RECAP: THE WHEEL OF TIME S1E4 — Will the real Dragon Reborn please stand up?

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“The Dragon Reborn” is the least book accurate episode to date, and yet, it has all of the soul of The Wheel of Time series within it. Directed again by Wayne Yip and written by Dave Hill, this episode sees our heroes still separated but facing challenges big and small. Perhaps for the most staunch of book readers, the episode might ruffle some feathers, but I can easily say having seen six of the eight episodes this season that this is my absolute favorite.

As I did for episode three, I’m splitting the recap up into three sections for the three separate groups, and I’ll start with Perrin and Egwene.

Revenge Against Violence

Joining up with the tinkers might give them some shelter and a place with food and people, but Perrin still doesn’t trust them. It’s funny that none of the kids from the Two Rivers seem to actually be able to hide the fact that they’re from the Two Rivers. Both the tinkers and Thom Merrilin were able to pick out these country bumpkins with ease.

Illa tells Egwene and Perrin about their pacifist beliefs, calling it the way of the leaf. No one here has weapons and if they are attacked their options are either run, endure, or be killed. Although these two get the least exciting of the plotlines this episode, I actually really enjoyed the scenes between Illa and Perrin, especially since we know that Perrin is still plagued with the guilt of accidentally killing his wife.

Wheel of Time
Credit: Prime Video

At night, while the people dance and party, Perrin speaks to Illa about the people that he is traveling with, noting that some of them seem to have a potentially violent path, and Illa notes that those who renounce violence are typically the ones who are most familiar with its evil. I’ll admit that when I first encountered the tinkers in the books I wasn’t a huge fan of them and I was nervous about their interpretation here, but Illa’s conversations have been incredibly poignant.

Notably, she tells Perrin about the death of her daughter, Aram’s mother, who was killed by bandits not for money but for sport. “What greater revenge against violence than peace? What greater revenge against death than life?” she says. And instead of hunting down the men who killed her daughter, she can only hope to spread the message of peace throughout the world so that when the wheel turns and reincarnates her daughter again, she will be born into a more peaceful place. It’s mournful, hopeful, and inspiring all at once.

We also learn a little bit about the tinkers’ lifestyle as Egwene dances with Aram. Aram reveals that the tinkers are looking for a song that will bring harmony to the world, one that was found in the last age but lost in the breaking of the world. Also that the children of the tinkers go on a sort of rumspringa when they turn 20, being let out into the world to explore what is waiting for them, sometimes even taking up arms, but most returning home.

With the tinkers headed to Tar Volan, more action is bound to happen, but for now, Perrin and Egwene are far safer than their friends.

Wheel of Time
Credit: Prime Video

A Man Who Knows The Past

Meanwhile, Mat and Rand are following Thom after their escape from Breen’s Spring, but neither of them completely trusts the gleeman. After their encounter with Dana, who mentioned that the Dragon Reborn could be any of the five of them, Mat wonders who the fifth potential could be. More on that later.

After getting caught by a farmer for trying to sneak onto their property and sleep in their barn for the night, the Grinwells, the people who own the farm, allow the three to stay for the night if they muck up the stables and maybe Thom delivers a performance. I like this scene of Rand being the one who is able to talk the farmer down from attacking, out of the three of them he is definitely the one who comes off as earnest little sheepherder the most.

On the Grinwells’ farm, Thom and Rand both notice that Mat is exhausted and sick-looking. Thom believes that Mat can channel, telling Rand about his nephew Owyn, who could channel and went mad from the One Power. Owyn was eventually gentled by the Red Aes Sedai, which devastatingly led him to kill himself. Thom tells Rand that he will stay with them to keep an eye on Mat and protect them. And when Rand notes that he seems to know a lot for a gleeman, Thom simply responds, “We call ourselves gleeman, because a silly name makes us less frightening, nothing is more dangerous than a man who knows the past.”

