The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 5 Review – “Damane”

Review of Season 2, Episode 5 of The Wheel of Time

Warning: This review contains spoilers for season two, episode five of The Wheel of Time, now streaming on Prime Video.

After spending a significant amount of time building up the story and leaving viewers with cliffhangers in the previous episode, The Wheel of Time finally ramps up the action in episode five, titled “Damane.” This episode predominantly focuses on the villains, showcasing their scheming and machinations. It effectively illustrates the extensive plots of the Dark One while also highlighting the individual agendas of his agents. Though it may be over the top, this episode is undeniably more entertaining than what we’ve seen so far this season.

Natasha O’Keeffe delivers a captivating performance as Selene, who unveils her true identity as the Forsaken Lanfear. This revelation immediately transforms her character from a subdued presence to a ruthless villain, effortlessly eliminating anyone in her path and adopting an all-black ensemble. This development elevates Lanfear’s involvement in various storylines, showcasing her begrudging respect for Moiraine’s ruthlessness and her flirtatious rivalry with fellow Forsaken Ishamael. The interaction between the Dark One’s top lieutenants is one of the standout moments of the episode, filled with foreshadowing of forthcoming threats and the intricate plots to dismantle the Dragon Reborn.

Beyond the Tropes of Fantasy

Ishamael dismisses the fantasy genre as a simplistic endeavor, reducing it to “bashing about with swords and queens.” He reminisces about a more sophisticated society that existed before the Breaking of the World, which was briefly depicted in a flashback during the show’s first season. The Wheel of Time sets itself apart by drawing from cyclical Eastern philosophy and Arthurian legend, providing a refreshing perspective on the genre. The fear of impending cataclysm has plunged the world into stagnation and decline, emphasizing the necessity of embracing change while opposing nihilism.

The Divide Among the Dark One’s Forces

This episode further highlights the division within the Dark One’s forces. Ishamael is the only Forsaken who truly aligns with the philosophical mission of breaking the Wheel of Time. On the other hand, most of the other agents have concrete goals such as power, love, or escape from suffering. The inclusion of internal conflicts among the villains prevents their team-ups from devolving into simplistic squabbles, creating a more nuanced narrative.

One notable example is the development of the Red Aes Sedai Liandrin, portrayed excellently by Kate Fleetwood. Liandrin receives more attention in the show compared to the books, striking a balance between steely menace and vulnerability. Her interactions with Nynaeve seamlessly transition to Ishamael’s explanation of his intentions towards Moiraine and Liandrin’s interactions with the Seanchan noble High Lady Suroth. Although Liandrin and Suroth are technically allies, their disparate interests lead Liandrin to reluctantly abandon Nynaeve.

The Vulnerability of Moiraine

An interesting aspect of this episode is witnessing Moiraine in a vulnerable state. It remains unclear why she was stilled, considering that facing a 3,000-year-old Aes Sedai who cannot be killed conventionally and possesses the ability to harm others in their dreams would already be a formidable task. However, the appearance of Moiraine’s older sister, who imparts forgotten wisdom, adds a humanizing layer to one of the show’s toughest characters.

Highlighting Other Characters

In addition to the central conflicts, this episode explores the characters of Perrin and Verin. Perrin finally gets some compelling scenes as he cautiously gathers information from Children of the Light officer Dain Bornhald and rescues Aiel warrior Avhienda. Their fight scene is excellently choreographed, with Avhienda showcasing her expertise and accepting Perrin’s assistance. The interaction between them adds a humorous element to the episode.

Verin, the Brown Aes Sedai, remains a standout character. Despite her long absence from the White Tower, she effortlessly navigates the political landscape, strategically enlisting the help of her sisters while uncovering Liandrin’s plot. Meera Syal’s portrayal effectively captures the warmth and intelligence of Verin. Her ability to hide vital information from a dangerous enemy adds intrigue to the storyline.

The Wheel of Time’s costume department adheres to a distinct color scheme for Aes Sedai characters, allowing viewers to easily identify them. However, the decision to have Liandrin don a black cloak immediately after her affiliation with the Black Ajah is revealed appears contrived. Additionally, the wig worn by Suroth looks awkward, giving her an exaggerated forehead. Despite these minor flaws, the costuming and props in the episode are impressive, with attention to detail in the Seanchan ensembles and Bornhald’s ax. Notably, Lanfear’s outrageous outfit in the final moments of the episode leaves viewers anticipating the continuation of that dream sequence in the following episode.