The Wheel of Time recap: The woes of a warderless warder
"Blood Calls Blood" begins and ends with a funeral.
The first is for the dozens slaughtered by Logain's now-vanquished army. The second is for Stepin (Peter Franzén), who may as well have been buried with the rest of them. Kerene is dead, and he's alive. It's not supposed to work like that. So, what now? What does a warder do when he loses the Aes Sedai he's sworn to protect? Stepin, it seems, didn't want to know the answer.
He's offered support by his colleagues, including Lan (Daniel Henney), but bristles at the idea of bonding himself to another Aes Sedai. Stepin, after all, was nothing but a drunken brawler before Kerene plucked him from obscurity. The person he was without her is not someone he wants to resurrect. He pays tribute to her memory and melts her ring in a molten bath at the White Tower but soon retreats into booze and existentialism. "The pain is so deep it's almost like he swallowed her death," says Alanna, an Aes Sedai who's graciously (and pityingly) offered him a place by her side.
Stepin has no intention of joining her, however. He drugs an unwitting Lan, who promised to stay with him through the night, and gores himself in a hall meant to honor fallen warders. It's an ugly death for someone who lost his purpose, and it weighs oppressively on both Lan and Moraine (Rosamund Pike). How would either fare without the other? The teary, loaded gazes they share speak volumes. Their fates are perhaps even more intertwined than they thought.
Before he dies, Stepin teases Lan, saying Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) is falling for him. Moraine, too, has noticed how cozy the two have been getting. Lan shrugs it off, saying it wouldn't be wise to indulge such feelings — "Love's never a good idea," says Stepin — but in the wake of his friend's lonely death, there must be some temptation to forge a love that exists beyond Moraine, one that isn't so perilously strung between duty and devotion.
Like Stepin, Nynaeve, too, is at a crossroads. The life she knew, being a Wisdom in a small mountain village, is gone. Now she's in the bustling Tar Valon, home of the White Tower and the Aes Sedai, and soon she'll be beset on all sides by Aes Sedai, who've heard tell of her explosive powers. "You saw how small you are in comparison to the Source and how great you are in comparison to those you love," Moraine says. "Now you're wondering: how do I fit into the world?"
Nynaeve is wondering that. She's also wondering where her friends are. Moraine tells her to stay in her room, lest she get swept up in "Tower politics." She wasn't kidding — the first person Nynaeve encounters upon venturing into the Tower is the red-ringed Liandrin. Liandrin, no friend to Moraine, instantly declares Nynaeve "free from Moraine's cage." She also reacts to Nynaeve's claim that she and the other reds "hate men." Reds, after all, don't employ warders. Liandrin offers some hard-to-deny wisdom: "Women hold the One Power, but men still control much of this world. And they aren't really kind to little girls who show a spark of being greater than they are." Cultivating resentment, Liandrin knows, is as good a means as any to bring someone over to your side.
Moraine's engaging in a bit of Tower politics herself. It's been years since she's returned to Tar Valon and, per Alanna, the Aes Sedai isn't all that happy with the Amyrlin, the Tower's leader. Moraine is one of the only channelers strong enough to challenge her seat, but, in her absence, people have been turning to Liandrin.
Liandrin, a "law and order" candidate if there ever was one, is certainly hungry for power. In a brief exchange with Moraine, she says Nynaeve, a "prize" in her words, would make a great red. Nynaeve has "a force of will she cannot hide," she says with a sly grin, "a sense that the world would be better if everyone obeyed the rules." Moraine's reply: "One thing she doesn't share is your contempt for men." Not yet, at least. Little does she know that Liandrin's already planting those seeds of hate.
They're not alone in Tar Valon. Rand and Mat have also arrived but are steering clear of the White Tower. Mat's condition has only worsened, and as his fever burns, he grapples with the horror that it was him, not the Fade, who killed the family in last week's episode. He obviously needs help, but Rand remembers Thom's warning. Thom believed that Mat touched the One Power and was being driven mad by it. His fear was that Mat would be gentled by the Aes Sedai if he stepped foot in the Tower. As much as Rand wants to reunite with Moraine, he has to consider what's best for his friend. As such, the pair has taken up residence at a local inn.
There, Rand makes a new friend, an ogre — sorry, Ogier — named Loial. A gentle (and inquisitive) giant, Loial jabbers Rand's ear off about fiction and history. He also confuses him for an Aiel, the scorned race of warriors that Thom discussed with Mat a few episodes back due to his red hair.
Rand's new acquaintance comes in handy later when Loial (rather abruptly) arrives back at the inn with Nynaeve, who he apparently met while wandering the Tower. (Seriously, though, was a scene missing? That all happened really fast.) Nynaeve uses her talents as a Wisdom to help Mat, who viciously snaps at her, but there's little to be done for now. Instead, she offers Rand hope that Egwene (Madeleine Madden) is still alive.
And, yes, Egwene is still alive, but just barely. After a brief spell of safety with the peaceful Tinkers, a chance encounter with the Children of the Light results in her and Perrin being captured. They wake to find themselves bound in the tent of Eamon Valda, whom we last saw burning an Aes Sedai alive. Valda, who, like all Children of the Light, believes all magic is born from the Dark One, suspects that Egwene can channel. If it's true, he'll kill her. If it's not, he'll kill Perrin, whom he tortures with a wine-soaked blade. "Decide which one of you it will be," he tells Egwene. As he cuts, Perrin's pained eyes begin to take on a curious gold hue.
During a lull in the torture, Perrin tells her to save herself. He deserves this, he says, revealing to Egwene for the first time that, while it was an accident, it was he who killed his wife, not a Trolloc. Egwene refuses, and when Valda returns, she channels a small ball of energy that bounces pitifully off his chest. Valda laughs, but it's a trick — she subtly singed Perrin's ropes, too, freeing him.
But there's more than just magic at play here. When Perrin's eyes flash gold again, he lets loose with a roar and a baring of fangs that genuinely frightens Valda. Having freed herself, Egwene plunges a knife into her torturer and flees the tent. Outside, the wolves that seem to trail Perrin have descended upon the camp, clearing a path for their escape.
As the road opens up before them, they, too, find themselves further and further from the lives they once knew. Egwene's magic, Perrin's bond with wolves — the embrace of these forces ensure that there's no going back. And, as Stepin knew all too well, there are few things scarier than that march into an uncertain future.
- Mat and Rand make a promise not to let the other go mad if either of them discover they can channel. Rand worries it's already too late.
- As a caged Logain is marched into Tar Valon, the false Dragon locks eyes with Mat before breaking into a chilling smile and a disquieting gale of laughter. It's unclear if it was real or just in Mat's head, but it speaks to a shared bond between those touched by madness.
- Blink and you'll miss it, but Padan Fain, the merchant we haven't seen since the premiere, was laughing in a stall as Logain was marched into the city. It's not the last you'll see of him.
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