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A Brilliant The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 8 Review & Recap

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  • 45 min read

A season that has brought on wild emotions, ranging from gushing pride to exasperation and disappointment, ends with What Was Meant To Be. Many see the episode title as an apology for the Season 1 finale, which suffered severely from problems attributed to the global pandemic. However, this season’s offering didn’t feel apologetic at all.

The show has been brave and steadfast this season, facing its fears like Nynaeve inside the Arches and coming out stronger, if a little late. My review and recap of The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 8 will show how that culminates in an epic romp of fantasy extravagance that you’ll love or hate as you choose.

What Was Meant To Be opens itself to criticism with radical choices and glaring omissions but doesn’t shy away from its audience, and I’m not going to tear the episode apart.

It would be too easy to sulk, nit-pick, and expose all the contradictions, but I like what it brings to the party. And that’s what this should be — a party — to celebrate a season of television that breathes new life into a beautiful fantasy series.

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) and Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) in wet clothes on a beach outside the Waygate.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) and Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) outside the Toman Head Waygate.
The face of a golden-eyed wolf on an off-white background. Gray and white text reads “The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 8 Review, What Was Meant To Be.”

This review & recap has spoilers for The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 8.

The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 8

“What Was Meant To Be” – Fate leads Rand and the others to an inevitable showdown with their most formidable enemies.

What Was Meant To Be Cold Open

Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim) is holding Ishamael (Fares Fares) captive in the Blight, 3,000 years before the events of the main series. Other male Aes Sedai are stood in a circle around the Father of Lies, shielding their captive. Ishamael pleads in the Old Tongue that he doesn’t want to do this again and that the others will be coming.

Lews Therin is calm, telling Ishamael that he has already taken the other Forsaken, naming Sammael and Moghedien. The Betrayer of Hope pleads that it is their chance to Break the Wheel, but Lews Therin has no inclination to stop time itself. It would mean killing the people they love, but Ishamael argues they will die anyway.

He invites Lews Therin to kill him so they can dance this dance again in their next lives. Lews Therin doesn’t want to do that again and doesn’t plan to kill Ishamael. Instead, he will seal him away like a dream, so he is conscious but unaware. The seal they’ve made is so strong that Lews Therin could not break it himself.

Ishamael begs for mercy, but Lews Therin only apologizes, knowing how much Ishamael hates being alive. The Aes Sedai use the One Power to trap Ishamael in his cuendillar seal. The camera reveals we are at the Eye of the World, where the climactic scenes of Season 1 took place.

My Opinion

In contrast to the disappointing cold open to the Season 1 finale, this scene was fascinating from the outset. Fares Fares does an excellent job of showing Ishamael’s desperation in defeat without making himself look weak. The Betrayer of Hope told Lanfear in Episode 5 that he truly believes in the Dark One’s cause, and his pleading to the last Dragon now demonstrates it wasn’t another one of his lies.

Book series readers will be delighted to learn that Sammael is all but confirmed for the adaptation. The Forsaken, known as the Destroyer of Hope, is the third unseen member of the Chosen to be namedropped this season, joining Moghedien and Graendal. It announces that there is plenty to look forward to beyond this Season 2 finale, and I can’t wait.

Whether the metaphysics of Ishamael’s captivity and release makes sense is for the less easygoing viewers to unpick. It doesn’t harm the narrative unless you want to suck the fantasy out of this show, and that’s not how I want to channel my energy. There is too much to savor from the unapologetic maleness demonstrated by Lews Therin and Ishamael in their exchange.

One suspects Latra Posae Decume resisted an alliance with the Dragon in this endeavor, having seen through his bravado and fearing the worst.

In truth, there was blame all around for the Breaking of the World, but the show has yet to give us its version of the apocalypse soon to come. The promise of that grants more reason to be excited for the future if these trips back to the Age of Legends continue.

What Was Meant To Be Review and Recap

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to watch What Was Meant To Be before reading this thorough recap and review. You’ll want popcorn, soda, and a secure seat because the final episode of The Wheel of Time’s second season is fast-paced and captivating. Let me breathe more life into the episode’s events after you’ve experienced them for yourself. You’ll appreciate it more by doing so.

The first wonderful surprise is seeing the title sequence return for the season finale. The evocative opening graphics were cut from the show to allow more time for its story, earning respect from viewers anxious about constraints harming the show as they did in Season 1. They have been missed, though.

The credits begin with a single thread of light. It stretches and frays before splitting, representing the Breaking of the World. Gold weaves indicate flows of the One Power. They are stitched to green threads on a cosmic-scale loom, which begins to weave more jewel-toned threads into its pattern. Images are formed of women with golden halos, presumably famous Aes Sedai of years past.

The use of colors associated with the seven Ajahs of the female Aes Sedai adds depth and richness to the presentation. The intertwining of these colors and the priestess-like women strike home the magical and matriarchal themes in the series.

The women form a circle before the sequence dissolves into the symbol of a serpent eating its tail. This symbolizes the cyclical nature of time and destiny, echoing the series’ mantra, “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills.”

The logo’s unveiling marks our transition into Season 2’s final episode, and I’m hyped to watch it.

The Whitecloak Camp

Fog shrouds the Whitecloak camp in the desert outside Falme. Dain Bornhald (Jay Duffy) is uncertain as he looks at the town they plan to attack. He goes to his father, Lord Captain Geofram Bornhald (Stuart Graham), who discusses battle plans with his men near the war tents.

Dain Bornhald (Jay Duffy) in Whitecloak armor looks worried. He has groomed blond hair and a tidy, short beard.
Dain Bornhald (Jay Duffy)

Geofram says they will only have a few hours to take the Tower, where the Seanchan will place their Tar Valon witches. They need to kill them if they hope to take the whole city. Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis) is concerned about the number of channelers reported by their scouts, but Geofram is calm about the challenge ahead.

