The actress discusses her character's harrowing encounter with the Children of the Light — and how it connects to her childhood illness.
Courtesy of Amazon

Warning: This article contains spoilers for the fifth episode of The Wheel of Time.

It didn't take long for The Wheel of Time protagonists to split up. Ever since they encountered the haunted ruins of Shadar Logoth, the erstwhile fellowship has been broken into pairs and scattered. This week saw Rand (Josha Stradowski) and Mat (Barney Harris) reunite with Nynaeve (Zoë Robins), but Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden) are still on their own. And though for awhile they were having a nice time traveling with the people known as Tinkers, things took a turn for the worse when the two were captured by the misogynist religious fanatics known as the Children of the Light (or, for brevity's sake, the Whitecloaks).

It was there, in their horrible interrogation room, that Perrin finally told Egwene the dark secret that he's been keeping from everyone else: It was his own ax that (accidentally) killed his wife, Laila (Helena Westerman), on the night their village was attacked by Trollocs. This moment in Amazon's Wheel of Time series marks a major change from Robert Jordan's books, where a character named Laila from the Two Rivers does exist but is not married to Perrin and does not die in the Trolloc attack. Even so, Egwene is able to reassure her friend.

"We know that Perrin is just a big gentle giant, but he's battling with some inner demons, as they all are, because they have been through so much," Madden tells EW. "She knows that there's something wrong and she knows that something went down that night. I think when he confesses to her that it was his hands with his ax, obviously, there's this horror and shock that Egwene feels because she's known Laila as well ever since they grew up together. But I think where a lot of that horror and sadness comes from is how he has been holding onto this secret and this guilt for so long. I think that is what is really upsetting to Egwene, seeing the way that it has completely broken him. Egwene keeps to herself and doesn't really share much, so I think he can really trust her." 

Wheel of Time
Marcus Rutherford as Perrin and Madeleine Madden as Egwene on 'The Wheel of Time'
| Credit: Amazon Studios

It's probably good that Perrin confessed his secret to Egwene rather than Mat or Rand. Egwene knows what true strength is, and that goes beyond her ability to channel the One Power (the reason for the Whitecloaks' interest in them). As Nynaeve explains elsewhere in the latest episode, Egwene nearly died from illness when she was a young girl. Everyone, including Nynaeve's predecessor as village Wisdom, thought she was done for. But Egwene fought through it, and the experience has shaped her ever since.

"I think that story of Egwene as a young child battling this bone-breaking illness is something that really helps viewers and myself understand the inner strength that this young woman has. She's unbreakable, literally," Madden says. " I think the way that scene then cuts into the scene of Egwene and Perrin in the Whitecloaks' tent is done brilliantly because it just shows that she is not going to give up; she's determined and she will survive. That's what Egwene is in my eyes: She's a survivor." 

Wheel of Time
Madeleine Madden as Egwene on 'The Wheel of Time'
| Credit: Amazon Studios

Now, having survived another encounter with the Children of the Light, Egwene is reassessing her other source of strength: Magic. Growing up in the Two Rivers, Egwene and her friends were raised on scary folk legends about the Aes Sedai, which have made her reluctant to embrace her channeling or the guidance of Moiraine (Rosamund Pike). But now Egwene knows that whether she embraces her power or not, people will hunt her for it anyway. So why not try to learn more? 

"I think she now realizes that there are more dangers and threats in the world than just the Dark One and Darkfriends," Madden says. "She now understands that there are organizations of people that want to kill any women who can channel the One Power, even though they didn't choose this life. What she experiences here is horrifying, and it enrages her."  

"This is the first time she's channeled without the help of Moiraine guiding her," she continues. "Her back's up against the wall, and this is her moment to protect her friends. So now I think she feels more comfortable using it but also understands the dangers of it and the importance of learning how to control this ability."

New episodes of The Wheel of Time are released Fridays on Amazon Prime Video. 

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