Wheel of Time, Episode Six, The Flame of Tar Valon, Review: More Than Pillow Friends.

Directed by Salli Richardson-Whitefield, Episode Six of The Wheel of Time, “The Flame of Tar Valon,” was an episode many fans were interested to see.
This was because it is supposedly Brandon Sanderson’s favourite episode of the season.
After seeing it, I can see why because it definitely is one of the best episodes, but I would personally put it behind Episode Four, “The Dragon Reborn,” and Episode Seven, “The Dark Along the Ways,” which I will review later.
“The Flame of Tar Valon” kicks off with the backstory of Siuan Saunche, the Amyrlin Seat, who lived in a small fishing hut with her father in Tear.
The young Siuan (Kiera Chasna) has begun to Chanel and her father warns her to be careful no one sees but this warning comes too late, as the two return to find their hut burned to the ground and a Dragon’s Fang signed into the remains.
This causes Siuan’s father to reluctantly send her to the White Tower, where she goes on to become the Amyrlin Seat many years later.
On that note, I will say that the acting for this initial scene was fantastic.
This is especially the case for Peter de Jersey, who plays Siuan’s father.
In a single scene he actually almost made me tear up during the emotional goodbye to his daughter. 

De Jersey’s performance shows how great the casting of this show is, since they made sure to get great actors for even minor roles.

After this opening, the episode cuts to the present with the Amyrlin’s trial of Logain and following interrogation of Moiraine, Liandrin, and Alanna.
The introduction of Siuan (Sophie Okonedo) is well handled, with a great transition from a panning shot to a high angle looking down, as the shot also incorporates CGI to show the grandness of the Hall of the Tower.
We then get a pretty intimidating first impression of Siuan, as Logain is brought in for his trial.
The False Dragon appears to be pointlessly trying to show strength by gloating about killing Kerene, however Siuan quickly deduces that he is trying to anger her so she will kill him.
Knowing this is what he wants because of the loss created by Logain’s gentling, the effects of which were explained by Thom in Episode Four, Siuan decides to give Logain the most fitting of punishments.
Logain will be forced to live so he can serve as an example to other False Dragons, and he is dragged off screaming out of the Hall, begging for death.
This done, Siuan turns to Moiraine, Liandrin and Alanna, berating them for violating tower law by gentling Logain without a trial.
In the end, Liandrin and Alanna are able to avoid trouble, however Moiraine is not becsause Liandrin turns the attention onto her.
Siuan demands to know where Moiraine has been all this time but she has to say nothing because, since she cannot lie, she would have to reveal she has been searching for the Dragon Reborn, which would create chaos and likely not end well for her.
So, she tells Siuan she cannot say, and the enraged Amyrlin berates her before delcaring she will decide her punishment tomorrow.
This allows Moiraine some time to track down the missing Emonds’ Fielders, the first two of which she tracks down is Rand and Mat by having Lan follow Nynaeve.
Rand leaps to Mat’s defence, afraid Moiraine will gentle him because he can channel, however it is as this point that it is revealed that the reason for Mat’s sickness is not channeling but the cursed dagger he stole from Shadar Logoth.
This was a great scene, providing more examples of the actors’ prowess.
Barney Harris’ “bless his heart, he tries,” was charmingly funny and Rosamund Pike’s “you stupid boy” was excellently delivered. 

The performances of Pike and Harris were fantastic during the dagger scene.

Moiraine saving Mat from the sickness of the cursed dagger makes Rand trust her more, whle Moiraine tells him that if Mat was ordinary then the dagger would have consumed him long ago, saying that if he touches it again he might be lost forever.
It is that this moment that Nynaeve comes in, ready to berate Moiraine, only to have this turned on her instead, as Moiraine condemns her for not informing her about the boys, especially since she knew of Mat’s condition.
Moiraine then takes it even further by stating, “if wisdom is the title you claim, I suggest you start using some.” 
What a fantastic line and an epic burn for Nynaeve.
Yet Moiraine still faces trouble, even when relaxing, as she meets one of the Blue Ajah Sitters, Maigan, who tells her that she will convince Siuan to allow Moiraine to stay at the tower.
Moiraine has no intention of staying, however, since it will be dangerous for whoever the Dragon Reborn turns out to be, especially if its Rand, Mat or Perrin.
Speaking of Perrin, though, Moiraine tracks him and Egwene down next, and Egwene gives her the rings taken by Valda, while Moiraine tells them to prepare to leave soon.
Then, we get the big twist of the episode, as Moiraine uses a Ter’angreal in the portrait seen in her room during the previous episode to transport herself to meet with Siuan.
The two are revealed to be lovers, just acting like they are at odds to avoid suspicion while they search for the Dragon Reborn.
I quite liked how this facade was slowly unveiled compared to the books where its just spoken of rather than shown.
Their romantic relationship is also something new since, in the books, they were described as once being “pillow friends” but that was the extent of it, really.

I like the change of Moiraine and Siuan’s relationship and I will get into why further in the book spoilers section.

