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Death and how we deal with it has already been prime fodder for stories. Grief takes many forms: anger, sadness, despair, just to name a few examples. In the latest episode of Amazon’s The Wheel of Time, titled “Blood Calls Blood”, we as the audience are given a chance to catch our breath after the events of the last episode and see the repercussions of the tragic ending.
Spoilers ahead, obviously, so don’t read this if you haven’t watched the episode.
The episode begins with a funeral procession for those lost in the battle with the False Dragon’s army. Logain Ablar has been “gentled”, meaning his connection to the One Power and magic has been completely severed. But in the process, one of the senior members of the Green Ajah (a faction within the Aes Sedai) named Kerene was killed. Kerene’s warder, Stepin, carries the lifeless body of his charge to her grave. The snowy field is ringed with numerous bodies of those that are lost. We see Stepin’s grief over losing Kerene thorough the eyes of Lan Mandragoran and Moiraine Damodred. As it’s been established at this point, Warders and their Aes Sedai are bonded on a deeply emotional level. Sometimes, this leads to a romantic or sexual relationship. More often than not, in the case of Lan and Moiraine or Stepin and Kerene, it has led to a platonic but still strongly intimate relationship. The bond allows the Warder and his Aes Sedai to share emotional states. As we learn later on, Stepin’s only remaining tie to Kerene is the pain she felt as she was struck down by Loghain.
When we next see everyone, there’s be a time jump of one month. The Aes Sedai retinue have arrived at Tar’Valon, home to the White Tower of the Aes Sedai. The characters begin converging on this site, as Rand al’Thor and Mat Cauthon arrive soon after Lan, Moiraine, and Nynaeve. Soon enough, Perrin and Egwene arrive with the Tuatha’an caravan, only to encounter the White Cloaks, led by Eamon Valda (who we saw introduced in the second episode of the series). The characters are converging on the White Tower but this episode does not bring them all together.
One of the new characters introduced is Loial, an Ogier (played with pleasantness and aplomb by Hammed Animashaun). Ogier are the closest thing Jordan has to the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, in so much as Ogier are long-lived giants who have a propensity from verbosity. When Rand first comes across Loial, he is immediately hostile, which tickles Loial quite a bit. I found Loial to be a wonderful addition to the cast, bringing someone who is genuinely heart-felt and curious about the world around him. Loial takes an immediate liking to Rand, pointing out that Rand’s physical appearance does not match with someone who was born and raised in Two Rivers. This is our first hint that Rand is far more than meets the eye.
A good portion of the episode focused on Egwene and Perrin after they are captured by the White Cloaks and brought before Questioner Eamon Valdas. Valdas is the best kind of antagonist, because he is so certain in his beliefs that he thinks he’s the hero of his own story. Valdas recognizes Perrin and Egwene from their earlier meeting in episode two, which leads to a violent confrontation with the Tuatha’an (which I enjoyed mainly because we get to see how strident they hold to their beliefs in non-violence). Perrin and Egwene get to experience first-hand the depths of Valdas’ villainy, as he slowly cuts into Perrin’s back, trying to prompt Egwene to channel the One Power. We also learn the root of Valdas’ hatred of the Aes Sedai. He believes that the One Power is a corrupting force and that anyone who wields it must be in league with the Dark One. This single-minded zealotry is disturbing because it feels incredibly real. We also get poignant scene between Egwene and Perrin where Perrin finally admits to killing his wife Laila by accident back in the first episode. You can see it in Maeleine Madden’s face that her heart breaks for Perrin. The best moment, though, is when Egwene frees Perrin from his bonds and Perrin summons the wolves to attack the White Cloaks. Up to this point, there’s been an unknown connection between Perrin and wolves. Here, we get to see that he is able to command them, possibly by channeling some of the One Power to do so.
The bulk of the episode is spent in the White Tower. We get to see the politics of the Aes Sedai, primarily between Moiraine and Liandrin, who have their own designs on what should become of Nynaeve. Liandrin is definitely becoming a character I dislike immensely. It’s stated multiple times (which doesn’t get disputed) that Liandrin is a misandrist, believing strongly that men should not wield any power, let alone the One Power. When the Dragon Reborn does get revealed, I have a strong feeling that Liandrin is going to be one of the loudest voices claiming the right to “gentle” the Dragon rather than support him or her.
The ending of the episode is heartbreaking for a number of reasons. Throughout the episode, we see Stepin falling further and further into depression over the loss of Kerene. Lan and the other Warders we meet do their best to comfort their comrade but it is not avail. When Lan ends up being drugged and finds Stepin has taken his own life, we see everything on Daniel Henney’s face. Lan, as a character, is someone who bottles their emotions in, rarely letting anyone see his pain. The funeral scene for Stepin was an interesting visual moment but even more impactful was the idea of a designated mourner (in this case, Lan) who expresses the grief that everyone in the room is feeling. Unable to fall back on his stoicism, Lan unleashes his grief in several primal screams, with Moiraine watching on in tears as she feels every bit of the pain and anguish of her Warder. It’s a powerful moment that I can’t say enough good things about.
Five episodes down and we’re nearing the end of the first season for The Wheel of Time. After the hectic pace of the last couple of episodes, a breather was in order. The pieces are slowly being moved in to place to reveal who the Dragon Reborn is and what potential obstacles will be in the way for that person. I’m intrigued to see what unfurls over the last three episodes of the season.