacked the Whitecloaks. Still, all book fans will relate to the unbelievable excitement I felt while watching this scene. If you haven’t read the books, don’t worry, we should start to understand what is happening with Perrin in the next few episodes.
I also need to discuss the production design. From the first scene of the series, I felt transported into Robert Jordan’s world. The mountains, sweeping plains, and quaint villages are exactly as I pictured them when reading the books. Even so, Tar Valon exceeds everything we saw in the previous episodes. With its grandness and white buildings, it immediately reminded me of Minas Tirith. As much as I love Tolkien’s White City, this rendering of Tar Valon feels so much more real and alive because of all the additional shots of its inhabitants and their daily activities.
One thing that left me conflicted was the physical appearance of the Ogier Loial, who we meet for the first time in this episode. Loial later becomes a close friend of Rand, but so far in the show, he is more comic relief than anything. Ever since I first read The Eye of the World, Loial has been one of my favourite characters. He is so endearing, especially because he is not human and thus often misunderstands human expressions and motivations despite being incredibly intelligent. Hammed Animashaun, who portrays him, does a fantastic job at bringing this character to life. However—and of course that is not the actor’s fault—he looks really odd. Ogiers are not human (what they are exactly is unsure). In the books, Loial is described as being 10 feet tall, with a broad face, pointy ears and a snout-like nose. He has all of that in the show, but his hair reminds me of Justin Timberlake’s noodle hair, and I don’t know if I want to laugh or cry because of this (probably a little bit of both).
Overall, however, “Blood Calls Blood” is a strong and captivating episode from start to finish. And though our protagonists have reached Tar Valon, many new roads open before them—all of which promise to be even more terrifying and uncertain than before.
What did you think of the fifth episode of The Wheel of Time? And keep your eyes open for weekly reviews of future episodes!