The Wheel of Time episode 5 brought some of the three plot lines closer together as five of the seven main characters make it to the city of Tar Valon. But the episode took some time to breathe and to show what happens when a Warder bond breaks. Stepin, the Warder who attacked Logain in the last episode, is grieving the loss of his Aes Sedai.
In short, episode 5 explored how grief manifests. Everyone reacts differently to the loss of someone close to them. The Wheel of Time takes it to the next level, including two very emotional scenes with Lan. And with Perrin and Egwene, we got to see more of the Whitecloaks’ brutality, further cementing how awful this particular group of religious zealots can be.
So, let's dive into the next chapter of Amazon Prime Video's The Wheel of Time adaptation (and check out our The Wheel of Time episode 4 recap and review to catch up, if you haven't). And then head over to our The Wheel of Time episode 6 recap and review when you're done here.
The Wheel of Time episode 5 recap: Reaching Tar Valon
Episode 5 saw Moiraine, Lan, Nynaeve, Rand and Mat all reach the city of Tar Valon, the home of the White Tower and the Aes Sedai. A month has passed since the events of the last episode and the Warder, Stepin, was still grieving the loss of Kerene.
At the end of episode 4, Nynaeve showed us her raw strength in the One Power as she healed everyone hurt by Logain’s attack. Since then, the former Two Rivers Wisdom has kept to herself, with Lan commenting that she’d barely spoken to him. Moiraine expressed some doubt that Nynaeve was ready for the White Tower.
The three eventually reached the Tower. Moiraine hid Nynaeve away in a spare room in the Warders’ quarters while Lan helped comfort Stepin. After a ceremony, Lan stayed the night with Stepin to comfort him, but Stepin drugged him. Lan woke up in the morning to find Stepin missing. He eventually found him in a hallway, Stepin having committed suicide in his grief.
Meanwhile, Rand and Mat also arrived in Tar Valon and made their way to an inn that Thom had recommended. Mat’s sickness has continued to grow worse — with him lashing out at a child on the road to the city — but he and Rand got a room for the night before heading to the White Tower.
While Mat rested, Rand headed into the inn’s library, where he met Loial (Hammed Animashaun), an Ogier. Ogier are large humanoid creatures, deeply intelligent and kind. Loial attempted to get to know Rand, calling him an “Aiel man,” much to Rand’s confusion.
The Aes Sedai paraded a gentled Logain through the city streets while Mat and Rand watched from a balcony. They made a promise to not let each other fall as far as Logain had — much like a suicide pact.
Loial managed to enter the White Tower grounds and eventually brought Nynaeve to the inn to see Rand, following Rand’s description of a Two Rivers woman (Rand probably meant Egwene, but Loial must have focused on the braid).
Egwene and Perrin continued to travel with the Tinkers toward Tar Valon, but Whitecloaks stopped them. Eamon Valda, the Questioner from episode 2, recognized Perrin and Egwene and ordered their capture. Valda was convinced that Egwene is an Aes Sedai and tortured Perrin to make her confess. He eventually gave her a choice: if she channeled, Valda would kill her and let Perrin go, or if she didn’t channel, Valda would kill Perrin and let her go.
Egwene decided to channel, setting Perrin free of his bonds in the process. Wolves attacked the Whitecloak camp and the two escaped into the night.
The Wheel of Time episode 5 review: A slow burn
Tar Valon is gorgeous, especially with the Dragonmount volcano off in the distance. The city is a hub of trade and culture for the world, and the show did a good job of showing off the sheer amount of diversity and bustle. Inside the Tower itself, even the tiniest designs look awesome. The floors, doors, arches, and statues all lent a sense of history and mystery to the Tower, giving depth to the building that has stood for thousands of years.
Once again, the acting performances were fantastic across the board. Hammed’s depiction of Loial was just excellent, showing a kind, excitable Ogier. While I’m not wholly sold on the over design for the character, I think the actor did an amazing job with his few minutes of screentime.
The episode focused on Stepin’s grief at losing his Aes Sedai. Grief is a complex thing and, unfortunately, the Warder is unable to handle the pain. Depression is horrible and some people don’t survive it. Stepin’s determination to end his pain even saw him drug a friend so that he could end his life on his own terms. That’s not a man in a rational state of mind.
The funeral scene at the end bothered me on my initial watch because of how expressive Lan was, but I started to appreciate it later. In the books, Lan is initially a stoney, stoic man, but the show allowed him to show more emotion. Daniel Henney’s performance is just incredible, showing a man grieving the loss of a friend. The raw emotion in that scene moved me because I know what it’s like to lose someone close to you, and I know what it feels like to have depression try to bury you.
Perrin and Egwene’s plot line finally got interesting, and it made me dislike the Whitecloaks more than I ever did reading the books. Valda himself is a nasty piece of work and Abdul Salis’ portrayal of him is just so creepy. I loved and hated the intense feeling of discomfort I had while watching the Perrin/Egwene scenes, especially when the Whitecloaks started beating the peaceful Tinkers.
Rand and Mat once again get the short end of the stick in this episode with very little development. Seeing Loial was great, since he’s one of my favorite characters, and I really enjoyed seeing the two boys reunite with Nynaeve. Mat’s worsening sickness made me feel bad for him. How is the show going to handle this going forward?
But I’m really hoping to see more of Rand and Mat’s journey because I think it has a lot to offer us, so I’m praying the next episode comes through on that front.
The Wheel of Time episode 5 outlook
At first, episode 5 felt like a bit of letdown after episode 4’s intensity. But following a rewatch and more consideration, I realized how important the episode actually is. Not only does it continue some excellent character development, but it also took a huge step in worldbuilding. The show is really building up to showing off the Aes Sedai culture and politics, and I can’t wait to see the payoff.
Episode 6 comes out on December 10 and, if Brandon Sanderson is to be believed, it might be the best one yet. (Sanderson finished writing The Wheel of Time books following Jordan’s death, and the showrunners brought him in as a consultant, so he’s seen at least some of the first season.)