Wow. So, before I get into this episode, I want to clarify one thing first. I did enjoy the episode, there were many fun and exciting scenes, we get yet more world building and lore, and an introduction to the Ogier. That being said, this was probably the episode I enjoyed the least, but for reasons you might not expect. This was one gut punch right after the other. It was not a happy episode.
Before we get into it, let’s talk about the bonus content for this episode. Unlike episode 4 where we only got one origin short, we get the origin short and four behind-the-scenes videos. The behind-the-scenes videos this week go over music and costuming, which is great, but something you can pass on if you’re not interested. The main thing of note in the bonus content is still the origin story, which is titled The White Tower.
This origin story is interesting as it explores how the Aes Sedai and the White Tower came to be in this age. We are told about how girls who can touch the One Power start as Novices and will then move up to Accepted before they can become full Aes Sedai. Not every woman makes it that far. The video then goes into the seven Ajahs, explaining each of their purposes.
- Green – Warriors
- Yellow – Healers
- Brown – Keepers of the Past
- Blue – Seekers of Justice
- Grey – Diplomats
- White – Truth and Reason
- Red – Hunters
As the video continues, the woman we follow finds her way to the Hall of the Tower, where the Aes Sedai hold their council. We find out that our speaker is not just an Aes Sedai, but was sworn in as the Amyrlin Seat, the Watcher of the Seals, the Flame of Tar Valon.
Although the artwork is beautiful still, I’ve begun to notice an issue with these shorts. One, it’s so hard to access them unless you’re on a PC or tablet, and two, the audio is often messy and muddled. As these shorts are mostly dialogue to tell us the origin stories, it really sucks when the voice is drowned out by the muddled music and background noises. Although I had noticed it before, it was really prevalent in last week’s Saidin, Saidar, Stone when it was describing the raging torrent of Saidin.
What’s that you said? I can’t hear you over the raging torrent of Saidin!
I guess they got their point across, but still. I wanted to be able to hear the speaker. Worse, there is no way to turn on CC for these shorts.
Well, let’s get on with the first gut punch. The opening scene is of Alanna crying as she sings, and the warders are laying to rest those that died in battle, including Logain’s army. Stepin walks slowly in carrying Kerene’s body as the Aes Sedai follow, each holding a candle in their vigil. Stepin takes Kerene’s ring to wear around his neck as he, with much difficulty, covers Kerene for burial.
It is a slow scene, but poignant. Stepin looks absolutely devastated. Moiraine and Lan share a deep stare with each other, and we see a wide shot of all the fallen in their burial shrouds before cutting to the opening credits, and after, we find we’ve skipped one whole month!
Woo! That’s skipping like 300 pages of Rand and Mat traveling down a dusty road with sore feet, singing for their supper, and eating bread and cheese for dinner. Not gonna lie, but man, did I eat a lot of bread, cheese, and soup when I read these books. I’m very impressionable.
As we jump to the Aes Sedai traveling, with Stepin leading Kerene’s horse, we get our first shot of the White Tower in the background as Lan and Moiraine talk about home. Moiraine says home is the saddle, the boots, the cloak, and the brooding man by her side. After they speak briefly of Nynaeve and Stepin, Lan’s worry becomes clear as he says Warders are not supposed to outlive their Aes Sedai. Moiraine counters that he is strong and will deliver her ring to the White Tower. It is a solemn scene.
We then see a different group of travels, and it’s Rand and Mat! Mat is looking a little worse for wear though as he snaps at a child that runs too close to him. Rand looks on in concern but doesn’t address it aside from asking if Mat is okay. Mat just glares at him before blaming it on being tired.
Rand then spots a mountain in the distance and says he thinks he’s seen it before. As he moves forward, Mat glares absolute daggers at Rand’s back. Man, if looks could kill.
Anyway, it’s actually Dragonmount! Tar Valon sits in its shadow, splitting the River Erinin. The city and tower are huge, but Dragonmount is even bigger in the background. This scene got me. After hoping for decades to be able to see this on screen, plus never believing it would happen, there it is. It’s beautiful, and I rewatched this sequence a couple times. Again, I wish I was able to take better resolution screenshots. I would love this as another background.
