If I were to rank the Wheel of Time episodes we have so far, then Episode Five, “Blood Calls Blood,” would be one of the weaker episodes, only above the first episode “Leavetaking.”
I did enjoy “Blood Calls Blood,” it’s just that the episode is a bit of a mixed bag for me, containing many fantastic moments but also many questionable moments.
Directed by Salli Richardson-Whitefield, the episode begins with the aftermath of the brilliant Episode Four, “The Dragon Reborn,” with the Aes Sedai and their Warders mourning not just their fallen but also the fallen in Logain’s army, including the king he brought to his side.
The main focus, however, is definitely on Stepin, who is wracked with grief over the death of Kerene, as he buries her and removes her ring.
Although, in the first sign of some of the issues this episode would have later on, it is weird how shallow the graves are.
That said, there are also many good parts to this scene, along with the display Stepin’s grief, like Nynaeve tugging her braid, a moment show only fans will probably not take much note of but, for book readers, it is a nice touch for her character in the novels.
As well as this, the weather itself is also a great part of this scene, showing how much time is passing, taken even further with how the episode cuts to a month later after the opening credits.
What’s more, many of the characters also display signs of how much time has passed, specifically with Rand and Perrin, as their hair has grown considerably in the month timeskip.
Not only this, but all three groups of main characters have now made their way to the White Tower.
Moiraine’s group arrives without issue, except for Nynaeve still creating trouble for Moiraine by telling her she should be careful of her.
Yet, the arrival is much grimmer for Rand and Mat, because Mat’s condition is still deteriorating, with him being scared that he may have actually killed that family at the farm, but Rand insists he did not.
Sadly, though, if Rand and Mat’s situation is bad, then Perrin and Egwene’s is 100 times worse, as they are captured by Valda and the White Cloaks, probably the last group of people you want to be captured by… well, at least of the groups we have been introduced to so far.
Back to Egwene and Perrin, the Tinker’s try to help them escape, with Aram leading the way, but the White Cloaks are brutally efficient in their capture of them.
We then go from a scene of chaos to a scene of calm, as Rand is investigating a library at the inn they are staying at, when he is confronted by a kind hearted Ogier named Loial, another fan favourite from the books.
Now, I’ll be honest, I saw some leaked images for Loial long before I saw this episode and I was not impressed.
The practical effects just made him look too cheesy.
That said, I really should have waited to see him in motion before I judged because, after watching Loial’s scenes in “Blood Calls Blood,” I actually think he looks pretty good.
Certainly not how I or many others probably imagined him, but good.
Then there’s his actor, Hammed Animashaun, who knocks it completely out of stedding.
As soon as he started talking, I was like, “well, there’s another example of perfect casting in this show.”
Seriously, the casting director deserves a raise for how amazing of a job they did choosing actors to play these characters.
Loial’s charming nature also works a lot like Thom’s did in Episodes Three and Four.
In those episodes, his personality allowed him to deliver exposition in a way that did not feel like we were being spoken down to, and Loial does exactly this.
He even brings up how Rand looks like an Aeilman, the group of people whose culture Thom introduced to us in “A Place of Saftey.”
But this pleasant conversation is interrupted when Loial informs Rand they are bringing the defeated Logain to show to the people, and Rand sees Mat going to look.
He chases after his friend, eventually finding him looking at the scene from a balcony, only for Logain to look right at Mat and burst into manic laughter.
This causes Mat to try and make a deal with Rand, saying one will kill the other if they ever start channeling.
It is at this point, that I have to mention the easter eggs in Rand and Mat’s storyline because, oh blood and bloody ashes, were these amazing.
I’ll go into more detail about what these easter eggs were in the spoiler section so not to spoil any potential show only viewers that may read this, but know that they are by far my favourite moment of the episode.
It is an incredible showcase of subtlety.
Following this scene between Rand and Mat, we go back to the White Tower, where Stepin is preparing for the ceremony to send off Kerene.
He tells the story of his past and how it lead to meeting Kerene in a tragic performance from Peter Franzen.
We then see the actual ceremony, where Stephin kisses Kerene’s ring and then melts it in a flaming pit overlooking the city.
Once this ceremony is over, Lan goes to Moiraine, stroking her ring and showing just how deep the Warder bond goes.
However, this touching scene then cuts to a grim one as Egwene is stipped by the Whitecloaks, scrubbed down and redressed in a violating scene, that shows the sickness of Valda, as he has her tied to a chair and Perrin tied down over a board.
Valda’s intuition is unfortunately sharp, as he deduces Egwene is not an Aes Sedai through her lying, but still knows she can channel.
So, he begins to cruely torture Perrin in front of her, telling her he will kill him if she does not channel and kill her if she can, leaving the decision of who dies to them.
It is during this brutal torture, that we also get a glimpse of Perrin’s abilities, as his eyes glow golden, before Valda leaves them.
The episode then leaves them temporarily to cut to Nynaeve, who is greeted by Stepin asking for something to help him sleep.
When it is actually revealed what Stepin intends to do with this sleeping medicine, the scene becomes much more chilling on rewatch but, on first viewing, it merey serves as a means for these two characters to bond, and for Nynaeve to be allowed a way out.
She is quickly confronted by Liandrin with her scheming but Nynaeve is naturally still resistant to her manipulations.
Up until this point, the episode is great, with many standout moments, like Loial’s introduction, the easter eggs during Rand and Mat’s storyline, and the gruesome display of Valda’s brutality against Perrin and Egwene.
However, it is here that we get the first of the problems that bring “Blood Calls Blood” down for me.
The first of these problems is the scene after Nynaeve and Liandrin’s encounter, which sees Loial lead Nynaeve to Rand and Mat.
