The Wheel of Time, Season 1 Episode 4: The Dragon Reborn
Reviewed by Steven Poore
After the initial rush of the first three episodes, batch-released last week to hook viewers into the story, this fourth episode has to stand on its own merits with no friends to back it up. Having been introduced to the martial fanaticism of the Whitecloaks last time around, now we get to meet more properly their nemeses, the women of the Aes Sedai.
Robert Jordan’s colour-coded orders – the men-hating Reds, the manipulative Blues, the “Battle Ajah” Greens – are perhaps as close to high school “houses” as the Wheel of Time gets. They are explained in more detail in the books; for the purposes of the TV show, they are limited to quick introductory sketches to show their temperaments and allegiances. Liandrin Sedai (Kate Fleetwood) is Red Leader, chief gelder of would-be Dragons, and plainly relishes the opportunity to play the villain of the piece. Yet even so when she and Moirraine (Rosamund Pike) are pitched against Alvaro Morte’s “False Dragon” Logain Ablar, it’s not easy to argue that her viewpoint is radically wrong.
As the episode title suggests, the script begins to tease the viewer as to the real identity of the Dragon Reborn. Rafe Judkins’ decision appears to have been to make that less obvious: it was clear early in the books that farmboy Rand was the big hero, but this ensemble series is decidedly less focused on him so far. Logain’s power and influence are displayed with flowing overhead shots and dark swirls of magic that contrast against the pure white sorcery of the Aes Sedai. Both Nynaeve and Egwene have untapped reserves of power. Mat is shown to be conflicted and steadily darkening. It may be sacrilege to fans of the books, but we might actually have an interesting Dragon in the offing.
And what of Perrin’s arc? Having fallen in with the pacifistic Tinkers, the traumas of that first episode are coming back to haunt him. His arc is going to be a slow-burner and again still more interesting than that of Rand himself.
At the halfway point of this first series then, the Wheel of Time is gaining traction. Some classy photography, very crunchy character work, and a rejection of slavishly following the source material holds our interest and give us hope for even better to come.