The Wheel of Time kicked off season one with a drop of three episodes. Already renewed for a season two, this adaptation of Robert Jordan’s novels kicks off with a killer season premiere (sorry to disagree James), and episode two – titled “Shadow’s Waiting” – follows suit. Surprised to say this Sony/Amazon production has caught me off guard with how good it has been so far.
While the first episode piqued people’s interest, the second manages to hold their interest as it explores the world. We get our first glimpse at the Whitecloaks, as they burn an Aes Sedai and take her channeling ring. Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and Lan (Daniel Henney) lead our group of would-be dragons Mat (Barney Harris), Egwene (Madeline Madden), Rand (Josha Stradowski), and Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) to the East Tower, Tar Valon. They make their way through the countryside, as Myrddraal and a pack of Trollocs hunt for them.
They soon run into a river, where a ferryman helps them. However, they quickly want to turn back to save the ferryman’s son upon learning of the Trollocs. His son is “just around the corner”, to the point where the ferryman doesn’t think he’ll have seen the trollocs and must go back to rescue him. Unfortunately, that doesn’t fit Moiraine’s plans. She sinks the ferry to prevent the Trollocs from using it, and the ferryman decides to dive in after it, wasting his life versus surviving another day. This wrecks the confidence the four potential dragons have in her, asking her why she needed to kill him. She points out he made the choice to dive in after the ferry that was already sinking.
Our group has now settled for the night. Lan catches Moiraine giving the group and the horses extra strength via channeling the One Power. He chastises her when she states they need all the strength she can give, stating she needs her strength too. They sleep for the night, but during it, the four potential dragons all have dreams around bats. Rand wakes after pulling a body of a bat from his mouth to see bats surrounding him. He blames Moiraine for this dream, and she rides off leaving him when he states he will go no further with her. Spoiler alert, he continues on with the rest of the group.
During the ride, the group runs into a group of Whitecloaks. Moiraine manages to hand off her ring to Lan. While she never lies to the Whitecloaks, she manages to skirt her way around what has happened to the group. The tension here is palpable, with this being the same group of Whitecloaks who mutilated and burned the Aes Sedai in the opening scene. And ate a poor bird, bones and all!
This scene also harkens in on a conversation Moiraine has with Egwene earlier, when she shows her how to channel and what they need to commit to the Ads Sedai. The Wheel of Time does itself some immense justice right here, with Pike delivering an absolutely splendid rendition of one of the historical tales of Manetheren. It really feels like a welcome into the culture surrounding our characters.
Our legendary group settles down for the night, only to be awoken by Trollocs. All except for Moiraine, who has worn herself out to the point where her wound is keeping her from waking. Lan takes them in a new direction, towards a spot where the Trollocs stop chasing them: Shadar Logoth. A city that walled itself away from the world, and when the world came back in, everyone in the city was gone. A city so cursed, the Trollocs won’t go near it. In this sequence, the special effects, and imagery of Shadar Logoth can look very fake, which is kind of sad, as the city especially can take you out of the show.
In the city of Shadar Logoth is where The Wheel of Time makes its first daring choice. Lan instructs the group to not touch a thing, and all split up while he tries to get Moiraine awake. Mat, being the scoundrel of the group, breaks this rule, picking up a jewel encrusted dagger which brings back the darkness that haunted the people of Shadar Logoth. Any living thing this darkness Mashadar touches will turn to dust.
Split up, the group tries to make their escape from this terror. Mat and Rand together, Egwene and Perrin together, and Lan and Moiraine together. Moiraine wakes briefly to ask where they are, and very ominously states “you’ve killed us all”. Everyone manages to escape, but each group is separated, leaving everyone except for Lan and Moiraine to fend for themselves. In addition, Nynaeve returns, looking to rescue her friends. And thus, we have our pickup point for the next episode.
Director Uta Briesewitz returns to the fold to direct “Shadow’s Waiting”, and she works some amazing magic. There’s unique perspectives, and visually stunning work in what she can manage. Unfortunately, sometimes the budget for effects just isn’t there, as shown in some scenes. This episode carries the story forward, making a bold choice, and continues to showcase similarities to the book in the parallels to The Lord of the Rings. – Katie Rentschler
Season Rating: 7.25/10
The Wheel of Time Episodes 1-4 are now streaming on Amazon Prime.