The Wheel of Time reaches its conclusion with “The Eye of the World”, but was it a good enough finale to have us hungry for more? It is very fair to say that after this episode, I can easily imagine a LOT of loyal book fans abandoning the show, or at least besmirching its name in favor of the books. As stated before, I’m only a quarter-book fan, as in I’ve read a quarter of the series. Frankly, there wasn’t enough time to get through the entire slew of books, but I wanted a firm enough grasp on the beginning of the story at the very least before starting my coverage of the show. From that standpoint, even I am a little baffled by this episode.
Spoiler alert! The following recap has light spoilers for the book series of The Wheel of Time focusing primarily on the end of The Eye of the World.
Before getting into the details, the finale, directed by Ciaran Donnelly again and written by showrunner Rafe Lee Judkins is easily the weakest of the season. If Judkins is a long-time fan of the books, it doesn’t look it with this episode. From the cold open to the final shot, “The Eye of the World” is full of confusing decisions, poor editing, and a clear desire to rewrite rather than adapt. Some consider Robert Jordan‘s The Eye of the World first book one of the weaker books in the series, but at the very least his final chapters made sense.
But let’s first start with that cold open. We jump back 3000 years to the Age of Legends, before the Breaking of the World and when civilization seemed to be at an all-time high. The episode opens on Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim) and Latra Posae Decume (Katie Brayben), the respective leaders of the male and female Aes Sedai. The two are arguing about whether or not to cage the Dark One, with Lews Therin a proponent and Latra noting that his plan only serves his pride, and by doing so he would open up the source to the Dark One, tainting the One Power.
Ultimately, we know what Lews Therin decides but this adaptation makes it seem like he just woke up one day and decided to face the Dark One. In the books, this decision was made after a long war with the Dark One and as the lesser of two evils. Therefore the pan to the modern, unblemished city at the end is a confusing landscape. It is nice as a callback to the earlier episodes when we saw the ruins of the city, but why is Lews so insistent on imprisoning the Dark One? Latra makes it seem like it’s arrogance, but are we supposed to believe that?
Also, Latra regards him as the Dragon Reborn, which is already a departure from the books since Lews is canonically known as The Dragon in the books, and people who meet Rand refer to him as Lews Therin occasionally (as Ishamael does in this episode). If Lews is merely another Dragon Reborn, why refer to Rand as Lews?
I will say that despite my criticism of the scene, I do really enjoy Alexander Karim as Lews Therin. I wish that we had gotten more flashbacks throughout the season before his introduction to establish him more, especially of when saidin was tainted, but maybe we’ll see that in future episodes.
Anyway, in present-day, we see Rand and Moiraine trudging through the Blight, which is littered with dead bodies. The rot of the blight spreads from the Dark One’s prison, and as they get closer they spot the Seven Towers of Malkier. Remember when Lan mentioned being a prince of a country last episode? That’s what’s left of it. Moiraine implies that its destruction is a sign of the Dark One’s strength increasing.
When they finally rest, Rand dreams of the Dark One. Or rather a man who he thinks is the Dark One but is actually named Ishamael (played by one of my favorite actors, Fares Fares). He notes that while Rand looks nothing like Lews Therin, he knows that he is him and calls him Lews. He mocks Rand when he draws his heron-marked sword to his neck, and then reveals to Rand that Tam is not his actual father. Ishamael is intent on seducing Rand to the dark side but Rand stabs himself and wakes up from his nightmare, determined not to believe that Tam is not his father.
Moiraine then gives him a sa’angreal, an object that she says wields the power of many male channelers, and when Rand channels into it, his power will increase a hundredfold. She wants him to use that power to put the Dark One back into his prison. There’s an interesting moment after this where Rand asks if Moiraine thought Egwene was the Dragon and given the scene at the end of this episode when we see Egwene bring Nynaeve back from the dead… are we to assume she might still be the dragon? Obviously, that’s not the case, but it seems odd to bring up at this time.
When he asks Moiraine to teach him how to channel, she refuses, saying that every time he does, he will get closer to madness. Instead, he wants him to rely on his fight or flight mechanism. She recalls a horrifying story about when she was a novice and she was abused by another Aes Sedai who beat her with the One Power to trigger her abilities. I guess she’s just ready to throw the Dragon to the wolves?