As Rand and Mat make it into the city proper, Rand stares up at the tall buildings and mutters, ‘Blood and ashes.’ Yay! In the fantasy world of the Westlands, they don’t use the same type of swear words that we do today. I was fine without this inclusion as we’ve heard Mat say shite, bollocks, and bloody so far, which are all less than proper words for this day and age. I figured if our loveable characters were running around saying ‘Burn me’ and ‘Blood and ashes’, it might sound a bit corny, and the impact might be lost in translation. When I heard Rand say it though, it was so smooth and fitting, I didn’t even blink. In fact, I didn’t catch it until my 2nd watch. Well done!
Anyway, even Mat looks impressed, and Rand finds a treat from a passerby. He offers some to Mat, but he’s back to scowling again, saying he’s not hungry. Rand leads them down a road, saying Thom told him about an innkeeper who was an old friend of his. Rand then assures Mat they’ll still go to the White Tower, but they need to rest and clean up first.
But what’s this? Melodic whistling?
I wish I knew how to take better screen grabs.
Rand and Mat are at least in a nice place to rest, and Mat crashes on the bed. Mat still isn’t looking great, and he needs Rand to ‘tell me again.’ It appears he’s worried that he killed that family, and that little girl, but Rand assures him that it wasn’t him. Mat still appears to be unconvinced.
We then jump to inside the White Tower as Lan and Moiraine escort Nynaeve into the Warden’s quarters. Nynaeve says she doesn’t care about the rules and politics, she just wants her people back. Although Moiraine tries to talk sense to her, Nynaeve refuses to back down. With one knowing look from Moiraine, Lan leaves the room for the two women to talk.
Moiraine then tells Nynaeve that it’s alright to be afraid. That reaching out and touching the infinite power of the One Power will change one’s perspective of the world, life, and existence. She assures Nynaeve that she will never be the same, but that it’s a gift. As Moiraine leaves, she tells Nynaeve that she will try to protect her and will reunite her with her friends once they are found. The camera closes in on Nynaeve’s concerned face, and I wonder what she’s thinking. Is it doubt? At Moiraine, or in the truth of her words that she wants to refuse to believe but cannot.
We’re then finally on to the tinkers and Perrin and Egwene. They seem to really be fitting in with the Tuatha’an and are at least able to enjoy their travels. Egwene is quite happy as the White Tower finally comes into view, and she believes all their friends are already there. It’s a good feeling, until they are stopped by White Cloaks, and… Well, crap. There’s Valda, who catches sight of Perrin and Egwene and recognizes them immediately.
The next scene is another gut punch as the Tuatha’an link arms to block them from getting to our Emond’s Fielders, and Valda doesn’t even pause as he punches Ila. She just closes her eyes as Valda gives the nod for all the other Children to lay into these people. So gross.
Aram, Perrin, and Egwene are on the run, but quickly get overtaken and captured. It’s not looking great for them, or for Aram.
Rand has found the library and has picked up a book called The Karaethon Cycle. Oh, so that’s how it’s pronounced. I don’t think I ever even tried while reading the books. He seems pretty interesting as it’s a book about the Dragon prophecies, but he’s interrupted by a deep, rumbling voice that says, “Oh, I didn’t even hear you come in,” and I squealed.
So beyond thrilled to see him on screen and watch him run his mouth about humans. He is a towering creature that somewhat resembles a trolloc, but as soon as he mentions Stedding, Rand knows he’s an Ogier.
Loial then continues to call Rand an Aielman, no matter how much Rand tries to deny it. Loial will not be convinced otherwise. Even when Rand tells him he’s from the Two Rivers, Loial gets so excited he gets to meet an Aielman from the Two Rivers. I don’t think these two are on the same page, but it was absolutely delightful to watch.
We also get a quick mention of The Travels of Jain Farstrider. Jaim Farstrider is mentioned often in the books. He is well-known and his adventures are revered, and he’s even seen as somewhat of a hero. I’m glad they found a spot to include him in the show.
As Rand is telling Loial about Egwene, a procession going by interrupts their conversation, and as Loial readies himself to go, Rand is too impatient to wait. Loial’s chuckles and happy demeanor as he comments on this is just… Well, it’s adorable. Although I could never really picture what an Ogier looked like in my head, I think they nailed it.
