After years of waiting and six weeks of watching, we’ve finally arrived at the finale episode for the first season of The Wheel of Time. Here’s our full spoiler review for episode eight: The Eye of the World, directed by Ciaran Donnelly and written by Rafe Lee Judkins.
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, you may want to just scroll down to the ending, where you’ll find our final thoughts and ratings.
The episode opens 3000 years ago. Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim) is arguing with Latra Posae Decume (Katie Brayben) in a nursery. Lews has a plan to take male and female channelers to cage the Dark One, but Latra says that she cannot approve of his plan as the risk of failing is too great. Lews’ baby starts to cry, and he calms her by telling her that he’s going to make the world a safer place for her. We see the skyline of a futuristic, high-tech city, and it’s clear this is what the ruins back in episode 1 used to be.
In the present day, Rand and Moiraine push their way through the swampy, corpse-studded forest of the Blight. They take a brief rest where they can see the Seven Towers of Malkier, the fallen kingdom where Lan was born. Moiraine explains Malkier has been abandoned for forty years at most, but the Blight has spread rapidly.
Back at Fal Dara, Egwene frantically packs to go after Rand. Perrin tells her that there’s no way they could follow them and that they’d die trying. After the awkwardness caused by Nynaeve’s outburst last episode, Perrin reassures Egwene that they’ll always be okay. Meanwhile, Nynaeve asks Lan if he can feel anything through the bond, and he says Moiraine doesn’t want to be found. Nynaeve explains that Moiraine was actually the one she tracked from the Two Rivers, and offers to teach Lan her “tell.” The two share a tender moment and Lan bids Nynaeve goodbye.
Rand awakens to tendrils growing on his hand. Moiraine is suddenly stabbed through the head. The man with fiery eyes, who Rand and the others have been seeing in their dreams, approaches. Rand shoots an arrow into his eye but the man (Fares Fares) absorbs the arrow and reveals his face — we know him as Ishamael (although this isn’t stated in the show). Ishamael knows Rand is Lews Therin Telamon reborn. He is also surprised by Rand’s heron-mark blade and reveals he knows Tam is not Rand’s birth father. Rand shouts that this is a dream and stabs himself to wake up. He wakes with a start, and Moiraine asks him what the Dark One said in his dream, but Rand refuses to answer, saying he doesn’t believe any of it. Rand asks her what her plan was, and she gives him a sa’angreal, explaining to Rand that it will increase his power a hundred-fold when he channels into it. Rand asks her to teach him how to channel, and she says she cannot and that every time he channels, he gets closer to madness. She tells a story of when she was a novice and struggled with touching the Source, until a mentor Aes Sedai used the One Power to beat her until she was able to channel to stop it.
Nynaeve is trying to listen to the wind but reveals that ever since the day she channeled, she can no longer hear anything. Egwene hears roars, similar to what she heard before Bel Tine but far, far worse. Nynaeve then leads Egwene, Perrin, and Loial to confront Min about what she told Moiraine regarding Rand. Min refuses to say, and explains that she truly doesn’t know if Rand will be all right, only that everything she’s seen has all come true eventually. As she talks, she sees a vision of Nynaeve falling to her knees, her face burning. She also sees visions of nearby soldiers dying in brutal ways. Alarm bells ring throughout the city as the invading Trolloc army is spotted.
Even in the Blight, Rand and Moiraine can see and hear the army of Trollocs approaching Tarwin’s Gap. Moiraine says the only way to stop the army is to stop the Dark One.
Lord Yakota (Amar Chadha-Patel) apprises Lord Agelmar (Thomas Chaanhing) and Lady Amalisa (Sandra Yi Sencindiver) of the situation with the amassing army. There are dozens of Fades and thousands of Trollocs. Ropes were also cut on the drawbridge, indicating that there are Darkfriends in the city. Agelmar says they need to send all their men to support the Gap, but Amalisa warns that the Gap won’t hold against a force this large. Agelmar tells Lord Yakota and Uno Nomesta (Guy Roberts) that they “know what to do.”
