In episode 2, Moiraine, Lan and the four young villagers begin their journey from Two Rivers to the White Tower, where they will get help from the Aes Sedai. The trolloc army follows close behind, forcing them to make dangerous choices. Moiraine grows weaker from her wound due to the trolloc poison that was on the weapon.
The episode’s opening scene is not for the faint of heart.
A young boy crosses a Whitecloak encampment with a breakfast tray for Eamon Valda (Abdul Salis), a Questioner- think Witchfinder General, with all of the attendant misogyny, torture and murder. The Whitecloaks, or Children of the Light, believe that all uses of the One Power lead to the Darkness and must be stamped out with prejudice.
Valda’s superior has sent him a treat to wish him happy hunting today. It’s a small bird who was tortured before it was killed, much like Valda enjoys doing with the Aes Sedai. He eats the entire bird in one bite, explaining to the woman he’s currently in the process of executing that the excitement in eating the bird lies in the combination of pleasure and pain. The bird’s body parts cut the inside of his mouth as he eats it, so that he tastes his own blood, adding to the exquisite flavor and symbolism of the meal. “Sometimes brutality is the only path to mercy.”
He removes the woman’s Aes Sedai ring from her severed hand and clips it onto a chain with several other rings. Then he sits back down to watch as she’s engulfed in flames. Not sure which part of burning her at the stake was painful for him, given how much pleasure he clearly derives from her slow death. What he really means is that victory over a formidable foe is much sweeter than overcoming a harmless one. The little bird looks harmless but has a bite, just like the Aes Sedai.
Birds frequently symbolize the soul. By eating the bird in one painful bite, he’s crushed her soul completely and shown that he doesn’t care whether he’s also harmed by doing so. That makes him a dangerous enemy, but also shows his weakness- every time he crushes a soul, it leaves him scarred in ways he doesn’t take seriously. Eventually those changes will add up to flaws that can be exploited, and he won’t notice the difference.
Moiraine, Lan and the four villagers ride hard as they try to outrun the trollocs, who track them at a distance. When they arrive at a river crossing with a ferry, Moiraine bribes the ferryman into taking them across right away, even though he wants to wait for his son. The trollocs are catching up and the only thing they fear is deep water.
The trolloc army, including the Fade, reach the river bank while the group is crossing. While they stand on the other side, the ferryman panics because he left his family behind, at the mercy of the monsters. He wants to go back to get his son, but that would allow the trollocs to use the ferry to follow them. Lan cuts the ferry loose, then Moiraine creates a whirlpool to sink it.
Yelling that the Whitecloaks are right about the Aes Sedai, the ferryman jumps into the river to save his boat. He’s pulled down into the whirlpool and drowned. Moiraine bows her head for a moment in sorrow before urging the others to keep moving, but the four youths don’t notice.
The four villagers are shocked that Moiraine didn’t try harder to save the ferryman and his village. She did what was expedient to keep her own group of travelers alive and made things worse for others. Moiraine is looking at the bigger picture, trying to keep the Dragon Reborn alive so that he or she can eventually save the world.
The Aes Sedai are fighting on two fronts- against the Dark armies and against the Whitecloaks, which means they are spread thin. Moiraine currently doesn’t have magical backup because the Whitecloaks have killed so many of her sisters. Sometimes casualties are unavoidable. We saw Moiraine save Two Rivers nearly singlehandedly. She simply doesn’t have the energy left to fight off a larger army to save another village, so the best strategy is the one she employed when they left Two Rivers- keep moving and hope the army will follow them instead of lingering to attack the village.
But explaining all of this to the four villagers and convincing them it’s the correct choice would take time they don’t have at the moment, so Moraine gives brusque orders to forestall arguments. They have to take advantage of their lead before the trollocs find another crossing. Otherwise, the ferryman will have died for nothing.
Rand, who wasn’t in the village for the battle, didn’t see how powerful Moiraine is and wasn’t saved by her, hesitates on the dock just long enough to make his feelings understood by Lan, who’s watching him. Rand will go along with Moiraine’s orders for now, but he is skeptical of their mission and doesn’t trust her or Lan.
