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A Fantastic The Wheel of Time Season 1 Episode 2 Review & Recap

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The previous episode rushed to an end, and Shadows Waiting continues apace. Thankfully, it does slow down and gives us some pleasing character moments in the process. There’s more worldbuilding here, too, which sits well with me, and the episode is easier to watch now we’re familiar with the show’s style.

We still get to a dramatic climax, of course, and it leaves a good impression overall. Read on for my fantastic The Wheel of Time Season 1, Episode 2 review and recap.

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) riding her gray mare, Aldieb, in haste.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) rides Aldieb in haste.
Fire dragons biting at each other’s tails. Season 1: The Wheel of Time Episode 2 Review feature image.

This review & recap has spoilers for The Wheel of Time Season 1, Episode 2.

The Wheel of Time Season 1 Episode 2

“Shadows Waiting” – Moiraine and Lan lead the four villagers to safety, unsure which is the one from the prophecy. But the friends are equally uncertain about their rescuers, especially once they see how far Moiraine is willing to go for her mission – and how far astray Lan is willing to lead them.

Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) and Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) on the Taren ferry landing.
Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) and Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) on the Taren ferry landing.

Shadows Waiting Cold Open

The camera invites us into a Whitecloak camp, and nothing unusual appears to be happening. That’s until a young boy serves Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis), a Whitecloak Questioner, with a platter holding a nicely cooked bird.

Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis), dressed in white, is about to lift the lid from his silver dish. A silver wine goblet and a white napkin are also on the table.
Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis) is about to dine.

Not much of a meal, but Valda crunches on the Ortolan deliciously. He wipes blood from his lip with a delightfully sinister grin and asks if a certain Aes Sedai has ever tried the dish.

Please be aware that eating an Ortolan is usually illegal, so please don’t do it. Other sage advice would be to avoid Whitecloaks at all costs.

This advice is a little late for one Yellow Sister, gagged and tied to a stake over a fire. Her hands have been cut off, and the Aes Sedai ring (a serpent eating its own tail with a colored gem embedded) is now attached to a collection on Valda’s belt. He sips wine as the Aes Sedai burns, seen through the reflection of his goblet.

“Sometimes brutality is the only path to mercy,” we’re told unconvincingly.

My Opinion

This opening introduces us to religious zealots that pose a threat to the female Aes Sedai. I’m down with that, and having a human villain enter the fray is welcome, too.

By fans and me, this is seen as a leveling-up of the Whitecloaks (compared to the books) and is rendered well. The world builds further with this cold open, and I commend it.

Shadows Waiting Review and Recap

We begin with the opening credits for the first time, which are great!

A thread of the One Power unravels, with one half blackening more than the other as the weaves separate. The elements of the One Power (earth, air, fire, water, and spirit) weave into the pattern in their accompanying shades. It breaks down to represent the seven Ajahs of the female Aes Sedai and their personifications.

The overture is terrific, and I’m pleasantly enthused.

Explanations

My previous review starts with the positives, so I’ll turn that around and address my main criticism of this episode (and, honestly, the season in general). The show tries to explain itself too much.

We hear about the deaths of Nynaeve and Laila a couple of times, but there’s no recognition for the other unfortunates in the Two Rivers. That’s a disappointing omission.

The show tells us that the second horde of Trollocs and Fades circumvented the Two Rivers to focus on the fleeing party. Later, Moiraine stretches the limitations of the Aes Sedai vows by manipulating her words, which is also needlessly explained to us.

I feel all these things can be understood by an intelligent and intuitive viewer, and they’re laid on too thick for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, though, this episode is good.

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) is knelt on forest leaves with an outstretched arm to the ground, as if checking for something. Pictured with Egwene al'Vere (Madeleine Madden) in the foreground.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) center, with Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden).

The Lord of the Rings

Have you noticed a similarity to The Lord of the Rings in the season so far? The Eye of the World, the first book in The Wheel of Time series (and the one this season is adapting), definitely turns to Tolkien’s epic for inspiration. The familiarities are amusingly clear.

The party are dispersed on the top of a cliff, looking out to rolling hills beyond them.
The party reflects on their adventure so far.

As the story unfolds, The Wheel of Time becomes its own entity and one of the most beloved series in modern fantasy. But my point is that some of the shots and traveling cinematography in this episode uncannily reflect The Lord of the Rings movies (particularly the first one). I like it. It’s a nice nod to the parallels in the books.

If you’re grumbling at the resemblance, I would argue that The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time lend themselves to quality landscapes and characters. We’ve seen the show deliver on these already, so there can be no complaints.

Taren Ferry

The Taren Ferry scene is disappointing because, from my perspective, it doesn’t feel real. Moiraine could have dealt with the situation better, and the stretching of her Aes Sedai oaths is too easily excused. Did the ferryman really need to die?

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) clasps an arm across her chest, the Aes Sedai ring displayed on her middle finger.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike)

The endearing cry of a Fade is not enough to save the scene for me. It’s all a bit drastic and clunky but serves to get our youths away from imminent danger. This allows the episode to become more engaging.

Welcome Character Moments

Rosamund Pike, as Moiraine, continues to satisfy, but Rand, Egwene, and Mat court me in Shadows Waiting. Rand is bratty and unlikeable, but it’s hard to fault his cynicism. Moiraine calls his bluff with a false departure from the group, though Lan is on guard to ensure this tactic works. A nice touch.

Mat sympathizes with Rand’s argument but knows there isn’t much choice for them all. They all follow Moiraine in the end, of course.

Rand al'Thor (Josha Stradowski) and Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) on horseback.
Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) and Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) on horseback.

The scene with Moiraine and Egwene plays out well, followed by an insular Rand struggling with his situation and emotions.

