This will be our full spoiler review and episode breakdown for The Wheel of Time, season 2, episode 8. 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 episodes and seasons of The Wheel of Time spoiled for you, please avoid this review.
After such a long wait for season 2, we can’t believe that the season finale is here so soon! Like the finale to season 1, this episode left us with a lot to digest and process. Read on for our summary or skip ahead to our review, book to screen analysis, and individual ratings.
Summary of Episode 208 – What Was Meant to Be (written by Rafe Judkins and Timothy Earle)
Three thousand years ago, Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim) faces down a shielded Ishamael (Fares Fares) with other Aes Sedai. Ishamael asks Lews to kill him, but Lews instead traps Ishamael in a seal and reveals that he has already trapped the other Forsaken as well.
Lanfear (Natasha O’Keeffe) leads Rand (Josha Stradowski), Moiraine (Rosamund Pike), and Lan (Daniel Henney) through the Ways. She pushes Moiraine and Lan out of a Waygate onto an empty beach, telling Moiraine to raise the banner when it’s time, before whisking Rand away through an unknown teleportation ability. Moiraine and Lan walk along the beach after exiting the Waygate. They have an emotional reconciliation and Moiraine finally admits that she was only able to tell him they were never equals because he has always been her better. Lan asks her to unmask the bond, and she does so.
Near present day Falme, Geofram Bornhald (Stuart Graham) prepares the Whitecloaks to attack the Seanchan. His son Dain (Jay Duffy) is worried they won’t be able to win, but the elder Bornhald is confident in their victory. The Whitecloaks charge the city, obscuring their approach with smoke. They attack the Seanchan and push towards the tower with the goal of incapacitating the defending sul’dam and damane, by far the biggest threat.
Rand arrives in Falme and sees a collared Egwene being led alongside other damane. Furious, he encounters High Lord Turak (Daniel Francis) and his elite retinue of guards. Turak sees his heron-mark sword and challenges him to a duel, but Rand easily dispatches the group with the One Power.
Renna (Xelia Mendes-Jones) readies Egwene (Madeleine Madden) for battle. Egwene tries to defy her, but Renna cuts off her braid as punishment. The damane are taken to the watchtower overlooking the ocean and forced to attack the invading Whitecloaks. At first, Egwene happily attacks the Whitecloaks, catching many Seanchan in the crossfire, but when she sees innocent civilians being harmed, she refuses to continue channeling. Renna prepares to cut off Egwene’s hands in punishment, but is interrupted by a perfectly aimed Whitecloak trebuchet strike, which kills the other sul’dam and damane and reduces the top of the tower to rubble.
Ishamael is watching the fog roll in as Lanfear appears to tell him that she’s brought Rand to the city. Ishamael is angry, saying that he’s not ready and Rand won’t yet choose to side with the Dark, but Lanfear counters by pointing out Ishamael might never be ready if left to his own devices. As a last ditch effort, Ishamael goes to Padan Fain (Johann Myers) and tasks him with pushing Mat over the edge. He then instructs Suroth (Karima McAdams) and Alwhin (Jessica Boone) to take the strongest damane to the ships, within line of sight of the tower, and wait for his signal. Lanfear, meanwhile, continues her own plotting; she approaches Bayle Domon (Julian Lewis Jones) and enlists him to dispose of the remaining cuendillar seals after the battle is over, so the remaining Forsaken cannot be awakened.
Fain locks Mat (Dónal Finn) in a room with the ruby-hilted dagger from Shadar Logoth. Mat struggles to resist the temptation, but with a bit of cunning and ingenuity, he constructs a spear out of the dagger without touching it, then uses it to cut through the door and escape. He fights his way through the guards and emerges into the city.
Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) has put on the clothes of the sul’dam she collared, Seta (Jade-Eleena Dregorius). She uses the a’dam to force Seta to tell them where Egwene will be taken. Elayne (Ceara Coveney) is visibly upset by Nynaeve’s viciousness when extracting information from the sul’dam. They force Seta to lead them through the city to the tower, but are attacked, resulting in Seta’s death and an arrow through Elayne’s leg. Despite her best efforts, Nynaeve is unable to channel, and has to push the arrow through Elayne’s leg instead.
Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), after telling Hopper to wait outside Falme for safety, is with Aviendha (Ayoola Smart), Bain (Ragga Ragnars), and Chiad (Maja Simonsen). They encounter Loial (Hammed Animashaun), Ingtar (Gregg Chilingirian), and Masema (Arnas Fedaravicius). Loial holds the Horn of Valere, which he was given by “a lady from Cairhien,” but he doesn’t want to leave the city without Egwene. Ingtar, on the other hand, argues that the Horn is the bigger priority as the Dragon needs it to win the Last Battle. The group is eventually cornered by Seanchan and Ingtar dies while attempting to give the others a chance to escape with the Horn.
Mat reunites with Perrin’s group and agrees to take the horn to Rand, who he knows will go wherever Egwene is–the top of the tower. He cuts the box open with the dagger and runs for the tower with the horn. As he runs along the battlements to the tower’s entrance, the way is blocked by dozens of Seanchan soldiers. With no other way up the tower, he desperately blows the horn as the soldiers charge. Time slows to a near standstill as the ancient heroes of legend–Uno among them–materialize around him. They tell him they’ve fought beside him countless times, and he realizes that he too is one of the heroes. The group charge and easily dispatch the Seanchan.
After rendezvousing with Mat and handing off the horn, Perrin encounters Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis); during the ensuing fight, Hopper arrives and attacks Valda to protect Perrin, but is killed by Geofram Bornhald. Perrin’s eyes turn gold as he watches Hopper’s spirit leave his body. In a rage, he kills Geofram Bornhald with an axe to the chest, which a horrified Dain witnesses. Perrin meets the recently summoned Uno, who gives Perrin his shield and holds off the Seanchan to allow Perrin to get to Rand.
Egwene and Renna emerge from the wreckage atop the tower, and Egwene picks up a collar fallen from a dead damane and places it around Renna’s neck. She explains that she figured out the mystery of how the a’dam works: sul’dam are channelers too, so weak they were never detected in searches. She tortures Renna through the a’dam until Renna releases her, then leaves Renna to asphyxiate. Upon Renna’s death, Egwene is freed. She collapses just as Rand arrives. He explains that he wanted to save her, but he realizes now that she didn’t need it.
As Rand and Egwene prepare to leave, they’re cornered by Ishamael; Egwene tries to attack with the One Power, but he effortlessly knocks her unconscious. He sends a signal of fire into the sky and the damane waiting in the ships below combine their strength to cast a shield on Rand. He taunts Rand by comparing him to his previous reincarnation, saying he always tries to be so honorable which will inevitably result in failure. He tells Rand if he continues fighting he’ll turn them all to the Dark, just like he did last time. One last time, he asks Rand to join them, but Rand defies him. Mat rushes in and throws his spear at Ishamael, only for it to go through the illusionary Forsaken and pierce Rand. Ishamael reappears to the side.
After a long trek down the beach, Moiraine and Lan recognize Falme and the Seanchan fleet in the distance. She realizes there is a huge shielding weave being channeled from the ships onto the top of the tower. As Lan holds off an attack from a Seanchan patrol, Moiraine sends her own weaves to disable the ships and stop the damane.
Atop the tower, a horrified Mat cradles Rand as Ishamael prepares to land a killing blow. In the nick of time, Egwene channels a shield, straining with all her might as Ishamael begins to bombard them with magical attacks. She is quickly worn down but Perrin arrives with Uno’s shield, and its magical properties seem to bolster Egwene’s shield to buy more time as Nynaeve and Elayne arrive. Elayne channels to stabilize Rand’s wound. The shield on him drops as Moiraine dispatches the Seanchan fleet below, and he steps forward, surrounded by the One Power. Ishamael seemingly accepts his fate as Rand channels into his sword and drives it through Ishamael’s chest. Ishamael collapses and scatters into dust.