In the distance, they see Shadowspawn leaving the Blight toward Fal Dara but all they can do is power on. When they arrive at the Eye of the World, Rand remembers the place. He asks Moiraine to stay behind for fear that she might die after the encounter, but she proceeds down into the eye with him. On top of the eye, Rand sees flashes of Lews Therin fighting Ishamael and touches the yin-yang-like symbol on the ground.
Suddenly he is transported back to the Two Rivers and when he walks out of his house, he sees Egwene with their daughter, Joiya. At the Eye, Ishamael appears to Moiraine to taunt her. When she tries to use the One Power, he shields her and hits her with a burst of power. More on this later. Back in the Two Rivers, Rand feels like something is wrong and Egwene tells him that she returned back with him after the Eye instead of going to the White Tower. He tests her to make sure it is her and she passes. The two kiss but she is soon frozen in time by Ishamael.
As he attempts to seduce Rand to the dark side, in the real world, Moiraine has a dagger to his neck, ready to kill him if he chooses the dark. Ishamael’s temptations work and Rand does begin to channel, but realizing that Egwene would never choose to just be his wife, he channels into the sa’angreal, awakening into the real world.
Channeling both sides of the Source, he attacks Ishamael, who smiles as he is destroyed. Rand thinks that he’s succeeded, but the Eye beneath him is shattered. I have to wonder, did they spend too much time this season on Rand and Egwene’s romance? This final scene of Rand channeling in the first book is a truly triumphant moment. He channels and destroys the armies of trollocs in Tarwin’s Gap and confirms his status as the Dragon. The show’s decision for him to essentially distance himself further from his friends physically and seemingly reject the title is odd. And hinging his power on Egwene and their romantic relationship is a bad choice.
Instead of going back to Fal Dara with Moiraine, he decides to go off on his own, afraid that the madness that comes with male channeling will lead him to hurt the people he loves. He asks Moiraine to tell the people that he died at the Eye and leaves without telling her where he’s going. By the time Lan finds her, she tells him that he’s gone and that she’s been cut off from the Source. She also realizes that the floor was made of Cuendillar aka Heartstone, an unbreakable stone. They don’t specifically say it, but this was one of the seals of the Dark One’s prison and Rand inadvertently broke it. The battle that the people fought was not the last battle but the first.
Back in Fal Dara, Egwene and Perrin make up while Nynaeve tells Lan that she tracked Moiraine from the Two Rivers and not Lan. It seems absolutely ridiculous that Lan, an extremely experienced and talented tracker, would not know Moiraine’s tells and would need to learn it from Nynaeve. If it was connected to the One Power I would understand, but it’s clearly not. What was the point of this? Lan clearly grew up in Malkier, he would know the way.
Anyway, he tells her that she is remarkable and that maybe one day she could be something other than a Wisdom. He quotes directly from the books, which admittedly is played much better in this scene versus in the books when it was really hard to see Lan and Nynaeve’s relationship coming. It feels like they go from 0 to 100, whereas there is precedent for their devotion at this point.
So Lan leaves right as Egwene senses from listening to the wind that something is very wrong. Note, Nynaeve hasn’t been able to listen to the wind since she channeled. At this point, for some reason that we never get to know, the gang decides to go see Min. It’s a small quibble, but there’s no transition scene. After Egwene hears oncoming danger they switch gears and go see Min about Rand.
Min tells them that all her visions come true and then she sees Nynaeve burning out and soldiers at a nearby table dying. She doesn’t tell them any of this and it’s a lazy form of foreshadowing for a scene that we’ll see in this very episode. Min tells them nothing and leaves the city soon after.
The Shadowspawn have been spotted coming out of the Blight, the largest number they’ve ever encountered. Plus, there are now Darkfriends within their walls. Daunted by the army, Amalisa begs her brother to stay in the city, but Agelmar is determined to hold the gap and leaves the women to hold the city. This is a seriously confusing and detrimental choice. Since Amalisa decides to gather the women who can channel for one final stand and they end up destroying the entire trolloc army, why not send the channelers to the fortress at the gap and shave down the trolloc numbers instead of sending all the men to their doom? The strategy is weak.
Also, the city feels weirdly segregated by gender at this moment. Why are these women, who are clearly fighters, being left behind to defend the city? It feels like a girlboss moment that cheapens the moment.
Agelmar believes, incorrectly, that this is the Last Battle and he expects the city to fall, he just wants to hold off the army while messengers can inform the other cities of what to come. As the troops head toward the fortress, foreigners (and Min) get out of the city. Agelmar leaves behind his two men Uno and Yakota to dig something up beneath the throne room.
