The Wheel of Time Reunites Us with Old Friends in Season 2 Premiere

This review was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time season two have dropped today, and all in all, they are glorious. A few missteps hamper the opening of the show, but there is also a lot to be excited about. I can’t wait to dive in with you!

This is a spoiler review for “A Taste of Solitude,” “Strangers and Friends,” and “What Might Be.” It may also contain some references to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time novels—I will do my best not to talk about important plot or character points from the books that will result in spoilers for the future of the show, but as opinions on what constitutes a spoiler may vary from person to person, consider this a general warning.

[The comment section will be closed for the holiday weekend.]



Credit: Jan Thijs/Prime Video

“A Taste of Solitude”

A little girl (Amy Sharp) plays outside a house, then sees Trollocs approaching. She runs inside to hide under a table, around which hooded figures sit. Padan Fain (Johann Myers) is revealed as one of them. Ishamael (Fares Fares) comforts the child and carries her outside. He explains that sometimes things that people call monsters are not actually monsters, and encourages her to stroke the creature’s face.

Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) carries water from a well and heats it over a fire for her bath. We see her grieving for her lost ability to touch the True Source. Lan (Daniel Henney) tells Verin (Meera Syal) that his relationship with Moiraine is suffering. She explains that most women who lose the ability to touch the Source die. Moiraine meets with a ship captain (Julian Lewis Jones) who brings her a poem that was written on a cuendillar clock that shattered at the same time Rand confronted Ishamael at the Eye of the World.

Nynaeve (Zoë Robbins) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden) are working in the kitchens of Tar Valon as part of their training as novices. Nynaeve refuses teaching from Sheriam (Rima Te Wiata) while Egwene struggles to channel. Elsewhere, Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Loial (Hammed Animashaun) travel with a group of Shienarans who are looking for Padan Fain and the stolen Horn of Valere. They are joined by a tracker with yellow eyes named Elyas (Gary Beadle). They find corpses of people murdered by Fain. While burying Fain’s victims, Perrin tells Ingtar (Gregg Chilingirian) about his desire to kill Fain. Ingtar tells him that anger can’t bring back the dead.

In the White Tower, Ivon and Maksim advise Nynaeve to find the reason she came to Tar Valon. Egwene asks Alanna how to channel more than one flow at a time. Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) attacks Nynaeve with the One Power to get her to channel. Nynaeve and Egwene read a letter from Perrin; Nynaeve has forgotten that it is Beltine. They set out a lantern for Rand; Perrin sets a lantern out on the water for Laila. Mat (Dónal Finn) is revealed to be a prisoner of Liandrin.

Lan realizes he has been taking Moiraine’s silence too personally, and takes her dinner to her room. Moiraine is saddling her horse when she is attacked by several Fades. She kills one and then is knocked down. Lan arrives and fights off several more but is badly injured. They are saved by Verin, her Warder Thomas (Heikko Deutschmann) and Adeleas (Nin Aalia).

“Strangers and Friends”

Rand (Josha Stradowski) dreams of murdering his friends. Waking, he is comforted by Selene (Natasha O’Keefe). Rand goes to his job in a sanatorium where his charge Errol (Nasser Memarzia), a survivor of the Aiel War, is initially afraid of him, but then trusts him. There is a confrontation with another caretaker.

Elyas leads the Shienarans to a building where they find a Myrddraal nailed to the door. Perrin has strange visions of a family being killed by Fain; his eyes turn yellow. Liandrin takes Nynaeve to watch an Accepted of the White Tower heal a sick girl. Egwene learns she has a new neighbor in the novice quarters, Elayne Trakand (Ceara Coveney), who is the daughter-heir to the Queen of Andor.

On the road, Verin tells Moiraine that she has guessed at Moiraine’s connection to the Dragon Reborn. Moiraine considers trying to kill Verin. Rand follows the other caretaker into an alley and beats him badly. As he fights, the One Power swirls around him.

Elayne receives punishment for bringing her maids into the novice tower. Nynaeve follows Liandrin and discovers the Red Sister tending to an elderly man. She tries to help but is sent away, and a sobbing Liandrin apologizes to the man, who is her son. In the tower, Mat digs through the wall into an adjoining cell where he meets Min (Kae Alexander). They share a drink. Min has a vision of Mat stabbing Rand to death.

In bed, Selene tells Rand that she is using him to remember someone she loved and lost. He admits he is using her to try to forget someone. Nynaeve overhears Egwene talking about her frustrations with their relationship and Nynaeve’s desire to protect her. Nynaeve is summoned to the Accepted Test. Lan finds the poem in Moiraine’s saddlebag and secretly takes it. She tells him that she chose him to be her Warder because she knew that he’d be able to survive without her one day. She is cruel to him and orders him to leave her, then rides away.

