Amazon’s Wheel of Time returns with its penultimate episode this week, and it’s a big one. After a rather slow sixth episode, “The Dark Along the Ways” amps the ante from the get-go and doesn’t hit the brakes until the end.
The episode begins with a flashback to a woman (Tigraine Mantear) fighting off men in a snowy landscape. As the camera pans down, we see she’s pregnant and trying not to go into labor for the child’s sake. It’s clear there’s something special about her, though, as she moves through the air with such ease despite her pain and being incredibly pregnant. She’s able to defeat the men with little effort on her end. It makes for stellar action sequences, and honestly, a well-done opening that becomes important later in the episode. As she’s about to go into labor, believing she’s killed most – if not all – of the men, she’s approached by another with a sword pointed toward her. It’s then the episode jumps back to the present.
“The Dark Along the Ways” opts to pick up exactly where episode six left off. The group has made their way into the Ways, with Mat deciding to stay behind. Understandably, the young group is frustrated that they can’t go back for Mat, but quickly take to following Moiraine through the ways and toward the Eye of the World. Little do they know, however, they are being followed. Eager for rest, knowing there’s a long journey ahead, the crew seeks shelter as Loial tries to make sense of the cracked Seal. Whatever has been following, however, wakes them as it launches a surprise attack. The group takes off towards another gate, knowing their original destination to the Eye of the World through the Ways is no longer feasible. As they hurry, the wind tells them stories they are not meant to believe. While they never divulge what they’ve heard to one another, the wind ultimately stirs the tension among the group.
What follows is a series of acceptance and truths. We see these individuals finally come back together for the first time since the initial episode. Despite the arguing and fear that, rightfully, plagues them, by the episode’s end, they try to do what is right. Of course, they’re not aware of what Rand was told in the Wind or what he has come to know, thanks to Min of Fal Dara. He, of course, is the Dragon Reborn. As we soon come to learn, the woman in the cold opening, Tigraine, is Rand’s mother, and he is the baby that was born that day. His mother died shortly after giving birth and he was raised by a man who bore armor and the Heron blade. It was this man who would go on to raise the baby – Rand – in the village along the Two Rivers.
It’s a reveal that fans of the book will not be surprised by, however, it is wonderfully executed on screen. The episode takes the time to see Rand go through the motions as he comes to terms with who he is. In fact, it even goes back to show us that it was Rand, and not Egwene, that channeled during the attack in the Ways. The camerawork as he goes through various emotions, knowing he is who Moiraine has been searching for is so well done. More importantly, though, the episode manages to do something many television series could only hope to do: successfully tell a backstory that not only reveals a huge secret but also manages to push the story forward with ease. It’s easy to rely heavily on exposition and dialogue to achieve such a feat, and yet, Wheel of Time manages to do so with the perfect mixture of both.
By the episode’s end, everything has turned upside down. When Lan comes to the others and tells them Moiraine has broken their bond, having left without telling him, they quickly realize she’s going with Rand to the Eye of the World.
“The Dark Along the Ways” manages to do so much within the span of fifty minutes. It’s honestly quite impressive just how well-written and acted this episode was as a whole. Rosamund Pike‘s Moiraine takes a bit of a backseat to let the rest of the cast shine this go around, giving Daniel Henney‘s Lan time to tell his own story while also igniting the romance between Lan and Nynaeve.
As great of an episode as it is, however, there’s one minor issue. With only one episode left, Wheel of Time still has so much story to unpack. Whether or not it’ll be able to successfully conclude the arc it has begun ahead of Season 2? Well, that remains to be seen.
For now, though, the seventh episode of Wheel of Time is a must-watch. From the cinematography to the music and the cast, “The Dark Along the Ways” is an impressively strong effort that will transport fans into Robert Jordan‘s world.