We’re officially into the latter half of the first season of The Wheel of Time! Here’s our full spoiler review for episode five: Blood Calls Blood.
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.
This episode slows the pace a bit and juggles between adapting material from the books and adding new material that fleshes out the world of the White Tower. We’ll highlight things we liked, disliked, and changes from the books with their potential ramifications on future plotlines. 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. Once again, we’ve organized our recap by the three separate plotlines.
A month after the events of episode 4, Rand and Mat approach Tar Valon on foot. Mat’s appearance and demeanor show he’s gone downhill fast over the past month. Rand notices Dragonmount behind Tar Valon, and feels like he’s seen it before. The two of them enter the city, gawking at all the sights around them, while Rand searches for an inn Thom told him about. In the background, Padan Fain (Johann Myers) watches them, whistling. The two get settled in their room, and Mat asks Rand to tell him again that he didn’t kill Helga Grinwell. Rand reassures him as best he can, but Mat doesn’t seem convinced. Rand wanders to the library, where he is startled to see Loial (Hammed Animashaun), an Ogier. Loial says he’s excited to meet an Aiel, but Rand insists he’s not an Aiel and is from the Two Rivers. Their conversation is interrupted by shouts outside — it’s the procession to bring Logain to the White Tower. Rand leaves to wade through the crowded streets, where he joins Mat who’s watching from a balcony. Padan Fain still lurks in the background. As the procession approaches, Kerene’s empty horse draws a murmur from the crowd. People start throwing garbage at Logain, who is sitting silently in his cage, a broken man. As his cage passes, Logain looks up at the two boys and Mat hallucinates him laughing maniacally. Mat has Rand make a deal with him: if it turns out one of them can channel, they won’t let the other become like Logain. Loial meets them back at the inn, telling him that Ogier have access to the White Tower and that he found a woman with a Two Rivers braid. It’s Nynaeve, who embraces Rand. She immediately tries to help Mat, but Mat snaps at her and tells her not to touch him. Later, Rand tells her that he think Mat can channel. Nynaeve comforts Rand and tells him that when Perrin and Egwene arrive, they’ll figure everything out on their own. Rand is clearly worried about Egwene, and Nynaeve tells him about how Egwene overcame a childhood battle with a deadly infection and that she’s unbreakable.
Perrin and Egwene are still traveling with the Tuatha’an as they near Tar Valon. The caravan is suddenly stopped by Whitecloaks. Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis) recognizes Perrin and Egwene and demands to take then. The Tuatha’an link arms to stop the Whitecloaks while Aram tries to lead Perrin and Egwene to safety. But the Whitecloaks follow on horseback, knock Aram unconscious, and take Perrin and Egwene captive. In the Whitecloak camp, Egwene is disrobed and bathed, before being changed into a simple white dress. They tie her down into a chair so that Eamon Valda can question her. Perrin is brought in, bound and gagged, and tied to a post. Valda tells Egwene that he knows he’s not Aes Sedai but that she can channel. He starts torturing Perrin, and Perrin’s eyes turn gold. Valda tells Egwene that if she channels, he’ll kill her and let Perrin live, but if she doesn’t, Perrin will die and she will go free. He leaves the two to discuss which choice they’ll make. While Valda’s gone, Egwene desperately tries to escape so she can save Perrin. He begs her to stop and tells her that he deserves it after killing Laila, and reveals the full truth of what happened on Winternight. Valda returns and Egwene assures Perrin that Laila’s death was not his fault and that she will make sure he is able to live long enough to forgive himself. She channels a small fireball at Valda to distract him, while discreetly channeling fire at Perrin’s bindings. Perrin rips free from his bonds, golden eyed, almost growling. Wolves howl outside. The distraction allows Egwene to stab Valda in the shoulder, incapacitating him so she and Perrin can gather their things and escape. Egwene makes sure to grab the Aes Sedai rings that Valda kept as trophies. Outside the camp is in chaos as a pack of wolves attack the Whitecloaks. As they flee, Perrin and Egwene are stopped by a growling wolf, but Perrin insists it won’t hurt them. The wolf runs past them, allowing them to escape.
In the aftermath of the battle with Logain’s forces, the surviving Aes Sedai hold a funeral for the fallen, including the king of Ghealdan and Kerene Nagashi. Stepin takes Kerene’s ring and wears it around his neck. A month later, the Aes Sedai party is approaching Tar Valon with the gentled Logain in tow. They all worry about Stepin, who is suffering from serious grief after losing Kerene. After arriving at the White Tower, Moiraine hides Nynaeve in the warder’s quarters so she isn’t noticed by other Aes Sedai, who will want her to become a Novice immediately. Nynaeve doesn’t care to hear about Tower politics and demands to know where her Two Rivers kin are. Moiraine tells her that her eyes and ears will let her know as soon as the others enter the city, but Nynaeve doesn’t trust her. Moiraine reassures Nynaeve that she understands all the complex emotions Nynaeve’s been experiencing after channeling for the first time.