As Rand wonders out into the streets, he spots Mat up on a balcony and climbs up to him. In the procession, we see some Novices dressed in white in the background, and I believe the drummers are Accepted. The crowd gasps when they see the horse that Stepin is leading and the empty boot tied to the saddle. They all know they’ve lost one of the Aes Sedai. Stepin still looks shattered.
Then we see Logain, crumpled in his cage (where did they get another cage just like that? Did they have a spare?), and he’s completely broken. It’s a huge contrast to the first time we saw him. The crowd throws fruits and vegetables, maybe some other worse things, while Alanna and Liandrin sit in chairs on the same wagon, very close to Logain’s cage. How are they also not getting pelted by the same rotten vegetables?
Anyway, it doesn’t seem to bother Logain as he remains motionless until he glances up and spots Rand and Mat sitting on the balcony. He begins to smile, then laugh, and then turn into a total creep monster. Rand breaks Mat out of a trance, and when we see Logain again, he’s still crumpled in his cage, not appearing to have moved.
Such a creepy and disjointed scene. I have to think at this point, this reaction was all in Mat’s head, but with the editing of the scene, I can’t be 100% sure. I believe that this was the intention of the wacky editing, and despite the chills, I still liked the scene.
Mat wants to make a deal with Rand that he never becomes like Logain. He begs Rand until he promises. Poor Mat. He looks so rough right now. This plot line was very well written in the books, but it still hurt to read, and now it hurts to watch. Props to Barney Harris for doing an excellent job.
And from one sad scene to another, we are back to Stepin, where the other Warder’s are dressing him in white. Maksim mentions that Liandrin got hit by a radish (Hah!), so I guess their chairs were too close. Stepin doesn’t crack a smile though. He just reminisces about his breakdown after his father died. That was when he met Kerene, and after becoming friends, she chose to bond him as a Warder. His suffering, sadness, and depression is so poignant. Peter Franzen really nailed this scene. This whole scene was gut punch number 3… or was it 4?
The group then walks through the Warder’s quarters as all the other Warders stand for him. He approaches a fire pit and kisses Kerene’s ring before sitting it down to sink into the molten metal. The last of his obligations are now gone.
Moiraine is sitting alone as Lan comes in, and he kneels before her. The pain on Lan’s face as he looks up at Moiraine and then to her ring is tangible. Kerene died to save her, and it so easily could have been him dropping her ring into the lava. So heartbreaking. They don’t say a word during this exchange, but their thoughts are so tangible.
So if you’re tired of being sad after that long sequence of gut punch after gut punch, let’s get angry. The next scene is Egwene being stripped naked by White Cloaks and scrubbed clean with very rough brushes. It looks so painful and humiliating. The added and exaggerated sound effects here made me wince.
Egwene is then dressed in white and sat in front of Valda. Valda is once again eating and acting as if everything was normal. He orders them to bring in Perrin, who is bound, but hasn’t suffered the same treatment as Egwene. Valda seems to think Egwene is able to channel, but I’m not sure where he got that idea from. I think he must just treat every woman like that if he can get his hands on her, and it doesn’t matter if Egwene can channel or not, he gets to kill someone. What a sicko.
I do like that he brings up the crutch of using hands or motions to channel, though. Although we’ve seen it in the show now on a few occasions, this being said here clears up any confusion.
As Valda is threatening to kill her, Egwene finally bites back and tells him to do it. She turns the threat around to come back and kill him in his next life. Finally, there’s the strong-willed Egwene that I know from the books. This scene really brought it out.
Valda won’t be threatened though, and he turns to Perrin, ripping open his shirt to begin flaying him. Perrin screams in pain and his eyes flash golden for a second.
Before we can find out what’s up with Perrin, Valda leaves them alone so that they can decide who he’s going to kill. Ugh… This guy…
We’re back in the White Tower as Stepin visits Nynaeve for a sleep aid. He’s quite drunk already but waits patiently by the door as Nynaeve fetches the herb. She does her best to comfort him, but he seems to be beyond that. He doesn’t want to let go of the pain. When he leaves, the door is left standing open, and Nynaeve ventures out where Liandrin finds her.
