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

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As I settled down to watch the long-awaited return of The Wheel of Time TV series, the anticipation felt like a festive celebration, much like my eagerness ahead of Season 1’s anti-climactic ending on Christmas Eve 2021. Thankfully, I can confidently say that A Taste of Solitude rekindles the magic and intrigue that captivated fans of the show’s debut and doesn’t fizzle out as that finale did.

The first season got mixed reactions from die-hard book fans and critics. It was marred by filming disruptions and editorial decisions. Purists ranted about deviations from the original material, mainly regarding Mat Cauthon’s backstory and the short existence of Perrin Aybara’s wife, but the adaptation retained the heart and soul of Robert Jordan’s epic saga.

My The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 1 review and recap ends with renewed enthusiasm for the series. It is a beacon of hope for those steadfast in this daring journey to bring Robert Jordan’s 14 sprawling novels to the small screen. Prepare for introductions to beloved characters and story arcs that promise to enchant and engage, all while weaving this new telling of The Wheel of Time.

Verin Mathwin (Meera Syal) sat at a dining table, looking calm and understanding.
Verin Mathwin (Meera Syal)
The face of a golden-eyed wolf on a gray background. Gray and white text reads “The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 1 Review, A Taste of Solitude.”

The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 1

Spoilers ahead for The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 1! In the aftermath of tragedy, our scattered heroes find themselves alone yet fueled by newfound determination. For a taste of this episode, watch as Alanna Sedai delivers an impromptu lesson:

A Taste of Solitude Cold Open

The season opens overlooking a mysterious star-shaped building, where a young girl (Amy Sharp) playfully approaches a stone seal. Her childlike curiosity is abruptly shattered when she’s startled by Trollocs and seeks refuge inside the building, inadvertently interrupting a clandestine meeting.

The meeting, led by Ishamael (Fares Fares), who was previously believed to be the Dark One, centers around the fate of Rand al’Thor, described as “the man who was and will be, but is not yet the Dragon Reborn.” The attendees are an intriguing assortment of Darkfriends, including a Seanchan noble, a Shienaran, and an Aes Sedai.

Ishamael gently coaxes the girl from hiding and takes her back to the courtyard. The tension escalates with Padan Fain’s chilling appearance, who grins broadly as the pair leave.

Outside, Ishamael poses a thought-provoking question to the girl: “What if the Trollocs are not monsters? What if they are just hungry?” The scene ends without any children being eaten.

A girl's hand touches the jaw of a monstrous, horned Trolloc.
Are Trollocs monsters, or just hungry?

My Opinion

The theme of good and evil (and the gray lines between) is central to The Wheel of Time series, and this opening scene plays on those vibes, making an excellent start to the season. The sequence is also an homage to the Darkfriend Social from the second novel, The Great Hunt, and it’s pleasing to see the show acknowledge the complex perspectives of its characters, notably seen when Ishamael refers to the Forsaken as “the Chosen.”

If Season 1 was about wanting to know who the Dragon Reborn was, this one leaves us guessing the identities of Darkfriends. With at least one Aes Sedai, Seanchan, Shienaran, and a Whitecloak (I spotted the sleeves), and possibly even a Tinker at the table, speculation could keep me here for hours.

While the pre-launch reveal of this scene at the end of Season 1’s finale might have diminished some of its suspense, the scene is powerfully executed. The blend of dread, philosophical questioning, and character dynamics is captivating, and I’m on the hunt for Darkfriends now.

Overall, the season is off to a promising start, indicating that we’re in for a journey filled with moral complexity, deep character exploration, and thrilling plot developments.

A Taste of Solitude Recap & Review

The episode is best watched for intricate detail, but I’ll guide you through the journey as best I can and pass a comment where it’s due.

One of my first spots is that the soundtrack is less invasive. Don’t get me wrong, the music was a highlight of Season 1 and still makes its presence felt. Viewing and listening feels more comfortable this time, and none of the individual parts take you out of the immersive experience.

The design elements for this production are faultless. Beautiful costumes, stunning scenery, and colorful imagery, ranging from lush greens to stark grays, are enchanting. Meanwhile, Lorne Balfe’s score is again a magnificent force in the background.