When the other Whitecloaks are dismissed, Dain wonders why his father is pretending they can win. Geofram asks him if they should give up when only the Children of the Light have answered Toman Head’s call for help. The Seanchan are murderous slavers, and the Whitecloaks will fight them because they must.

Dain asks whether his father thinks there is truth in the prophecy that the Dragon will proclaim himself in Falme.

“Prophesies are just the lies of long-dead witches,” says Geofram, getting the first nomination for best line of the episode.

Inside the Ways

Lanfear (Natasha O’Keeffe) leads Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski), Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike), and Lan Mandragoran (Daniel Henney) through the darkness of the Ways. She is amused by the silence of her suspicious companions but navigates them to another Waygate.

Amongst broken pillars in the Ways, Lanfear and Lan hold fire brands as torches either side of Rand and Moiraine.
Lanfear, Rand, Moiraine, and Lan travel the Ways.

Moiraine wants to know if this is the gateway for Falme, apparently not as au fait with the Ways now as she was in Season 1, Episode 7. Lanfear nods and invites Moiraine to open it. The Aes Sedai tries to keep her reconnection with the Source secret, twisting her words to make it appear she is still powerless.

Lanfear sees through the conceit, of course. Nevertheless, she flicks her wrist to channel the Waygate open. She tells Moiraine that she is only alive because she has a part to play, telling her to raise the banner when the time comes. With that, Lanfear blows on her hand and sends Lan and Moiraine flying through the gateway.

Mercifully, they land in a lagoon somewhere in the Aryth Ocean. Viewers will now be familiar with the desert location, so we know they’re not too far from Falme.

In the Ways, Rand fears Machin Shin, the Black Wind drawn by channeling in the Ways. Lanfear assures him again that she is the only one who truly cares for him rather than what he can do. Rand must know there is some truth to that.

Black specks swirl around the pair as Lanfear touches Rand’s face, inviting his trust.

Approaching Falme

Perrin Aybara (Marcus Rutherford) approaches Falme with Hopper and the Aiel warriors, Aviendha (Ayoola Smart), Bain (Ragga Ragnars), and Chiad (Maja Simonsen). They notice a fog in the distance that doesn’t belong in the desert. The Whitecloaks are obviously masking their army somehow.

Bain forecasts a long morning, and Aviendha tells Perrin that she means “many will wake from the dream today.” In other words, lots of people will die. Taking the hint, Perrin encourages Hopper to wait behind for them, promising the wolf he’ll return.

I like all these small scenes with characters finally converging on Falme for what I hope will be an epic showdown, and Aviendha gets dialogue to rival Geofram’s early on. It’s all palatable, except for Perrin telling Hopper to stay safe. That’s TV talk that viewers can translate without Aviendha’s help. Either Hopper is about to be in danger, or Perrin isn’t returning. Eek!

Signs of Betrayal

Ishamael also observes the fog outside Falme, but his pleased expression is about to be upturned. Lanfear is waiting in his chambers unexpectedly. She tells Ishamael she has brought Rand to the town, and the male Forsaken is stunned. It is too soon.

Ishamael fears they have no chance of turning Rand to the Dark, but Lanfear tries to placate him. She thinks Ishamael would put everything off for years if left alone, never quite ready. Lanfear thinks he is delaying the inevitable, and Rand’s turn will either happen or not.

Lanfear says she has told Rand she will help him kill Ishamael. He sighs and asks if she will. Lanfear admits to playing both sides, so Rand doesn’t consider the two Forsaken the same. She claims to be Ishamael’s balance, completing him, to which he fondly asserts the same.

There are six cuendillar seals in Ishamael’s room, which hold the remaining Forsaken, and the camera gives them a deliberate look.

Children of the Mist

In the desert, a group of Whitecloak boys approach Falme swinging thuribles, the source of the white smoke. The city gates are open while two Seanchan guards investigate the unnatural mist, and horses suddenly charge them down.

Children of the Light invade Falme under their cover of artificial fog, and it’s rather uplifting despite a natural loathing of Whitecloaks. One must suspend disbelief entirely to enjoy the subterfuge, but again, that criticism can be left to the naysayers. This is fun to watch.

I admire the production’s similar duplicity. The white smoke and hooves were mistaken for a later event when early teasers showed us clips of this siege. Hoodwinking readers of the book series is fair game and done very well. I appreciate the thought.

War thuribles can be used in roleplaying games, but the censers are primarily associated with religious orders. The largest one in the world, Botafumeiro, can be found at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. If you want to learn more, follow the links, but for now, Geofram Bornhald commands his men to head to the Tower, and the battle for Falme is on.

Becoming a Sul’dam

Nynaeve al’Meara (Zoë Robins) is dressed in the uniform worn by the sul’dam they captured in Daes Dae’mar. Elayne Trakand (Ceara Coveney) inspects her friend’s make-up and confirms that Nynaeve looks the part. Their captive, Seta (Jade-Eleena Dregorius), sobs and mumbles to herself.

Nynaeve intends to interrogate Seta, using whatever means necessary, to get the intelligence they need to rescue Egwene. The short scene feels queasy because two wrongs don’t make a right, and Nynaeve using her enemies’ weapons feels wrong.

The actors do an excellent job of carrying this uncomfortable message in seconds, and I’m relieved when the scene ends. I understand Nynaeve and Elayne’s situation, but I don’t want to watch them punish Seta for love of their better natures. It’s strong storytelling.

The Loss of a Braid

Renna (Xelia Mendes-Jones) comes to collect Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden) from her cell. All sul’dam and damane have been called to aid in the town’s defense, and she doesn’t want any defiance from Egwene in battle.