Lan heads into the Blight after Moiraine and Rand, who have now reached a circular pit — the Eye of the World. Rand asks if Moiraine was including herself when she said that whomever came between the Dragon and the Dark One would die. Moiraine says nothing and walks ahead of Rand into the Eye. At the bottom of the Eye, there’s a large Aes Sedai symbol on a circular disc. Rand has faint memories of fighting here as Lews Therin Telamon against Ishamael (who Rand believes to be the Dark One). Suddenly, Rand’s surroundings change. He’s back in his home in the Two Rivers with Egwene and their daughter, Joiya. In the real world, Rand has fallen unconscious. Ishamael appears and Moiraine tries to channel at him, but he shields her with a flick of his hand. He taunts her about knowing the One Power is there, just beyond her grasp.
Amalisa and Agelmar wrestle with the very high chance that Tarwin’s Gap will be overrun, Fal Dara itself will fall, and that the Trolloc armies will make their way to the rest of the land. Their plan is to send messages to all corners of the continent while they hold the Dark One’s army back long enough. Amalisa swears she won’t let the city fall. As the Trolloc army swells, Agelmar and his soldiers ride to the outpost in the gap. They begin firing their crossbows at the Trollocs. Amalisa dons her father’s armor and assumes command in the city. While foreigners (including Min) evacuate, every Shienaran, even children, is expected to stay and fight, and Amalisa sends out a request for every woman who can channel. Lord Yakota and Uno remove Agelmar’s throne and start hammering at the stone dais beneath. Amalisa, Nynaeve, and Egwene assemble outside the city with two other women — one of them is the Malkieri wife of Zahir that we met in episode 7.
Rand, meanwhile, is feeling uneasy in his vision. Egwene asks him what’s wrong. Rand begins to question her, asking her to tell him things only they would know. When she does so, Rand is relieved that it’s really her, but suddenly she and Joiya freeze mid-motion. Ishamael appears and tells Rand he can use his power to shape the world in whatever way he wants. Rand asks how he can make this dream real. At the Eye, Moiraine puts a dagger to Rand’s throat to kill him if he chooses the Dark.
Perrin and Loial are taken to the throne room and offer to help Yakota and Uno with their task. At the gap, the battle is still raging. Trollocs have piled up and begin breaking through the arrow slits. One throws a javelin straight into Agelmar’s chest. Back in the city, two guardswomen answer a knock from someone when they give the password. The door opens to reveal Padan Fain and two Fades, who kill the guardswomen and enter the fortress.
(Things start to cut pretty quickly between characters, so we’ve combined the storyline by character from this point on.)
In the throne room, the men have finally broken through the floor of the dais to extricate an intricately carved chest holding the Horn of Valere. Perrin urges them to use it, but Yakota and Uno tell him it’s for the Dragon. Perrin then spots Fain walking past the doorway, and pursues him. As he does, hears screams and rushes back to the throne room where he arrives just in time to see Fain has doubled back and Fades are killing Shienaran soldiers. Uno is on the ground, injured. Yakota falls, seemingly dead, and Fain stabs Loial with the ruby-encrusted dagger Mat stole from Shadar Logoth. Fain grabs the Horn’s chest and reveals to Perrin that he’s been coming to the Two Rivers all these years because the five of them — Rand, Perrin, Mat, Egwene, and Nynaeve — are all ta’veren, focal points for the Wheel. Fain and his lord, the Dark One, sent the Trollocs to retrive the five of them and attempt to turn them to the Shadow. Perrin picks up a weapon, but can’t bring himself to use it an Fain walks away with the Fades, Horn of Valere in hand.
