As Lane stated in our spoiler-free review of Episode 4, The Dragon Reborn, all of us here at Wotseries absolutely loved this episode. This is our full spoiler review of the episode.
As a reminder, when we say “full spoilers,” we’re including the entire book series, as we will be discussing changes from the books and potential ramifications for the future. If you don’t want plot points from the books that may show up in future seasons of The Wheel of Time spoiled for you, please read our spoiler-free review instead.
As we’ve emphasized previously, we are all huge fans of the books, and evaluating the show through the lens of longtime readers. We fully understand that book-to-screen adaptations need to make changes, so in our spoiler reviews we will be highlighting significant changes from the books and analyzing how they might affect future storylines.
If you just want to see our individual ratings of each episode (which are the same as in our spoiler-free review), you can scroll to the end of the article. We’ll be specifying things we liked and disliked in each episode, and then give an overall summary at the end.
The episode opens with a flashback to a burning city in Ghealdan, where Logain Ablar’s (Alvaro Morte) army has taken over the castle. Logain corners and disarms the fleeing king (Miguel Alvarez), who warns him that he’s sent for the Aes Sedai. Two ghostly faces appear in Logain’s mind, telling him to kill the king because he’ll betray Logain just like his sister and parents did. Instead of killing the king, however, Logain offers him a place at his side, because he plans to bind the world rather than break it like the last Dragon.
We continue to follow the three main character groups throughout the episode. Despite Perrin’s reservations about the Tinkers’ trustworthiness, he and Egwene decide to travel east with them to Tar Valon. Perrin notices the Tinkers don’t have weapons and asks how they defend themselves. Ila (Maria Doyle Kennedy) explains the Way of the Leaf and asks Perrin whether he’s ever picked up a weapon in battle, such as an axe. She catches his reaction to the word axe, and asks if his life has been better or worse since he picked it up. That night, Aram (Daryl McCormack) and Egwene dance (alas, no tiganza) and we learn Aram’s having doubts about the Way of the Leaf. He explains Tinkers leave when they turn twenty to see the world; most of them come back, but not all. Meanwhile, Ila tells Perrin about her daughter, who died years earlier from a random act of violence. She advocates for peace, even if it’s just a few people at a time, so when her daughter’s soul is reborn, the world will be a better place.
Rand and Mat are traveling with Thom (Alexandre Willaume). They discuss Dana’s mention of “the five of you,” and wonder who that fifth person could be. Eventually they arrive at a farm, and after a brief confrontation with Master Grinwell (Pasha Bocarie) and Mistress Grinwell (Jennifer K Preston) they’re allowed to sleep in the stable if they muck it out first. Mat’s growing more tired and irritable, and during a break from the manual labor, he vomits out a black substance. The Grinwells’ daughter Helga (Robyn Betteridge) gives Mat a loaf of bread as a thank you for their hard work. He tells her about his sisters back home and she gives him her doll, Birgitte, to take back to them. Meanwhile, Thom is worried about Mat, who’s displaying all the signs of madness that comes with male channeling. He tells Rand the story of his nephew, Owyn, who began channeling and went mad; the Reds gentled him. He became a shell of a person and eventually took his own life. Thom warns Rand that they have to keep Mat away from the Aes Sedai. That night, Rand dreams of Ba’alzamon again, and wakes to discover Mat’s missing. He and Thom race into the farmhouse to discover Mat standing over the bloody corpses of the Grinwell family. Mat’s dagger seemingly leads him to the Fade lurking upstairs, who promptly attacks. Thom tells the boys to run and duels the Fade while they escape.
In the Aes Sedai camp, Moiraine is finally healed from the Trolloc poison thanks to Green sister Kerene Nagashi (Clare Perkins). Kerene is exhausted due to working in shifts to keep the shield on Logain, who is so powerful they can barely hold him. In the cave where Logain’s being held, Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) explains to Moiraine they captured Logain by sneaking into his camp and shielding him as he slept. She’s itching to gentle him on the spot, but Kerene reminds her they will take him to the White Tower for a proper trial, as the law demands. Moiraine offers to take Kerene’s place during the next shift holding the shield, and as soon as she has it in place she’s visibly strained by Logain’s immense power. Outside, Lan and Kerene’s Warder, Stepin (Peter Franzén) are having a friendly sparring session while catching up on the latest news. Kerene and Stepin later discuss Liandrin’s growing influence on the other Aes Sedai as she continues to push for immediate gentling. Rumor has it the Red Ajah has been doing this all across the countryside.
