The sixth episode of Wheel of Time takes its time to move the story forward, but ultimately takes viewers back a bit. It’s a slower episode when comparing it to the rest of the season. However, “The Flame of Tar Valon” does a great job at setting up the remaining two episodes of the season.
The latest episode sees the Aes Sedai go before the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche (played by Sophie Okonedo). They – Moiraine Damodred, Liandrin Guirale, and Alanna Mosvani – have been called to answer for their disobedience regarding the False Dragon. The Aes Sedai were to bring him to the White Tower to receive a fair trial courtesy of the Amyrlin Seat. Unfortunately, though, following his powerful attack on the Aes Sedai, which resulted in the death of one of their fellow sisters, the women opted to gentle him, knowing they weren’t powerful enough to control him during the journey to the White Tower.
While the blame for the decision falls upon Liandrin, who became their leader upon the death of Kerene, she isn’t willing to go down alone. As she stands before the Amyrlin Seat, Liandrin tells of Moiraine and her secretive missions, which the blue Aes Sedai try their best to defend. When questioned by the Amyrlin Seat, Moiraine refuses to divulge what she has been up to outside of the White Tower for the past few years, fearing what would happen if the others discovered she’d gone in search of the Dragon Reborn. So, she opts to receive punishment for not being forthright with the Amrylin Seat.
It’s a terrifying moment that is quickly resolved as we soon learn Moiraine is keeping more secrets than merely the Dragon Reborn. Her lover also happens to be the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche, who knows of her mission to locate the Dragon Reborn. In the brief moments we see of just Rosamund Pike and Okonedo, it’s evident the two women work tremendously well playing off of each other. Pike has been delivering powerhouse performances all season and Okonedo nearly gives her a run for her money this time around. They’re both such commanding presences on screen, it’s part of what makes this episode so strong.
This episode also (finally) brings back our crew from the Two Rivers. Moiraine first comes upon Rand and Mat, with the latter continuing to suffer due to the hold of the darkness. After discovering the dagger he stole from Shadar Logoth, she uses the One Power to free him of its hold and return the darkness to the dagger. However, she warns Rand should Mat touch the dagger again, she isn’t sure she’ll be able to save him as the darkness was feeding on what was already inside of him from the beginning. It’s a moment that gives viewers a new look at Mat’s character.
Moiraine is later brought to Egwene and Perrin, who have finally made it to the White Tower. Egwene tells of the torture they endured at the hands of the White Cloaks – more specifically, Captain Eamon Valda, who has killed numerous Aes Sedai. She explains Perrin’s link to the wolves and how his eyes turned a golden color before they broke free of Valda, a surprise to Moiraine who still isn’t sure who the Dragon Reborn is of the group. Egwene then returns the rings of her sisters killed by Valda. She hides that she’s already seen Rand and Mat, trying to keep them separate for the time being, knowing she’s able to go back before the Amyrlin Seat for her punishment.
Unsurprisingly, with Moiraine having asked Siuan to banish her, the Amyrlin Seat does just that. It’s a surprise to the fellow Aes Sedai, but a necessary step for Moiraine to get the others to the prison of the Dark One. The episode ultimately ends with the group coming together once again in front of a Ways gate, where Moiraine opens the gate to allow them to travel to the Eye of the World, where the Dark One is imprisoned. This is where they’ll finally find out who the Dragon Reborn is while, hopefully, not losing any lives in the process. While Mat opts to stay behind, the others follow Moiraine into the gate knowing there are no guarantees of what is to come upon crossing the gate.
“The Flame of Tar Valon” is small in scale, with the story mostly taking place within the White Tower, but it’s a key part of what the final two episodes will unleash. There are no battle scenes here. This is an episode of truths, secrets, and hope. It’s a slow watch, but it’s hard not to become excited about what it promises.
There are some issues, of course. The CGI, in particular, can be a bit off-putting at the start of the episode. While trying to show the grand scale of the White Tower, the camera pans up to highlight the massive height of the tower. Unfortunately, though, the image looks off, which takes away from some of the beauty. Thankfully, this is the only negative to the show’s visuals, because the set pieces and landscapes continue to be remarkable, as does the costuming. The amount of detail put into everything is absolutely stunning and helps to sell this epic fantasy tale.
With two episodes left, though, Wheel of Time has a lot of story left to tell and it remains unclear just how well the series will successfully wrap up such a huge first season.