The reason this scene does not work for me is because of how abrupt it is.
Nynaeve is exploring the tower in one scene, and in the next she has been taken to Rand and Mat.
It is like there was an entire scene of Nynaeve meeting Loial that was cut.
At least it does lead to a further display of Mat’s corruption when he violently pushes Nynaeve awat, and we also get Nynaeve’s touching story of how Egwene pulled through from a deadly infection, potentially hinting at how she first began to channel.
What follows is the the next scene of Perrin and Egwene, which is equal parts fantastic and badly shot.
To be fair, the fantastic stuff does come first, with some excellent acting from Marcus Rutherford and Madeleine Madden, as Perrin confesses to accidentally killing his wife, in an attempt to get Egwene to agree with his decision to sacrifice himself.
I may still feel conflicted about the whole Perrin killing his wife storyline but Rutherford’s acting really sold this moment.
Egwene then uses her chanelling to free Perrin while distracting Valda, causing Perrin to lunge forward, eyes pure golden, as wolves howl around them.
Valda is naturally terrified of Perrin, allowing Egwene the chance to break free and stab the Questioner.
The two then run outside and it is here that the bad shots unfortunately come into play.
I thought the shots of the wolves in “A Place of Saftey” were pretty bad and these ones are much the same, with constant cuts to try and hide the miniature size of the wolves, making the whole action scene look like a bad made for TV movie.
This really sticks out like a sore thumb when the rest of the episode is so well made.
On a more interesting note, though, Egwene has taken back the rings Valda stole from the Aes Sedai he murdered so that is a plus, since it should be able to get them into the White Tower.
Speaking of the tower, inside we see more of Linadrin’s scheming, this time against Moiraine, but Liandrin should have known this would not turn out in her favor.
Then we see Lan observing Stepin performing a ritual to ward off the evil of the Foresaken, people who served the Dark One, including Ishamael.
There seems to be eight of these Foresaken, and they were all sealed away by the previous Dragon.
Following this, we see Moiraine talking with Alanna, as she is worried about dying and leaving Lan without her.
Alanna reassures her but points out they have bigger things to worry about, like the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche, wanting blood for them gentling Logain without a trial.
Moiraine assures her the situation is under control, but between the Amyrin and Liandrin, Alanna is concerned.
We then get the scene right before disaster, as Lan drinks with Steppin, who questions him about Nynaeve’s obvious feelings for him.
Lan naturally resists such ideas, which is perfectly in character for him at this point.
Stepin is supportive, however, saying that without it life is intolerable.
These words take on so much more meaning when Lan discovers Stepin has killed himself the next morning after drugging him.
It was Stepin’s final goodbye to Lan, encouraging him to embrace Nynaeve’s feelings.
Then comes the final scene of the episode, the funeral for Stepin, where Lan is given the role of expressing everyone’s grief, in a wonderful display of custom for the show.
Both Rosamund Pike and Daniel Henney’s acting during this scene make it very emotional, and really drew me into the scene.
Many are unsure about it because of how stoic Lan was in the books compared to this but I think it works… until the last show.
That last damn shot.
As Lan is weeping, he suddenly rips open his robe, baring his chest in such a melodramatic moment that it made me laugh out loud.
He looked like a rock star baring his chest to make the fans go wild or something.
It ruined the moment.
If the episode had ended before this shot, the scene would have been great but, unfortunately, they decided to include this over dramatic moment, ending the episode on an unintentionally hilarious moment rather than the emotional one they were going for.
It is scenes like this, Nynaeve’s abrupt arrival, and the cheesy shot composition of Perrin and Egwene’s escape that really brought this episode down for me.
Still, the rest of the episode is legitimaely great and I have heard rumors that the next one, which I have not watched yet, is one of the best of the season so I have that to look forward to.
Book Spoiler Section:
Alright, so let’s talk about those fantastic Padan Fain easter eggs.
I remember watching the scene where Logain is paraded through the streets, hearing laughter, and then briefly seeing Padan Fain sleeking off before the shot cut.
Que a moment of panic from me as I quickly fast forward back to see if I had seen that right and, sure enough, there he is, hidden in the background.
He even appears in an earlier shot when Rand and Mat are entering the inn, whistling his chilling tune as he watches them.
I love how they are subtly pointing to Fain’s pursuit of Rand, rather than making it obvious, like it kind of was in the first book.
It makes me hopeful for Fain’s future in the show as well, since he became a weak antagonist for me after the Great Hunt.
As for another antagonist, Valda, I found his portrayal interesting.
I had heard theories that he would be merged with the Darkfriend White Cloak Carridin, but his speech about the Light to Egwene while he is torturing Perrin makes me think that is unlikely.
Another thing I loved was how the show is continuing to misdirect show only viewers about the identity of the Dragon Reborn.
They’ll see Logain laughing while the focus is on Mat and think he is the Dragon Reborn, and won’t realise that Logain was actually laughing at Rand until later.
Rand also saying he recognises Dragon Mount was a nice touch.
As for Stepin’s scenes, these moments are entirely show original, and I quite liked what they did for the world building by showcasing the bond between an Aes Sedai and her Warder, which we will hopefully see more of when we get to Moiraine’s sacrifice, whenever “The Fires of Heaven” is adapted.
There’s also the mention of the Foresaken, foreshadowing their arrival, which I am also excited for.
However, there are only eight of them instead of thirteen from the looks of things, so some of them will most likely be merged together.
Along with Ishamael I can clearly recognise Graendal, Semirhage and Asmodean, among a few others, so it will be interesting to see which Foresaken makes the cut in the future of the show.
Overall, the book changes and divergances were quite good this episode, despite “Blood Calls Blood’s” issues.