Moiraine channels to create a spectral, fiery dragon that wraps around the tower as Rand — his friends assembled behind him — steps into a gap in the wall to be seen by the city below. The people of Falme cheer the Dragon Reborn and the Aiel look on in awe as they realize this is their prophesied car’a’carn.
After watching the Dragon’s reveal with a sly smile on her face, Lanfear returns to Ishamael’s chambers to obtain the remaining seals and give them to Bayle Domon for disposal. To her horror, she finds all the seals smashed, and another Forsaken, Moghedien (Laia Costa), sitting in the rubble. Moghedien traps Lanfear with a web of the One Power; Ishamael freed her and the other Forsaken before his demise, as he suspected Lanfear would betray them. Moghedien warns that the five Two Rivers friends belong to her and the other Forsaken, as they were never as close to the Dragon as Lanfear and Ishamael were, and will have no qualms about harming him and his friends. She disappears, leaving a shaken Lanfear.
Review of Episode 208 – What Was Meant to Be
Likes: This episode was a dramatic and visually stunning piece of television with moments of triumph for our main characters while also leaving some intriguing mysteries for the next season. The production value this season, especially the channeling visual effects, continues to blow us out of the water, a huge level up from season 1. Moiraine’s channeling on the beach was particularly beautiful. The fire dragon was the only CGI that didn’t quite land for us, but the overall effect was still very striking. Lorne Balfe’s score was phenomenal as always, including many new variations–ranging from tragic to triumphant–of character themes. Standouts included Egwene’s theme and the reworking of Mat’s theme for the Horn of Valere. We also love that the show has fully embraced the epic fantasy nature of its source material, in all its sometimes quasi-campy glory, and isn’t afraid to lean hard into the magical and mystical elements that some other mainstream fantasy has shied away from.
Speaking of the Horn of Valere, it was a joy to watch that iconic scene come to life, albeit with a few changes from the books. Hearing Mat shout his signature “Time to toss the dice!” brought happy tears. The Heroes were appropriately alien-looking and badass, and we loved the otherworldly misty visual effect that surrounded them. We’ve waited all season for Mat to really come into his own, and we weren’t disappointed on that front. The foreshadowing for the ashandarei — including him using a spear to cut a magical hole through a doorway to escape — wasn’t lost on us, either.
While it was brutal and heartbreaking to watch, having Geofram Bornhald kill Hopper and then Perrin killing him in response, while Dain witnessed, worked very well onscreen and very believably sets up Dain’s future antagonism with Perrin. We also spotted that his eyes remained golden through the end of the episode, even when not directly interacting with the wolves — and boy do those golden eyes look good on him.
We’d be remiss to write this review without praising Laia Costa’s Moghedien. As we’ve said repeatedly, the show has consistently knocked it out of the park with its portrayal of villains, especially the Forsaken. From this brief scene with our favorite spider, this trend promises to continue. Along with her small and unassuming stature, Costa’s unsettling mannerisms and use of what might be a Tel’aran’rhiod trap to ensnare Lanfear were absolutely on-brand. We can’t wait to watch next season as she becomes Nynaeve’s arch nemesis.
Dislikes: Despite numerous strengths, there were aspects that frustrated and disappointed us. Our first struggle was with the pacing; while we expected the finale to be fast-paced, there were parts that felt disjointed as if shots or scenes had been cut out, as well as places that dragged unnecessarily long. For example, after all the build up over the theft of the Horn earlier in the season, we expected to see Loial and Ingtar stealing the Horn and meeting up with Masema. Then it happens off screen by help from “the lady from Cairhien,” which felt like a last minute way to save time. Ingtar’s final scene also felt incomplete, although we recognize this may be due to our book knowledge of everything that was missing. With the mention of being able to hold off numerous soldiers in an alleyway, his conversation with Perrin early in the season, other subtle actions or looks from him throughout the season, and his final stand in the alley with a focus on his tragically heroic death, all signs pointed to his intended ending matching the books. Narratively, Ingtar’s confession and sacrifice would have provided a very satisfying foil to Ishamael who simply gave up at the end when he realized he couldn’t win. On the other end of the spectrum, we got one too many scenes of Elayne with an arrow in her leg that felt like a contrived way to keep her and Nynaeve from reaching the tower.