Moiraine and Alanna (Priyanka Bose) discuss Logain’s immense strength and how it’s just another sign that the end of the Age — and the Last Battle — is approaching. While they’re distracted, Logain unsuccessfully attempts to break free. Later, Nynaeve joins the warders at their campfire, where she questions why they want to serve the Aes Sedai. Stepin explains that there’s no bond closer than a warder and his Aes Sedai, and given that Aes Sedai means “Servant of All,” they’re proud to serve as warders. Moiraine and Lan lament the loss of the four Two Rivers kids, but suspect the Dark One is just as confused about the Dragon’s identity as they are.
The next morning, Liandrin and Kerene butt heads again over how to handle Logain. Kerene insists they must do what is right, not what is expedient. Nynaeve and Lan share a tender scene and Nynaeve admits he’s not what she first thought: a lapdog with two legs. Before Lan can fully respond, they hear shouts in the distance. Logain’s army has found them. Logain takes advantage of the distraction to break his shield and melt the cage, knocking Liandrin and Kerene unconscious. Stepin feels it through the warder bond and the group races back to the cave. The Aes Sedai are in full form as they wield saidar in battle. In the cave, Moiraine confronts Logain, and tells him he’s gone mad and his power is only a trickle against the true Dragon Reborn. Kerene and Liandrin awaken and the three of them attempt to re-shield Logain, but he lashes out with daggers of saidin and kills Kerene. In a rage, Stepin leads the others to the cave while Alanna finishes off the army. He hurls himself at Logain, but Logain uses saidin to shatter the axes into lethal shrapnel that severely wounds most in the cave, narrowly missing Nynaeve. She’s horrified by the devastation, but it’s Lan bleeding out from a slashed throat that puts her over the edge. She screams with fury and saidar explodes from her, healing all the injuries. The Aes Sedai regain their strength and link, re-binding Logain. Liandrin gentles him.
Likes: First, let’s get this out of the way: that ending! Nynaeve al’Meara is a QUEEN. As soon as we saw Lan injured, we knew it was coming, but we still shed tears when that moment happened. The primal scream of rage, Lorne Balfe‘s moving score, the blinding light…perfection. And to have that moment followed up with the gentling of Logain? What an episode. Intersecting Logain’s enhanced story with Moiraine, Lan, and Nynaeve was genius. It introduces a huge amount of material in a streamlined, engaging way: Aes Sedai politics, details on the Warder/Aes Sedai relationship, Nynaeve and Lan’s growing connection, the Green Ajah unleashed in battle (Alanna is the MVP), and most importantly, what it’s like to be a man channeling. After we’ve seen Logain’s madness and determination, the brokenness on his face after being gentled, and Liandrin’s fury, we’re further assembling the foundation for Rand’s eventual revelation as the Dragon Reborn. We’ll simultaneously fear him and fear for him.
Alexandre Willaume’s performance as Thom was another strength of this episode. His later introduction in the show versus the books meant that there was a lot of ground to cover in the establishment of a relationship between Thom, Rand, and Mat, but we think they accomplished this. Building upon the events of episode 3, in which Thom and Mat began to built a rapport, Thom continues his protectiveness of Mat. His explanation of what happened to his nephew Owyn not only gives some exposition about what happens when a channeler is cut off from the source, but provides a reason for him to go to the lengths he does for the boys. He also had a great line that foreshadows how much more there is to the character of Thom than we first realize, not to mention Rand and Lews Therin later on: “We call ourselves gleemen because a silly name makes us less frightening. Nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.” Despite the changes they’ve made, we feel like this is still Thom. This is absolutely the “man who remembered stories, and who took fool boys under his wing when the smarter move would have been to keep on walking.” (A Memory of Light, Ch 39)
Speaking of the Grinwell farm scenes, little Helga (Robyn Betteridge) was the scene-stealer for us. Not only is she cute as a button, her scene with Mat further emphasizes some of his core character elements: his tenderness, his care for those he loves. And how fun was that Birgitte name drop? “She’s always wanted to see the world,” indeed.
Finally, we really enjoyed the Tinker scenes, where both Aram and Ila had a lot more weight as characters than their book counterparts this early on. We were especially moved by Ila’s scene with Perrin, including the nod to book readers about the first Maiden of the Spear (Morin of the Jenn Aiel, who took up the spear to save her daughter). This is an example of how we can see the Laila change paying off, as we only need to look at him to understand his mental anguish and what he’s grappling with. The pain on his face, against the backdrop of Ila’s story, is powerful and heartbreaking. “What greater revenge against violence than peace?”