Liandrin gives her (and us) a brief history lesson of the statues that represent the Warders, and then also says that the Reds have never taken a Warder. Nynaeve says it’s because they hate men, and Liandrin says some of her sisters, perhaps. She then goes into a statement of men not being kind to little girls who show a spark of being greater than they are. That far away look in her eye is almost as chilling as the smile she puts back on her face a second later. She does give Nynaeve some tips on how to get to the library and the garden before she leaves.
The next scene is Rand kneeling over a sick Mat, and there’s a banging on the door. It sounds frightening until Loial’s voice bellows his name from the other side. He just can’t help but knock hard with those thick sausage-like fingers. His body blocks the door as he tells Rand he has access to the White Tower garden, and Nynaeve runs in behind him. She looks so SMALL next to him. As Loial is going on about her Two Rivers braid, he mistakenly thinks this is the woman Rand was speaking of, but Rand doesn’t even care as they are reunited.
Nynaeve immediately goes to Mat, who smiles seeing that she is alive, then immediately snaps at her. Mat’s personality changes are so quick and alarming, but he calms himself and apologizes. Nynaeve tells him to rest, and the next we see is Rand and Nynaeve in the hall. Rand confesses that he thinks Mat can channel because he’s losing himself. He doesn’t think he can trust Moiraine and take Mat to the White Tower. Nynaeve promises she’ll heal him, and they’ll keep him away from the Aes Sedai.
When Rand worries about Egwene, Nynaeve tells him the story of when Egwene had breakbone fever. They thought she was going to die, but instead made it through the night while Nynaeve sat with her. In the morning, her fever broke, not her.
This is an interesting story as Nynaeve is telling this to Rand because she wants to make sure Rand knows how strong Egwene is. However, did the fever really go away on its own? Now that we know that Nynaeve has some very powerful healing, did she channel back then and save Egwene without knowing it? The show leaves it very ambiguous.
We jump back to our unbreakable Egwene straining to channel. Perrin tells her to stop because he’s the one that deserves to die. The story of what happened to Laila finally slips out. I lost count of how many times I’ve been punched this episode, but here’s another one. Egwene silently listens but disagrees that Perrin deserves death. Before they can speak anymore, Valda returns, and is still set on killing one of them.
He starts in torturing Perrin, and Egwene tells him again that it’s not his fault, and she wants to give him his whole life to realize that. As Perrin begins to scream again, the camera focuses on his golden eyes and the wolves howl in the distance.
Egwene remembers her training and does her best to relax and drift. Valda watches on as Egwene does her best to embrace the Saidar. We finally see Egwene pull her first weaves as a fireball forms in her hand, which she shoots at Valda. In a small little puff that doesn’t even singe him, it disappears. Valda laughs it off but doesn’t realize that there are more flames eating away Perrin’s bindings. Valda’s tune swiftly changes to a weak coward as Perrin towers over him, his eyes still glowing.
In his shock, Valda drops his daggar, and Egwene wastes no time grabbing it and planting it firmly in his back. As satisfying as it was to see him get stabbed, I kind of hope that wasn’t enough to kill him. He deserves such a worse ending than that.
Anyway, Egwene definitely saw Perrin’s eyes glow and stares at him for a second as he snaps out of it. They need to run, but Egwene makes sure to grab the collection of Aes Sedai rings before they race out into the night. They find wolves everywhere, tearing down the White Cloaks all over the camp. Every direction they go, there’s either a wolf or a White Cloak waiting. As they find a clear path to the horses, one wolf snarls at them, but Perrin knows it won’t hurt them. It rushes past them just as they make their escape.
This is the last scene we have with Perrin and Egwene this episode, but now that their story line is ramping up, I can’t wait to see where it goes. I hope we won’t be disappointed with the next episode!
We’re back in the White Tower, following Moiraine as she makes her way to her chambers and Liandrin catches up to her. Liandrin makes note that Nynaeve is a prize, then brushes Moiraine’s hair behind her ear and caresses her cheek.
Okay. Creepy, but okay.
