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The Wheel of Time - The Dark Along the Ways - Review

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The penultimate episode of The Wheel of Time ratchets up the drama and tension as our group of travellers gets ever closer to the Eye of the World and the fate that awaits them there. Much of this tension comes from the lack of knowledge over who the Dragon Reborn is. Is it Mat who decided not to come with them? Nynaeve who seems to be one of the most powerful people in the world? Or is it really none of them and Moiraine has had it wrong this entire time?

The episode starts with their journey through the Ways, a dark and winding path haunted by Machin Shin, the Black Wind, which is drawn to the One Power. After encountering a Trolloc, Egwene uses the One Power to repel it and then the race is on to get to the closest Waygate before Machin Shin can get to them. In a fraught scene, Machin Shin taunts our heroes with their greatest fears and nightmares before Nynaeve repels him in yet another stunning display of the One Power and Moiraine opens the Waygate to Fal Dara. 

The strongest thing this episode does is build on and develop the relationships between the Two Rivers' companions, giving them much the same kind of focus that Moiraine had in the previous episode. Much of the tension and conflict stems from Mat being left behind. Rand is his staunchest supporter, stubbornly refusing to see that Egwene was right that he left them. 

Nynaeve, as a protector, also struggles with the fact that they lost Mat and is afraid of losing everyone else, especially considering that it's highly likely anyone who's not the Dragon Reborn will die if they enter the Eye of the World. It is especially sad then that after a big fight in which Rand accuses Egwene of not caring about Mat and Nynaeve accidentally reveals Perrin's crush on Egwene, they all go separate ways, leaving Nynaeve alone. 

She ends up following Lan around as he departs to meet with a family who treat him like their own. It is revealed that he grew up in Fal Dara after his kingdom, Malkier was lost to the Blight and that he is the last surviving member of the royal family. This provides another emotional level of insight into his relationship with Moiraine with her giving him a purpose and a place to belong after he lost everything.

I'm loving the relationship development between Lan and Nynaeve as well. She becomes softer and a lot less guarded around him and he becomes more playful in a nice contrast to his usual stoic demeanour. Daniel Henney and ZoĆ« Robins are two of the biggest powerhouse performers on this show so the sparks are always brightest when they're sharing the screen. 

The biggest reveal of the episode comes towards the end when we finally learn the identity of the Dragon Reborn. From a combination of Machin Shin's whispers and his own memories, Rand learns that he has the ability to channel, recalling slamming down the door way back when he was trapped with a Darkfriend while also realising it was him who saved them from the Trolloc rather than Egwene. Fresh off this revelation, the episode ends with Moiraine and Rand leaving everyone behind to head to the Eye of the World but I don't get the feeling the rest of them are just going to sit around and wait. 

Heading into the finale, this show keeps going from strength to strength, weaving everything together with flawless flair. We're finally introduced to Min, a fan favourite from the books who can see the patterns in the Wheel, effectively looking into the future of our characters, including an ominous warning that the Amyrlin Seat will be Moiraine's downfall. We also learn that Trollocs have been travelling through the Ways which is how they've been getting around unseen while Perrin thinks he catches a glimpse of peddler Padan Fain. 

Fain was also seen briefly during Rand and Mat's arrival in Tar Valon a couple episodes back. With the characters presuming him to be dead however, it begs the question as to why he keeps popping up wherever they go (he was definitely the figure who emerged from the Waygate after them, right?).

What did you think of the episode? Happy with the development of Lan and Nynaeve's relationship? Surprised by the reveal that Rand is the Dragon Reborn? What do you think the significance of Padan Fain's random appearances is? Sound off in the comments below!

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