The Trollocs breach the gap and approach Fal Dara. Amalisa links with the other women, pulling the One Power through them. The combined power is exponentially greater than anything Amalisa has ever channeled. She continues to draw more power through the other women, who are visibly struggling. Finally, Amalisa hurls lightning and blasts of earth that decimate the Trollocs. The Malkieri woman falls to her knees, her eyes burned out from wielding too much power. Nynaeve shouts at Amalisa to stop, but Amalisa says she can’t let go. The second woman drops dead. As Egwene and Nynaeve begin to burn, Nynaeve crawls to Egwene and somehow redirects the flows of the One Power out of Egwene and into her instead. When Amalisa draws in one last burst of power, both her and Nynaeve burn out. Sobbing, Egwene holds Nynaeve as she desperately attempts to channel. We see weaves of the One Power flowing through Nynaeve, bringing her back from the brink of death and seemingly reversing the damage done by burning out.
Inside Rand’s vision, Ishamael is teaching Rand how to channel. Rand says this fantasy Egwene, who would choose him over being an Aes Sedai, is not the woman he loves. This world would not be what she wanted. Rand channels through the sa’angreal and is back in the real world; in a wave of white light, Ishamael disappears. The symbol under their feet cracks with the power of Rand’s channeling. Rand tells Moiraine he felt the madness and he wants to keep those he loves safe by going far away. He asks Moiraine to tell everyone he died, knowing she can’t lie but will find a way to bend the truth. After Rand leaves, Lan finds Moiraine, who tells Lan he’s gone. Lan tells her to unmask the bond, and Moiraine tearfully reveals that she can’t touch the Source. She then realizes that the shattered stone from the symbol beneath them is cuendillar, a material that’s supposed to be unbreakable. Lan asks what it means, and Moiraine says she fears this was actually just the beginning.
On the far Western shore of the continent, a small girl plays in the sand. She looks up to see a fleet of ships approaching. It’s the Seanchan fleet, and we see sul’dam instructing damane to channel a huge tidal wave.
Likes: Just like episode 1 offered the opportunity to show a battle that we didn’t get to see much in the books, this episode fleshed out the battle at Tarwin’s Gap. It was great to see the Shienarans in action, albeit not as much action as we hoped for. (May the last embrace of the Mother welcome them home.) We suspect Covid-19 may have impeded shooting huge fight scenes due to safety concerns and/or the availability of stuntpeople. We also appreciated giving Perrin, Loial, Nynaeve, and Egwene a role during the battle.
The production design was once again excellent. From Amalisa’s armor to little Joiya’s outfit, the Age of Legends to Fal Dara, the attention to detail was clear. We especially appreciated the science fiction aesthetic of the Age of Legends costumes and sets. The Seanchan looked suitably alien and menacing and we can’t wait to see them wreaking havoc next season.
We loved the scenes between Lan and Nynaeve in previous episodes, but there were still some particular lines we’ve been waiting for, and we finally got them! Seeing the romance between Lan and Nynaeve come to life has consistently been one of the highlights of the television series.
We also really appreciated how they handled Rand’s encounter with Ishamael at the Eye. His reasoning for rejecting the dream world is great foreshadowing for his future epiphany while fighting the Dark One in A Memory of Light. It’s completely in line with what book Rand cared about at this point.
Dislikes: While we understand the desire to have cliffhangers leaving audiences craving more, we worry that some of the cliffhangers in this episode were too manufactured and will feel cheap once season 2 airs. It’s one thing to have a character missing after a battle, but it’s another thing entirely to lead an audience into believing that a character (or two) is dead only for them to somehow be alive later. Hammed Animashaun has been spotted with the cast numerous times during the filming of season 2, and Guy Roberts is confirmed to have a recurring role in season 2, so it seems clear Loial and Uno will somehow survive. If the television series fakes out the audience with character deaths too often, not only will audiences stop trusting the storytelling, but it will undercut the impact of the deaths that do occur.
While we loved seeing the One Power wielded on a scale yet to be seen in the show, we didn’t like that apparently “burning out” in the show also means death. Perhaps this is our book-reader bias showing, but we believe that being cut off from the One Power is high enough stakes without throwing death into the mix. It also cheapens the sacrifice of the other women by having Egwene mysteriously heal Nynaeve (but only Nynaeve). We will discuss this in further detail in our section on changes from book to screen.