Then, we see Mat vomitting up a black goo that is reminiscent of the shadowy substance back from Shadar Logoth. The little girl from the farm approaches him to offer him some bread and it’s a sweet little scene despite how sweaty and sickly Mat looks. She reminds him of his younger sisters and when she offers him her doll to protect him, it’s heart-warming. Also, book readers, the doll’s name is Birgitte!

At night, sleeping in the hay, Rand dreams of his friends. He sees Perrin bludgeoning bodies bloody, Mat walking with a black ichor in his hands, and Egwene attacked by the man with eyes like embers. He is then awakened by Thom, and they both realize that Mat is gone. Running into the house, they’re shocked by a bloody scene of the entire farmer’s family slaughtered.

Wheel of Time
Credit: Prime Video

Mat stands at the center of the carnage and for a chilling moment, with black goo crawling back into his mouth, you suspect the worst. But then, we see him raise a hand with the dagger and point up to the loft where there is a horrifying Fade! Run! Thom pushes the boys out while taking on the Fade one-on-one.

Outside, the little girl we saw before has also been killed, and the boys escape on horseback, Mat dropping the doll behind him as they run for their lives again.

Like a Radiant Sun

Now let’s jump back to the cold open of the episode. Back to Ghealdan, the country we’ve heard about in passing that’s been at war. Well, now we know why that war was waging. Logain, who we saw in a cage at the end of the last episode, is attacking the city. We see him wield the One Power and channel, but unlike the silvery-white threads of light that we see the Aes Sedai use, his magic is black and tainted. Book readers might recognize it as the show’s version of saidin.

Logain has been calling himself the Dragon Reborn, and as he attacks the city and hunts down the king of Ghealdan (Miguel Álvarez), we see him speaking to two figures made of the black threads of magic. They both tell him not to trust the king, but instead of listening, he spares the king’s life and heals him with the power. The king subsequently joins him and he promises to bind the world.

Jumping forward, we see Logain is now captured in a cage and being held by Aes Sedai. Moiraine is healed by the Green Aes Sedai Kerene (Clare Perkins), and she notes that Kerene shouldn’t be weakened by just healing her and that keeping Logain captured has been exhausting work.

Wheel of Time
Credit: Prime Video

We see Liandrin, Kerene, and another Green Aes Sedai named Alanna (Priyanka Bose) have been trading off shifts of keeping Logain shielded. Now that Moiraine is here, she can help ease the burden, but it’s still a burden. His strength is enough of a threat that Liandrin is eager to gentle him, but the Amyrlin Seat (the leader of the Aes Sedai essentially) wants to have him brought to the White Tower, so Liandrin doesn’t gain many supporters.

We learn a little bit about the different colors of the Aes Sedai Ajahs. The Green are the battle Ajah, who must fight in the final battle. They also get two Warders! The Red, as Liandrin explains, “protect the world from people who would misuse the One Power, even other Aes Sedai.” The Blue might be seen as spies, especially in the eyes of Liandrin.

Alanna expresses some fear of the end times when she is left alone with Moiraine. After trying to do some digging on behalf of Kerene on what Moiraine has been up to, she notes that the strength of Logain hints at the end of the age and that while she knows the Green Ajah are meant to fight in the final battle, she never thought she would live to experience it. Also given the Reds’ fervor with gentling men who use the One Power, she is afraid that they might gentle a Dragon who is supposed to fight alongside them in the battle against evil.

We also get to meet some other Warders! Lan trains with Stepin (Peter Frazén), and we see Nynaeve slowly warm to the Warders as she sits with them by their fire and listens to them joke and tease one another. We learn from Stepin about the bond between Warder and Aes Sedai and how there is nothing closer, not married couples, not children and their parents. And that Aes Sedai actually means servants of the world. We see that while Lan and Moiraine are not romantically involved, other Aes Sedai are.