Perrin is awoken by an attack on the inn where he is staying. He, Loial, and the Shienarans are defeating their attackers when two women who can channel arrive and knock everyone out. At his job, Rand is told that he has a new patient to care for, since the other orderly has had an accident. He is let into a special garden area where he greets Logain.

“What Might Be”

Sheriam, Liandrin, and Leane (Jennifer Cheon Garcia) explain the process of the Accepted Test; Nynaeve is given the opportunity to turn back, but declares herself ready. She steps into the first arch. Nynaeve is a child again, reliving the bandit attack in which her parents were killed. She grabs a knife to go to their aid, but the arched doorway appears. Vaguely remembering, she goes through it. Leane Heals a wound she received.

Nynaeve goes through the second arch and finds herself in the Two Rivers, where the new Wisdom is performing mercy killings on plague victims. When the doorway reappears she goes through it, despite Tam al’Thor (Michael McElhatton) begging her to stay.

Nynaeve goes through the third arch and comes back out covered in blood with no memory of what happened. She is offered the Aes Sedai ring, but refuses it, deciding to return home instead. She says goodbye to Egwene, and then on the road she encounters Lan, who agrees to go back to the Two Rivers with her. She has the sense that there is something behind her, but the flickering arch disappears before she can see it. Outside the arch, the three Aes Sedai see the portal close and believe Nynaeve is dead. Sheriam blames Liandrin for pushing Nynaeve to be tested before she was ready.

The attacking soldiers assemble their prisoners, including Perrin, Loial, and the Shienarans. A woman with a metal gag and collar picks other women out to be taken away. The rest of the prisoners are addressed by a woman on a pedestal (Jessica Boone), who tells them they must swear oaths and bow before the High Lady Suroth (Karima McAdams). A soldier signals out one of the Shienarans to be the first to swear. When he refuses he is brutally killed, and everyone prostrates themselves and swears. Ishamael stands beside Suroth, and makes eye contact with Perrin.

Logain tells Rand that he recognizes him from Tar Valon and that he could see then that Rand is the most powerful channeler Logain has ever encountered. Rand asks how to control it. Logain asks for a jug of Ghealdanin wine before he will answer Rand’s question. In the market Rand sees people preparing to hunt for the Horn of Valere. He asks Selene where to find the wine.

Egwene finds Sheriam cleaning out Nynaeve’s room and learns that her friend died in the Accepted Test. Liandrin tells Mat that he is nothing and not worth her time, and tells him that Egwene is in the Tower. She sets him free. Egwene confronts Liandrin over Nynaeve’s death, accusing her of wanting Nynaeve killed, and tells Liandrin that she has no idea what she’s capable of.

Selene and Rand obtain the wine at a noble’s party. Lady Anvaere (Lindsay Duncan) tells Rand that the Hunt for the Horn is just a way for the Queen to get rid of the poor people living in the Foregate outside the city. Later, Selene admits to Rand that she knew the Hunt for the Horn was a sham, and laughs at Rand’s naiveté. Rand leaves her abruptly. He brings Logain the wine, and Logain tells him there is no way to stop oneself from touching the True Source. It can’t be contained, and will always spill out in the end. He claims that the madness brought on by male channeling is a lie made up by the Aes Sedai, and that he is the only one who can teach Rand. Selene confronts Rand and the two sleep together. She says she wants to see his power. Later, Rand accidentally channels and burns their home down.

Mat finds Egwene crying but hesitates, then leaves without speaking to her. He sets Min free from the cells, and they leave together. Min meets with Liandrin, admitting that everything with Mat is going as planned. Liandrin promises that, after this, they will both be free from Moiraine.

Ishamael joins Perrin in the wagon where he is being held prisoner, telling Perrin the more wolf Perrin is, the more he belongs to Ishamael. Wolves begin attacking the caravan, killing soldiers. The women in gray dresses fight them with One Power. Ishamael leaves and Elyas breaks Perrin out of the wagon, setting a wolf to guide him.

In the White Tower, Egwene is trying to turn on the arches to save Nynaeve. Elayne says that Nynaeve wouldn’t want Egwene to throw her life away. They decide to stay the night in the room. Inside the arch, Nynaeve has a life with Mat, Perrin, Lan, and their daughter. It is idyllic, but at night Trollocs attack, killing the three men. Nynaeve channels and kills the Trollocs. As Nynaeve weeps over Lan, the archway opens. She tries to carry her child through and comes out the other side alone, covered in blood and weeping. Egwene holds her.