The damane use elaborate hand and arm motions to channel. While it is accurate to the books that Aes Sedai use unnecessary hand motions in their channeling, channelers from across the ocean shouldn’t have the same handicap — especially when they’re trained as weapons. The Seanchan would want their weapons to be as efficient as possible, and the long, drawn-out arm motions are anything but. Why throw in a line from Eaman Valda in episode 5 about hand movements not actually being needed for channeling if every female channeler in the world acts like they are? And while we’re discussing the Seanchan, it made no sense for them to show such a display of force for one child. There didn’t appear to be any particular reason for the action, and it ended up being something showy that didn’t follow in-world logic. We also didn’t love the look of the mouth gags for the damane.
The CGI was shaky in places, including the Trolloc army, the Seanchan channeling and tidal wave, and Ba’alzamon’s melting face.
Finally, we felt the cold open was lacking some tension. In the books, they had already been waging war for ten years before Lews and the Hundred Companions made their ill-fated strike against the Dark One. However, there was no hint of this, therefore there’s no sense of any urgency or desperation that might have made Lews’ risky decision more understandable. Also, while actors Alexander Karim and Katie Brayben did a great job filming an entire scene in the Old Tongue, we wonder if the scene might have turned out differently if they had filmed in a language they both fully understand the nuances of.
Changes From Book to Screen
We anticipated the adaptation of the end of The Eye of the World would have many changes, and episode 8 certainly didn’t pull any punches in that regard.
- In the show, Lews Therin Telamon is called “Dragon Reborn.” We’ve had hints of this lore change all season long, with characters stating that there is a Dragon Reborn every Age. This does raise the question of who the original Dragon was and when they first lived, but that’s probably not something that will be answered in the series. A related small change: the Hundred Companions in the show are exactly ninety nine, plus Lews, as opposed to the one hundred and thirteen supporters in the books.
- Instead of everyone going to the Eye of the World as in the books, only Rand and Moiraine go, with Lan chasing afterwards. This change makes sense within the context of the characters’ knowledge in the show. Unsurprisingly, Aginor and Balthamel were cut from those scenes, only having Rand face Ba’alzamon/Ishamael. They’ve also removed the “cords” from the book, instead drawing inspiration from Egwene’s Accepted test by having Rand be tempted by a similar vision of a possible future. We felt the change worked, but it will be interesting to see how this effects Egwene’s future Accepted test, as it might feel redundant.
- We’ve heard of a couple of channelers famously killing themselves while drawing too much of the One Power — Lews Therin Telamon and Queen Eldrene of Manetheren — however, in the books, “burning out” does not guarantee death. It’s possible that these differences are being maintained in the series and that some lessons in the White Tower in season 2 will clarify what burning out means; perhaps what happened with Amalisa and the other women was not actually being burned out. At any rate, we’re not sure how we feel about the possible implications of burning out meaning death. It would certainly up the stakes, but the show has already established how devastating it is to be cut off from the One Power, so adding death on top of it feels superfluous.
- Speaking of things needing clarification…it’s impossible to heal someone from death in the books, but the episode definitely fooled people into thinking that Nynaeve died. To have Egwene — who’s never shown any particular talent for healing and who can barely channel fire at this point — bring back Nynaeve from the brink of death really strains the bounds of probability.
- Rand leaving on his own after the Eye of the World is a big change from the end of the first book but it does put him in a similar place in his character arc as in the third book, The Dragon Reborn. Based on past information about a possible return to the Two Rivers in season 3, it’s been theorized that season 2 of the show might combine the plots of the second and third books, and this change supports that theory.
