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The most common trope in Fantasy literature is the Chosen One, the being who will defeat the great evil and bring about a peaceful world. From Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter, this trope is as ubiquitous to the genre as magic is. The Wheel of Time is no different, with one exception: the idea that there are false Chosen Ones. The fourth episode of Amazon’s The Wheel of Time series, titled “The Dragon Reborn” examines one of these false Chosen Ones and how that can affect the characters when it is encountered.
Spoilers ahead, obviously, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
As part of the lore in The Wheel of Time, the Dark One tainted the One Power so that any man attempting to wield it goes irrevocably insane. The Aes Sedai have a method for dealing with men who attempt to channel the One Power, a practice known as “gentling”, which cuts off the man from the One Power totally. From the description provided in this episode, it is essentially like cutting off a limb but on a spiritual and psychological level. It can be surmised that men who undergo the “gentling” do not live long afterward, most likely taking their own lives rather than live without their connection to the One Power.
This episode begins with a flashback to the sacking of the capitol of Ghealdan. A male channeler named Logain Ablar has laid siege to the castle, claiming that he is the Dragon Reborn. At this point in the series, it is not known who among the Two Rivers group is the Dragon Reborn, so we know Logain is not the Dragon. With that being said, he is a powerful channeler but also a persuasive man, evidenced by his converting of the King of Ghealdan to his side. The show’s use of a false Chosen One is a nice touch, from a storytelling perspective, particularly at this point in the show’s story. With the majority of the group twisting down their own paths, we’re given time to see just how devastating the One Power can be in the hands of a man. Logain’s use of the One Power causes him to hear voices, which harkens back to the initial scene in the opening episode of a male channeler who thought he was running away from the Aes Sedai. This also allows the show’s writers to set the stage of what could potentially happen when the Dragon Reborn is finally announced. It’s possible that the intended savior of the world could very well turn out to be its destroyer as well.
We get to spend more time with Perrin and Egwene as they travel with the Tuatha’an as they make their way across the Plains. Perrin is mistrustful of the travelers but this is more due to the lingering guilt he carries over the death of his wife at his hands back in the first episode. I’m not sure how that will play out for Perrin as time goes on but it’s clear the writers have something in mind for him. Egwene, on the other hand, is far more accepting of the Tuatha’an. It’s revealed fully in this episode that the Tuatha’an follow the Way of the Leaf, a philosophy of non-violence up to and including defending themselves. They carry no weapons and when confronted with violence, they choose to instead run away or succumb, feeling that those lost will be returned by the Wheel in due time. Much like the Amish custom of Rumspringa, the Tuatha’an send out their children when they reach the age of twenty, allowing their children to experience the world before deciding if life in the caravan is right for them. Most return to the troupe but not all, with some even being rumored to take up fighting during their time away.
In many ways, the Tuatha’an are an idyllic group within what is increasingly shown to be a violent and chaotic world. This is made most apparent when Ila, one of the women who befriend Perrin and Egwene, explains to Egwene why she believes in the Way of the Leaf. Ila lost her only daughter to bandits. The thirst for vengeance over a slain child is an understandable emotion, one that I think would be justified given the circumstances. Instead, Ila feels that peace is the best revenge against violence. Ila’s hope is that when the time comes for her daughter to be reborn by the Wheel, the world will be a much more peaceful place. It’s a commendable idea and one that would be more practical if the world wasn’t going to hell in a handbasket.
Mat, Rand, and Thom find themselves at a farm while travelling. Hoping to sneak in and use the barn to sleep during the night, they are confronted by the farmer and his family. Mat reaches for the ruby-encrusted dagger he found in Shadar Logoth. As the episode goes on, it becomes rapidly apparent that the dagger is tainted by whatever evil befell the city and it is exerted an influence on Mat, causing him to become sick and prone to irritable outbursts. Thom, as a gleeman or traveling troubadour, is well-aware of what it looks like when the madness of the One Power begins to manifest. It is from Thom we learn what happens when a man is “gentled”, a fate that was visited upon his nephew Owyn. Losing access to the One Power caused Owyn to slit his own throat, a fate which Thom feels is potentially what will happen to Mat as time goes on. Later that night, Rand and Thom find Mat standing in the farmer’s homestead, all the members of household dead, and the black ichor they encountered in Shadar Logoth slithering back in to Mat’s mouth. It’s unclear if Mat was the cause of the family’s death but before he can be questioned, a Fade attacks the group.
The main storyline of the episode, though, is the False Dragon, Logain Ablar. We get to see more of the Aes Sedai in this episode, including the different factions within that organization. The Red Ajah, led by Liandrin Guirale (who was first seen in the first episode of the series) are tasked with rooting out anyone who misuses the One Power, which includes both male channelers and other Aes Sedai. The Green Ajah, who are led by Kerene Nagashi and Alanna Mosvani, are the warrior branch of the Aes Sedai, taking up arms to fight against the enemies of the White Tower in preparation for the Last Battle (the final conflict with the Dark One). Lastly, there are the Blue Ajah, of which Moiraine is a member, who are often treated as little better than spies but are in fact, the strongest proponents for justice and righteousness among the Aes Sedai.
We get to spend a great deal of time with the both the Sisters of the Aes Sedai and their Warders. Through Nynaeve’s presence, we get to see the dividing lines between the factions of the Aes Sedai and how the Warders feel about their charges. The bond between a Warder and their Aes Sedai is greater than lovers or parents and their children. This is most closely seen in the intimacy shown between Lan and Moiraine but also between Stepin and Kerene. We also learn that there is a leader of the Aes Sedai, the Amyrlin Seat, which governs from the White Tower. The Sisters of the Aes Sedai are enroute to the White Tower to try Logain for his abuses of the One Power.
When Logain’s army arrives, Logain is able to break free of the binding, which results in the death of Kerene and nearly the deaths of several characters, including Lan and Moiraine. I had suspected that Nynaeve would be capable of wielding the One Power since her reintroduction at the end of episode two but to see it on full display as she heals some of those injured in the attack from Logain, she is going to be a far more prominent character moving forward. In retaliation for the death of Kerene, Liandrin “gentles” Logain, stripping him of his connection to the One Power. Liandrin is an interesting character, mainly because of her single-mindedness when it comes to male channelers. It’s not a stretch to say that when the Dragon Reborn does make their presence known, Liandrin will not be one of the supporters of that individual.
Continuing where the previous episodes left off, “The Dragon Reborn” takes us in some interesting directions. The revelation that Nynaeve is a channeler and a powerful one at that is a welcome development. I enjoyed getting to understand the Aes Sedai and Warders to a greater degree in this episode. The culture surrounding these powerful women is deeply intriguing and I’m hoping the showrunners continue to delve into what it means for women to hold this kind of power in a world as violently chaotic as this one. The revelation that Mat is being consumed by whatever darkness befell the city of Shadar Logoth is another development I’m interested in seeing the conclusion of. Whether Mat was cognizant of his actions or he simply stumbled upon the Fade after it killed the farmer and his family is going to be an interesting kink in his character development. The question of who is the Dragon Reborn remains the largest mystery yet unexplained in the series. I already know, having learned quite a bit about the story from my younger brother, but I won’t spoil it here for anyone who hasn’t read the book series. Suffice it to say, I’m hooked on Amazon’s The Wheel of Time and look forward to the next episode.