Lan and Moiraine’s Frustrations

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) draws water from a well. Her subdued demeanor is very different from the powerful Aes Sedai we remember. This simple act, laden with melancholy, echoes her loss of magic. She is dourly dressed and in no mood for company, soaking her clothes for a wash before bathing herself.

The scene is a bleak reminder of her once vibrant abilities. It particularly recalls the moment in Season 1 when she effortlessly warmed a bath for Lan, striking a heavy contrast between then and now. A life without magic is more profound than not being able to heat your bathwater, but mundane moments like these scream the bigger picture. Moiraine is suffering.

Meanwhile, Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) reflects a sense of aimlessness, mirroring his disconnect from Moiraine. His mechanical movements in sword practice, once fluid and confident, now seem forced, revealing the emotional gulf he must feel.

Melancholy is a bold way to start the episode. The reaction will likely vary depending on how strongly you feel about Moiraine being the focal character of the television series. In the books, we follow Rand as the main point-of-view character. Still, I am comfortable with the star power of Rosamund Pike carrying the adaptation. She and Daniel Henney are outstanding in their roles.

Verin Mathwin

Verin Mathwin’s (Meera Syal’s) introduction brings a fan-favorite to our screens. The much loved Aes Sedai of the Brown Ajah shares her home with Adeleas (Nila Aalia) and her Warder, Tomas (Heikko Deutschmann), and accommodates Moiraine and Lan in their challenging, magic-deprived circumstances.

I initially found Adeleas’s unconventional Aes Sedai portrayal – casual, blunt, and often tipsy – a little jarring. However, deviating from the expected subtleties of an Aes Sedai is a refreshing change. Her interactions with Lan are mildly amusing, I admit.

The arrival of Bayle Domon (Julian Lewis Jones), another familiar character to readers of the books, stirs the plot further. His unexpected visit, cloaked in mystery, hints at significant developments. Moiraine’s guarded nature towards Lan about Domon’s visit teases the tensions and secrets yet to unfold.

Moiraine remains a commanding presence, and her resilience and strength as an Aes Sedai are undiminished despite her current vulnerabilities. The stage is set for intriguing character dynamics and plot advancements in the future.

A Lesson in the One Power

Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) navigates her new life as a Novice in the White Tower. Tidying the absent Amyrlin’s study is more than a mundane task; it symbolizes Egwene’s aspirations and the looming responsibilities of power. Her longing look at Siuan Sanche’s robes captures this beautifully.

Egwene al'Vere (Madeleine Madden) admires the Amyrlin's robes.
Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) admires the Amyrlin’s robes.

Seeing the chest-like box on the Amyrlin’s desk gives me the thrills. I won’t be the only fan to have paused the program to see if it was there. I hope it’s used for storing secrets, just as Robert Jordan wrote, but those intrigues are for later seasons, and I won’t spoil them now.

On the Tower walls, Leane Sharif (Jennifer Cheon Garcia), Keeper of the Chronicles, dumps her used cup in Egwene’s basket, ignoring the girl entirely. It reveals the solitary life of an Aes Sedai trainee, and the montage continues.

Egwene sees Alanna Mosvani (Priyanka Bose) playing in bed with Ihvon (Emmanual Imani) and Maksim (Taylor Napier) and walks through the Warder’s yard on her way to the kitchens. The sequence brings life and magnitude to the White Tower, something the first season’s more confined scenes didn’t fully capture.

Nynaeve al’Meara’s (Zoë Robins’) resistance to the Aes Sedai training contrasts sharply with Egwene’s acceptance. Her frustration with mundane tasks and Alanna Sedai’s lesson in the One Power highlight this divergence.

Alanna Mosvani raises a glass of clear water in the White Tower kitchens.
Alanna Mosvani (Priyanka Bose)

The scene cleverly introduces the audience to the elemental threads of the One Power while also peeling back layers of our main characters’ personalities. Egwene’s determination to use the One Power without hands and the revelation that Nynaeve has been blocked from channeling since returning from Fal Dara are story points worth noting.