After the reveal of their true relationship, Siuan reveals she has been dreaming about the Dark One at the Eye of the World, so Moiraine decides that Siuan must banish her so she can take whoever the Dragon turns out to be to stop him.
This plan has a slight hitch, however, because Liandrin’s own agents have uncovered the Emond’s Fielders Moiraine is hiding.
She is quick to deal with this problem, though, shutting Liandrin up by blackmailing her with the information that she is seeing a man in Northharbour.
With this done, Moiraine continues to initiate her plan, recruiting Loial’s aid, and reuniting Egwene with Nynaeve.
This also had a moment that cracked me up when Nynaeve is grumpily telling Lan as they walk into the room, “If you can’t lead the world from a room built of wood and dirt, how can you call yourself a leader?”
That is classic, stubborn Nynaeve right there.
The scene somehow only gets funnier with Moiraine’s “Siuan Saunche waits for only one woman and it’s not you,” comment, and Egwene looking prideful when Siuan says one of them is the most powerful chaneller in a thousand years, only for her to visibly deflate when Siuan says it’s Nynaeve.
I did not expect this episode to have some of the funniest moments of the series so far going in, so that was a pleasant surprise. 

“The Flame of Tar Valon” really had some great humor.

After these great jokes, the scene turns serious as Siuan informs Nynaeve and Egwene of the coming of the Last Battle, telling them the only thing that matters is what they do.
It is interesting how she only gives this conversation to Egwene and Nynaeve, potentially because she hopes the Dragon Reborn is one of them and not Rand, Mat or Perrin, since a male channeler would go insane eventually.
Once this is done, we get the most emotional scene of the episode, where Siuan is forced to banish Moiraine to protect their mission of helping the Dragon Reborn.
It is here that Moiraine repeats the exact same words to Siuan that her father did at the beginning of the episode, showing how much she loves her.
Probably the only thing that kept me from tearing up here was the funny idea of the other Aes Sedai overhearing this and realising the two have been in cahoots this whole time.
Although, I guess Moiraine whispered that part so it does make sense that no one was suspicious.
There is one part of this scene that I am not too sure of, though, but that is book spoilers so I will leave it for that section of the post.
Once Moiraine’s banishment is done, she, Lan, Loial, and the five Emond’s Fielders head for the Waygate, which Loial will use to guide them to the Eye of the World.
However, as they’re going through, Mat refuses to follow and the episode ends with him being left behind as the Waygate closes on everyone else.
If this seemed like a weird scene to you, it’s probably because Barney Harris actually left the show at this point, most likely for personal reasons, so he will not be in the rest of the series.
Donal Finn has been cast as Mat from Season Two onwards and I hope he can do just as great as job as Harris.
I would also like to praise Harris for his performance.
He was a fantastic Mat Cauthon and I am quite sad to see him go, since his performance was one of my favourites.
I hope that for whatever reasons he left the show he is able to get back on his feet and continue acting because he is quite talented.

Goodbye Barney Harris. You did an excellent job as Mat.

Overall, “The Flame of Tar Valon” is definitely one of the best episodes of The Wheel of Time so far.   
And the next one is even better. 



 

Book Spoilers:

So, let’s talk about the expansion of Moiraine and Siuan’s relationship, compared to the books.
The way I read the description of their relationship in the novels is that by being pillow friends they were in a friends with benefits agreement that stopped some time before the present story began.
In the show, however, they are going all the way with the romantic relationship and I actually quite like this change because it adds a new dynamic to both their characters.
It will also be interesting to see how this progresses, considering that Moiraine ends up with Thom in the books and Siuan ends up with Gareth Bryne.
Although, I don’t think I am alone in saying that Moiraine’s relationship with Thom came out of nowhere in the books, so I am glad she has a romantic relationship in the show that actually feels earned.
As for the thing I was unsure of during the banishment scene between Moiraine and Siuan, it was Siuan using the Oath Rod to make sure Moiraine stays banished until she calls her back.
I may be wrong about this, but making her swear on the Oath Rod would meet quite a lot of backlash in the Tower, considering how something similar happened with Elaida in the Gathering Storm, when she tried to add a new oath that everyone had to obey the Amyrlin.
So, wouldn’t Siuan ordering Moiraine away using the Oath Rod cause similar backlash from the Aahs?
Or maybe I am mistaking this and it is just the addition to the Three Oaths that they would take issue with.  
Moving on, the next member of the cast I want to talk about for the book spoilers section is Mat, specifically how he is described as having a darkness in him.
This is certainly a change from the books, considering that Siuan describes him as someone who would run into the fire for his friends and Mat proves this multiple times.
I hope this part of his character is intact when he comes back played by Donal Flinn in Season Two.
Now, I would like to talk about Liandrin again, specifically the scene where Moiraine blackmails her with her knowledge of the man she has in Northharbour.
What if this man is a Darkfriend contact of hers?
It could be Padan Fain, or someone else.
We’ll probably get a better idea of who this Darkfriend is, if he is one, next season.

I wonder how Liandrin’s connections to the Black Ajah will be revealed in the show?

About that next season, though, one specific hint gave me a feeling of dread for what is about to happen in that season.
When meeting with Moiraine, Maigan says she might be going to track ship disappearances in the west.
This is almost certainly hinting at the Seanchan, one of the best detestible people in The Wheel of Time story.
The thought of seeing them gives me both a feeling of excitement and dread for the pain and suffering they will inflict.
I would say that I quite liked a few of the changes to the books in this episode.
The only one I had a massive issue with was Mat staying behind but I’m forgiving of that because it’s understandable, considering Barney Harris had to leave.
I can definitely see why this might be Brandon Sanderson’s favourite episode of the season. 

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