Wheel of Time

The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 2: Strangers and Friends on Amazon Prime #TVReview #WoT #Fantasy #WheelOfTime

The Wheel of Time Season 2, Episode 2: Strangers and Friends

Amazon Prime, 2023

Reviewed by Steven Poore

If the first episode was a rumble, a shudder of portents and tensions, then Strangers and Friends is the sound of real fractures on the road beneath the Wheel of Time. And that road continues to diverge from Robert Jordan’s original series of novels – which is in my opinion at least, a very good thing. Rather than trying to stuff the continent-spanning story of the second book, The Great Hunt, into a short season of episodes, Rafe Judkins’ writing team has sensibly woven a different tapestry around several set pieces. Purists will howl (or tug their braids), but some of these changes are rather clever in tone and add to the characters rather than take away from them.

Warning! There may be spoilers in the rest of this review.

Right, you were warned.

Rand, The Dragon Reborn, has gone to ground as a hospital porter in the city of Cairhien, looking after broken veterans of the Aiel War. As he knows he’s doomed to go mad for embracing the male side of the source, this is a pretty neat way for him to exculpate his sins, or balance the scales – except that he has an ulterior motive too. Logain (Alvaro Morte), captured and gentled by Aes Sedai last season, is being held in more secure quarters at the hospital, and Rand wants Logain’s help. As well as showing Rand’s conflicted nature, it’s a nice way to introduce more of the world’s history and the swordforms most readers will be familiar with. Traditionalists will also be pleased to note the introduction of femme fatale Selene (Natasha O’Keeffe) as Rand’s landlady and lover.

Further west, Perrin and Shienaran soldiers are on the trail of the Horn of Valere, alongside wolf-eyed tracker Elyas (Gary Beadle). While Guy Roberts chews scenery and dialogue viciously as the warrior Uno, Perrin struggles with his own wolf-sight abilities. The sets here are a mix of Western frontier towns and familiar low-budget fantasy, not quite matching the visions of Tar Valon. The night fight in the village of Atuan’s Mill, however, is excellently chaotic, and the choreography and the decision to follow Perrin as he is dragged through the street are very well done. Oh, and one can never have enough of Fares Fares onscreen.

In the Tower, Kate Fleetwood’s Liandrin Sedai continues to try to manipulate Nynaeve and Egwene, and both women dig their heels in stubbornly. Liandrin has secrets of her own, not least of which is that she has Mat Cauthon locked in a basement. In a cell next to Min Farshaw, no less. We also get to meet Elayne Trakand (Cera Coveney), Daughter-Heir to Andor, who has been sent to be a novice at the Tower. Aes Sedai politics is already getting twisty and extremely dangerous, and it’s plain to us if not to Nynaeve and Egwene themselves, that they are in deep over their heads.

Moiraine’s own subtle plotting takes a back seat role in this episode, letting us focus on the other strands woven by the Wheel. It’s more assured, darker, this time around than in the first season, and again, all the better for it – it’ll reward a second viewing.

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