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The Wheel of Time episode 7 finally tells us who the Dragon is

Moiraine strides purposefully, as usual.
Enlarge / Moiraine strides purposefully, as usual.

Andrew Cunningham and Lee Hutchinson have spent decades of their lives with Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time books, and they’re bringing that knowledge to bear as they recap each episode of Amazon’s new WoT TV series. These recaps won’t cover every element of every episode, but they will contain major spoilers for the show and the book series. If you want to stay unspoiled and haven’t read the books, these recaps aren’t for you.

New episodes of The Wheel of Time will be posted to Amazon Prime subscribers every Friday.

Moiraine in the Ways. It's dark in here. Like, <em>Game of Thrones</em> season 8 dark.
Enlarge / Moiraine in the Ways. It’s dark in here. Like, Game of Thrones season 8 dark.

Amazon Studios

Andrew: I wouldn’t say that the middle of this Wheel of Time season slowed down, exactly, but episode seven sees the show kicking back up into a busier register that reminded me more of the bewildering early episodes of the season. In just one episode, we navigate through the darkness of The Ways; we encounter our first Borderlanders, the Blight, and the fortress city of Fal Dara; we get a small info dump on Lan’s doomed homeland of Malkier; we meet a woman named Min who sees visions of the future; and the show resolves the mystery of Who The Dragon Reborn Is (we will talk about the how and the who momentarily, but let’s just say book readers won’t be surprised). That’s a long list of stuff—did any of it stick out to you?

Lee: So many things stuck out! I have so many thoughts on this one, and not all of them are positive. And I’m a little disappointed in the show for playing dirty with its big mystery—we’ll get to that.

But the thing that stuck out most is the pre-credits intro, where we get to see an Aiel Maiden of the Spear doing what Maidens do best: killing the crap out of things. The moment of compassion between Tam (wearing the Golden Bees of Illian) and the maiden during Rand’s birth was so incredibly powerful—it was an instance of pure, raw humanity that transcended conflict, and I thought it was really nice. On the other hand, book readers know precisely who Rand’s mother is, and without spoiling anything at all about that Maiden’s identity, I’m starting to wonder if the show is going to change up Rand’s mom from the books. I am somewhat doubtful, given how well the woman we see on screen fights, that her identity is the same as it is in the books. Do you think I’m off-base here, Andrew? Either way, I loved the little prologue. Easily my favorite part of the episode, and possibly my favorite series moment so far.

Another image from the Ways. Like Moiraine, Lan is also good at striding purposefully.
Enlarge / Another image from the Ways. Like Moiraine, Lan is also good at striding purposefully.

Amazon Studios

Andrew: I think the cold open was trying to do a couple of things—show us something about Rand’s previously hinted-at parentage, and show us how well Aiel characters fight. The latter bit is endlessly discussed in the books, and while Aiel only hover at the margins of this first season, I’d expect the accelerated pace of the show to bring us in contact with more of them next year. This scene accomplishes those things! And as for a more detailed depiction of who Rand’s mother is, as a person, there’s some room for the show to fudge this, given how little we actually learn about her show-character from this brief glimpse. While we’re talking about things that were adapted well, I did think the spookiness of the Ways was pretty pitch-perfect. And if Machin Shin (or the Black Wind, if you prefer) doesn’t work exactly as it did in the books, I do really like the depiction of it as a force that breaks you down by repeating all the stuff that the shittiest part of your brain tells you about yourself. (Maybe you don’t know what I am talking about if you don’t have a history of dealing with impostor syndrome and depression! But it hit uncomfortably close to home for me.)

Once in the Borderlands, we meet Agelmar Jagad, Lord of Fal Dara, and his sister Amalisa. We also find out Amalisa can channel, though not strongly enough to become a full Aes Sedai.
Enlarge / Once in the Borderlands, we meet Agelmar Jagad, Lord of Fal Dara, and his sister Amalisa. We also find out Amalisa can channel, though not strongly enough to become a full Aes Sedai.

Amazon Studios

Lee: I am 100 percent OK with the depiction of Machin Shin in the Ways—it’s suitably creepy, and it also works as a storytelling change to hurry everybody’s plots along, because this is the second-to-last episode of the season. Whispering the characters’ inner fears back to them is a neat way to surface (or re-surface) that information to the audience.

I wish the Ways themselves had been a little easier to see on the screen—they were a little Battle of Winterfell-esque in how dark they were. (Though that may just have been the lower bitrate of the media screener we were watching.) Obviously it’s hard to depict on screen a place that’s pitch black and lit only by torches, but I could have used a little more light to actually, you know, see stuff.

There is one major complaint I have about Machin Shin’s whispers, and it has to do with the show not playing fair with its mysteries. But lemme table that for just a moment—I’ve got a big bit of spleen-venting to do about the episode’s middle, where the characters rest overnight in Fal Dara.

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