Lan, Ihvon, and Maksim dress Stepin in white, the color of mourning. Stepin shares some of his troubled past and how meeting Kerene changed his life. Lan gently reminds that he could bond Alanna, but Stepin, grief stricken, reacts to the suggestion with anger. He then takes Kerene’s ring to an ornate furnace and tearfully drops it in to melt it down. After this ceremony, Lan goes to Moiraine, and the two share a solemn moment. Later, a drunk Stepin asks Nynaeve for some tea to help him sleep. All he has left of Kerene is his pain and he’s not ready to let go of it yet. Nynaeve assures him that the pain will never go away and gives him the tea. Nynaeve then wanders into the hallway after Stepin leaves and is approached by Liandrin, who encourages her to leave the White Tower and explore. Liandrin then confronts Moiraine about hiding Nynaeve, and why she’s never around in the Tower. The two argue about which Ajah Nynaeve might choose, with Liandrin suggesting that Nynaeve might want to join Red. Moiraine suggests she find converts elsewhere. That evening, in Moiraine’s quarters, Alanna and Moiraine wonder if Stepin will accept a bond with Alanna. Moiraine mentions she once heard of a way to release the warder bond, but Alanna reassures her that she’ll be around for Lan for a long time. Alanna says the Amyrlin Seat is returning from Caemlyn and has summoned the Aes Sedai involved with Logain’s gentling to the Hall for answers. She warns Moiraine that she has two very powerful enemies in Liandrin and the Amyrlin.
Stepin is in his quarters with Lan, making offerings to ward off the Forsaken. He specifically wants protection from Ishamael, the Father of Lies, as he’s trying to see clearly what path is best for him. Lan offers to keep him company. Stepin pours Lan a cup of tea and discusses what it might be like to be bonded to Alanna. The two banter, and Stepin mentions Lan’s relationship with Nynaeve. Lan insists it would be a bad idea for Nynaeve to fall in love with him. In the morning, Lan awakens and realizes Stepin drugged him with the tea. When he finds Stepin, he’s too late — Stepin has already taken his own life. Warders, a few Aes Sedai, and Nynaeve gather for a ceremony to grieve Stepin. The lead warder (Mark Fletcher) tells Lan to take the role of relieving the group of its collective grief. While everyone beats their chests, Lan screams in anguish for his fallen friend.
Likes: Though the city might be different, there are many scenes from Rand and Mat that feel like they could be right out of the books. While we understand it’s hard to let go of Caemlyn, moving the major events from the books to Tar Valon doesn’t take away much, while also adding the opportunity to establish Aes Sedai culture earlier in the storyline. One of the scenes that felt truest to the spirit of the books was Rand’s meeting Loial. One of the biggest mysteries going into this series was how Ogier would look. In fact, until the announcement of Hammed Animashaun as Loial, many fans suspected that perhaps they would cut the character altogether due to the impracticality of having such a prominent non-human character. We were very happy with how they decided to portray Loial. His deep booming voice is perfect, and Hammed brings a wonderful charm to the beloved character, such as monologuing in the background after other characters stop paying attention. There are changes to his appearance from what’s described in the book — he’s not quite as tall and his ears aren’t as prominent — but we feel the spirit of the character is intact.
We loved the architectural design of Tar Valon and seeing the streets full of people from different countries all over the world was a joy. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, wondering which country each person in the background is from, and marveling at the tiny details the production team thought to include. If you haven’t yet watched the behind the scenes content available on X-Ray, please do! They really highlight how much care has gone into designing the world. And speaking of those Tar Valon crowds, did you catch Padan Fain’s appearances? They were so well done that we actually didn’t catch both of them until the fourth watch. (We might have also been distracted by the sea of extras!) We love these little moments that add re-watch value to the series.
While dark and disturbing, Egwene and Perrin’s scenes with the Whitecloaks were very effective at developing their characters, not to mention incredibly well acted. Abdul Salis plays a phenomenal villain, and while we love to hate him, we can’t help hoping he reappears later. And, of course, we were thrilled to get our first glimpse of Perrin Goldeneyes!
In general, the highlight of this episode was how it establishes very important elements that underpin the entire series. As a Vietnam veteran, Robert Jordan was no stranger to trauma, and throughout The Wheel of Time he tackles trauma and other complex issues like grief, mental health, politics, and power dynamics. Introducing these themes early is a vital part of adapting the entire series rather than just Eye of the World, especially for characters like Rand. So far, we feel like the show is handling these subjects with care, which bodes very well for future seasons when they’ll be explored in more depth.
Dislikes: As many may have guessed, that peculiar scene that Lane noted in his spoiler-free review was the funeral scene for Stepin. While we appreciated the intent of the scene, and how it fleshes out warder customs and culture not seen in the books, the scene itself didn’t quite land for us on the first watch, and felt like it went on a tiny bit too long. However, after we watched the behind the scenes video, the explanation of the funeral shed new light and helped us appreciate it more. We love that the production team is pulling from cultures all across our world, as is appropriate for The Wheel of Time. We just feel like there was a slight missed opportunity to better explain it in the show itself.