Liandrin then warns her that if she’s not there to guide Nynaeve, another Ajah could snatch her up. Moiraine seems to already have her pegged as a Yellow considering her first channel healed the dying.
Okay, so that was the first time she channeled? Was it really? Was it though?
Of course Moiraine doesn’t know the Egwene story that Nynaeve told us earlier in the show, but I’m not convinced this was the first time she channeled. However, it doesn’t really matter if it was or wasn’t, although it does feel like they are dropping the Wilder plot line from the show. That is fine as it makes for a simpler plot line for some characters in a show that has many other more important plot lines to focus on.
Moiraine gets in the last word before we see Lan watching Stepin perform a ritual to ward off the Forsaken. WOO!!! First mention of the Forsaken here!
Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths!
Okay, so as Stepin is blowing some burning herb over some statues, we are told he wants to ward Ishamael away. We’ve heard that name before, when Dana told us he was the man that brought the last Dragon to the Dark One 3000 years ago. The Father of Lies. Stepin then asks if Lan believes they can still reach them, and Lan is kind enough to drop this little information bomb. The Forsaken sold their souls to the Dark One for eternal lives, even if the last Dragon sealed them away.
Lan then stops Stepin’s ritual and tells him he’ll stay with him till morning. Stepin silently accepts.
We then see that Alanna is in Moiraine’s chambers and has extended the offer to Stepin to bond him. Doing this should ease some of his pain, but his pain is immense and very deep. Moiraine then says she read of way to release a Warder from his bond, clearly not wanting Lan to go through what they are witnessing with Stepin. Alanna assures her that she’ll be with them for a long time still.
Moiraine then asks why Alanna is there, and we’re told that the Amyrlin Seat is returning from Caemlyn and has summoned them. It seems the Flame of Tar Valon is not happy with the way Logain was dealt with, and they need to answer for their actions. They both lay back on the bed as Alanna points out Moiraine is one of the only sisters strong enough to challenge the Amyrlin, but Moiraine has no designs on the seat. She doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want to even be in Tar Valon and trapped in the White Tower.
Alanna then warns her that Liandrin is also building political power with the other sisters outside the Reds, so even though Moiraine doesn’t spend a lot of time in Tar Valon, she has two powerful enemies. Moiraine thanks her, and Alanna leaves, unable to have pried any secrets out of Moiraine.
We jump to Stepin giving Lan some tea as he talks about bonding to Alanna. Stepin is finally smiling, laughing even as he once again turns the conversation to Nynaeve. Although she channeled for the first time to save Lan’s life, she’s barely spoken to him since. That’s because she’s… wait for it… STUBBORN. There we are again!
Stepin then says that without love, this life would be intolerable. Lan counters by saying, “I can tolerate a lot.”
Then the camera zooms in on the tea he’s drinking while Stepin smiles sadly in the background and says, “I know.”
The morning bells ring as dawn breaks, and Lan wakes up in the same spot we just left him at. He stumbles to a table to realize that Stepin has drugged him, and then he sees that one of his daggers is missing. It’s obvious what Stepin’s plan was now, and why he was able to laugh and smile the night before. It’s because he knew it would be over soon.
Lan races out of the room, but it’s far too late for him to change any events. Stepin has already killed himself, and Lan can only collapse beside him.
The next scene, the ending scene, is of Stepin’s funeral with all the Aes Sedai’s and Warders in white. Lan kneels over Stepin’s body as the gathering ritually thump their chest in respect for a fallen Warder. Lan screams out in pain multiple times as he breaks down crying. There is real pain on Moiraine’s face as she stares at him, feeling everything he feels through the bond.
This scene was tragic and painful to watch, but this wasn’t about Kerene and Stepin. This was about Lan and Moiraine. There is now a deep fear inside both of them of what it could mean if one loses the other, especially if Lan loses Moiraine. The pain we saw in both of them felt so real. Masterful on Rosamond Pike’s part.
And that was the final gut punch for the episode. I am officially gutted.
With all the beautiful scenery and landspaces, with all the lore and intrigue, even with the introduction of Loial, this episode was just so sad and heartbreaking.
Until next week and episode 6. Happy Reading and Watching.