Our main disappointment, however, stemmed from setup and payoff. These two writing concepts are equally crucial, and when you have one without the other, it can leave viewers frustrated and confused. This episode contained a number of instances of setup that went seemingly nowhere, or payoff that either felt unearned or contradicted the logic, mechanics, and character motivations that have been previously established in the show. This two-pronged issue was perhaps best exemplified through the events atop the tower in Falme. Egwene defies Renna, refusing to channel, and ultimately picks up the collar to put it around Renna’s neck. It’s a great triumph that we wanted to cheer for, but the problem is, the show spent an entire episode establishing the rules of the a’dam and how damane cannot touch objects they perceive as a weapon. While Egwene has strength and determination to survive, she’s still confined by the same metaphysical a’dam rules. Her inability to free herself in the books is also a foundational part of her character arc throughout the entire series, as she’s so traumatized by that absolute helplessness that she goes to great lengths to avoid ever being put in such a position again. Her somehow freeing herself through sheer force of will undermines some of that future character arc, in our opinion. Finally, there’s her faceoff against Ishamael, where she shields Rand against an onslaught of attacks so Elayne can heal him. Conceptually, we have no issue with this scene, but the execution was a miss for us. Egwene is incredibly powerful, furious after her imprisonment, and probably has the channeling version of an adrenaline rush. In the books, her being a damane unlocked her full channeling potential, essentially leveling her up, but the television show hasn’t mentioned that so far. She’s also holding a shield versus directly attacking Ishamael, which she tried once and–understandably — failed at. Still, when the show has spent the season showing time and time again how powerful the Forsaken are, it strains plausibility within established show canon for her to be able to hold off Ishamael for longer than a few moments. This scene was so close to greatness for us, with the focus on the entire group coming together to help Rand, but fell short. Egwene could have had her well-deserved triumphant moment in a believable way.
If you’ve read our reviews of the show so far, you’ll know that we’re rarely hypercritical of book-to-screen changes that are consistent with the framework of the show. This episode was full of well-executed, logical changes, such as how Rand killed Turak. The setup wasn’t there for him in the show to have a believable swordfight with Turak — and, admittedly, the duel barely makes sense even in the books — so him casually nuking a dozen elite Seanchan fighters instead felt reasonable and also doubled as a way to show his power. Perrin killing Bornhald, the circumstances around Mat’s blowing of the horn, Uno as a hero of the horn, Ishamael tricking Lanfear by releasing the remaining Forsaken, and Elayne healing Rand are more such examples from this episode. We just wished that the writing consistency had been more universal throughout the episode.
Book to Screen Analysis
Rand: We’ve already touched on most of this, but obviously Rand doesn’t beat Turak in a swordfight. Again, this makes sense within the show, since Rand hasn’t had believable training with that weapon. During his confrontation with Ishamael they don’t physically battle in the sky, and it is Mat, not Ishamael, who gives Rand the wound in his side. We never expected a literal sky fight, so the show’s version is a more realistic way to accomplish that. Although the method and location are different from the books, as Rand has not yet gone to the Stone of Tear and claimed Callandor, Rand is now publicly proclaimed as the Dragon Reborn for all the world to see.
Mat: While Mat still blows the Horn of Valere, the show has explicitly made him one of the heroes. This was a popular fan theory for years, although not official canon, and it’s a clever way for the show to fill in Mat’s memories without having him meet the Finn. Assuming the Finn aren’t cut, he’ll likely just meet them once, in Rhuidean. His makeshift spear is clear foreshadowing for the ashandarei, right down to using it to cut a hole in a door to escape. The final major change is having Mat accidentally injure Rand to give him the unhealing wound in his side. While we’ll see how Mat’s arc plays out, we suspect this is a way to balance out what otherwise might be too much of a “level up” from his blowing the Horn and unlocking his memories and skills.