We’ve mentioned in a previous full spoiler review that some of the outfits feel like costumes, and while we do appreciate the changes to the Aes Sedai wardrobe on the basis of practicality while on the road, we do feel that this episode was a missed opportunity to show how Aes Sedai dress in their down time. Instead, we see many of the same outfits from last episode, which seems unrealistic, as surely these women would want to change into a different outfit once they’re home. As the series progresses, the opportunity for lavish costumes increases, so we hope this is something that will improve as the series goes on.
While we do love the production design for the White Tower, it felt very much like the Tower didn’t exist between the few set locations we did see. Some of this was also due to the fact we saw no Aes Sedai anywhere besides those with the Logain party. (We did enjoy seeing the Novices and Accepted, though.) In fact, the one part where you finally got a sense of the scale of the Tower wasn’t until the end when Lan was running through the hallways. We hope that future seasons will allow the opportunity to show us more movement within the Tower and further bring it to life.
Finally, some of the pacing felt jarring, and, as with episode 1, we wonder how many scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. For example, Loial suddenly arriving at the Light’s Blessing Inn with Nynaeve immediately after her conversation in the Tower with Liandrin was a little abrupt. On the other hand, some of the other scenes with the warders felt like they went on longer than necessary. The flow of the episode improved on re-watches, but we hope the pacing of future episodes can find that sweet spot between book content and original scenes.
Changes from Book to Screen
- The obvious big change is cutting Caemlyn. The show would have had to cast a number of important roles — Elayne, Galad, Gawyn, Elaida, Bryne, and Morgase — for season 1, only to have them appear in a few short scenes in one episode. This simply isn’t practical for a television show, both in terms of budget and actor availability. Rafe has mentioned wanting to wait until they can really lock down the best actor for the job, even if that means introducing them later than in the books. In season 2, we suspect that Elayne, Gawyn and Galad will meet Nynaeve and Egwene at the White Tower, and Elayne will later meet Rand in Tear. Finally, Caemlyn itself is not an important location until The Fires of Heaven, which will likely be 2-3 seasons down the road, so building an elaborate set for it now doesn’t make logistical sense. Tar Valon, however, is important throughout the entire series, so introducing it earlier is an understandable choice.
- Canonically, Kerene and Stepin died 20 years before Eye of the World; Kerene was presumed murdered by the Black Ajah. We suspect the show chose them because they could flesh out the Aes Sedai and warder bond without creating new characters, and kill off an Aes Sedai without plot ramifications later on. At any rate, we feel this change worked very well overall. Episode 5 makes it clear that the story isn’t really about Stepin, it’s about Moiraine and Lan — and their fear of eventually losing one another. Kerene and Stepin’s story will provide an underlying tension going forward, and we’ll always be worried how safe our main Aes Sedai and warders really are.
- Nynaeve’s story of Egwene contracting breakbone fever is a slight departure from the books. In the books, the contortions caused by the fever look worse than they actually are, but, not knowing this, the distress of seeing Egwene fighting the sickness is what leads Nynaeve to one of her first known instances of channeling. Including the story in this manner sets up Egwene’s unbreakable spirit, which is a major aspect of her plot throughout the entire series.
- Perrin and Egwene’s Whitecloak encounter has been changed, although the broad strokes remain the same. Valda’s impossible choice for Egwene lets Perrin finally lessen his burden by opening up about the truth of Laila’s death, and Egwene in turn reassured him that it was not his fault and he would one day believe that. We also see the wolves assist in their rescue instead of Lan, Moiraine, and Nynaeve, and Perrin and Egwene both had more agency in their own escape than they did in the books. It might be safe to assume at this point that the character of Jaret Byar has been cut, at least from this season. Time will tell, but we suspect his storyline has been absorbed by Eamon Valda (we never saw the body, so by TV logic, he’s definitely not dead). In the books, Perrin’s early encounters with the Whitecloaks leads to him genuinely believing for a long time that he deserves punishment for killing another person. In the television series, he’s currently struggling with the guilt of killing Laila, so perhaps this will replace his guilt over killing a Whitecloak in self-defense — something that, to be honest, felt contrived to a lot of book readers. The show’s version of this encounter gives a significantly more compelling reason for the Whitecloaks to be out for vengeance, too.
- It’s possible Stepin had an incomplete set, or the characters in general have limited knowledge about the number of Forsaken, but we counted only eight statues. Only Ishamael is confirmed, but we suspect the others include: Lanfear, Graendal, Sammael, Asmodean, Moghedien, and Semirhage.
There’s a lot to love in this episode, but there are also a lot of changes, so we anticipate that audience reaction may be a bit divided. However, we hope that upon re-watches, fans can find more things that they love within this episode. Again, we appreciate how the show is building up these complex themes early on, which will continually pay off as our characters begin to face the hardships of their respective journeys. We just hope the season can wrap up everything it needs to in just three more episodes.
We will not be releasing spoiler free review for next episode, The Flame of Tar Valon. Look for our full spoiler review of episode 6 on Saturday, December 11!
Episode 5 – Blood Calls Blood (Overall: 4/5)
Lane: 4/5, Sara: 4/5, Eri: 4/5, Omar: 4/5
(Edit, 12/9/21: Updated article to clarify that we will not have a spoiler free review for episode 6.)