He doesn’t have to trust Moiraine and Lan yet, but this also shows that he doesn’t trust the judgement of his 3 best friends, including the woman he wanted to marry a day ago.
They ride on, with Lan circling ahead of and behind them, acting as their scout. He returns from one such trip and announces they’ve lost the trolloc army, allowing them to stop and rest for a while. Moiraine warns them to be careful. “There are things more dangerous than trollocs in this world.” Moiraine shares healing energy with the horses until Lan makes her lie down.
As the youths warm themselves at the fire, Mat imagines what it would be like if Nynaeve were traveling with them and disagreeing with Moiraine about everything.
It would be sort of like having Rand with them, except Nynaeve is a mature woman and thus much more of a challenge to Moiraine than Rand is.
Egwene confesses that she was with Nynaeve when she was taken. Perrin tries to comfort her, saying Nynaeve will have died quickly and painlessly.
Rand changes the subject, as he generally does when the focus is on Egwene. Showing off his ignorance, he says they need a plan to fight off Moiraine in case she turns on them. Unless one of them manifests their Dragon Reborn powers on the spot, they aren’t going to take down Moiraine any time soon, at least when she’s healthy. How they treat a woman who’s ill because she saved their lives repeatedly and is willing to die saving them shows some things about their characters.
Egwene thinks they need to look at it from the opposite perspective- what if Moiraine is right and one of them is the powerful Dragon Reborn? Mat expresses skepticism. Egwene goes through the facts, which all line up with Moiraine’s statements. Since Rand can’t argue with the facts, he questions the truth of the mythology surrounding the Dragon Reborn. Mat doesn’t think any of them have shown the potential for great power or dragon’s wings.
Moiraine interrupts the conversation to tell them the stories about the Dragon Reborn are metaphors, kids. When the Dragon is identified, he or she will both match the predictions and not match them. Then she says to go to bed so they can get an early start.
Moiraine needs a break from babysitting.
After they all appear to be asleep, Moiraine wakes Egwene up and takes her for a walk and talk. Rand was faking sleep and watches them go. This may set off his jealousies of Egwene’s attention and Moiraine as the leader.
Moiraine finds a spot where they can sit. Egwene stays standing and asks if Moiraine plans to kill them. Moiraine asks if Egwene knows the Three Oaths.
Moiraine asks Egwene to repeat them out loud, using the exact wording. Egwene doesn’t know the Oaths by heart, so Moiraine repeats them for her.
Moiraine: “One-To speak no word that is not true. Two- To make no weapon with which one person may kill another. Three- Never to use the One Power as a weapon, except in the last extreme defense of her life, or the life of her Warder, or another Aes Sedai. These oaths are bound by the One Power itself. It’s not that we do not break them, it’s that we cannot break them. I did not kill that ferryman. He wasted his own life on a foolish cause.”
The Aes Sedai are the Ella Enchanteds of the magical world. They are bound by overly limiting rules that don’t apply to anyone else and so they must find creative work arounds to survive. This creates misunderstandings among those who haven’t thought through the rules and expectations the Aes Sedai are forced to live by. For example, If I understand this correctly, Moiraine had to put her own and Lan’s life in danger once the battle was in full swing in order to be able to use her power to save Two Rivers. She couldn’t head off the army before it attacked, because only the village was in danger at that point.
Egwene argues that the ferryman didn’t deserve to die for wanting to save his family. Moiraine asks Egwene to think through what would have happened if the ferryman had made it across the river. She realizes that the trollocs would have killed him and used the ferry to follow them.
Moiraine: “The Power inside you is the smallest part of your strength. It’s your mind and how you use it that will mean much more in the battles to come.”
Egwene is confused, as if she doesn’t understand yet that she has Power of her own. Moiraine asks what they call the talent that Wisdoms use (listening to the wind) and explains that all over the world, women have different names for the One Power. But it’s all the same thing.
Moiraine: “And women like you and I, we are lucky enough to be able to touch it.”
Egwene: “I’m no Aes Sedai.”
Morgaine: “But you could be. Touching the Source will come to you whether you want it to or not.”