The dream sequence with Rand spewing up a bat is difficult to watch but horrifyingly good. If that doesn’t creep you out too much, keep watching! The Wheel of Time gets darker, I can assure you.

Weep for Manetheran

The best part of this episode for book readers is on the road. Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) kickstarts the “Weep for Manetheran” song; for our village youths, it’s just a song.

However, Moiraine tells the story of Manetheran, and it’s a tragic tale, as you might expect from the song title. Rosamund Pike captures its significance, but the revelation that the Old Blood runs deep in the Two Rivers doesn’t lift the mood of our lead characters. The fall of their homeland, once a powerful nation but overrun by the Dark One’s forces during the Trolloc Wars, is something for them to chew on.

We have a further encounter with Whitecloaks, in which Moiraine manipulates her words to protect her charges and disguise her nature. She isn’t doing great health-wise, so Lan picks up the lead from here and takes the party to Shadar Logoth as Trollocs and Fades catch up with them.

Whitecloaks in a forest clearing, a few on horseback.
Whitecloaks

Shadar Logoth

I’d have liked more time in Shadar Logoth because the eerie and suffocating set deserves it.

Lan carries Moiraine, who is sagged in his arms, from a shadowy building in Shadar Logoth.
Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) carries Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) in Shadar Logoth.

However, I miss Moiraine in these scenes. She is still weak from the Trolloc wound she suffered in the last episode. While Lan tends to her, the Two Rivers boys stupidly step out (separately and alone!) to roam the dead city. Why would they, and why does Lan let them? Overwhelming concern for Moiraine, I assume.

Moiraine’s comment, “You’ve killed us all,” is well-earned when she wakes up momentarily.

Mat and Perrin share a poignant moment where the former gives Perrin a tool-intended knife crafted by the blacksmith’s late wife. The dialogue is good here because it feels natural. The show is often very deliberate in what it tells us, so thank you for keeping this scene in.

Mat finds a dagger of his own, a ruby-embedded treasure, in one of the outlying buildings. “Don’t touch anything,” Lan told them, so from a viewer’s perspective, it doesn’t feel like a win for Mat. It does for him, though.

Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) wonders at the ruby-embedded dagger he holds between his hands.
Mat Cauthon (Barney Harris) wonders at the ruby-embedded dagger.

We pace to the end as dark descends. An inky black evil starts to leak through Shadar Logoth, bringing a quick demise to one of the packhorses.

The group is separated. Rand and Mat leave together, as do Lan and Moiraine. Meanwhile, Perrin and Egwene leap into a river from the city’s walls. How they survived this jump, I have no idea.

A Suspenseful Ending

Shoulder and face shot of Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney).
Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney)

The climax of the show reveals that Nynaeve isn’t dead. She’s been tracking the group down and threatens Lan as he tends to the ailing Moiraine.

“If you don’t take them to me right now, I’ll slit your throat.”

It is a satisfying conclusion to the episode.

Shadows Waiting Rating

Fire dragons biting at each other’s tails. Season 1: The Wheel of Time Episode 2 Rating. 7/10.

I scored this episode a 7 as it’s more revealing than the first one and provides some uncomfortable moments that are fun to watch. It moves the story forward and introduces new elements to the world.

I really hope the series continues in this vein, as worldbuilding is one of the main selling points for The Wheel of Time.

Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) encounters a pack of friendly wolves on the forest road.
Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) encounters a pack of friendly wolves.

The Whitecloaks and Shadar Logoth produce heightening horror and danger, which helps the episode. It also allows time for our characters to breathe (when they aren’t choking on bats!). The Nynaeve reveal at the end and the separation of the group set up some intrigue for the next episode, so it all works for me.

I’m not too fond of the Taren Ferry scene. The acting and CGI feel off. The episode soon settles down, though, and there are plenty of treats for book-readers.

Moiraine is missed during the brief Shadar Logoth visit, and Lan looks somewhat lame handling the situation. Those are my particular grumbles, but I enjoy the whole.

Pictured are Rand, Mat, Lan (forefront), Egwene and Moiraine, all dismounted from their horses.
The party dismounts on meeting the Whitecloaks.

Best Actor

Madeleine Madden as Egwene al’Vere

Madeleine Madden attends the Premiere of The Wheel of Time. Wearing a white gown and dark colored gloves on the blue carpet.
Madeleine Madden. Credit: Andrew Timms.
© Amazon Studios.

I love Egwene’s interactions in this episode, and her character’s personality shines through. It’s pretty evident that being able to wield the One Power and possibly become an Aes Sedai excites her. It’s delicately done, though.

The fact she tells Perrin she doesn’t expect them ever to return home says more for her aspiration than it does for their circumstance. Egwene still has affection for her loved ones, though. She wants to share her thoughts and discoveries with Rand but catches him in the wrong mood.

Madeleine Madden’s subtle approach allows me to believe in Egwene, and I enjoy watching her evolve. For the most part, the actors’ performances remain one of The Wheel of Time’s biggest strengths.

Egwene, Perrin, and Rand look horrified in front of a door in Shadar Logoth.
Egwene (Madeleine Madden), Perrin (Marcus Rutherford), and Rand (Josha Stradowski).

Behind the Scenes Video

Enjoy this behind-the-scenes footage, which Prime Video has shared on YouTube. It’s a look inside The Wheel of Time Episode 2, Shadows Waiting.

Watch “Shadows Waiting” Today!

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Let me know your thoughts on Shadows Waiting in the comments. Did The Wheel of Time Season 1, Episode 2 meet your expectations? Do you agree with my rating and review? I always respond as soon as possible and answer any questions you have.

Clicking the image below takes you to my Episode 3 review, but until next time, may the Light shine on you, my friends!

Russell

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