Renna (Xelia Mendes-Jones) has long, braided pig-tails and the lower half of her face is painted bluish-green, the mark of a sul'dam. She has the gold wrist-cuff on her right arm.
Renna (Xelia Mendes-Jones)

Renna applies war make-up to Egwene’s eyes and threatens to take her tongue the first time she misbehaves, followed by her hands. Egwene refuses to stand, so Renna draws a dagger and points it dangerously close to her damane’s mouth. Egwene stands as the knife rests on her lower lip.

At last, Renna withdraws her dagger, replacing it with the metal gag. She swings Egwene around and cuts off her braid instead. Egwene gasps at the loss. Her braid symbolizes her past life, a part of her identity since it was first knotted by Nynaeve in the Season 1 premiere.

Yes, Egwene chose to wear her hair loose when she began training in the White Tower, but that was her choice, and she doesn’t have one now. The loss cuts deep.

Padan Fain

Ishamael has called for Padan Fain (Johann Myers). He tells the former peddler and Darkfriend that Lanfear has betrayed them. He intends to remove her from the board. Padan Fain wonders how he can do this when Lanfear has been given eternal life by the Dark One.

It is a noteworthy interjection because it implies that not all Forsaken are immortal. We saw the Daughter of the Night reconstitute herself at the beginning of Episode 5, and now this talent can be seen as a unique gift. It’s worth noting, considering what happens later.

Ishamael tells his minion that he will worry about Lanfear’s demise, but he has another task for Padan Fain. They may not have enough time to turn the Dragon Reborn to the Dark, which they need him to do if Rand is to break the Wheel. However, he may join the Shadow to save his friends from doing the same.

Ishamael is reconciled to the possibility of waiting another lifetime to fulfill his mission. He knows who must kill Rand al’Thor and with what weapon. The ruby-hilted dagger from Shadar Logoth is now in Padan Fain’s possession.

Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn) remembers Padan Fain from visiting the Two Rivers. He was the peddler’s best and poorest customer, after all. So, Mat is understandably surprised to see the man again, and more so when Padan Fain places the accursed dagger on the table in his room. Mat stares at the blade, visibly struggling to control his temptation.

I’m not on board with the Padan Fain vibe the show has presented. He is a delicious and raving villain in the books, but this production has pulled back on the peddler’s story.

I won’t spoil plot points from the book series because they may surface later, but Johann Myers’ character is currently a whistling man with a fantastic grin who also happens to be evil. As far as I can see, there isn’t any more depth to it than that, and I hope the writers develop Padan Fain’s character in Season 3. There’s still time to salvage his arc.

We mustn’t forget that the first actor playing Mat Cauthon left the production unexpectedly before the last two episodes of Season 1 were filmed. The script and plot required significant changes, and Padan Fain seems to be a victim of lost opportunities stemming from that departure. Incidentally, Johann Myers is doing a great job nonetheless.

Interrogation

Seta begs for Nynaeve to remove the collar, but Nynaeve is losing her temper with the sul’dam turned damane. She doesn’t have time for resistance and uses the a’dam to brutalize her captive. Elayne watches in concern, echoing my feelings toward Nynaeve’s behavior. The bracelet must have cruel properties that manifest in its wearer because Nynaeve is harnessing its power with relish.

At last, Seta cracks and says that Egwene will be taken to the Tower of Falme, but she doesn’t want to be seen wearing the collar. Nynaeve has no sympathy, telling the woman she will lead them to Egwene or regret being alive. Elayne winces at Nynaeve’s nastiness, and so do I.

Inside Falme

Rand is hiding on Falme’s battlements, spying on the kennels when he sees Egwene being led through the courtyard. The sul’dam and damane are on their way to the Tower, and Rand looks furious. One wonders what is running through Egwene’s mind as she is compelled to fight Seanchan’s battles.

Egwene al'Vere (Madeleine Madden) walks in a line of sul'dam and damane. The gold collar covers her neck and chest and a metal gag covers her mouth.
Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden)

Temptation

Padan Fain knows Mat returned to the White Tower to find the dagger, and he abandoned his friends to be with it again. He can see the Shadow in Mat and thinks it would show real strength to realize the extent of his darkness by embracing and accepting it. After all, trying to be a hero from a gleeman’s tale doesn’t suit Mat.

Mat laughs and leans towards Padan Fain. He has no intention of touching the dagger. Padan Fain’s opinion differs, and he leaves Mat alone in the room. Mat must fight his impulse to touch the ruby-hilted blade and begins to twitch nervously.

Reconnecting the Bond

Lan and Moiraine discuss the Warder bond as they walk along the beach. Moiraine wonders why he wants it back after all she’s done, but Lan argues that he never asked for the bond to be released in the first place. He asks Moiraine to stop pretending because he thinks she’s afraid and doesn’t want him to know how weak she feels. Uncommon tears form in Moiraine’s eyes.

Lan’s arguments are persuasive, and he tells Moiraine she can’t hurt him anymore. He’s accepted that they were never equals, as Moiraine told him cruelly in Strangers and Friends.

Moiraine is aghast at Lan’s realization of his lower station, saying she could only tell him that because he has always been her better. Both lower their heads as Moiraine performs the weaves to reunite them as the power couple we know and love. An Aes Sedai and her Warder, as it is meant to be.

Okay, I admit to feeling mushy and sentimental. This is Lan and Moiraine, so I’m allowed. However, I think it would have taken something extraordinary to pay off the lackluster sub-plot of their disharmony this season. This doesn’t get that tick, but the box is checked. We can all look forward to business as usual from now on, or I hope so, at any rate.

The Streets of Falme

Perrin and the three Aiel women have made it into Falme. They witness the chaos of mobilizing soldiers and search for Perrin’s friends. Bain has spotted an Ogier, and they run into Loial (Hammed Animashaun) moments later.