Moiraine unwraps a necklace with a jeweled pendant. She puts the pendant in the palm of Egwene’s hand and leads her through a guided meditation that’s a verbal version of the Women’s Circle initiation. She describes the black stone as “clear and opaque, like the water of a river,” then tells Egwene to clear her mind and let herself drift down the river while staring at the stone. As she guides Egwene to surrender to the flow of the water, the stone glows blue.
When they finish, Egwene says that she felt something. Moiraine tells her that she made the third wave of light in the stone. “You don’t listen to the wind, Egwene. It’s the wind that listens to you.” She presses the necklace into Egwene’s hand.
Egwene goes back to camp and lies down next Rand, who’s now sleeping a little apart from everyone else. He appears to have fallen asleep for real this time, but wakes up when she presses her forehead against his. He tells her he chose this spot because he wants to be alone, because of course he did. If she’s the chosen one, there’s no need for them to talk. Egwene gets up to leave, telling him she understands.
They are in a weird position right now, because they’d broken up based on Nynaeve’s offer to apprentice her, but now Nynaeve is gone. Moiraine just made a similar offer, which Egwene needs to consider, so naturally she turns to her close friend Rand for support. Rand can’t separate his feelings of rejection from his feelings about magical women at the moment, so he’s worse than no help.
That’s understandable, but the trollocs who are trying to kill them make them dependent on Moiraine and the Aes Sedai, so he needs to grow up and get over himself. Even if he’s the Dragon Reborn and the center of the universe, he’s not the entire universe and he’s not ready to save the world yet. Presumably he’s going to need some help and training on the way to saving or destroying the world a second time.
Perrin is haunted by Laila’s death and can’t sleep. He also has a significant wound on his calf that he’s kept secret. Egwene joins him by the fire. He shares his cloak with her and asks if she thinks they’ll ever go home again. She says, “No.”
Rand sits up, coughing. He reaches down his throat and pulls out a large, brown, dead bat. Seriously, that thing just keeps coming. While he’s trying to recover, he spots a figure lurking in the shadows with glowing eyes, wearing a black robe. That’s enough to wake him from his nightmare.
Except when he wakes up, there’s a dead black bat next to him on the ground. He stumbles a few feet and sees a cluster of dead bats on the ground. His three friends stand over them. Egwene says they saw the bats too.
Rand strides toward Moiraine, demanding to know if this is her doing. She asks if they all saw it and what they saw. Mat says he saw bats whose necks were snapped midair. Moiraine asks if anyone was in the dream. Perrin describes a silent “man with eyes like embers.” Moiraine tells them she wants to know if this happens again. “Dreams have power. More than you know.”
Rand demands further explanation, but Moiraine ignores him. It’s time to get on the road. Rand has a temper tantrum. He wants all the details. She tells him they’re going to the White Tower. He wants to know what will happen to him, Mat and Perrin there, since he doesn’t want to be a Warder. He insults both Moiraine and Lan as he asks questions.
Moiraine tells him to do whatever he wants if he doesn’t want to stay with them. He doesn’t believe she’d let him leave. She and Lan ride away, leaving the other four behind. Egwene gets ready to follow Moirane, so Rand switches to yelling at her. He asks if she believes Moiraine is any better than the trollocs. Egwene defends Moiraine.
Egwene: “Of course I do! Those monsters killed Nynaeve and Laila and half the people we’ve ever loved. Moiraine has done nothing but protect us, try to keep us safe. Don’t you see how pale she’s getting, how weak? She’s using the One Power to keep our strength up at the cost of her own. And she does it, even with you being the stubborn b*st**d you are. If I were her, I’d leave you behind, too.”
Rand: “You already did.”
And she’s better off for it. His ego seems to be growing larger by the hour.
Mat is the voice of pragmatism, but he also doesn’t give Moiraine credit for saving the village: “Don’t be an *ss. We’ve got each other. That’s it. You’re right. You’re right about Moiraine. She’s not doing any of this for our benefit. She’s got a reason she’s keeping us all alive. And as soon as that reason’s gone we’re as good as dead. Till then, the lady does shoot fireballs, so let’s try and stay on her good side. Coming?”