- Moiraine being unable to channel is a huge departure from the books. It’s unclear whether she’s stilled or simply shielded with a tied-off weave; we did not see the same effect that we saw back in episode 4 with Logain, although stilling and gentling may look different. If Moiraine is just elaborately shielded by Ishamael, this does actually have some textual support: in The Fires of Heaven, Moghedian shields Liandrin in a very similar way, saying that she “will search a very long time to find anyone who can unravel that … You will live, not stilled, but knowing that you could channel again, if only you found someone to untie your shield” (TFOH, Ch 34). This could be why Moiraine goes searching for Adealeas and Vandene (possibly consolidated into Verin) in the show, or perhaps she hunts for Rand to see if he can undo the shield. If she is indeed stilled, that could provide earlier motivation for Nynaeve’s later discoveries. While either option is a very big change, it doesn’t have the massive plot ramifications that we first thought. Moiraine’s primary role is Rand’s mentor and advisor, and she doesn’t need to channel to do that. There are a few moments that do require channeling, such as her balefiring the Darkhounds or Be’lal, but these are also events that could be cut or accomplished by a different channeler. We’re not sure how we feel about this change, but it was certainly a way to increase the stakes without straight up killing Moiraine at the end of season 1.
- In the books, the a’dam consists of a collar around the damane’s neck that is connected to the bracelet of a sul’dam by a silvery chain. It appears in the show that there will be no chain, and the collar is much larger. There also appears to be a gag, but it’s unknown at this time whether this is part of the ter’angreal or simply another way to show the damane are completely subservient. This design, along with the elaborate makeup, is likely a change analogous to the Great Serpent rings, making things easier to spot on screen.
- According to Padan Fain, all five of the Two Rivers folk are ta’veren. If this is true, that is a departure from the books, where only the three boys were ta’veren. This honestly doesn’t have much impact on the plot, as Egwene and Nynaeve were able to accomplish seemingly improbably things so many times in the books so frequently that other characters even ask them if they’re sure they aren’t ta’veren. Frankly, we’d rather have all five of them be ta’veren instead of adding Egwene but not Nynaeve. It also suggests that Siuan may not have the Talent to sense ta’veren in the show (or perhaps she does and hasn’t shared that information yet), but again, this doesn’t really have any plot ramifications.
- Finally, several characters are heavily implied to be dead/dying, despite being alive in the books: Amalisa, Agelmar, Uno, and Loial. Amalisa’s death doesn’t have any future plot impact, but Agelmar has a key role in A Memory of Light as one of the Great Captains. It’s a change that, while providing tension and drama via a character death, seems like it might be more hassle than it’s worth to deal with in the future. In terms of Loial and Uno, it’s pretty clear to us that this is a fake out, since both actors seem to be back for season 2. Loial being stabbed with the Shadar Logoth dagger could potentially corrupt/sicken him, providing extra impetus for some of the group to pursue Fain next season.
This episode definitely had the spectacle and excitement expected from a season finale, but we believe the changes will prove to be divisive amongst book fans. On the other hand, we think that non-book readers will find episode 8 to be a very exciting way to end the series, and they’ll hopefully be at the edge of their seats waiting for the next season.
We think that Covid-19 and Barney Harris’ untimely departure may have negatively impacted the last two episodes. For instance, based on comments from VFX crew, we know because of Covid-19 the Trollocs had to be 100% CGI instead of primarily practical like in the first episodes. Given that, we suspect the production was also unable to film close-up, large scale battle scenes (such as the Shienarans in direct combat with Trollocs, as we really had hoped to see). The Mat rewrites were handled about as well as they could have been, but there were still apparent ripple effects for other plot lines. While both these factors were out of the production’s control, we can’t help wondering what could have been.
Our initial reactions to the episode were negatively colored by our knowledge of the books and our emotional connection to them, but on re-watches, we’ve grown to like the episode more. Changes from the book aside, it’s not a perfect episode, but it is still a good episode of television. We have nothing but praise for the quality of the production design, Ciaran Donnelly’s directing, and Lorne Balfe’s incredible score.
We’re more excited and curious than ever about what’s ahead for our characters. It’s been quite a ride to watch The Wheel of Time for this past month and a half, and after the years of waiting it’s surreal to realize the first season is now over. We hope that Rafe and his team can improve on the foundation they set in this season to create an even more exciting season 2!
Episode 8 – The Eye of the World (Overall: 3.25/5)
Lane: 3.5/5, Sara: 3/5, Eri: 3/5, Omar: 3.5/5