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Credit: Jan Thijs/Prime Video

One of the greatest joys of season one was the way the show introduced us to the main characters, and “A Taste of Solitude” replicates that joy beautifully as it catches the audience up on where they all are now, months after the confrontation at the Eye of the World and Rand’s supposed death, and one year after the Trolloc attack that changed Rand, Perrin, Mat, Egwene, and Nynaeve’s lives forever.

There are many visual parallels that show us how things have changed for our heroes: Moiraine filling and heating her bath manually instead of using the One Power, and then bathing alone instead of with Lan; Egwene and Nynaeve and Perrin quietly celebrating Beltine alone; Moiraine and Lan fighting Trollocs again, but this time instead of saving people, they are the ones who need to be rescued. It’s a very poignant stage the show has set, thematically and visually, and all in all it does a very good job of re-situating the viewer in the world of The Wheel of Time.

The fights are really good, particularly Moiraine and Lan’s battle against the Myrddraal. Like all shows these days, the night scenes are a bit dark, but The Wheel of Time is much better than average in that respect, and you can actually see most of the action.

The portrayal of the initiates’ life in the White Tower is also particularly well done, and we get to learn more about Aes Sedai culture very quickly and effectively. (We also get reminded why Nynaeve is the best.) The conflict Nynaeve and Egwene are both having, with each other and with the Tower, reminds us of their history and also shows us what these two characters are up against in their journeys to become channelers. It is a journey that they are taking together in some ways, while in other ways they are both walking their own paths, entirely alone. And while we haven’t seen much of Elayne yet, her introduction was cute and funny, and her immediate liking for Egwene makes the viewer like her too. It will be interesting to see how their relationship develops over the course of the season, as Elayne herself points out.

So far, Liandrin is the best antagonist in the show by a mile, and her character has been very much expanded and changed from the book. One of the greatest challenges of adapting a work as expansive as the Wheel of Time is the fact that there are so many characters and so many themes and plot points to choose from, but the medium of an eight episode per season television show can only cover a fraction of that. Choosing what to focus on is a huge undertaking, and they are clearly pulling several thematic and plot points into the character of Liandrin, very effectively in my opinion.

Less effective is the way the show is handling Padan Fain. His introduction in season one was intriguing, but by the beginning of season two, after an almost two-year break, it’s hard for the audience to remember what his deal is, or why he is so important. In both seasons of The Wheel of Time, important plot information like this has a tendency to slip through the cracks. Things either aren’t explained at all, or they are explained in a way that is too off-handed for the average viewer to catch, especially one who is not familiar with the books.

The Horn of Valere is also a problem; watching with my partner, they didn’t even realize that the thing the Illianers are hunting for was the same item that Perrin and the Shienarans found buried under the throne in Fal Dara. It’s also hard to catch why the Shienarans and Perrin are so desperate to catch up to Fain; it seems as though they are merely angry at him because he’s a Darkfriend, and the fact that he stole this very important artifact isn’t made clear enough. For that matter, it’s also unclear why Perrin has chosen to travel with them. We know he is feeling unmoored from the loss of all his friends, and he tells Ingtar about his desire to kill Fain as revenge for the death of Laila and the Trolloc attack on the Two Rivers. But we need more than a recap at the beginning of the episode to remind us of the stakes—we need the actual episode to pull those threads together. Perrin’s segments fail to communicate his struggles effectively both in showing and telling.

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Credit: Jan Thijs/Prime Video

Perrin is one of my favorite characters in the books, but his journey is a difficult one to portray on screen. How do you show an audience an internal struggle against your own tendency towards anger, violence, and revenge? How do you explain how it feels to have conflicting impulses towards pacifism and war, both complex and dynamic concepts in and of themselves, even before they come into conflict? Perrin is a man of few words, a thoughtful and quiet person, in both the source material and in his portrayal in the show. But a television show only has so many ways to communicate a character’s feelings, and I think that it’s notable that we know exactly what all our main female characters are thinking and feeling because they talk to each other, and to the men around them. Even Moiraine, who has been very closed off from Lan and everyone since losing her ability to touch the source, has communicated a lot both to her companions and to the audience. We understand her pain, we can guess at her fear, and we know that all those things she says to Lan to get him to leave her and return to Tar Valon alone are that old trope, usually played as romantic but in some ways even more powerful here, of saying hard things to drive away someone you care about “for their own good.”