The three men saddle up and fall in line behind Egwene. Rand was right about one thing- Moiraine didn’t leave them behind. Lan doubled back and watched the whole scene.
After they’ve been riding for some time, Lan rushes back from scouting ahead and says one word to Moiraine- “Whitecloaks!” She takes off her Aes Sedai ring and hands it to him to hide in his clothing, while giving instructions to the others. They should stay quiet unless questioned and then answer truthfully, if possible. But they should avoid mentioning the White Tower and the Aes Sedai. Their official story is that she is a “lady from a fallen house” who has taken them in.
The Whitecloaks travel in a large party who block the road when they meet Moiraine’s group. Their leader, Geofram Bornhald (Stuart Graham), “requests” that they dismount from their horses. Bornhald and Moiraine discuss where she’s headed and why. Moiraine tells him she has a sister in Whitebridge, where she hopes to spend the night. He warns her that the roads are dangerous, with the war in the south and the Aes Sedai out in force, but she tells him, “Wars and witches don’t concern us, sir.”
He’s about to let them leave when Valda the Questioner jingles his chain of Aes Sedai rings as a sign that he wants to question the travelers. When Valda begins questioning, Lan takes over as main speaker. Valda tells them that the “Children of the Light hold sway wherever men walk in the Light” and have the right to Question those who pass through those lands. As he and Lan speak, Valda runs his hands over Moiraine, searching her. He asks where Lan is from. Lan says he’s from the Borderlands, “Where men know how to keep their hands to themselves, lest they lose them.”
Valda scoffs at Lan’s impertinence and tells his minions to search the horses. He continues, inspecting Moiraine’s arms and hands, while telling them the Aes Sedai sent out “eight sisters to deal with Logain’s army to the south.” The sisters can’t stay out of others’ affairs and death follows them.
When Valda presses on Moiraine’s left shoulder she winces and explains that she has a wound that won’t heal. Valda and Bornhald ask what happened. She says that she was attacked by a monster and describes a trolloc as if she’d never seen one before. She tells them it happened in a village to the west.
They ask to see the wound and recognize the effects of trolloc poison. Bornhald is shocked that there are trollocs in this area. She tells him the town was Taren Ferry, where the ferryman died, and suggests he could help the hurt people in the village. Though it’s not something he’d normally do, he recommends that she find an Aes Sedai in Whitebridge to heal her wound. Moiraine wishes him well by saying, “Light be with you.”
Valda: “The Light is always with you. It needs no instruction. I will not forget your faces should we meet again.”
Bornhald intends to follow the trollocs’ trail west. Valda plans to take a contingent of Questioners south, since they have a higher purpose than battle.
Valda is a man with too much power and not enough checks on it.
Afterwards, Egwene approaches Moiraine and asks her about her answers to the Whitecloaks’ questions. She doesn’t think the older woman was entirely truthful, despite being bound by the Three Oaths. Moiraine explains that she was truthful, as always, just not in the way Egwene expected to hear. Egwene didn’t realize that Moiraine can’t heal her own wounds, though she can heal others, and that she considers all Aes Sedai her sisters, so she does have a sister in Whitebridge.
The trip continues uneventfully for hours. When fatigue sets in, Mat starts a song from Two Rivers about Manetheren. The others join him. Moiraine complements the song when they finish. Mat confesses that they don’t understand what it’s about. Moiraine explains that Manetheren means Mountain Home in the Old Tongue. It’s an old name for Two Rivers. She tells the story of the song.
Long ago, during the Trolloc Wars, the people of Mountain Home fought particularly hard against the Dark One. He sent a huge army to defeat them, but still they stood bravely against it. King Aemon sent for their allies, who owed them aid in battle. Their allies promised to be there in 3 days. So they held out against their enemy for 3 days, but no help came.
They continued fighting, but by the time 10 days had passed they knew their allies had abandoned them. Queen Eldrene sent the children to safety in the mountains. Manetheren fell on the 13th day. When Queen Eldrene felt her husband die, she used her power to throw a firestorm at her enemies. She was consumed by the fire along with her enemies. The children who hid in the mountains survived and held the land. “The old blood runs deep in you. Remember that. You will need it in the days to come.”