Wheel of Time
Credit: Prime Video

As night falls, Lan goes to speak with Moiraine and he points out that Logain is ten years too old to be the Dragon, and the dreams all seem to point toward the Emond’s Field Five, not Logain. But, Moiraine is still unsure, saying that Egwene could be as powerful as Logain, which is saying a lot about how powerful Egwene could be after this episode. Moiraine wonders if the Dark One might be as confused as they are about the true identity of the Dragon Reborn.

The two also have a nice moment recovering after the loss of the kids. Lan blames himself but Moiraine tells him, “Your losses are mine, and mine yours,” which is actually quite a sweet moment from the typically serene and stoic Moiraine. Of course, Lan notes that Moiraine always gets emotional when he has a drink and awww isn’t that Warder bond cute?

Back in the room where Logain is kept, Liandrin suggests to Kerene that they could break out Logaine so that the three oaths could allow for them to gentle him, but Kerene is intent on following the rules and orders set in place.

In the morning, Nynaeve finds Lan performing a ritual in the morning and joins him, praying in the old tongue. The prayer, she reveals, is the last thing her parents said to her before they hid her during an attack on their village. Not knowing what the prayer means, Lan translates it. He tells her that it’s what the last king of Manetheren said to his wife before the battle he knew they’d lose: “We shall go into the land, so that our children can always hold us and will never be alone.” You can’t have scenes like this and not make me fall in love with Lan and Nynaeve!

Wheel of Time
Credit: Prime Video

But that beautiful moment is shattered as a commotion starts at the camp and we find out Logain’s armies are attacking. I typically hate fight scenes, but I really enjoyed seeing Alanna use her powers to fight off the soldiers, particularly the moment when she stops the arrows launched at them in mid-flight and then uses them against the opposition.

Seizing the moment, Logain suddenly breaks through his shields and destroys the cage around him, knocking Kerene and Liandrin away like rag dolls. Moiraine, taking the opportunity while her sisters are knocked out, questions Logain. But a few moments with him reveal the truth to her, he’s hearing voices, not the voices of previous dragons, but he’s starting to go mad.

Liandrin and Kerene get up and with Moiraine they try to reshield Logain, but he uses his powers to attack the women and in the process of protecting her sisters, Kerene is killed. Out on the battlefield where Alanna, her Warders, Stepin, Lan, and Nynaeve are, Stepin realizes what has happened and runs back toward the camp to Kerene, with everyone following him.

Rushing in and seeing Kerene’s dead body, Stepin rages and rushes toward Logain with his axes. The Aes Sedai shield around Logain plus his own channelling shatter the axes, sending shrapnel flying through the room and fatally injuring nearly everyone. Lan’s throat is cut and he’s gushing blood, Moiraine is run through with the handle of the axe. Nynaeve, in shock, and seeing Lan dying at her feet, rushes to stop the blood but the cut is too deep.

Logain Ablar
Credit: Prime Video

In a moment of fear and desperation, she channels the One Power, glowing like the sun, healing all those around her, including Lan, much to Logain’s shock. You can tell in that moment, awed by the sheer power that Nynaeve wields, that he realizes that he is not the Dragon Reborn. Taking advantage of this lull of surprise, Liandrin calls her sisters to link up with her, and with all of the Aes Sedai, she gentles Logain, stripping him of his power.

I have to say I really enjoyed Álvaro Morte in this episode as Logain. He’s a complicated character in the books, but it’s hard not to feel pity for him as he is stripped of his powers and he lies there completely broken. Similarly, it’s also hard not to agree with Liandrin about the threat that he poses and the fury she must feel after losing Kerene. I know there’s been some negative chatter about the way channeling looks in the series so far, but I loved this final sequence of the episode. Seeing Nynaeve use her power, seeing the sisters link up together, it’s all amazing.

Then of course we have Lorne Balfe‘s amazing composing that brought me to tears. Nothing like a good dramatic soundtrack to up the emotional heft of a scene. “The Dragon Reborn” stands as the most powerful episode of the season so far, and it shows that an adaptation can completely embody the soul of the source without taking it as a direct carbon copy.

The Wheel of Time streams Fridays exclusively on Prime Video.

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