May 27, 2024

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The Wheel Of Time “Eyes Without Pity”

Season Two, Episode Six

Well, The Wheel of Time finally did it:  the series created a villain so heinous that I grew to quickly despise them.  All this, and Rand somehow recognized Mat despite the fact Mat has a completely different face right now.

The Mat/Rand plot somehow did not matter much to me this time around, such that even as Mat gets a confession out of Min as to what he is somehow meant to do in a vision of hers, I wasn’t as invested in it.  Likewise, Nynaeve and Elayne’s whole thing helping a Aes Sedai figure out how to crack open one of the Seanchen’s magical slave collar leashes matters more due to what I saw what said collar was doing to Egwene.  At this point, my general interest in the Two Rivers characters is I am invested in Nynaeve and Perrin the most, then Mat, and Rand and Egwene down near the bottom.  The characters themselves are fine, but I like the way Nynaeve wants nothing to do with anything happening to her and Perrin’s more unique circumstances.  Mat, well, he seems like the regular guy reacting to everything around him at this point.  But then there’s Egwene and Rand, and all things being equal, they’re a fairly bland pair of stock hero types.

That does not mean I want to see Egwene’s torture.

See, she has a captor named Renna.  Renna wants Egwene to understand that Egwene will now be channeling only for Renna’s benefit, and the collar will reflect great pain back at Egwene is she attempts to in any way harm Renna.  Any pain Egwene dishes out she will feel twice over and then some.  Any time she picks up anything, anything at all, that she thinks she can use for a weapon, she gets hit with pain.  To that end, Renna spends several days ordering Egwene to fill a cup of water.  Small problem:  Egwene thinks she can smash Renna over the head with the pitcher, and until she stops thinking that way, Egwene can’t even touch the thing to give herself a much needed drink.

The whole process reminded me a bit Captain Picard’s torture at the hands of a Cardassian that insists there were five lights instead of four.  I am sure that The Wheel of Time has a bigger per episode budget that any 90s-era Star Trek, but the point stands:  a heroic character is tortured on multiple levels with what seems like an easy set-up.  Egwene is wearing a magic collar that hits her hard over and over again until she finally breaks, and she does.  Picard, meanwhile, had something slipped inside of him that allowed his interrogator to shock him whenever the mood struck.  Everything takes place in one room, and the simplest solutions can contain the worst implications.  For Picard, it just how he was spoken to in ways that could manipulate him over and over.  For Egwene, well, there were endless screams of pain coming through her walls the entire time she was in there.

The process in both examples was the dehumanization of one of the protagonists.  Both were presented as strong in their respective series, though in Egwene’s case, that mostly comes down to various Aes Sedai’s discussing how much raw power she has.  The fact that, as the episode closes, the Aes Sedai in the cell next to hers says that Egwene held out longer than she did suggests that we should maybe be a little impressed at how long she held out against an inevitable conclusion.  All I know for certain is Renna is a very hateable character, and I hope Egwene gets some justice later.  Or revenge.  Revenge also works.

Oh, and seeing what Egwene went through made the fact that Nynaeve and Elayne could only watch while one of those magical shock collars went on the Aes Sedai they were with all the more horrifying.