Loial has the golden chest containing the Horn of Valere, retrieved from Turak’s room of curiosities with the help of an unnamed woman. One can assume it was Lanfear.

Lord Ingtar Shinowa (Gregg Chilingirian) and Masema Dagar (Arnas Fedaravicius) are with the Ogier. Ingtar encourages them all to leave Falme in haste. Loial is having none of that, though, not with Egwene still in captivity.

The Shienaran is angry that they don’t realize how significant the Horn is. It summons dead heroes of the past and is the key to the Dragon Reborn winning the Last Battle. Many of Ingtar’s comrades died to protect the Horn of Valere. Loial shuts the man down:

“What about the heroes of today? That is what we are now. We are all the heroes of another age’s legends. I think it’s time we start acting like it.”

Loial wins the dialogue competition, and Ingtar is moved to flinch in shame.

It’s a pity that the hunt for the Horn of Valere hasn’t featured much in the last half of this season. It is the pivotal plot point of the second book in the series, and I expected more. For the details of its recovery to be relegated to a throwaway comment in the streets of Falme is discouraging.

The problem with streaming television and adapted series is that much triumphant storytelling is lost through the writing, editing, and consultation processes. The Wheel of Time is ironically hindered by time constraints, and that’s a tragedy. However, holding this choice against the production would need another spinning of the Wheel to prove us right.

Let’s hope for more adaptations in the future and not wallow now. The script is written, and The Great Hunt is available in all good bookshops.

The Tower of Falme

The sul’dam lead their damane to the top of Falme’s tower. Egwene looks down at the fighting in the town below. Whitecloaks and Seanchan soldiers are fighting each other, and Egwene must be thinking about her captivity with both.

In Season 1, Episode 5, she was poorly treated by Eamon Valda and his men. It won’t be hard to exact vengeance on them now, though innocents are also on the ground. She’ll be aware of both.

The damane use firebolts to kill Children of the Light, and Renna gives Egwene a silent order to join them before shouting a command in the Old Tongue. Egwene spots Valda amongst the Whitecloaks and frowns. It motivates her to channel a massive fireball. Renna grins in encouragement.

A Duel with High Lord Turak

The fighting draws High Lord Turak (Daniel Francis) from his palace. He hears that the sul’dam and damane are on the Tower and that men are searching for the stolen Horn of Valere. He commands his soldiers to cut down any man who raises a hand against them but to protect those who have sworn the oaths. The only thing that really matters, though, is retrieving the Horn.

Turak and the guards surrounding him are elaborately armed as always, but Rand has no nerves confronting them in the courtyard. He remains still when commanded to stand aside, acknowledging to himself that these people are the cause of Egwene’s suffering.

Turak notices the heron mark on Rand’s sword, which is now bizarrely on the hilt. A sign of panic from the cinematographers when blocking this scene, perhaps, and a glaring continuity error that is a trifle irritating. Still, Turak wants to see what it takes to earn the rank of blade master on this side of the ocean.

The show then draws on Indiana Jones for inspiration. Turak draws his heron-mark blade and dances it brilliantly into a pose without damaging his lengthy fingernails. It is an intimidating display, but Rand has reached for the One Power, weaving threads of Fire that he uses to instantly obliterate Turak and his guards. Predictable but delightful.

Turak’s man servant draws a blade and stabs himself, honoring his oath to serve the blood unto death. Rand enters the palace, somewhat bewildered.

High Lord Turak (Daniel Francis) stands with his sword pointed skyward, defended by a ring of Seanchan soldiers in insect-like armor.
High Lord Turak (Daniel Francis) with his Seanchan guards.

Ingtar’s Last Stand

Bain is leading Perrin’s group through the side streets of Falme, and Ingtar comments that one man could hold off 50 adversaries in these alleys. However, the group is suddenly waylaid by Seanchan soldiers looking for the Horn.

Ingtar screams a Shienaran battle cry and leads a one-person defense against the charging enemies. Perrin and the others fight to defend themselves while Ingtar bravely stands his ground. Masema watches in despair as his leader is stabbed twice by Seanchan and falls to the ground in death.

Ingtar’s brave stand allows the party to get free of this troop of soldiers, but we have our first major death of the episode. The loss is sad in its own right, but the scene also marks the death of a character arc that is intensely satisfying in the book series. I recommend you read The Great Hunt to enjoy Ingtar’s impact on the story because the show has sold you short.

Ingtar is a Darkfriend, and Gregg Chilingirian would have nailed the confession.

Once you know, you know, and the TV series gave us enough this season to read between the lines. He was present at the Darkfriend Social in the season premiere and has dropped hints about his motivation and psychology throughout. There probably wasn’t enough to land an epic redemption story, but you’ll get it from the books.

Best Friends

Moiraine and Lan look fresh and hearty as they stride along the beach with more purpose. The bond has buoyed them, and they can speak more freely, knowing the other’s thoughts and feelings first-hand.

Lan has been wondering why Ishamael only woke Lanfear, and Moiraine thinks the others might be too dangerous for him. The Forsaken fought among themselves as much as they did against the Dragon. However, Moiraine’s discoveries showed that Lanfear, Ishamael, and Lews Therin Telamon were inseparable before the War of Power.

Lan puts the connection together. These notorious figures from the Age of Legends were best friends, just like the kids they’ve been mentoring. It’s enough to cause a shudder.

They come to a stop when a fleet of Seanchan ships and the Tower of Falme become visible. Moiraine knows where they are now, and they’re not too late. She knows this was Lanfear’s plan, though.

Bayle Domon

Bayle Domon (Julian Lewis Jones) is in Falme and must be the ship captain Ryma refers to in Eyes Without Pity. It’s a joy to see him because Domon’s arc in The Great Hunt is another that has been culled by the adaptation. He is Lanfear’s patsy in this iteration.

