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The Wheel of Time - The Flame of Tar Valon - Review

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This episode put almost its entire focus on Moiraine and ended up delivering the strongest and most captivating episode of the show so far. It's more clear than ever that Moiraine is the central force around which all the other characters ebb and flow and Rosamund Pike has just the right gravitas to hold that position. 

We get introduced in this episode to the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche, who we first meet as a child in a backstory flashback before meeting her again as an adult in the White Tower. Sophie Okonedo brings a powerful magnetism to the role, achieving just the right balance of heart and control. The Amyrlin Seat must always remain impartial without any favouritism or emotional connection but Siuan Sanche is all life and energy and simmering vibrancy. The shift between the two halves of herself is flawless and I can't wait to see her again. 

Moiraine's relationship with Siuan took centre stage as the former awaits her sentence for her wayward absence for the last two years and her refusal to share the purpose of her travels. This is all revealed to be a ruse as Moiraine and Siuan are the only two Aes Sedai in the know about the Dragon Reborn and are actually working together. Boy, do they know how to put on a performance in public though! 

The two share an intimate moment in the fishing hut Siuan grew up in - which Moiraine has an instant portal to which is cute and romantic on so many levels. Moiraine eventually tells her she has to exile her for their quest against the Dark One to continue and I know I'm not the only one hoping their reunion comes sooner rather than later. In just one episode, Moiraine and Siuan have displayed a charged and powerful chemistry and I'm already eagerly anticipating the build up towards their paths crossing once more. 

Moiraine spends the rest of the episode corralling the various Two Rivers folk, freeing Mat from the curse of the dagger and finding out from Egwene that Perrin's eyes glowed gold like a wolf's. By episode's end, fresh off a hauntingly beautiful scene of Moiraine's exile with the Aes Sedai turning their backs to her, Moiraine gathers them all at a gateway they can use to travel to the Eye of the World (book title shout out!). 

The reunions are touching as the Two Rivers folk all exchange hugs and accept that they must travel through the gateway to confront the Dark One before he gets too strong. None of them know which of them is the Dragon Reborn yet and there's every chance the rest may die in the battle ahead but they come together for the final part of their quest anyway - well, all except Mat. 

As the others walk through the gateway, they suddenly realise Mat hasn't moved at all. Perhaps he's just afraid or perhaps he's thinking he's not the Dragon Reborn anyway because his suffering was caused by a cursed knife. Perhaps he sees an opportunity to go back to his sisters because he'd rather be with them when the world inevitably ends instead of choosing to fight the Dark One. After all, there's every possibility the fight against the Dark One will fail and he'll lose any opportunity of seeing his sisters again. 

Regardless of his reasoning, I suspect this is the moment we lose Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon forever. We all knew he was being replaced by Dónal Finn going into the second season, but I had hoped we'd get a full season of Harris who embodied Mat so well. But if this is the end of Mat's journey in Season 1, it does set up a very interesting start for him in Season 2, so that's something to look forward to. 

This episode felt very much like the last port of call before a storm sets in and these next two episodes are likely to deliver explosive climaxes and revelations that change the fabric of the characters' lives forever. And I, for one, can't wait. 

What did you think of this episode? Do you think this is Barney Harris' last episode? Sad to see him go? Eager for Moiraine and Siuan's next reunion? Sound off in the comments below!

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