Liandrin’s Intervention

In the White Tower, the Mistress of Novices, Sheriam Bayanar (Rima Te Wiata), inquires about the progress of the new recruits. Alanna notes that Egwene needs to relax, but Nynaeve’s inability to channel is the chief concern. Enter Liandrin Guirale (Kate Fleetwood) with her self-proposed solution – volunteering herself as a better teacher for Nynaeve.

Aes Sedai gathered in a White Tower garden to discuss their Novices.
The Aes Sedai discuss the Novices in a White Tower garden.

Liandrin’s history of aggressive teaching methods, which once resulted in a Novice’s death, causes a stir among the Aes Sedai. Yet, Liandrin, ever confident, attributes it to the risks of wielding magic. She persuades Sheriam to allow her a moment with Nynaeve, leaving Alanna visibly unsettled.

Liandrin’s words about the tense atmosphere outside the Tower walls – the search for the Horn of Valere, Trolloc raids, and the emergence of a new false Dragon in Saldaea – hint at conflicts that will stretch beyond this season alone.

The Hunt for Padan Fain

Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford), Loial (Hammed Animashaun), and Shienaran soldiers are hunting Padan Fain to retrieve the stolen Horn of Valere. Their journey is urgent and sad, and Perrin understandably writes to Nynaeve and Egwene as he clings to those connections in Rand and Mat’s absence.

Perrin and Loial are on horseback, and the Shienarans follow.
Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) and Loial (Hammed Animashaun) on horseback.

Their new tracker, Elyas Machera (Gary Beadle), known for his distinctive golden eyes, has made a grim discovery. A group of Tinkers have been brutally murdered, their bodies left unceremoniously on the ground, and their caravans wrecked.

Witnessing the carnage, Perrin finds his eyes turning golden as wolves howl in the distance. He envisions Padan Fain maltreating a young girl who narrowly escapes. Elyas knows it, too.

Face shot of a bearded Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) with golden eyes.
Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) has golden eyes.

Among the casualties is a Shienaran, identified as one of Fain’s Darkfriends. While Uno Nomesta (Guy Roberts) reacts with disgust, their leader, Ingtar Shinowa (Gregg Chilingirian), opts for a more compassionate approach, insisting on a proper burial despite the man’s betrayal.

Cuendillar

Bayle Domon’s arrival brings intrigue to Moiraine’s doorstep with a peculiar piece of cuendillar. This heartstone, renowned for being unbreakable, has paradoxically been shattered near Cairhien and found alongside a cryptic inscription in the Old Tongue and a poem written in blood. Domon has brought the cuendillar piece (from a broken moondial) and the transcript for Moiraine to consider.

Meanwhile, Lan’s growing frustration over Moiraine’s secretive demeanor becomes evident in a conversation with Tomas. Despite Tomas’s offer to take over his duties, Lan’s loyalty remains unwavering, yet his patience wears thin.

Domon’s interaction with Moiraine demonstrates his shrewd bartering skills, honed through dealings with the Sea Folk. He proposes a trade, offering the cuendillar for 50 marks and the poem for 1, only to be left aghast by Moiraine’s singular interest in the parchment.

Moiraine reads a parchment in her cluttered room.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) studies the parchment.

The revelation that Domon has been pursued by faceless men in black cloaks alarms Moiraine, prompting her to piece together a more ominous puzzle. Her concern for Domon’s safety leads her to urge him to flee. The merchant’s face pales at his perilous situation.

Inside the White Tower

In the Warders’ yard, Nynaeve’s sparring with Ihvon and Maksim exposes the tensions in her new life. Her almost explosive reaction against Alanna Sedai stems from deep-seated frustrations with the Aes Sedai training. The Warders are understanding and offer comfort, sharing their reasons for coming to the White Tower.

For Maksim, it was love for a Warder, and for Ihvon, it was his affection for an Aes Sedai. This charming anecdote serves as a lesson for Nynaeve. She needs to understand her motivations before hoping to cope with the rigors of Aes Sedai training.

Seeking solace, Nynaeve looks to discuss her concerns with Egwene, only to find her absent. She’s visiting Alanna to discuss the One Power, which leads to an uncomfortable exchange. Their awkward conversation, where Alanna misconstrues Egwene’s concerns as trying to make sense of threesomes, aims for humor but falls slightly flat.