Domon recognizes Lanfear as Lady Selene from Cairhien. He bought the cuendillar from her, which he later took to Moiraine in A Taste of Solitude. Now, Lanfear has another consignment of the unbreakable stone that she wants Bayle Domon to take off her hands. The six unbroken seals. She doesn’t want him to sell them, though.

Instead, she wants Bayle Domon to take the six pieces of cuendillar and throw them into the deepest part of the ocean so they can never be found. Lanfear’s actions border on treachery if she thinks she can lose the Dark One’s remaining Forsaken in the sea. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and what Bayle Domon does next, if anything.

Suroth’s Task

Lady Suroth (Karima McAdams) is fuming that she’s not on the frontline defending Falme. It is a missed opportunity for glory. Alwhin (Jessica Boone) can’t say anything before Ishamael enters, brushing dust off his hands. What has he been up to?

Suroth pleads her case to be on the Tower defending Falme now that Turak is dead, but Ishamael silences her. This is the first he’s heard of Turak’s death, and he didn’t know the Horn of Valere was gone. Ishamael is furious and tells the women that Lanfear is working against them.

Ishamael still has a plan. Suroth has retained many of the strongest damane at his bidding, and he orders Suroth to take them to the ships. On Ishamael’s signal, Lady Suroth must command the damane to gentle the Dragon Reborn. This new idea is right up Suroth’s alley, and she shares a grin with Alwhin.

Making a Weapon

Mat is restless in his room, unable to focus on anything but the Shadar Logoth dagger until he has a flash of inspiration. He goes to his canopy bed and shakes off one of the wooden poles, tears leather off the furniture, and lays it on the rug beside a table.

Mat uses the pole to gently push the dagger off the table, prods the leather piece so it slides under the hilt, and then ties the staff to the blade without touching the cursed weapon. Suddenly, Mat has a makeshift spear, similar to the one he carries in the book series (acquired under very different circumstances).

The dagger can now burn through metal, so Mat uses it to unlock the door to his room. Outside, Padan Fain laughs at how long it took Mat to succumb to the knife’s lure. His face pales when he sees what Mat has done, though.

Mat tells him that he’s spent a fair amount of time in cells this year, and he’s found there’s usually more than one way of getting out of them. He kills the soldier guarding his room, and Padan Fain runs for his life, screaming for more guards.

The Catapult

The damane continue to wreak havoc from the Tower, but the Whitecloaks haven’t come without a strategy. Egwene is starting to see the harm she is doing to innocents in the town. She furrows her brow as Renna demands she continue.

Egwene has had enough, though. She spits out her mouthguard in defiance, and Renna is about to exact punishment with her knife when a missile hits the battlement. Nynaeve and Elayne witness the Whitecloak trebuchets being fired as they approach the Tower with Seta. Egwene, Renna, and everyone on the turret are flung to the floor.

In the streets, Geofram and Dain Bornhald are emboldened. The younger man is surprised their trebuchets worked. “Do you not trust in the Light?” his father asks while rallying the locals to fight alongside them. The fighting intensifies.

Arrows

Following the missile strike, Nynaeve and Elayne are in the courtyard below the Tower. An arrow from the walls strikes Seta. Nynaeve feels the woman’s pain through the a’dam and reaches to her neck. The bracelet falls from her arm as Seta dies.

Another arrow hits Elayne’s leg, and she falls to the floor. Nynaeve recovers herself and crouches by Elayne to tend to the wound.

Friends Reunited

Perrin, Loial, Masema, and the Maidens do their best to keep the Horn of Valere out of harm’s way. They warily tread through Falme’s streets, only to be disturbed by the sound of soldiers. Bain draws her bow swiftly, but Perrin stops her from shooting Mat as he runs around the corner.

Bain (Ragga Ragnars) draws her bow on the streets of Falme. Pictured left-to-right with Chiad, Loial, Masema Dagar, and Aviendha.
Bain (Ragga Ragnars) draws her bow on the streets of Falme.

Mat’s screams become joyous cries of “Perrin!” as the friends reunite, embracing heartily despite the near and present danger. They can’t believe the sight of each other, and Mat doesn’t have the foggiest on who Perrin’s band of warriors are — he hopes they know how to fight, though!

They can, and my living room smiles with Perrin and Mat as they come together again.

Vengeance

Egwene pulls herself clear of the rubble, her ears bleeding. Bodies are strewn across the tower roof, and fires burn. Nearby, a collar falls from the neck of a dead damane. However, Egwene’s is still firmly attached, and Renna starts to shake off the debris she is trapped under. The pair lock eyes.

Renna blames Egwene for the assault on the Tower. She brings Egwene to her knees using the bracelet, but the girl retaliates by grabbing the fallen collar and placing it on Renna’s neck. The sul’dam thinks Egwene is stupid, knowing the collar only works on women who can channel.

Egwene knows as much, suspecting when they first linked that Renna must also be able to touch the Source. She can channel but is too weak in the Power to do anything useful. Renna gasps when the a’dam shapeshifts and covers her chest like Egwene’s collar.

Renna is defiant and throws a punch but collapses from the blow when the pain hurts her instead. Egwene won’t release Renna until she frees her and wants revenge first. She channels the One Power to lift Renna onto a wall hook, where she writhes and chokes.

Renna reminds Egwene that she is still her damane, which means Egwene will also feel her pain. Indeed, Egwene begins to strain and struggle for breath but steels herself for this confrontation. Renna loses the test of wills and removes her wrist cuff. The collar falls from Egwene’s neck, and now she has a choice.

Egwene watches Renna struggle on the hook and stands there defiantly, without remorse. Renna breathes her last and collapses to the ground. Egwene’s bracelet drops from her wrist, and she falls to her knees, a spent force.

