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Even when the narrative of a television show is roaring along splendidly, sometimes the storytelling needs to take a breath. It needs to relax the intensity just a bit. That’s what The Wheel of Time 2×05 does. But don’t get me wrong. This episode still entertains by focusing on the plot and giving viewers plenty of intrigue to chew on.
The first season of The Wheel of Time was preoccupied with the question of who was the Dragon Reborn. No sooner was it revealed to be Rand (Josha Stradowski) then he was on his way to confront the Dark One. Or who he thought was the Dark One. This season, the audience has learned that the dramatic face-off at the end of season one actually set free Ishamael (Fares Fares), the Dark One’s most powerful second-in-command. Rand has been trying to control his magical abilities so they won’t drive him insane. But Ishamael has been working much harder to advance the Dark One’s agenda. Now his plan is starting to take shape.
The Wheel of Time 2×05 is a plot-centric episode that relies on well-developed intrigue and the addition of new faces for drama. This is a particularly rough time for our heroes, and this episode is an especially low point. But the viewer is still interested to watch for better things to come soon.
“I’ll remind you of it on the day you kneel to me.”
Rand dealt with the loneliness of hiding from his loved ones by becoming involved with Selene (Natasha O’Keeffe). For a brief moment, he even thought she was not scared of the possibility that he might go mad like all men with the ability to channel magic. But the poor guy was abruptly disillusioned at the end of the last episode when she began to show her own power and then Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) burst in and saved him. It was a harsh reality to face.
Moiraine didn’t kill Selene when she hurt her because Selene is really Lanfear, a Forsaken servant of the Dark One. One who can enter people’s dreams. (Isn’t that freaky and intrusive?) Just the fact that she was able to get so close to Rand for so long is worrying. It means Ishamael is wasting no time in releasing all the power at his disposal to make the Dark unbeatable. And so far, he’s succeeding. Moiraine is decidedly pessimistic about the way things are going for the Light right now.
The audience understands that pessimism. Ishamael has manipulated events on many fronts, and he has from the moment he was set free. He has joined forces with the invading Seanchan army. Together, they’re a formidable foe. Rand, Moiraine, and the others fighting against the Dark feel disorganized in comparison. It’s a bit frustrating waiting for them to really go on offense.
“Subtlety has never been your strong suit.”
One angle of Ishamael’s manipulation that has gone well so far is Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood). The antagonistic Aes Sedai always seemed untrustworthy. She enjoyed the violent parts of her duties in the Red Ajah too much. But in the last episode, she proved our worst instincts about her to be true. She took Nynaeve (Zoe Robins), Egwene (Madeleine Madden), and Elyane (Ceara Coveney) hostage.
My interest is piqued the most by who might make Liandrin answer for her current actions. And how that might happen. When the season began, Moiraine and her Warder Lan had taken refuge with another Aes Sedai, Verin (Meera Syal). She appears again in this episode, returning to Tar Valon after a long absence. She quickly suspects what’s going on. It will be satisfying when Liandrin faces the consequences of what she’s done, I just hope some of the characters we’ve come to care about are involved in that moment.
Speaking of them, our heroes have been mostly separated this season. Until now, that is. Rand and Moiraine are now back in the same place, and I have a feeling that the others will be heading in the same direction in upcoming episodes. I’m excited by that prospect. The Wheel of Time 2×05 feels like a necessary breath after the storytelling sprint that began the season and now I’m ready for the rest.
The Wheel of Time is streaming on Prime Video.