The Wheel of Time E2, Shadow’s Waiting, is an improvement on the opening episode of Amazon’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s epic series. (As always, this is your spoiler warning.) Our heroes are on the run from the trollocs that almost destroyed their village but they are forced to ask themselves difficult questions as they follow the member of Aes Sedai, Moiraine and her warder, Lan. A show that started off with characters clearly set in the camps of good and evil now begins to show the subtle shades of grey with the morally ambiguous actions of the sorceress creating tension between the friends.
Shadow’s Waiting starts with a cold open as we are introduced to Eamon Valda, a Whitecloak ‘questioner’ as he chomps enthusiastically on some food in his best Denethor impression as a member of the Aes Sedai – who has had her hands chopped off – burns at the stake. Eamon seems unaffected by the suffering of the dying woman and the Aes Sedai rings he wears on his belt is a clear sign that this is not some novice in the ways of death-dealing in regards to the magic society. As the Whitecloaks continue their punishment, Moiraine leads our weary band away from the trollocs, bribing a ferryman to aid them across the river as the beasts are not overly fond of water. Heartlessly sinking the ferry in a whirlpool, Moiraine watches as the ferryman realises that his family are stranded in a land now swarming with trollocs, he dives back into the water and dies in the magical whirlpool. This allows Moiraine the opportunity to explain her views on the ethics of her actions and the code she follows as a member of the Aes Sedai. She is prevented from killing anyone except in defence of herself, Lan, or another Aes Sedai. The ferryman caused his own death by jumping into a whirlpool she happened to create. Totally not her fault, apparently. Egwene buys into Moiraine’s reasoning for twisting away from taking the blame for the man’s death but the others aren’t as convinced. This is an important moment in Shadow’s Waiting. The motivations and plans of the main players in the world are not so clear and this leaves a lot of room for questions to be answered as the series keeps turning like the eponymous wheel.
The group bump into the Whitecloaks from earlier and Moiraine manages to convince them that they are nothing special but she is unable to hide the nasty wound received from the first episode. There is tension between the two groups who both claim to be against The Dark One and again, this is The Wheel of Time at its best. There is not a clear good and bad side at the moment. Shows like Game of Thrones and The Witcher have proven that fantasy works best when the focus is on the complexities of humanity and way in which can be the real monsters in the world. More of this will lead to further improvement as the show continues.
After some dark shared dreams by our four heroes from Two Rivers involving bats and a strange figure with ember eyes, Moiraine leads them into a shielded city punished for not fighting against the darkness, Shadar Logoth (Shadow’s Waiting). Even trollocs fear to tread in this incredible, abandoned city. The group rest for a while in the stunning ruins of the city but danger is just around the corner. Mat gives Perrin a dagger forged by Perrin’s late wife and then wanders off and finds a mysterious dagger of his own hidden in the ruins. Acting like a fool of a Took, Mat takes the dagger and darkness rises to consume a horse and reaches out for the panic-stricken men and women. They flee the rising darkness and are cut off from one another. Mat and Rand flee through a crack in the wall. Perrin and Egwene jump into nearby water, and Moiraine and Lan ride away as the wound the sorceress received continues to sap her of her energy. The episode ends with a familiar face stopping Moiraine and Lan and asking where her four friends are. It seems that Nynaeve, the Two Rivers’ Wisdom is alive and well after all…
The Wheel of Time E2: Shadow’s Waiting smooths the rocky path the series started off on. The Whitecloaks are casually sadistic in a way that should make them steal any scenes they are in and the doubts and uncertainty amongst the main group will lead to some interesting TV to come. A big improvement and now I am looking forward to episode three.