When they stop for the night, Lan gives Moiraine back her ring. She disapproves of how closely they’re traveling to Shadar Logoth, a cursed and abandoned city that lies in ruins. Lan chose this route because the trollocs fear the evil that lives in Shadar Logoth and won’t go near it.
As Rand and Egwene gather firewood, she tries to start a conversation, but he refuses to talk to her. She reminds him that everything has changed in the last few days and says she just wants him to look at her and not hate her. He turns back toward her and tells her he could never hate her.
Well, that feels like foreshadowing. Plus, he’s basically ready to hate everyone.
Perrin fills up the canteens in the river, while wolves howl in the distance. He sits down on a log to rest when the pain in his wounded leg becomes too much- it’s not healing. A pack of snarling wolves approach. One stops directly in front of him and calmly looks into his eyes. Then it licks his wound clean. When it’s done, the wolves run off together. Perrin stays where he is, confused.
The wolves continue howling into the night. Moiraine falls asleep first, which shows how weak she’s become. Lan tells the others they need to sleep, too.
Egwene wakes up when she senses the Fade nearby. Lan is already waking the others up, telling them they need to leave quickly. He can’t awaken Moiraine, so he hands her unconscious body to Perrin to hold as they ride to Shadar Logoth. The trolloc army is right behind them.
The horses and the trollocs come to a standstill when they see the walls of the city. Lan urges them inside, where the trollocs won’t follow. The walls are many stories tall with a narrow gap, but no gate. Inside, the city is untouched, with buildings made from gray stone. It’s devoid of life.
Moiraine is in even worse shape by the time they get inside a building to rest.
Egwene asks about the name Shadar Logoth. Lan says it means “Shadow’s Waiting” in the Old Tongue. The city was called Aridhol when it was inhabited.
Lan: “During the Trolloc Wars, it was the richest, most powerful city in the world. But when the world needed them most, they built their wall with no gate, locked themselves inside and let the other nations of man burn. It was the people of this city who promised Manetheren aid. And they were the ones who let them die. When the Trolloc Wars ended, survivors came here, to find food, shelter. When they knocked, no one answered. When they finally broke through the wall, there was no one inside. It’s said that evil itself grew from the city’s heart and consumed everyone and everything that lived. Ever since, the city has been abandoned. Not even trollocs will step foot behind these walls.”
Mat asks why on earth Lan would bring the into the Hellmouth. With Moiraine out of commission, he was out of options. Lan gives them the standard rules for visiting the Underworld, Fairyland and anyplace you don’t want to get trapped or spelled- “Touch nothing. Eat only the food you brought.”
He doesn’t understand that Rand and Mat, a (potential) dragon and a thief, are constitutionally incapable of following orders unless they believe their lives depend on it. A ghost story about a pile of rocks isn’t enough to scare either of them. They both believe they outsmarted/defeated the trollocs in battle without Moiraine, each in their own way, and are unmoved by her condition. They don’t feel they owe her or Lan anything- certainly not their respect.
Rand wanders outside and up to the highest perch he can find to view the city. Egwene joins him after a minute. He takes her hand.
Mat sits next to Perrin and takes out a dagger that Laila made for him. He tells Perrin that Laila said she made tools, not weapons, and that Mat would mostly use the knife for chopping food and other practical uses rather than fighting. But she encouraged him to keep it in good shape so it would be ready when he did need to use it as a weapon. He hands it to Perrin and calls it a tool for saving his own life or the life of someone he cares about. Laila figured Mat would get Perrin in trouble someday. He doesn’t see how their current circumstances are his fault, though.
Perrin reassures him that his sisters will be okay. The community will pull together to take care of them while Mat is gone. Mat knows they will, but it’s not the same as being there himself.
After everyone is asleep, Mat wakes up and wanders outside. He follows flashes of light inside a building where moonlight shines through a window onto a small metal case half buried in rubble. Mat opens the case and discovers an ornately decorated dagger and scabbard with a large ruby embedded in the hilt.