Despite this, Alanna’s advice can be interpreted in many ways, which makes the dialogue intriguing, if not humorous. It’s a shame the comedy doesn’t land because Priyanka Bose and Madeleine Madden have succeeded before in their funny moments.

Egwene looks uncomfortable as she leans on a pouf in Alanna's room.
Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden)

Liandrin’s Lesson

In a charged encounter, Liandrin challenges Nynaeve, sparking a fiery exchange that becomes a highlight of the episode. Liandrin, with her usual disdain, belittles Nynaeve. Her words are laced with scorn, particularly towards men and Warders. She channels a sword with Air but considers it a weak weapon as she would have to fight hand-to-hand. Liandrin prefers to win rather than fight prettily.

The scene intensifies as Liandrin demonstrates her power, effortlessly manipulating Air to fling Nynaeve against a wall. She delivers a pointed monologue on why Red Sisters forsake Warders, portraying them as distractions and obedient dogs. With Moiraine’s recent behavior towards Lan, one wonders how much our heroic Blue has in common with this antagonistic Red. A worrying comparison.

The confrontation climaxes when Nynaeve, provoked by Liandrin’s taunts about her feelings for Lan, retaliates with equal force. Mirroring Liandrin’s moves, she hurls the Red Sister across the room. It’s a powerful display of Nynaeve’s raw potential, impressing even Liandrin, who swiftly regains control by shielding Nynaeve from the One Power.

The encounter is more than a battle of wills; it’s a lesson in power dynamics, with Liandrin advocating for a kind of strength that’s unyielding and self-sufficient. Effective coaching, if unconventional.

Perrin’s Rage

Perrin’s turmoil bubbles to the surface during a somber funeral service. He questions Ingtar’s decision to honor a Shienaran who betrayed them, leading to deaths in Fal Dara. Ingtar’s response, emphasizing the dignity owed to all, especially in death, doesn’t calm the blacksmith. His reflections on Padan Fain’s treachery in the Two Rivers – where he was welcomed but repaid their kindness with murder and devastation – intensify his anger.

Perrin is still fueled by the tragic loss of his wife and his unprocessed grief. This rage has imbued a deep-rooted desire to exact vengeance on Fain. Yet, Ingtar offers a different perspective, suggesting that understanding the reasons behind Fain’s actions might be more cathartic.

It’s a poignant moment demonstrating Perrin’s struggle for self-understanding and his desire to reconcile the darkness that engulfs him. Many watching will hope he finds the answers soon enough because the taste of Season 1’s fridging plot (wife dies, leaving husband motivated) is still bitter.

Bel Tine

The episode weaves a nostalgic thread around Bel Tine, a time of celebration and commemoration since transformed by tragedy. In a quiet moment, Egwene and Nynaeve craft a lantern, symbolizing both remembrance and hope. Perrin’s letter, filled with a Shienaran tale of unity, resonates deeply with them, evoking a longing for a reunion with their scattered friends.

Egwene and Nynaeve are sitting on a bed in the Novice’s Quarters, holding a lantern for Bel Tine.
Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) and Nynaeve al’Meara (Zoë Robins) with a Bel Tine lantern.

The scene shifts to Mat Cauthon, now a prisoner under Liandrin’s watchful eye. She reads Perrin’s letter, manipulating its words to make it sound like Mat isn’t mentioned. Mat’s resolve, however, remains unshaken. Despite his confinement and Liandrin’s probing, he maintains his innocence, adamant he is no longer a threat to anyone.

Mat hasn’t been near the ruby-encrusted dagger in six months, and Liandrin is frustrated that her interrogation and coaxing are not producing the results she expected. When left alone, Mat secretly cuts at the prison wall, hoping to escape.

Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski) lights a lantern somewhere in the world, and Perrin sets one afloat on a stream. Perrin’s reluctance to let go of his past is symbolized by his decision to retain his wedding band. These moments, harking back to the series premiere, infuse A Taste of Solitude with a sense of continuity and touch on the emotional journeys of each character.