Oh, but Aes Sedai can’t lie. Or… can they?

Most of the male characters are less clear in their motivations and their desires. And with Mat it works. On the one hand, not knowing what he really wants and existing mostly in a space of loss and regret is kind of where he is as a person right now. Also, he’s become wrapped up in the mystery of what Liandrin is up to, as has Min, and while we don’t know the answer to that mystery, the stakes of it are pretty clear. There is a story to follow, to watch as it slowly unravels. But what Perrin and the Shienarans are doing, who Elyas is, who the Seanchan are, and what exactly Rand is planning? That’s all much harder for the audience to suss out.

I’m really enjoying Flinn’s portrayal of Mat. In the last season he seemed too dour and lacked the playfulness of the Mat in the books, which made the character pretty one note, and hard to relate to. Even though the Mat of this season is depressed and guilt-ridden, we still see playful aspects of him in his lines, his body language, and his facial expression. For the first time, I recognized the character, and I connected easily to the guilt he was carrying over leaving his friends, the guilt that ultimately kept him from reaching out to Egwene.

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Credit: Jan Thijs/Prime Video

With Rand I don’t have a complaint yet—I kind of liked the ambiguity of his long game to gain access to Logain. We see how kind he is to the wartime survivor in his care and find ourselves wondering: How much of it is genuine? Was Rand’s violence towards Logain’s former caretaker heightened by a genuine affection towards the old man? Was the assault purely and coldly calculated, enacted with little emotion purely because it was the only way for Rand to get to Logain? Or did Rand’s increasing contact with the One Power cause him to attack the man in a much more brutal fashion than he would have otherwise?

Rand is the Dragon Reborn, after all, and these questions the audience has about his actions and motivations will be shared by everyone in his world once they learn who he is. Still, I worry that his story will eventually suffer from the same problem as Perrin’s and that, as the series continues, the audience will struggle to understand and connect with him.

Logain remains incredible, and I’m obsessed with Morte’s performance. I always found Logain to be a very intriguing person in the books, not just because of his role in the story but just in the type of character he had, and I’m happy to see Morte bring such a powerful, if unhinged, charisma to screen Logain. He is a useful foil for Rand, allowing the audience to better understand what male channeling is and does, and what the concept of the Dragon Reborn actually means.

I found myself wishing we had the same kind of dynamism from Ishamael, who interestingly has been named by on-screen Moraine but is still billed as The Man in the credits. Fares has charisma on screen and could clearly bring a lot more to the character—his scene with the little girl and the Trollocs is very good—but the script is limiting him too much, and I think the character would benefit if Fares was allowed to bring a greater sense of danger and drama to him. The man had fire eyes in the last season! I want a bit more flair.

It’s unclear what Ishamael is doing with the Seanchan, and both book fans and viewers new to the story are going to hypothesize wildly, I’m sure.

As much as I appreciate the show’s desire to bring in the Seanchan (the mysterious attackers who took Perrin and Loial prisoner), I think their arrival so early in the show is a mistake. We don’t know the villains we already have that well, especially Fain and the concept of Darkfriends in general. More importantly, we don’t know enough about this world. Unless they’ve read the books, a viewer has no context to understand why it matters that no one, even Loial, has ever heard of these new people. I also didn’t think their costuming was as effective as I’d hoped for. From a distance it plays well, but aspects of it look quite cheesy—especially the channelers in the gray dresses, who I think are supposed to look like they are gagged or have their mouths sealed somehow, but instead just look like they have metal pacifiers in their mouths. There is a lack of cohesion to the Seanchan costuming and makeup as well, which stands out in comparison to the very effective way the costuming visually built cultures like the Two Rivers’, the Shienarans’, and the Aes Sedai’s. This is actually a missed opportunity to pull from the books, since the Seanchan have some of the best visual descriptions of any culture, inducing blue and green armor with helmets that look like insect heads, dresses with lightning designs on the women who control the slave channelers, and blue lacquer on those very long nails Suroth is sporting.

One of my favorite aspects of the books is how Robert Jordan is constantly building parallels between different characters, often ones who have very different lives or different backgrounds. So I was especially enthused by the parallels that the first three episodes of season two built between Rand and Nynaeve. In a way, his (ultimately doomed) attempts not to touch the One Power mirror Nynaeve’s block against channeling. In both cases there is a fear of what that power can do to a person—Rand has the added problem of the corruption of male channeling to worry about, but both he and Nynaeve are positioned by the narrative as the most powerful channelers alive, and we can see how they both fear and distrust that kind of power, and the authority it brings. Rand’s burning of the unopened invitation parallels Nynaeve’s drinking of the dirty water as they both reject the conventions of authority around them.