Renna and Egwene’s relationship hasn’t met the knuckle-chewing heights we reached in Eyes Without Pity, but Egwene keeps her promise to kill Renna, and the story ends well. It has been the best part of Season 2 and deserves a salute.

Egwene’s emotions are too big to communicate when Rand finds her at the Tower. She turns to face him at the call of her name.

Protecting the Horn

The fighting intensifies in Falme, and the Aiel women use bows and spears to defeat their enemies. Masema is equally fierce with his dual-handed swordsmanship.

Bain (Ragga Ragnars), Aviendha (Ayoola Smart), and Chiad (Maja Simonsen). All 3 Aiel wear brown cadin'sors and have spears on their backs.
Bain (Ragga Ragnars), Aviendha (Ayoola Smart), and Chiad (Maja Simonsen).

Perrin, Loial, and Mat regard the smoking tower. They know Egwene will be up there, and Mat says Rand will head there, too. Rand’s survival is news to Perrin and Loial, and Mat hilariously tells them he is alive and has terrible hair now.

The aim of protecting the Horn becomes a mission to get it to the Dragon Reborn.

Shielding the Dragon

Rand apologizes to Egwene for not telling her he survived at the Eye of the World. He was here to rescue her but found she didn’t need his help.

Egwene is in a daze at Rand’s arrival but stands to leave with him. Ishamael interrupts them, meeting Rand in the flesh for the first time. Egwene tries to channel at the Forsaken, but he weaves Air and blasts her against the tower walls. Rand is also thrown to the floor.

Ishamael sends a flare, signaling to the Seanchan ships. On the water, Lady Suroth’s damane cast weaves that shield Rand just as he gets to his feet. The Dragon Reborn crumples to his knees again.

Ishamael admonishes Rand for trying to be honorable, just as he was in his last life. Rand grits his teeth and refuses to accept he is Lews Therin. Ishamael shrugs, thinking it may be different next time.

Suroth instructs her damane to hold the shield on Rand until they get the signal to gentle him.

Ishamael doesn’t want to do this again and doesn’t think Rand does either. He points to Egwene, blaming Rand for making her a killer. The Father of Lies says that if Rand persists, all his friends will turn to the Dark, just like they did in Rand’s last life.

Hopper’s Heroics

Mat uses his new weapon to cut the chest containing the Horn of Valere open. He retrieves the golden artifact from inside just as more guards attack. Perrin screams at Mat to take the Horn to Rand. Resisting at first, Mat yields to common sense and heads for the Tower. Chiad covers his back, shooting down pursuing soldiers.

Meanwhile, Dain Bornhald finds himself fighting alongside Perrin. He recognizes the man he has dubbed “Two Rivers” and acknowledges him in surprised confusion.

Elsewhere, Nynaeve is trying to touch the True Source so she can heal Elayne with the One Power. However, she can’t defeat her block despite the urgent need.

Perrin runs into a building where he finds Eamon Valda killing a soldier. The Whitecloak recognizes him immediately, remembering the golden-eyed boy that set wolves on him in Season 1, and attacks Perrin with a vengeance.

Pinned to the floor, Perrin reaches for a nearby axe, but Valda has him in his grip. Out of nowhere, Hopper charges across the room and leaps on the Whitecloak. Valda squeals as Hopper bites his arm and attacks. Geogram Bornhald enters and sees his comrade struggling. The Lord Captain swings his almighty War Axe and delivers a fatal blow to the wolf.

Perrin is shocked, unable to react to Hopper’s death before Bornhald and Valda leave. Hopper sends a vision of the leaping wolf ascending to the sky as Perrin watches his friend die. The blacksmith’s eyes turn golden, and he grabs the axe in a rage.

Outside, Perrin rushes to find Geofram Bornhald and brutally kills him with the axe. Dain Bornhald watches his father’s murder in horror.

Heroes of the Horn

Mat arrives on the wall leading to the Tower, the Horn of Valere in his grip. A troop of Seanchan soldiers stands poised to attack at the opposite end of the wall. Mat looks around in panic before deciding to blow the Horn. Everything slows to a crawl.

Slow-motion scenes are shown of Perrin killing Geofram, Nynaeve nursing Elayne, Egwene on the tower floor, and Rand on his hands and knees. The sound of the Horn fades, and smoke swirls behind Mat.

“I remember,” Mat says, looking at the Horn. Sparks of color come from the cloud behind Mat, and warriors appear. Prominent amongst the dead heroes are Artur Hawkwing (Adrian Bouchet), Amaresu (Hélène Tran), Birgitte Silverbow, and a returning Uno Nomesta (Guy Roberts). The foul-mouthed Shienaran was shockingly killed in Episode 3, but it transpires he is tied to the Horn.

Readers of the book series will wonder if this means Uno is Gaidal Cain reborn, given that he is standing next to Birgitte (Cain’s love interest each time he is spun from the Wheel). I doubt the show will confirm that, but it’s a fun twist. Birgitte is uncredited for the episode, but Sona Havranova is in the costume, a stuntsperson in a role that will be recast if the character returns.

Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn) leads the Heroes of the Horn in battle. Pictured are Artur Hawkwing, Amaresu, Uno, and Birgitte Silverbow, amongst others.
Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn) leads the Heroes of the Horn in battle.

Mat surveys the Heroes of the Horn, and Artur Hawkwing tells him they have fought together countless times. Amaresu takes the Horn from Mat and hides it in her clothes. Uno swears, and Mat swings his staff competently before giving an Old Tongue battlecry, “Dovie’andi se tovya sagain,” which translates to, “It’s time to toss the dice.”

The Heroes meet the Seanchan head-on, and you can guess the outcome.

