Blood and magic spill across the battleground of Wheel of Time’s season 1 finale.
Courtesy Amazon Prime Video

As has become custom in the back half of The Wheel of Time's first season, this week's cold open sweeps us deep into the past. This time, we're back 3,000 years, to a time when men could be Aes Sedai and flying ships traversed the thoroughfares of a utopian Tar Valon. For the first time in this series, we're allowed to glimpse what, exactly, was lost with the Breaking of the World.

We meet Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim), the previous Dragon Reborn. Here, as a baby sleeps in the background, we bear witness to a division that occurs between the women and men of the Aes Sedai. He wants to "cage" the Dark One once and for all. The female Aes Sedai believes his desire is born from pride. The pair remain opposed and, as we've come to learn, his efforts would go on to cause both the Breaking of the World and the corruption of saidin, the male half of the One Power. Lews would be among the first men driven to murder and madness by their connection to the Power.

When we're flung back into the present, it's to rejoin the next Dragon Reborn — our Dragon Reborn — Rand (Josha Stradowski), on a quest that could result in a similar cataclysm. He and Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) are still hacking their way through the Blight, which the Aes Sedai describes as a "rot which spreads from the Dark One's prison." Dead bodies and overrun kingdoms — the Seven Towers of Malkier, Lan's hometown, stand ruined and desolate in the distance — serve as proof that the Dark One is growing stronger in his exile.

The Wheel of Time
Josha Stradowski (Rand al'Thor), Rosamund Pike (Moiraine Damodred)
| Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

In a nightmare, Rand sees Moiraine murdered by the figure that's been haunting his dreams since they left Two Rivers. Now, it swaps its fire-eyed visage for a human one as it works to manipulate the Dragon. Lews brought 99 soldiers and still failed, says the man, who derides Moiraine and laughs at Rand for believing Tam to be his father. He escapes the nightmare by goring himself with his sword, a grotesque — yet effective — means of waking oneself up.

Rand worries to Moiraine about his own tenuous connection to the One Power, asking if she can teach him to wield it. She refuses, knowing the madness could very well consume him. Besides, once they reach the Eye of the World, he'll be forced to "embrace the One Power whether you want to or not." To prepare him, she gives him a sa'angreal, a small totem forged from the One Power that's infused with the strength of past channelers. When he finally does channel, the sa'angreal will increase his power a hundredfold. He'll need the boost if he hopes to quell the Dark One's burgeoning powers and banish him deeper into his prison.

In Fal Dara, Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), Lan (Daniel Henney), and Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) reckon with the sudden departure of their friends. Fresh off their tryst, Nynaeve reveals to Lan that it was Moiraine she was tracking, not him. She shares her methods, allowing him to track Moiraine through the Blight. Then they break up? What? Why?!

The Wheel of Time
Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al'Meara), Madeleine Madden (Egwene al'Vere)
| Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

We barely have time to mourn the abrupt dissolution of the pair before it's revealed that an army of Trollocs and Fades are descending from the Blight, propelled no doubt by Rand and Moiraine's approach. Lord Agelmar (Thomas Chaanhing), Fal Dara's leader, is convinced this is the end. "It is not ours to win," he says of the coming battle. The invading forces are five times the size of any that's come before; the best they can do is send messengers to the surrounding cities to prepare them for the horde. Lady Amalisa (Sandra Yi Sencindiver) isn't nearly so despondent. "I will not let our city fall," she says. As is tradition, the men, including Agelmar, work to defend the Gap, the passage separating the Blight from the city, while the women provide offense from within the city walls. That includes a small handful of women who can touch the One Power. Egwene and Nynaeve join Amalisa and two other women, linking their powers to provide a powerful opposition.

A good thing, too, as the Gap is swiftly overrun by Trollocs and Fades, with Agelmar impaled in the onslaught. As thousands of the beasts rush towards the city, Amalisa leads the rest of the women in delivering a wave of magic that decimates the army. Unfortunately, the strength of their collective power proves overwhelming. One by one, the women overdose on magic, succumbing to an interior heat that burns away their eyeballs and peels their skin. Nynaeve, who's proven herself to be the most reliably clear headed in moments of chaos, draws upon her own considerable powers to yank the violent magic from Egwene and take it on herself. She, too, is consumed in its heat. Egwene mourns, but her tears draw out her own powers, which serve to heal and revitalize Nynaeve (who we all knew wasn't actually dead).