Nynaeve’s experience in her Accepted Test also had some similarities with the vision Rand was given when he confronted Ishamael at the Eye of the World. Both were tempted by the idea of a normal, idyllic life in the Two Rivers with marriage to the person they love and a child. Both had to confront the fact that such a life can only ever be a dream, and that the darkness of the real world, as well as the power inside them, made the life they dreamed of nothing more than an illusion that they must let go of in order to embrace their true identity. And just as Logain tells Rand that he cannot stop himself from channeling, so do we see that Nynaeve’s fate is similarly decided for her.

Through these parallels we can also infer some of Rand’s unspoken feelings—they are probably the same as those that Nynaeve is all too happy to voice. In Tar Valon, Nynaeve tells the Aes Sedai that no one should have that much power, that she doesn’t want to become an Aes Sedai if it means turning her back on the people in her life who need her, while in another part of the world Rand’s identity makes him hide, even from his friends, while he confronts a man who truly believes that he was destined to rule the world by virtue of the Power he once wielded. Power that Nynaeve surpasses by a mile, and that Rand, the viewer presumes, must surpass by at least as much.

Despite its flaws, I’m very excited about the launch of season two, and looking forward to seeing what the next five episodes have to offer. Among my hopes for future episodes are that Elyas’s character will be more completely introduced; that Min and Mat will have some fun and funny scenes together, amidst whatever it is Liandrin is making Min do; and that we’ll spend more time with Verin. I love Verin in the books, and I’m very happy with what we’ve seen of her so far. I’m not particularly invested in Sheriam in the books, but I also love what we’ve seen of her so far, and excited for more.

Also, I must give a tip of the hat to the way the show has introduced Selene. This is pretty different from the book, and I think that the show has struck exactly the right balance of keeping what is thematically important about the character while positioning her, plot-wise, in a way that makes sense for the television series. Book fans get the excitement of knowing her full story while new audience members have everything they need to be intrigued by, and suspicious of, the new lady in Rand’s life. What’s her deal, exactly? Only time, and more episodes, will tell.

Fun Facts!

  • “A Taste of Solitude” is the title of Chapter 18 of Lord of Chaos, the sixth book in The Wheel of Time series.
  • “Strangers and Friends” is the title of Chapter 15 of The Eye of the World. It is the chapter in which Rand meets Min for the first time.
  • “What Might Be” is the title of Chapter 37 of the Great Hunt.
  • The opening scene of “A Taste of Solitude” shows stone work bearing the symbol of the ancient Aes Sedai, which looks like the symbol for yin and yang without the dots. In the book, this symbol is meant to reflect the opposing but interconnected male and female halves of the One Power. Though relevant because of the corruption the Dark One inflicted on male channelers, the worldbuilding in the show has put less of an emphasis on the differences between genders and their relative experience of the One Power. This symbol is also seen on the jug Liandrin holds during Nynaeve’s Accepted Test.
  • The little girl in the opening scene is named “Niko” in the credits. She is an invented character for the show, but does get her name from a small character in the book series, who was a scientist and inventor. Show-Niko is dressed as one of the Tuatha’an, or Traveling People, some of whom Perrin and Egwene traveled with in season one.
  • The sick girl who Liandrin takes Nynaeve to see has breakbone fever. In the books, the first time Nynaeve channels is as a girl when Egwene contracts the disease and Nynaeve fears she is going to die. Nynaeve doesn’t know that this is what she did until much later in her life, when Moiraine talks to her about it.
  • Book fans are probably whooping wildly at the first appearance of Rand’s red heron coat. I know I was.
  • My favorite scene was definitely Egwene going to talk to Alanna about “managing two things at once” and Alanna thinking that she was talking about threesomes instead of channeling. A close runner-up would be Nynaeve choosing to drink the dirty water rather than participate in the lesson Sheriam was trying to teach.
  • Favorite Quote: “Every woman’s fears are her own property, do not burden us with them.” There are several iterations of this phrase said to Nynaeve, each increasingly less empathetic. The Aes Sedai tell Nynaeve that she doesn’t have to talk about her experiences, making it sound like a kindness, only to later reveal that it’s a demand that she keep her experiences to herself and not bother the sisters with them.
  • Runner up: “Any old Warder can protect you from a Trolloc. But the right one can protect you from yourself.”

In addition to the show reviews, Sylas K Barret runs a weekly read of The Wheel of Time here on!

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