The Battle Rages

Loial rescues Perrin before Dain Bornhald can avenge his father, and Uno steps in to knock the Whitecloak down. The Shienaran has been given a magic shield for the purpose of afterlife heroism, and that becomes important later.

Dain curses the grieving Perrin as he is led away by his men, a conflict and hatred that will continue to fester until Season 3. Uno gives Perrin the shield, telling him not to look so surprised he is a Hero of the Horn.

Nynaeve gives up on channeling and turns to her knowledge as a Wisdom. She pushes the arrow through Elayne’s leg, and the Daughter-Heir howls in pain. They must get to the Tower before it is too late, and Elayne says Nynaeve should go ahead without her.

Nynaeve needs her new friend, though. Having failed to use the One Power, Egwene may need Elayne’s help when they get there rather than hers. This would be a nice character moment if I wasn’t still wincing from Elayne’s blood loss.

A Vision Fulfilled

Mat kills his final enemy on the wall and gets to the Tower just as Ishamael asks Rand if he will join the Shadow. Rand confirms he will never serve the Dark One and never has, not in a thousand lives. Ishamael acknowledges that Lanfear was right. Rand is very much like Lews Therin Telamon but different, too.

Mat circles behind Ishamael and throws his deadly spear at the Forsaken’s back. It passes through the air when it reaches Ishamael, though, and lands in Rand’s stomach. The horror of Min’s vision in Strangers and Friends comes true, and Mat rushes to the side of his best friend. He removes the blade, which appears to have seared through Rand’s gut, but he isn’t dead.

Ishamael chuckles that simple illusions are still effective but adds his apologies to Mat’s. He would prefer Lews Therin to join his cause than kill him, but he has no choice.

Egwene al'Vere (Madeleine Madden) is lying flat on the stone floor of the tower. She looks grim and determined now the collar is removed.
Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden)

Ishamael is pushed back by a wave of Air. Egwene has recovered from her temporary concussion and stands to face down the Forsaken. She summons a shield to block Ishamael’s attack. He is adamant that a child cannot stop one of the Chosen. However, Egwene continues to block Ishamael’s complacent fireballs in an inspired display of determination.

Help from Afar

Moiraine can see the shielding weave that stretches from the Seanchan ships to the Tower. She thinks Rand is the target, which gives her the belief to intervene despite Lan’s concern. Moiraine will let a thousand innocent people die to save the Dragon Reborn.

Seanchan soldiers have made their way to the beach, and Lan moves to act as Moiraine’s Warder. He fights off the soldiers while Moiraine weaves threads of the One Power. She channels them into the ocean while Lan catches arrows in flight, using them to kill their enemies.

Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike) wears a white blouse and blue skirt. She has her back to the white cliffs overlooking the beach and is about to channel.
Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike)

On the Tower, Ishamael continues to pummel Egwene with fireballs. She apologizes to Rand, growing too weak to hold her defense. Perrin arrives just in time with Uno’s shield as Egwene’s magic fails. The intervention allows Nynaeve and Elayne to get to Rand’s side. Ishamael is too distracted to send his signal to the Seanchan ships.

Rand is in a daze, succumbing to the wound, which Elayne inspects. She channels into the corrupted flesh as Rand stares up at her groggily.

“Who are you?” he whispers wearily as sunlight shines behind Elayne, making her appear holy and beautiful. “Elayne,” she answers, and a new romance is born. This must have been a gratifying moment to film and see realized. It’s done so well.

The Healing knits Rand’s skin together, but the scar looks puffy and sore. Nynaeve watches Elayne work and wonders. Could she have done more?

Moiraine’s threads of Power stretch across the ocean as Lady Suroth watches nervously. Beneath her ship, the weave erupts in Fire. The damane holding the shield on Rand are thrown into the water as Suroth’s boat sinks.

Heron Marked

Rand rises to his feet and picks up his heron-marked sword. He draws on the One Power and channels it into the blade, walking past Perrin and toward Ishamael.

Ishamael stands defenseless as Rand drives the flaming sword into his chest. Rand grabs the hot blade with his hand and pushes it deeper through Ishamael’s body. The sword melts away as the Forsaken falls to his knees. Rand inspects his hand and finds the heron mark seared into his skin. Ishamael falls onto his back.

Two seagulls fly overhead as Ishamael utters his last words. “It’s beautiful. Do you see it, Lews?”

“What do you see?” asks Rand.

“Nothing,” says Ishamael as he turns to dust.

The Dragon Banner

On the beach, Moiraine destroys the rest of the fleet, and Lan comes to tell her the Seanchan are retreating. Moiraine recalls the prophecy about proclaiming the Dragon in Falme, bannered ‘cross the sky in fire.

Lan understands and crouches as Moiraine begins to weave threads of the One Power again. This time, she sends weaves of Fire toward the Tower. A fiery shape manifests and becomes a fire dragon circling the Tower.

Rand and his friends acknowledge the chaos on the streets below. Citizens laugh and cheer at the Dragon’s proclamation. Masema stands in dumbstruck awe. Aviendha tells her friends, Bain and Chiad, that Rand is the cara’carn as they remove their veils. And the Heroes of the Horn fade into smoke, their work done.

Lanfear smiles, too, as she observes the heroic group standing together on the rooftop. The Dragon Banner lights up the sky, and she feels victorious.

The Spider

Lanfear returns to Ishamael’s palace, strutting confidently and wearing a wicked smile. Inside the chamber, though, she finds that the six cuendillar seals have been broken. Her smile collapses.

“Softly, softly,” a woman whispers from a chair. Moghedien (Laia Costa) is hidden by the shadows before a blazing fire. Playing with a web that sticks to her fingers, Moghedien grins at Lanfear and reveals that Ishamael has freed all the remaining Forsaken. He took precautions against Lanfear’s betrayal.

