Post Mortems

The Wheel of Time: Rosamund Pike Talks Moiraine's High-Stakes Romance, New Worlds About to Be Visited

wheel time 1x06

The following contains spoilers from the Dec. 10 episode of Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time.

Season 1 of Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time adaptation has thus far been a long, violent, and often magical journey from the once-safe confines of the Two Rivers, all the way to the bustling White Tower in Tar Valon, which is definitely the show’s most fascinating setting yet.

Episode 6, aptly named “The Flame of Tar Valon,” finally settles into a single, and certainly lively location, with Moiraine (played by Rosamund Pike) deftly navigating the leering eyes of her rival Aes Sedai. And as she does so, the leader — or “Amyrlin Seat” — of the colorful channelers, Siuan Sanche (Sophie Okonedo), makes a powerful impression from the start.

With only two episodes remaining in Season 1, TVLine spike with Rosamund Pike to discuss Moiraine’s complicated role in the story thus far, some illuminating context behind this week’s romantic reveal, and a few intriguing teases for the next few episodes and even Season 2, which is currently filming.

TVLINE | This week’s episode came across to me like your biggest one so far. But is it safe to say there’s plenty more we’re about to get with Moiraine before the Season 1 finale?
Yes, this is the episode where you really see the inner conflict with Moiraine’s world and you realize that she is sacrificing everything for this cause. And you suddenly realize what the stakes truly are for her on a personal and global level. I think until this point, people might not have realized quite how much she is “going it alone,” what the potential jeopardy is for her personally, and what she’s sacrificing to see this cause through to the end — this cause of delivering the Dragon to the Dark One in the final battle.

With this kind of woman who seemed really cold and in control, I think it’s probably a kind of cartwheel for people’s brains to suddenly see that underneath there are all these other layers and things at play. And hopefully people will end up with more respect on a human level for Moiraine.

TVLINE | What do you think is the connection between Moiraine’s personal life and this mission she’s clearly passionate about?
Well, the backstory is that some 20 years ago, Moiraine had a mentor at the White Tower called Gitara Moroso, who had a vision of the Dragon being born again. And it was so powerful, the vision, almost like it came from inside her, but she died having the vision. And Moiraine and Siuan were the two who were there in the room with her when this happened.

I think Moiraine took the cause in a particularly deeply felt way, because she felt there was great significance in this moment of her being given this information. She was going to sacrifice everything to see through what she perceived as her duty. One of the things that she doesn’t reveal to very many people, but which is obviously preying on her mind, is that whoever comes between the Dragon and the Dark One will die. And I think this is the cause for which Moiraine is prepared to die. And that is a very unusual thing for any character, it’s tremendously brave and courageous.

However you judge Moiraine — and you might perceive her being sort of cold and calculating — you suddenly in this episode realize, “Oh, s–t. She understands that whoever gets between the Dragon and the Dark One will die, and that is her. My god, she’s prepared to die for this cause.” And she is. Who’s she going to take down with her, is the question. If she can’t find out which one of them is the Dragon, is she going to take them all?

TVLINE | This episode gets into what the Blue Aes Sedai are supposed to represent and what they’re tasked to do, to find secrets all over the world. How do you think Moiraine fits that role and function for this group?
I can’t talk too much about Season 2 yet, but one of the things I’m really relishing is how much we start to understand about the Blue Ajah, and quite how far-reaching their informants are. There’s a reason that they have this reputation for being the followers of causes and trading in information, and being better-informed, probably, than any other Ajah. It’s basically kind of like MI-6 [Laughs]. The world of MI-6, with huge networks of informants and people, either through fear, coercion, bribery, respect, any number of ways people get information.

She’s got many, many people in her employ, so in Episode 5, when she says to Lan, “If they’re there, we’ll find them. If they’re in Tar Valon, we’ll find them. And if they’re not, well, we’ll find them,” it comes off as very, very casual, but of course she will find them. She has the means to track people down. You’re clearly a fan of the books, so do you remember in The Eye of the World where she gives these tokens to the boys?

TVLINE | Right, I was looking out for those.
And that allows her to track them. We don’t have that in the series, but she has other ways of following people. But yes, I think the Blue Ajah is the one I would also be in if I were to be an Aes Sedai. [Laughs] We have these discussions off-set, sometimes… I won’t mention names, but we definitely have Aes Sedai who are like, “I think my character in another life would have chosen differently.” But me and Moiraine are definitely happy to be Blue.