Amalisa calls for women who can channel to join her and that brings Nynaeve and Egwene to her side. Meanwhile, Perrin is left behind in the palace and has nothing to do. I wish they would give Marcus Rutherford more to do, but the fact is that Perrin, as a character, is interesting but doesn’t make too many big plot moves. He ends up going to help Agelmar’s men dig up the throne room and watches as they unearth the Horn of Valere, which will call the Pattern’s greatest heroes to stand at the Dragon’s side at the Last Battle.
Too bad Padan Fain is now in the city. He breaks in, kills the guards with the two fades. Then inconceivably, manages to lure Agelmar’s men and Perrin out of the throne room (where they leave this fated powerful horn), killing the men by the time Perrin makes it back in. Loial also gets unfairly stabbed and we see Fain with Mat’s cursed dagger. What’s up with that?
Logistically it’s a weird scene. Where did the men go? Where did Perrin go? Why didn’t they leave someone to guard the horn?
Well, Fain takes a victory lap over the bodies of the dead men and monologues to Perrin. He calls him Ta’Veren and says that some of them will turn to the dark, which is what the Dark One wants. Not just for them to turn to the dark but for… balance? Excuse me? It’s a weird statement that feels antithetical to the idea of the Dark One, but then Fain seems to imply that Mat and Perrin might turn to the dark.
We see a shot of Mat entering Tar Valon and giving the White Tower a sinister look (farewell Barney Harris, we’ll miss you dearly). Fain also confirms that the battle today was only the beginning and all of the five Ta’Veren have a role to play in the coming events. He then just walks away from Perrin with the horn in hand.
Out on Tarwin’s Gap, Agelmar is killed as the Shadowspawn make it through the fortress. Nynaeve and Egwene open themselves up to the One Power and link up with Amalisa, who channels using them and two other women. This sequence of scenes is the most chaotically edited. From the jumping between Rand and the palace and the women to the blurry camerawork showing the trollocs. It’s hard to tell even what direction the invading army is running in.
While I do like the sight of Amalisa being overwhelmed and addicted to the One Power, this fight is not a worthy replacement to Rand destroying the trolloc army. What is the point of Rand being the Dragon? The Dragon Reborn is meant to be the most powerful channeler ever. Ever. The entire season was leading up to the Dragon and when he finally channels it’s not even as impressive as Nynaeve? If you’re going to stick with Rand as the Dragon, at least commit.
Nynaeve and Egwene, trapped in the link with Amalisa, are both burning out. The scene is emotional but as I stated before, it doesn’t make a lot of thematic sense with respect to the Dragon. Nynaeve seemingly sacrifices herself for Egwene, dying and burning out just like Min saw. Egwene, crying over her body for a good amount of time, suddenly seems to heal her, bringing her back to life. Egwene has shown literally no talent for healing and when she channeled literally only created the smallest of fireballs. How does that then translate to having enough power to bring Nynaeve back from the dead?
I would have had no problem if it was Egwene who burned out and Nynaeve healing her, we’ve seen this happen. What was the purpose of us seeing Egwene do the same? What is the point of this scene? We already know Egwene can channel. The changes add up and it makes for a less enjoyable experience since it feels like the show has derailed so far off of the books.
The episode ends with a scene on the far western shore. An armada of ships approaches and on the ships are women who are gagged and other women behind them. The gagged women are commanded to channel and they do, sending a massive wave rushing toward the shore.
Say hello to the very problematic Seanchan. I have a whole problem with the Seanchan in general, some people like to say that the Seanchan nation is an analog for the United States since the characters apparently speak in Texan accents according to Robert Jordan. But it’s very clear that the Seanchan are inspired by imperial China and Japan, with sprinkles of other middle eastern cultures. That the country is also full of sadistic slave drivers who treat channelers like literal animals and spend their time conquering is an exhausting trope of fantasy. I’m tired of seeing Asian faces pinned on the generic evil, magic-fearing, violent culture. I hoped the show would take it in a different direction, but one look at the Sul’dam (the women controlling the channelers) and the ships tells me that they’re leaning full bore into the Asian aesthetic.
Final stinger aside, this is a painfully weak finale for a show that I was actually enjoying. I looked forward every week to watching the episodes and seeing the little things they changed, and I’m not a book loyalist typically at all, but to change so much, so drastically, so early in a 14 book series? I’m not holding onto much hope going into the second season.