When Lanfear tries to act, Moghedien pulls on her web, and a shield snaps around the Daughter of the Night. The Forsaken, known as the Spider, chuckles. She says Lanfear and Ishamael were always too close to the Dragon, but the others don’t share that failing. She warns Lanfear to stay away from Rand al’Thor. He is theirs now, along with his Two Rivers friends.

Moghedien vanishes into a shadow, and Lanfear’s shield drops. She is panting and crying as she whispers, “Light help you, Rand al’Thor,” and the season ends.

What Was Meant To Be Rating

It’s possible to rate this episode anywhere from 0 to 10, but I’ve rewarded epic spectacle, feel-good vibes, and standout performances. It landed a 9 out of 10 from me on my first watch, and I’m not inclined to let perfectly sound criticism dampen my spirits. My natural reaction was positive, that it was a joyful episode of fantasy television, and I’ll pitch my flag on that with a high score.

A golden-eyed wolf on a white background. White typography reads "9/10" which is The Shining Walls rating for The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 8, What Was Meant To Be.
“WHAT WAS MEANT TO BE” RATING

Let’s face it. Watching this episode would have been a fabulous experience on Christmas Eve, especially compared to how Season 1 concluded on that day in 2021. The Wheel of Time is improving, and I feel good about the future.

I need to call out two stars who didn’t quite get one of my Best Actor gongs this year. Josha Stradowski is killing it as Rand al’Thor and is now firmly in my headcanon for the book series. His mule-headed cynicism has developed into a silent strength held back by frustration and confusion. When Rand figures out what he needs to do, Josha Stradowski will be a hero for the ages.

We see the beginnings of that in this season finale, fulfilling his role on the Tower of Falme and defeating Ishamael against all odds, with more than a bit of help from the friends he abandoned.

Rand al'Thor (Josha Stradowski) wears a purple coat and white shirt in the Ways. His sword is worn on the back, in a leather sheath that is strapped to Rand's chest.
Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski)

Fares Fares is the other. Ishamael has been a fantastic villain, and Fares Fares taps into the Father of Lies’ motivation far more deeply than we see in the early books. The baddies have carried the season, with Lanfear being the name on everyone’s lips, but Ishy has excelled, too.

Fares Fares’ Ishamael has been the steady hand of evil, orchestrating chaos and moving pieces on a board of his making. He’s not a monster. He’s just hungry for death. If this is the last we see of the Betrayer of Hope, Fares Fares will have lived up to the moniker, as I hope we can enjoy more of his portrayal in future seasons. The loss is nearly as sore as seeing Hopper die.

I want to take on general criticism about the show favoring Egwene and giving her all the heroic spots. I agree that Nynaeve should have been given a moment to shine in this episode, and rather peeved that she didn’t. Egwene indeed gets all the gleam in What Was Meant To Be.

However, my unspoiled companion in watching this season was moaning about how useless Egwene is for much of it. It bugged me, so I was glad to see her eyes open when Madeleine Madden stepped up her game and showed out against the big bad, proving herself a fierce competitor.

In summary, I enjoyed this larger-than-life, over-the-top episode with actors that build bridges over the silliness to achieve tense and dramatic resolutions. It doesn’t reflect the depth and complexities of the books or stick fast to the rules and lore, but it’s binge-able and credible television. I’m still on board with the series.

I’m impressed how What Was Meant To Be built anticipation for Season 3. Aviendha declaring Rand the cara’carn to Bain and Chiad opens up a whole new prophecy to be explored with the Aiel, and Moghedien’s arrival on the scene, not least of the remaining Forsaken, leaves me salivating.

Perrin has exposed himself to the wrath of Dain Bornhald and the Whitecloaks, which bodes drama for the next installment. Nynaeve must contend with her block, and the fallout from Cairhien is on the menu for Season 3, too.

Until then, we can reflect on a terrific season of television that saw The Wheel of Time come out of its shell and stamp its distinctive mark on fantasy adaptations. Just one last hurrah before I go…

Best Actor

Dónal Finn as Mat Cauthon

Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn) has unkempt hair and a scratchy brown beard. He wears a rough coat and unbuttoned shirt while holding the shaft of his makeshift spear.
Mat Cauthon (Dónal Finn)

Dónal Finn took on the role of Mat Cauthon for Season 2 of The Wheel of Time, succeeding Barney Harris. Despite the early actor change allowing for a smooth transition, Finn faced the challenge of living up to Harris’s highly praised performance. Barney captured Mat’s sensibilities well in Season 1, though delivering a dysfunctional version of the character that was unfamiliar to readers.

They were tough boots to fill, and Mat’s plot trajectory was blown off course. A hastily written abscondment left Mat in Tar Valon without much motivation.

The writers’ task of realigning Mat with the main party’s goals also presented a challenge for Dónal Finn by association. Starting the season alienated in a White Tower cell wasn’t the easiest way for an actor to establish their take on the character.

However, Dónal Finn’s chemistry with Kate Fleetwood (Liandrin) and Kae Alexander (Min) quickly became apparent. His gait and lilting accent suited the part, and he carved a niche for Mat’s humor with a natural flair. Finn skillfully took the down-on-his-luck character from pillar to post (attach the word “bed” at your leisure) with a talented flourish.

The season finale showcased Dónal Finn at his best, portraying Mat as a Hero of the Horn and a redeemed friend. There’s a sense that calamitous Mat has plenty more to offer, leaving viewers eager for more of Finn’s portrayal and confident that the character is in capable hands.

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Please let me know in the comments what you think about The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 8, What Was Meant To Be. Do you agree with my rating and review? What about the Best Actor award? I always respond to your messages, and I’ll answer any questions you have, too.

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

Russell

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