As he pulls the dagger out of its scabbard, the horses become agitated. A heavy black shadow spreads underneath one of them, turning it to dust as Egwene, Perrin and Rand watch. Three other horses escape. The black shadows spread. Moiraine wakes up and tells Lan he’s killed them.
Mat joins the other three ta’veren as the evil shadows separate him and Rand from Perrin and Egwene. Egwene tells Rand to escape without her- she’ll find him. Mat drags him away. The shadows chase them through the city.
Lan isn’t ready to give up. He carries Moiraine to a horse and rides out of the city the way they entered, dodging the shadows and leading a second horse. Egwene and Perrin climb to the top of the city walls, then jump into the river and swim to shore. Rand breaks down a heavy gate, then he and Mat run through a drainage tunnel. At the end, Rand breaks through a metal grid so they can escape onto a small beach. They use a log as a boat to get further away. Mat has to push Rand to leave without Egwene.
The three pairs end up separated, each on a different side of the city. They call for each other, but are too far away to hear.
Lan rests Moiraine on the ground in the forest and tries to revive her, but she doesn’t respond. She’s near death, not even swallowing water. Lan starts to lose hope.
Then Nynaeve puts her dagger to his throat and says, “If you don’t take me to them right now, I’ll slit your throat.”
So, about that. Funny story…
Episodes 1 and 2 were directed by Uta Briesewitz. Episode 1 was written by showrunner and creator Rafe Judkins. Episode 2 was written by Amanda Shuman.
Yikes, that’s definitely a cursed dagger. I wonder what the other three would have found. When Mat awakens in Shadar Logoth, the subtitles indicate there are whispering voices- perhaps the voices spoke to the entire party and Mat was the first to give into temptation. In the previous scene, Mat gave his dagger to Perrin out of compassion for the loss the other man feels, then Mat conveniently finds a replacement dagger. He could easily see the ruby-hilted dagger as meant for him, a reward for the kindness he showed toward his friend.
From Amazon Prime Video X-Ray/General Triva: Ever since the city [of Shadar Logoth] destroyed itself, everything left inside has been corrupted by the very evil that murdered its inhabitants. ‘Mashadar’, also known as ‘the Killing Mist’, is the embodiment of the evil that remains within the walls of the city and the hearts of the citizens.
There is a Bonus Origin Stories video on The Fall of Manetheren on Amazon’s web site under the Explore tab and in the Episodes list.
So many enemies chasing the main characters. Presumably the cursed dagger brings a form of the city’s sentient evil shadows into the world with it, adding another danger on top of the Whitecloaks and the Dark One’s agents such as the trollocs and the Fade. And there are the men who try to channel the One Power, then are driven mad by it. So much evil in the world, yet the Aes Sedai, the only ones who can stand against it, are hated.
Rand’s negative attitude toward the sisterhood reflects the prejudice of the wider world, who want the Aes Sedai to save their lives but also resent them and their power. It’s a correlation to the way women in the real world are exploited for free and cheap labor while also resented when we gain significant power.
Perrin was wrong and Nynaeve didn’t die quickly or die at all. She must have serious power of her own that enabled her to escape the trollocs and catch up to the others. It seems like she thinks of Egwene as a sister or a daughter. Lan will be stuck between her and Moiraine once she helps with the other woman’s wound.
Perrin has some kind of affinity for wolves that he’s had for a while, but it’s growing stronger. In episode 1, Rand’s father, Tam, mentioned that there are more wolves in the forest around Two Rivers than there used to be. I think we can assume Perrin drew them there.
He is the unsung hero of this episode, quietly suffering from physical, mental and emotional wounds while also serving as a physical backup to Lan and providing emotional support to Egwene and Mat. Though he’s in as much pain as anyone, he doesn’t add to anyone’s burden (he should at least tell someone about his wound). All of that, and he has a wolf pack snarling at him, then maybe healing him. I didn’t even think through how important Perrin was to the chain of events until I did the screen caps and noticed that he was there, next whoever needed him, providing his steady presence, in nearly every scene.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.