The Wheel of Time Season 1, Ep. 3 Review: “A Place of Safety”
Amazon’s newest show, The Wheel of Time, is back with another episode and this time it’s, well, kind of boring. Unlike the previous two installments of the series which were filled with action, danger, and the palpable threat of rising darkness, episode three was filled with quiet moments of introspection and characters planning for their adventures onward. Which, while not inherently a bad thing, made the episode fall flatter than its counterparts.
“A Place of Safety” opens on the cliffhanger that “Shadow’s Waiting” closed with: the sudden reappearance of Nynaeve (Zoë Robins). We’re shown how she was kidnapped by the Trollocs and, thanks to one of their cannibalistic urges, managed to escape to the sacred pools in Two Rivers. There, she was able to ambush and kill her captor and has been following the trail of her friends ever since.
Episode three then breaks into three distinct stories: Lan (Daniel Henney) and a mortally injured Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) in the woods with Nynaeve, Perrin (Marcus Rutherford) and Egwene (Madeleine Madden) being pursued by wolves, and Rand (Josha Stradowski) and Mat (Barney Harris) in the mountains.
Not much happens in any of the storylines. Perrin and Egwene temporarily hold off the wolves by building a fire—although there’s a lingering question of whether the fire sparked to life because of Egwene’s ability to manipulate the One Power or Perrin’s determination to light his flint—and follow a pair of fresh wagon tracks through the woods, where they eventually run into a group of nomadic people. This faction calls itself the Tuatha’an (also known as the Tinkers or Travelling People) and is a peaceful group with similarities to the Romani peoples. Perrin and Egwene befriend a man named Aram (Daryl McCormack) and break bread with him at camp.
Meanwhile, Ran and Mat wander into a mining encampment where they make their way to the local pub and befriend the barmaid, Dana (Izuka Hoyle), who says they can work in exchange for room and board for the night. While there, they meet a musician by the name of Thom Merrillin (Alexandre Willaume) before Ran and Mat argue about their future. Ran wants to continue onward to the White Tower while Mat disbelieves the prophecy about the Dragon reborn and instead wants to return home to his sisters in Two Rivers. Later that evening, Mat heads out to plunder a body they passed in a gibbet cage on the way into town. He runs into Thom while there and helps him to bury the man, who was an “Aiel.” Meanwhile, Dana tries to imprison Ran and holds him at sword point while waiting for Mat to come back for the night, but Rand manages to break down a reinforced door single-handedly (leaving audiences wondering if he, like Egwene, can manipulate the One Power). Dana chases him and Mat down and it’s revealed she’s working for the Dark One and has already summoned a Fade to the town. Thom makes his third appearance and kills Dana with a throwing knife before urging our heroes to follow him to safety.
Finally, Lan asks Nynaeve for help with Moiraine. Her wound is now putrid and she’s dying. Nynaeve does all she can but isn’t as powerful a healer as a member of the Aes Sedai is. Lan leaves Moiraine in Nynaeve’s care and sets off for help. Come the episode’s conclusion he returns and we find that a large gathering of Aes Sedai is there as well. The episode ends with them showing Moiraine and Lan a man they’ve trapped in a cage; a man they’re claiming is the Dragon reborn.
A Slow Episode In an Otherwise Fun Show
There isn’t anything wrong with “A Place of Safety” per se, but it’s certainly the weakest of the episodes so far. Although we see the characters off on their own, we don’t see anything new from them. There are no hidden insights or deep revelations that are revealed during the show, which feels like a missed opportunity given how isolated they all are from each other. The only real conflict we get is Mat wanting to go home, which causes friction between him and Rand but is anything but surprising. We already know he doesn’t believe in the prophecy and that he’s only been following Moiraine this far so that he doesn’t get killed by Trollocs.
Even the barmaid’s villainous reveal feels lackluster, with her too-perfect-to-believe routine throughout the episode. Her motivation for turning on Ran and Mat is also fairly ambiguous, with the only real explanation being that she’s had visions of the group and has aligned herself with the Dark One because… well, we’re not sure. She just is.
Unlike previous episodes of The Wheel of Time, “A Place of Safety” ultimately lacks any real sense of urgency or danger. There’s no real fear that Moiraine will die (thanks, in part, to the spontaneous reappearance of Nynaeve). There are no serious concerns that the wolves will get to Perrin or Egwene (especially since we’ve seen Perrin befriend a group of them before). The only danger we’re presented with is Dana, and she’s dispatched quickly in the form of Deus ex Thom.
As frustrating as the third episode of The Wheel of Time was, it’s thankfully not a dealbreaker when it comes to continuing the series. Although it wasn’t a spectacular episode, it helped cement the group’s isolation, moved us closer to unveiling the mystery behind the reincarnation of the Dragon, and hinted at more than one villager having a connection to the One Power.
You can catch the next instalment of The Wheel of Time on Friday, November 26th, exclusively on Amazon Prime.