TVLINE | It sounds like you’re steeped in the lore at this point, which must be a lot of fun. But what is even your process for reading this character? Do you take notes?
Yes, I take notes and go back to the books. And I often think, “Have I got it wrong?” And then, I think, “Oh, I wish I’d done that like this.” But the nice thing about a series is that you still get opportunities, always, to keep layering in the detail. So if I missed something, I don’t lay it too hard on myself because I think I’ve got time to add that color.

Also, you know, there are some things that we go further with than the books. I don’t think in The Eye of the World, for instance, you see Moiraine’s doubt very clearly, and I think there’s more opportunity to show where, in Season 1, Moiraine has doubts and fears. In the book we need her to stay a bit more remote, I suppose. We jump inside the thought processes of Perrin, Rand, sort of with Nynaeve, too, but we don’t really jump inside the head of Moiraine.

But I’ve constantly got a lot of plates in the air, because I’ve got to drive the story and show you just enough to keep you intrigued. But her job as a Blue is to not give much away, so I’ve got to do that, too. Her changeability is what makes her interesting to me, the fact that you don’t really know where you stand with her. And just when you think you’ve got a bit of an “in,” Moiraine is the kind of person who if she thinks she’s given you a little too much, she’ll quickly about-turn and push you away again. She can’t afford to let anyone get close. Usually anytime she shows some vulnerability, she’ll slightly punish that person who just witnessed it. I think she’s needed to work on that in order to control the One Power, too. Because if you can’t control your own emotions, it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to control the One Power.

TVLINE | Yeah, I’m expecting we’re going to see a lot of that contrast between her and Nynaeve moving forward.
Exactly. And we’ve done it in the development of the way that we both weave. Nynaeve’s is explosive and enormous, but it comes riding on the back of charged emotion. And Moiraine almost has to negate emotion in order to use the One Power.

Wheel TimeTVLINE | I was excited to see that Moiraine gets some romance in this episode. Really just a life outside of being an Aes Sedai.
Have you read New Spring?

TVLINE | No, but I’ve been told that’s where we really get to see that side of her we’re getting early in this series.
It’s the backstory where we have that story I told you about, with Gitara Moroso, the woman at the White Tower who had the vision. We see [Moiraine] and Siuan training, we see her bond Lan, how those two met. And there’s this line that fans have a lot of discussions about, which is that Siuan and Moiraine were “pillow friends.” And what is the meaning of that? And there’s lots of debate about: Is Moiraine bisexual? Is she a lesbian? There’s a lot of room for discussion.

With the way [showrunner] Rafe [Judkins] has chosen to play it, obviously the stakes of this forbidden love are massive. The duty of the Amyrlin Seat is to have no favorites, to love no one, have no attachments, bar the throne. It’s more treacherous, the risk of it getting out, than almost any secret you can imagine in their world. And of course it’s exciting for me as an actress because drama rides on the stakes being high. I mean no one can ever know. Ever. It’s a love that can never really exist because it can never be public. It can exist, but obviously is massively restricted by being hidden. It also shows the depth of the bond of trust between Moiraine and Lan. That he is allowed to know.

So that [early reveal] surprised you in a good way?

TVLINE | Absolutely, because like you said, that’s great television. It makes this world feel alive and believable. Of course Moiraine has—
A sex life? [Laughs]

TVLINE | A sex life and… just a life!
Even if she only gets it once every 20 years. She’s on the road so much, and she’s not an easy woman to love, I don’t think.

TVLINE | In this episode more than any other, we get a bit more of how she’s able to wordplay and lie without lying, because she has the oath. Why do you think she’s being so secretive with the Dragon Reborn candidates and keeping them apart in this episode?
She didn’t set off wanting to keep them apart. That wasn’t part of the original game plan. I don’t know that it’s as much about keeping the potential Dragons apart as it is about keeping them out of eyesight of the other Aes Sedai. That’s a much more pressing concern. It’s like a wasp’s nest, Tar Valon and the White Tower. And already, news of Nynaeve’s power has cascaded all around the tower walls.

TVLINE | Can you tease anything about the final two episodes? It looks like we’re headed for the Eye of the World, whatever that’s going to look like…
Episode 7 (streaming Dec. 17) is maybe my favorite. We’re going to enter at least four worlds you’ve never seen yet in the show. You can guess what one is by the end of Episode 6. But then major parts of Robert Jordan’s imagination — whole other climates and worlds we’ve never seen — they advance the story, they advance the threat, they advance the tension. And also there are other concepts that open up. We suddenly realize “new concepts of time,” I would say. Playing on the idea of “The Wheel of Time.”

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