Perrin: In the books, Perrin kills Whitecloaks in self defense after they kill Hopper. He does not, however, kill Geofram Bornhald. Dain only assumes Perrin was responsible due to being part of the same battle at the end of The Great Hunt. In the show, that ambiguity is gone, and Dain’s hatred of Perrin is much more understandable. This antagonism between him and Perrin will be higher stakes and lend more weight to Dain’s eventual redemption.
Egwene: We’ve already thoroughly discussed the changes that didn’t land for us. At this point, we’ll have to wait see how Egwene’s arc in the show continues to play out.
Nynaeve & Elayne: Although they disguise themselves, they never reach the point of breaking Egwene free. It’s clearly established now that Nynaeve’s blocked, made even worse since the last time she channeled it was with Ryma’s method of “you don’t have to think about it, you just help them.” Unfortunately we know how that turned out. Still, it was difficult to see Nynaeve do nothing except capture a sul’dam, which turned out to be pointless, and push an arrow through Elayne’s leg (without even removing the fletching). However, we did love the change to have Elayne heal Rand. It was a clever nod to their meet-cute in the books, where she patches him up after he falls over the wall into the palace garden.
Moiraine & Lan: This powerhouse duo is back in fine form after Moiraine’s shield is undone and the bond is unmasked. In the books, Moiraine and Lan are not present at the battle of Falme, but her role in the show battle was vaguely reminiscent of the end of The Dragon Reborn, where she saves Rand by killing the Forsaken Be’lal.
Forsaken: Well, it’s clear now that there will be eight Forsaken in the show. Sammael was name-dropped this episode, making a total of five confirmed Forsaken so far with Ishamael, Lanfear, Moghedien, and Graendal. The remaining three are yet to be identified, although Asmodean is all but guaranteed due to one of the Forsaken statues holding a guitar-like instrument.
The Horn of Valere: Uno Nomesta is now a hero of the horn, and we’re not mad about it. It’s a change that doesn’t materially affect anything, but provides a neat bit of fanservice. Mat also gave the horn back to the heroes, but this is a reasonable change to keep show audiences from wondering why they don’t use it constantly. How it reappears is anyone’s guess, but considering the heroes reside in Tel’aran’rhiod, we’ll have a number of characters running around there frequently who could nab it if the plot dictates.
Setup for The Shadow Rising: In many ways, this puts our characters where they were at the end of The Dragon Reborn, though in a different geographical location. Rand has been proclaimed as the Dragon Reborn for all the world to know, (some of) the Aiel have found their car’a’carn, the Seanchan have been repelled for now, Ishamael is dead, and Lanfear and the other Forsaken are on the loose. Rand even had a chance to have a meet-cute with Elayne! So what’s next? There are two characters whose paths seem clear, though one is a little more obvious than the other. Perrin has made an enemy of two powerful Whitecloaks, one of whom knows he is from the Two Rivers. Rand now has to figure out how to unite the Westlands and deal with being the prophesied car’a’carn while avoiding Forsaken and Aes Sedai machinations. He conveniently has three Aiel present to provide a catalyst for going to the Waste.
This season has been quite a ride! While the finale didn’t land for us as well as we hoped, it was a significantly stronger ending than season 1, and season 2 as a whole was a massive step up in quality. We’re thrilled that the overall viewer and critical response has been very positive. Now it’s time to settle down for another long wait until season 3. In the meantime, we’ll continue scouring for show-related news tidbits to help tide us all over. Tai’shar!
Episode 8 – What Was Meant to Be (Overall: 3.6/5)Lane: 4.0/5, Sara: 3.5/5, Eri: 3.5/5, Omar: 3.5/5
Episode 8 of season 2 was released on October 6, 2023. The season contains eight episodes in total written by Rafe Judkins, Amanda Kate Shuman, Justine Juel Gillmer, Dave Hill, Katherine B McKenna, Rammy Park, John McCutcheon, Rohit Kumar, and Timothy Earle. WoTSeries.com is a news site by fans, for fans, and is not affiliated with any paid sponsors or brands. We stand in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA and the WGA and encourage donations to the Entertainment Community Fund to support those affected during the work stoppage.