Dislikes: We loved this episode so much that we had to start getting nitpicky to critique it, but it wasn’t perfect. The Aes Sedai camp left us scratching our heads a bit as to why they’d have such an elaborate setup, complete with heavy furniture and luxurious tents, if they were on the road. Not to mention we don’t see any wagons or nearly enough servants to transport and set up everything. Best we can figure out is this was a base camp they had prepared to rest and recover after capturing Logain; Lan locates the camp by its bright colored tents, so it was already set up when Liandrin and company rolled in with Logain at the end of Episode 3.
We also found some of the fight/stunt choreography to be a bit lacking. Some of Ihvon’s bow activity during the battle was less than realistic (no shade toward Emmanuel Imani, as this wasn’t an issue with his acting). There were also a few hiccups with the sound editing, where the arrow sound effect played when he hadn’t actually shot one. Stepin’s superhero jump was somewhat better in the final episode than the brief shot in the trailer, but it still didn’t really land for us (pun not intended). We’ll just have to chalk this one up to warder rage.
Book fans who were hoping for the tiganza to appear on screen will be disappointed. In its place, we saw a dance that was more joyous. This makes sense, as teasing Perrin with a sensual dance would be a bit tone-deaf while he’s still in the depths of grief and guilt over Laila’s death. However, it’s always a bit sad to see a scene you were hoping for in the books not make it to the screen.
Finally, this is less something we dislike, and more of an oddity we’d like to point out, but while the female hallucination Logain hears is named (Elusha Salid, a name not from the books) and credited (Rebecca Tanwen, whom we announced back in December of last year), the male hallucination is not. We presume this may be to keep some story element a secret, but the show has been very uneven with crediting their actors. Zeke Ferdández, for example, is one of the guards in the cold open. He has a speaking role but does not show up in the credits. However, the non-speaking part of the Grinwell son is credited. We’re not sure the reason for this, but as fans who want to celebrate everyone who is a part of this world we love, in front or behind the camera, it’s frustrating that there are actors or crew members who will remain a mystery to us, even after the full season is released.
Changes from Book to Screen
As Lane pointed out in his spoiler-free review, this episode contained the most scenes that were not directly out of the first book. Let’s talk about some examples of added material and why it worked so well:
- During the discussion around the warder fire, Alanna takes her two warders off to bed, and Nynaeve realizes the three of them are physically intimate. Lan immediately says he needs to go to bed as well, and the smile on Nynaeve’s face fades as she assumes he and Moiraine are also romantically involved.
- Lan and Nynaeve’s connection deepens where he explains what her Old Tongue mantra really means. Nynaeve’s prickly exterior finally slips, and as a heart-achingly beautiful rendition of “Mashiara” plays in the background, she says, “You’re not exactly what I thought you were, al’Lan Mandragoran.” Nynaeve doesn’t yet know that the al in front of his name denotes Malkieri royalty, but when Lan responds that she is exactly what he thought she was, he addresses her as Wisdom al’Meara. By using her title, he subtly shows he respects her as an equal. (Also, we’re convinced he was about to call her a lioness, and if that sentence isn’t finished sometime this season, we’ll riot.)
- Throughout the course of the episode, we’re given an excellent “power scale” for the channelers. We’ve seen Moiraine, Alanna, and other Aes Sedai in combat, and know how formidable they can be. Yet it’s taking everything they have to shield Logain. When he eventually escapes, he wreaks havoc and nearly kills everyone in the room, so he’s clearly a step up. So, by Nynaeve’s big moment, the scale of her power is clear. All of this is setting up for the reveal of Rand’s identity as the Dragon Reborn, where we’ll instantly know the baseline amount of his power.
- Logain’s early gentling does a lot of heavy lifting. First and foremost, seeing it onscreen at all is an absolute necessity so we understand the full effect and are properly afraid for Rand (and other male channelers) down the road. It also shows Aes Sedai politics, particularly with the Red Ajah. Finally, having Nynaeve witness it will get her thinking about gentling and how to heal it, and her eventual healing of Logain will be an incredibly powerful moment for both of them.
This episode contains the most original content so far, but not only was it our favorite episode yet, it still felt very much like the Wheel of Time. We were told many times before the show came out that as book fans, we should gird our loins against the changes that would be coming in the adaptation. Changes can make fans nervous, but after this episode, we feel that the source material is being treated with love and respect while being made into an engaging and compelling television show. We’re looking forward to seeing more of the story of Logain and the other Aes Sedai next week in episode 5, Blood Calls Blood.
Episode 4 – The Dragon Reborn (Overall: 4.5/5)
Lane: 4.5/5, Sara: 4.5/5, Eri: 4.5/5, Omar: 4.5/5