Secrets and Fades

Tensions escalate between Lan and Moiraine over her secretive nature, culminating in a heated exchange that strains their relationship. Moiraine’s isolation becomes evident as she chooses to dine alone, a silent testament to the growing rift between her and Lan.

However, conversing with Tomas, Verin, and Adeleas offers Lan a new perspective on Moiraine’s resilience, prompting him to reconsider his impatience. In a gesture of reconciliation, he brings food to her study, only to find her gone, driven by her unwavering dedication to a greater mission.

Moiraine’s journey turns perilous when she encounters Fades, presumably the same ones tracking Bayle Domon. Without her magical abilities, she bravely confronts them with only a knife, and a fierce battle ensues.

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) holds her knife and anticipates a Fade attack.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) anticipates a Fade attack.

As the situation becomes dire, Lan arrives, demonstrating his formidable skill with swords and gymnastics. However, even he is overwhelmed, and the possibility of a tragic end looms. The timely intervention of Verin and Tomas, with a dramatic display of the One Power, saves them from certain death.

Lan and Moiraine, lying injured, confront the harsh reality that they could not have survived alone. Lan’s desperate question, “What aren’t you telling me?” hangs unanswered.

A Taste of Solitude Rating

I’ve rated A Taste of Solitude generously with a 7.5 out of 10, as it sets an impressive tone for the second season of The Wheel of Time. The plot lines promise an exciting journey, especially for readers familiar with the series. A subtle focus on Ingtar’s motivations and the rumors of another False Dragon in Saldaea are delightful surprises that I wasn’t expecting.

A golden-eyed wolf on a gray background. White typography reads “7.5/10,” which is The Shining Walls' rating for The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 1, A Taste of Solitude.
“A TASTE OF SOLITUDE” RATING

While much of this episode diverges from events in the book series, it still captures the essence of The Wheel of Time, which is a credit to the writers. The episode’s execution and pacing are commendable, suggesting a season that could exceed expectations.

Standout performances come from Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin Guirale, Daniel Henney as Lan Mandragoran, and Rosamund Pike’s compelling portrayal of Moiraine Damodred. Liandrin’s character, in particular, shines brightly in this episode, with Kate Fleetwood bringing depth to the Red Sister, turning her into a complex antagonist.

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) grips her knife in terror, hiding behind a rock.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike)

A Taste of Solitude achieves what a season premiere should, and I’m more than content. The episode leaves me concerned about the world’s fate, especially with Moiraine’s current vulnerability. Her struggle to regain her powers adds some urgency, and the changes from the book series are admittedly intriguing. It sets high expectations for the rest of the season and excites me for what’s coming.

Best Actor

Kate Fleetwood as Liandrin Guirale

Liandrin Guirale (Kate Fleetwood) has her hand outstretched, channeling flows of Air.
Liandrin Guirale (Kate Fleetwood)

Kate Fleetwood’s portrayal of Liandrin Guirale is astonishing. The character is one-dimensional in the books, but the actor has transformed Liandrin into a multi-layered antagonist. Her performance in Season 1 laid the groundwork, presenting Liandrin as self-important and cunningly intelligent. However, in this episode, Kate Fleetwood strengthens Liandrin’s presence by being at the heart of its most memorable scenes.

Her interactions with Mat and Nynaeve reveal a complex character who is as contemptuous as she is intriguing. Kate Fleetwood’s ability to blend Liandrin’s snooty arrogance with a sharp wit and an underlying sense of ambition makes her a compelling watch. Her character’s arc, filled with manipulative and strategic moves, adds a thrilling dynamic to the show.

The depth Kate Fleetwood brings to the character makes Liandrin particularly fascinating. Each scene with her hints at many uncovered layers and promises an intriguing journey for her character. Her performance assures that, no matter where Liandrin’s story goes, it will be a captivating and satisfying journey for the audience.

Watch “A Taste of Solitude” Today!

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I’d love your thoughts on The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 1, A Taste of Solitude. Do you agree with my views on the episode and my selection for the Best Actor? Your opinions and perspectives are always valued here, so feel free to comment below.

I make it a point to engage with your comments, so if you have any questions or thoughts about the episode, the series, or anything related, I’m here to discuss them with you.

Until next time, may the Light shine on you, my friends!

Russell

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