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It goes without saying that things can’t be positive and happy on a television series all the time. In fact, t.v. writers tend to relish the opposite most of the time. At least, it feels that way to me. And when the story is an epic, fantastical showdown between good and evil, well, that’s even more expected. The Wheel of Time 2×06 is an intense and downbeat episode that will have you wishing for a little more light in the darkness.
Season 2 of The Wheel of Time established a strong pace and quality to the storytelling from the beginning. Even the episodes with less intensity have still featured meaningful plotting. As the Dragon Reborn, Rand (Josha Stradowski) hid from his friends because he was so scared of the madness that usually comes to men who can channel magic. But Ishamael (Fares Fares) was not hiding. The Dark was advancing their plans. Rand has learned the hard way in the last couple of episodes that he must act in response to what is happening. Other characters have faced tough lessons as well.
Those lessons are far from over in The Wheel of Time 2×06. Most of our protagonists endure some of their lowest moments so far, and it’s a heaviness that needs to be lightened a bit. And soon. The audience needs it and the characters need it.
“There are many paths to walk through the night.”
Without a doubt, the center of this episode is Egwene’s (Madeleine Madden) imprisonment and torture by the Seanchan invaders. These people basically enslave channelers. They use special metal collars to control and connect these women, who they call damane. One of the Seanchan channelers now subjects Egwene to the ordeal of breaking her will.
This is a brutal process and at times it’s hard to watch. It is more than bodily torture. Though that is certainly part of it. It is a systematic demolition of her sense of self, mentally, emotionally, and physically. “You are not a person, you are a damane,” Egwene’s jailer tells her at one point. And that is the basis for the Seanchan treatment of their slaves. It is infuriating. I’m not a bloodthirsty person by nature but I will really enjoy seeing these people lose. (And perhaps Egwene’s jailer can be injured or die in battle. Sorry, not sorry.)
As much as it hurts your soul to watch what happens to Egwene, there is an element of frustration to the situation as well. The Aes Sedai have so much power as a unit that to see the imbalance between them and the Seanchan is not pleasant. Aren’t the darkest odds for our heroes supposed to occur closer to the Last Battle? Things look dimmer than ever right now. At the very least, saving Egwene seems impossible.
“We are not better off without you.”
Egwene’s trauma brings up timely questions about female agency that this show has already had simmering on the back burner. Women can touch the One Power without going mad so channelers should be the most powerful people. But the Seanchan have figured out a way to subjugate them. It’s frightening. Rand can relate to that, especially now while he’s facing Lanfear (Natasha O’Keeffe) in her true identity.
There is an interesting deep context to this interaction. Lanfear was in love with the original Dragon, who Rand is supposed to be the reincarnation of. While Rand knew her as Selene, she talked about a past love Rand was helping her remember. That was the Dragon. Now, she claims she’s been helping Rand by keeping Ishamael out of his dreams. She also shows him Egwene but that’s probably a ploy to get Rand to go where the Dark wants him to go.
The brightest part of this episode is the fact that Rand and Mat (Donal Finn) see each other again. We’ve wanted Rand reunited with his friends the whole season so this moment is one to treasure while we can. Mat has always been a character who tends to self-sabotage so when he doesn’t go with Rand to save Egwene like the Dark wants, it’s his attempt to do good. I hope that’s a hint that lighter times are on the way for these characters we care about after the heaviness of The Wheel of Time 2×06.
The Wheel of Time is streaming on Prime Video.