The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 6: Eyes Without Pity
Amazon Prime, 2023
Reviewed by Steven Poore
I’ve mentioned before that this adaptation of Robert Jordan’s enormous epic has been picking and choosing set pieces to focus upon and weaving its own way between them in a more streamlined and liberal fashion. Eyes Without Pity focuses on one of these situations, just as the second season’s third episode did with Nynaeve’s journey through the ter’angreal.
Sold out to the Seanchan, invaders who chain users of the one power and make them tools more than just slaves, the dramatic heart of this episode belongs to Egwene (Madeleine Madden) as she struggles against both her bonds and the emotional and physical torture inflicted by her new keeper Renna (Xelia Mendes-Jones). The scenes between them are properly dark, and special effects are used just enough to twist limbs and show the pain Egwene is subjected to without becoming cheesy. And in contrast to the “Marvelisation” of fantasy in the recent Dungeons & Dragons movie, where lasting consequences of actions felt glided over and left behind in favour of banter and cool action, by the end of the episode, Madden really does bring out the broken despair of her character. It’s as faithful to the source material as any fan could possibly want and a proper highlight of this season.
Elsewhere, Rand al’Thor’s adventures in dreamland bondage with Lanfear cause another rift between him and Moiraine – and as he seeks to escape Cairhein, Mat and Min (Donal Finn and Kae Alexander) arrive there, moved into his path by Ishamael. In this adaptation, Min is a much more ambivalent character, sworn to the Dark and trapped by her own foretellings. Thankfully, she is – so far at least – much less in thrall to Rand. One thing the show is doing very well is allowing the characters to exist outside Rand’s hunky heroicness. Lanfear (Natasha O’Keeffe) starts to come into her own as well now that she has dropped her Selene subterfuge, spinning webs so adroitly that you really cannot tell whose side she is on and even helping Rand to plot against Ishamael.
At least Mat becomes a part of Rand’s orbit once more – the first time the character has interacted with any of the other Emond’s Field crew since way back in season one. To be fair to Donal Finn, he has succeeded in taking over Barney Harris’s part in the role and, from my memory, has had a lot more to do so far. An instance where recasting between seasons has worked in the show’s favour.
Only Lan’s thread through the episode drags at the momentum – more sober growling in the dark – of what is the best episode of the season yet.