After two episode that seemingly relied on large action sequences to keep you interested and hook you in for the next instalment, we now have one that allows time for the characters to breathe. By splitting the core group of characters into pair and sending them off on different paths to the same destination they are giving a chance to grow and, more importantly, interact with others in the wider world.
So now we are presented with three different narratives. First up, there is Moiraiane (Rosamund Pike) and Lan (Daniel Henney). Picking up from the previous episode’s cliffhanger, Moiraine is at death’s door and Lan is has a sword held to his throat by the back from the dead Nynaeve (Zoë Robins). A particularly gory flashback shows how she escaped the Trollocs, first by chance and them by her pure determination to survive. She wants to be reunited with her friends and it soon becomes clear to Lan that there is more to her character than expected. They both have something that the other wants so the pair form an uneasy alliance.
Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden) are the second and probably least interesting pairing in this episode. They are on the run and seemingly being pursued by wolves, a carryover from the previous episode where wolves licked Perrin’s wounded leg. Their storyline is bogged down by Perrin’s grief from accidentally killing his wife, an unnecessary event created for the show that wasn’t in the source material, which is haunting his dreams. You get the feeling the darkness that this has created within him is how evil is tracking them but there are other ways they could have done this. The main thing that is achieved with this segment is that Egwene reveals to Perrin that she can control magic, which she does by helping to light a fire, and highlight that she could be the Dragon Reborn. This second storyline is lifted by the introduction of the Tinkers, the traveling people of this world. In a nice bit of world building this adds a different culture to the show, one that is welcoming and colourful.
The third pairing is the one that lifts the episode and the show as a whole. Mat (Barney Harris) and Rand (Josha Stradowski) stumble into a staple of fantasy fiction and everything is better for it. While searching for their friends they discover a down on it’s luck mining town with a tavern complete with a flirty barmaid (Izuka Hoyle) and a charismatic bard, known as a gleeman in this world, called Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume). It’s a breathe of fresh air to have a couple of the leads interact with some chatty characters and allows the actors to come out of their shells. The barmaid’s turn from flirty to sinister with Rand is effective with Rand given more to do than mope because his girlfriend won’t have sex with him. But it’s Barney Harris who shines the most with Mat, showing a charismatic world wearyness opposite an understanding Thom. He is a down on his luck character who doesn’t believe fate and just wants to get back to his sisters. Unfortunately Mat has been recast for the second season and, with no official comments on why, hopefully this is a story reason otherwise it seems an odd decision.
We close out with another cliffhanger but not an action scene like in previous episodes. Lan has taken Moiraine to meet with other Aes Sedai so they can heal her for it to be revealed that they have caught a man they believe to be the Dragon Reborn. Could Moiraine be wrong and the chosen one is not one of our leads?
My main issue with this episode is the same I’ve had with the previous ones, only it’s getting worse. I have no idea of the geography of this world. At the end of the last episode when everyone got split up it seemed like they all exited the city in more or less the same locations but the three pairs are now in three completely different environments. Lan and Moiraine are in dense forests, Perrin and Egwene are walking across grass plains, and Mat and Rand are climbing mountains. On top of this, all the characters seem to be heading in different directions but heading to the same location. But this may just be my problem and as this is fantasy I should let it go or just Google a map of this world.
On the Dragon Reborn front, the scores so far are – Egwene has shown us see can wield the magic, Perrin seems to have an affinity with wolves, Rand has unknown physical strength, and Mat appears to be hiding a darkness. At the moment it could be anyone.
A strong episode that doesn’t rely on it’s star name, Rosamund Pike, to sell the show as she is unconscious for most of the run time. Now we have proof that the characters can lead the show.