The Wheel of Time Season One Watch-Along – Episode Three: “A Place of Safety”
Updated: Nov 28, 2021
We get a breather! After two fast-paced episodes, Episode Three slows down to focus on character interactions, a natural storytelling progression given that our characters are broken up into groups following their flight from Shadar Logoth. Before I dive into that, though, I’d like to spare a moment to talk about the cinematography. The cinematography was great in the first two episodes as well, with Episode Two featuring an abundance of beautiful drone shots, but it was this episode when I fully realized how breathtaking the visuals in this show are and will continue to be. That moment came not during any action sequence or flashy montage, but during a scene in which Nynaeve is standing in a forest, collecting herbs. As the camera revolves around her, we see the emerald green moss at her feet and the darker, foreboding green of the surrounding pine trees enveloping her and blending into her own forest-green clothing as the lightest of mists seems to hang in the air. It is a beautiful monochromatic visual composition; if the show can continually bring this level of cinematographic excellence, we are certainly in for a visual treat.
Speaking of Nynaeve, the episode opens with a sequence that shows how she survived Winternight – by escaping from her trolloc captor, luring it into a pool of water, and stabbing it to death with its own sword. As a book reader, I can attest – Nynaeve is nothing if not courageous and resourceful. Her storyline in this episode revolves around her decision to heal Moiraine, who has been rendered unconscious by a poisoned wound she received fighting the trollocs on Winternight. With Moiraine sidelined, Daniel Henney as Lan finally gets to speak more than a few lines of dialogue, and his verbal sparring with Nynaeve, who has to be won over to help Moiraine, is sure to delight fans of the books who know what lies in store for the relationship between these two characters. Henney has been competent throughout these three episodes, but it was refreshing to see him have a bit more to do here, acting-wise. Lan is a stoic character overall, and so far I don’t think the show has really managed to bring out much of a personality, but that’s something that takes a considerable amount of time in the books, so this isn’t really a failure – I just want to see Lan get to do more things.
Perrin and Egwene’s storyline is a little thin in this episode. In my last post, I stated that I wanted to see more from Perrin this episode, and I still haven’t really gotten it yet, although Marcus Rutherford is giving a fine performance with the material he’s been given so far. In this episode, Perrin and Egwene basically just run from some wolves and end up coming across a group of the Tuatha’an, or the Tinkers, a group of pacifistic nomads who have an undeserved bad rap as swindlers and thieves, who take them in and feed them. I’m hoping that we still get Elyas Machera in the show, but this episode has me doubtful. Still, for those viewers who are noting the development of the connection between Perrin and wolves that was established by Perrin’s first encounter with wolves in the previous episode…let’s just say that that connection is there for a reason.
Rand and Mat have the most substantial storyline in this episode, which involves them fleeing Shadar Logoth and hiking over mountainous terrain before arriving at the show-original town of Breen Spring, which appears to be located at the bottom of a quarry. So yes, this means we won’t be getting the delightful ship captain Bayle Domon, who helps Rand and Mat flee from Shadar Logoth in the books, in the first season, but there’s still hope that he could show up again somewhere down the line; I’m mainly just sad that we don’t get the iconic scene of Rand climbing to the top of the mast of Domon’s ship in the show. Oh, well. At Breen Spring, Rand and Mat encounter the gleeman Thom Merrilin (Alexandre Willaume), who is performing at the local tavern. This is a change from the books, in which Thom is present in Emond’s Field on Winternight and accompanies our main characters as they flee the Two Rivers. After the escape from Shadar Logoth in the books, however, Thom does end up going with Rand and Mat, so at least he is correctly located in their slice of the story here. Willaume is the first actor about whom I am unsure – not because his performance is bad, but because his version of Thom, at least in this episode, is radically different from how Thom is presented in the books. In the books, Thom is late-middle-aged verging into old, with droopy white mustaches and a kind and avuncular nature. Willaume, who is 48 years old and who certainly does not have white mustaches, plays Thom with a rougher edge, an edge that is equally reflected in his rough and unrefined singing voice, which has nothing in common with book Thom, whose performances are always mannered and courtly. I’m going to need more time with this character to see how he develops in the show, but so far, he doesn’t feel like the Thom with whom I am familiar.
In Breen Spring, Rand and Mat are both charmed by a comely barmaid who turns out to be a darkfriend – evil people who have pledged themselves to the Dark One – and who tries to turn them over to one of the eyeless Myrddraal. This plotline works well, as it illustrates something that the books emphasize again and again – you never know who is evil, and danger is all around. Likewise, the episode illustrates how the darkfriends function as a vast network poised to do the Dark One’s bidding, as the barmaid explains that she has been receiving visions of our main characters in her dreams along with instructions to bring the Dragon to the Dark One. Thom dispatches the barmaid with a knife to the throat, and accompanies Rand and Mat as they flee the town together. One important piece of information that is revealed here is that the forces of the Shadow do not necessarily want to kill the Dragon – rather, they want to bring him to the Dark One to be corrupted and swayed to their side. It’s an interesting motivation that we will see explored in more detail as the story continues.
Less happens in this episode than in the previous two, but it was nice to have a bit of a break. The appearance of newly-captured false Dragon Logain Ablar (Alvaro Morte) at the end of the episode promises that we will see more of his story, which showrunner Rafe Judkins has said will be expanded from its incarnation in the books, in the following episode. Be sure to tune in to Amazon Prime Video on Friday, November 26th to see Episode Four!
Dr. Nolan Boyd is currently Visiting Instructor of English at the University of South Florida. He graduated with a PhD in English Literature and a Graduate Certificate in Women's Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Miami University in 2020. His scholarship analyzes the cultural work performed by cinema and contemporary literature, and particularly by representations of queerness and disability. He also serves as a peer reviewer for the journal.