The Wheel of Time
Sandra Yi Sencindiver (Lady Amalisa), Thomas Chaanhing (Lord Agelmar)
| Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

Rand and Moiraine reach the Eye of the World, a sunken chamber as dank and wet as the Blight is dark and ugly. It sparks memories in Rand. He remembers it. Visions of 3,000 years ago, of Lews confronting the Dark One, surface. He touches the symbol at its core and — poof, he's back in Two Rivers. Green grass, tall mountains, a cozy cottage. A baby coos. Egwene emerges. It's the simple life he always wanted and, according to the man from his nightmares, he has the power to manifest it. "With this power you can make the world in your image," the man says. "Whatever you want it to be." It's tempting, and this vision of his child dovetails with his connection to the One Power. Tendrils of magic, both light and dark, begin to swirl around him.

But as he connects to the Power, Moiraine is severed from it by the Dark One. In her state of powerlessness, she brings a knife to the throat of an unconscious Rand. "We both know you can't escape this place without his help," she says to the Dark One's emissary. "If he doesn't choose the light, I'll choose for him."

Thankfully, it doesn't come to that, though if this were the Rand of a few episodes ago that might not be the case. What prevents him from succumbing to the Dark One is his love for Egwene, who he's come to accept doesn't desire the simple life he does. That lack of pride and wanting is what separates Rand from Dragons both real (Lews) and false (Logain). As Moiraine said to the false Dragon, it's the wanting that corrupts. Clutching the sa'angreal, he rejects the Dark One, flexes his newfound power, and banishes him back to his prison.

The Wheel of Time
Josha Stradowski (Rand al'Thor), Madeleine Madden (Egwene al'Vere)
| Credit: Jan Thijs/Amazon Studios

Meanwhile, in the castle, Perrin and Loial (Hammed Animashaun) join forces with Fal Dara's top brass, who've retreated to the throne room to dig up an ancient artifact buried beneath its floorboards. What they produce is the Horn of Valere, which, when blown, is said to summon "the Pattern's greatest heroes" to battle alongside the Light. Alas, an old friend resurfaces before anyone can get their lips around it. Padan Fain (Johann Myers), the sly merchant we first met in the premiere, leads a contingent of blade-wielding Fades into the castle. Fain and the Fades (there's a band name for you) slaughter Loial and the rest, leaving only Perrin alive.

Fain's got plenty to say. Twirling Mat's cursed dagger, he admits to spying on our heroes for the Dark One and to helping the Trollocs invade Two Rivers. He also intones that "this is not the end, but the beginning," and that while Rand might be the Dragon, "you all have a part to play." Horn in hand, Fain and the Fades leave Perrin alone amongst the dead.

Moiraine learns, too, that this isn't the ending she'd hoped it would be. She and Rand have emerged victorious, but not all is well. She's still severed from the One Power and he can feel the tendrils of madness grasping at him. Out of fear that he'll slaughter those he loves like Lews did, he urges Moiraine to tell his friends that he died in the confrontation. He leaves, and on his heels comes Lan, having tracked the two of them from the city. He joins Moiraine as she plucks a stone fragment from the ground, one that shattered when Rand conquered the Dark One. It's "cuendillar," we learn, and it's supposed to be near-indestructible. While we're still in the dark about its true significance, Moiraine and Lan both seem to understand that its presence means "this wasn't the last battle." Rather, it was the first.

The season ends with a tease of what's to come. Somewhere on the far Western shore is a fleet of ships filled with channelers in ominous-looking uniforms. This is the Seanchan army, and it sure looks like they summoned a giant wave for the sole purpose of drowning a small child on a beach. We'll find out their deal in season 2, which, by the way, is definitely happening.

Other observations:

  • We get a brief look at Mat (Barney Harris) near the episode's end. Buried beneath a hood, he appears as touched by darkness as ever. He's marching, it seems, towards the White Tower, where the reds are waiting for him.
  • Min (Kae Alexander) also swings by with some more unhelpful visions, though she's quick to abandon ship when the Trollocs come knocking. I imagine she'll be back to tend bar next season.
  • "You thought it was Egwene," Rand says to Moiraine. I imagine a lot of viewers did, too.

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The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time (TV series)

Based on the bestselling series of novels by Robert Jordan, this fantasy show follows the mystic Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) as she searches for the reincarnated messiah figure known as the Dragon Reborn, who can save the world from the Dark One

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