The following contains spoilers from the Dec. 17 episode of Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time.
It feels like we’ve traversed an entire continent in this first season of The Wheel of Time, and that’s probably because we technically have. Episode 7, titled “The Dark Along the Ways,” finds the Two Rivers folk encountering what could be their toughest battle yet. Themselves.
Well, sort of themselves. It turns out the Waygate, for all its convenient “fast travel” capabilities, makes our heroes sitting ducks for Machin Shin (the Black Wind). Rather than consume them with external darkness, Shadar Logoth-style, the oppressive vapor stirred up some dark, existential dread for the party to wrestle with, especially Rand (played by Josha Stradowski).
It’s safe to say that this is the most monumental episode of The Wheel of Time thus far. Even book readers were starting to wonder when the show would finally reveal the Dragon. Would it be during the season finale? Right after? Never? In “Dark Along the Ways,” all ambiguity goes out the window. Our Dragon Reborn is none other than Rand al’Thor, and the show even makes good use of a flashback montage to recontextualize all of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) hints we were given along the way.
Now that we have our reincarnated destiny child channeling his way through the Blight with Moiraine by his side, TVLine spoke with Josha Stradowski about that big reveal and what we can expect from Rand as Season 1 wraps up with its Dec. 24 finale.
TVLINE | I’ve enjoyed watching Rand grow and evolve so much over the course of the season. What do you think is the biggest difference between Rand in Episode 1 and at the end of Episode 7?
Oh, the difference is… it’s big. I think Rand in Episode 1 has a pretty good idea of who he is and what he wants in life. Of course, Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) entering the village changes everything. But what really changes everything is what happens in Episode 7. Realizing that he’s the Dragon Reborn means that he’s not who he thinks he was. And it’s the start of a huge identity shift.
He’s completely cut off from his roots because his dad might not be his dad. And now he’s the messiah, the only person who has the ability to save or destroy the world. That means that in order to beat the Dark One and beat evil in the world, he can’t be that naive Two Rivers boy. He has to change, and I think that Episode 7 is the start of a change in his heart.
TVLINE | There’s a moment in Episode 7 where he admits he always knew he was the Dragon Reborn. But earlier in the season, he’s apparently worried over Mat (Barney Harris) being the Dragon, not him. Is it fair to say he was trying to hide this truth from himself?
Yes, I think that deep down inside, he did know. But it’s not an easy truth to face. I mean, who would dare to face such a truth? First of all, he has to save Mat and try to take care of him and try to reunite with his friends. And I think a key moment is the channeling [in the Ways]; that changes a lot for him. And then Moiraine says that whoever goes to the Eye of the World who’s not the Dragon will die there. That really forces him to face the truth, finally, because once again he has to do that in order to protect his friends.
TVLINE | Another primary thing driving Rand has been his relationship with Egwene (Madeleine Madden). These two clearly love each other, but Rand seems to have some major insecurities about their relationship.
When they were in the Two Rivers, he realized that she needed something else in life, and that wasn’t Rand. But they went through such a dangerous journey that at times, they just needed each other. And they needed that comfort, that love. Especially in the Waygate, where there’s so much darkness around them. The final scene in Episode 7 they have, that’s their goodbye, and I think that’s a beautiful scene because Rand knows more deep inside, but he’s trying to protect her. He can’t tell her the truth.
TVLINE | Rand also seems to be influenced by Egwene in a very good way
He hoped that she was the Dragon! She’s probably a way better candidate than Rand.
TVLINE | I could see him saying that.
But that’s the thing. He doesn’t have a choice. He’s the chosen one. He has to go on this mission he never signed up for. He has to do it, and he knows it. And he’s doing it alone with Moiraine.
TVLINE | I heard you’re a big fan of the books.
[Laughs] Yes! Just started Book 12. I do really enjoy reading them.
TVLINE | A lot of us readers have been debating which changes we like and which ones we’re not sure about. But how does it feel to be part of those changes, while also a fan of what’s being changed? What is that even like?
I can see how tough it is to make a show like The Wheel of Time. I mean, if you read the books, you’re aware of how rich the world is. In the whole series, there are like 2,800 characters. You can’t fit them all into the show, and I think that’s the most difficult thing to do, when you have to leave out bits and pieces because you only have eight episodes in one season. So that’s, I think, the toughest thing.
But I’m in a very fun place, because I do get the scripts and I’m reading the books as well, so it’s very exciting to see the changes they’re making. They add more backstories to the characters. There’s more of an inner life, and I really love those kinds of choices that they have made.
TVLINE | We were talking earlier about Rand and Moiraine heading to the Eye of the World. How does Rand even feel about Moiraine right now? He seemed pretty upset with her for leaving Mat behind.
Yeah, their relationship is constantly about trust, really. From Episode 1, he’s the first one that questions her, that stands up to her. And that’s what he has been doing for the whole season, really. I feel like in that way, he’s really the person that’s taking responsibility and also thanking her first for saving Mat. I think he has decided that he now has to trust her. They have to do this together.
TVLINE | Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the season finale?
Yeah, that was the last thing we shot of Season 1 — with the Eye of the World, the Blight. Yes, Rand has to face the Dark One. That is what he must do now. Can’t say more!
TVLINE | You’re already working on Season 2. Are there any set pieces that are shaping up to be huge for Rand?
What can I say about Season 2…? Well, Episode 7 was definitely a big identity shift, and I think Rand as a character becomes really, really interesting, knowing now that he is the Dragon Reborn and that he has to save the world. I can’t say too much of course, but I’m very excited for people to see that because more layers are being added to the story — not only to Rand’s arc, but also the others. And the world does become more complex, and the stakes become even bigger.