Ranking the Most Epic Assists in The Wheel of Time
This article contains full spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time book series.
If you're not familiar with the term “wingmate,” it’s gender neutral for “wingman,” which typically refers to a good friend who helps you approach a person of interest, usually at a bar, sometimes dampening their own fun to support yours. In The Wheel of Time series, the best wingmates for that type of situation would be Birgitte or Talmanes, no question. Article over.
...Just kidding. We won't be talking about drinking buddies today. For the purposes of this article, we are taking into account the original definition of wingmate: a pilot positioned strategically to support aerial combat. In other words, the friend who runs with you, fights by your side, encourages you and protects you—the Goose to your Maverick, the Sam to your Frodo.
And instead of ranking the wingmates themselves (Loial would win), we’re ranking their best “assists”—moments when a wingmate provides support to another character, helping them or rescuing them at a critical moment. This happens a lot in The Wheel of Time, so to narrow down our candidates for Best Wingmate, we ruled out anyone with a Warder bond; they’re basically wing-mating all the time (especially the Greens, amiright?). And to draw the line between a sweet assist and a romantic gesture, couples were also excluded from this list. Sorry, Min.
So, to summarize: this week’s Maidens’ List is a countdown of the best moments when a character comes through in the clutch for another with a supportive maneuver—something smooth, clever, heroic, or in some cases, heartwarming. You could say this is just a list of some of our favorite moments from the books, and you’d be right. But they all have one thing in common: an epic assist by a trusty Wingmate of Time.
10. Nynaeve, Sobering Up Elayne (The Shadow Rising, Ch. 39)
Every good buddy cop story requires a moment of tough love from one partner to another. In this episode of Tanchico Vice, Nynaeve rescues Drunk Elayne from further embarrassment by dunking the Daughter-Heir’s head into a bucket of water, then holding her hair while she pukes. Classic wingmate move. Truth be told, Elayne did nothing wrong—she only had one cup of wine, and she had a perfectly not-weird-at-all conversation with Thom. But, if she ever did need help sobering up, it's clear she can rely on Nynaeve to provide her signature angry-healing. While Nynaeve’s primary motivation here is to have a fully functional partner for Black Ajah hunting, her tender side shows when she brings Elayne a damp cloth and herbal remedy the next morning.
9. Egwene, Running with Aviendha (The Fires of Heaven, Ch. 5)
Aviendha and Egwene are more like mutual wingmates here as they meet their toh together, running 50 laps around the Aiel camp in the middle of the night. But Egwene doesn’t really have to follow ji’e’toh. She is very aware that no one will know if she shirks her task, and Aviendha won’t tell (good wingmate). But Egwene has the heart of an Aiel, so she keeps running. It’s a bummer Egwene and Avi don’t have much interaction in later books; their friendship has a lot of potential. So rude of Elayne to steal Egwene’s man and her would-be Aiel bestie.
8. Rand, Catching Lan (Winter’s Heart, Ch. 33)
The two hardest men in The Wheel of Time have a surprisingly bromantic moment when an injured Lan slides off the roof of a bootmaker’s shop in Far Madding. Rand goes in for the assist, catching Lan’s hand and refusing to let go until “the sun turns green.” And although they both end up falling off the roof, Rand keeps his promise and never lets go. Yeah, Rose, we’re looking at you.
7. Mat, Hyping Egwene (Lord of Chaos, Ch. 44)
Sometimes wingmates save your life, other times they help you save face. Mat may be more suited for battle tactics than political maneuvering, but in this scene, he is sharp enough to notice that Egwene could use his support gaining the attention and respect of the Salidar Aes Sedai. Mat, charming as ever, bows and kisses Egwene’s ring with a flourish, then recruits his companions to do the same. Emond’s Field folk are wingmates for life, and he was not about to let his childhood friend be treated like some flaming goat-kisser from Taren Ferry.
6. Loial, Carrying Gaul (The Shadow Rising, Ch. 53)
Loial is a top tier wingmate in general, dropping knowledge when you need it, keeping you from being too hasty, and basically writing The Wheel of Time. But he goes into full beast mode with heroic ramifications in the days leading up to The Battle of the Two Rivers. Not only does he successfully close off the Waygate to prevent more Shadowspawn from arriving, he carries an injured Gaul for four days, all the way from the Mountains of Mist to Emond’s Field, outrunning a Myrddraal and 50 Trollocs in the process. If Loial hadn’t stepped in to be Gaul’s wingmate here, Perrin might have lost his best one.
5. Moiraine, Balefiring Be’lal (The Dragon Reborn, Ch. 55)
Be’lal will never stop being the most comical Forsaken, and that is mostly owed to the effortlessness with which Moiraine defeats him. He’s in Tear, he does the thing where the Forsaken disguise themselves as nobles, he villain-monologues for a bit, and then he’s gone. And he’s the weakest channeler among the Forsaken. But that doesn’t mean “Lord Samon” wasn’t an actual threat. Be’lal was a legit Blademaster, and Rand was just a baby Dragon, so we're glad Moiraine was there for back up.
4. Faile, Encouraging Morgase (Knife of Dreams, Ch. 28)
Faile is a controversial character, but her level of growth from Book 3 to Book 14 gives her one of the best character arcs. (If you don’t believe it, check out these brilliant analyses by Lezbi Nerdy and Wheel Talk). Faile starts as an immature, selfish runaway and grows into a selfless leader who uses her sharp wits to protect those around her. Trapped with her fellow Shaido escapees in a caved-in basement in Malden, Faile’s priority is to get everyone out alive, even if it means being recaptured. Quietly and unwaveringly, she encourages “Maighdin” to channel just enough to send a signal. Her calm but firm leadership also inspires the others, giving them a purpose (help Maighdin), and effectively pulling them out of a hopeless spiral. It’s one of the Falcon’s finest moments.
3. Teslyn, Saving Mat from the Gholam (Towers of Midnight, Ch. 9)
Teslyn and Mat have such an interesting mini arc, growing from enemies to reluctant allies, to something like friends. After Mat rescues her from the Seanchan, Teslyn has the chance to return the favor when the gholam attacks their camp in the middle of the night. In a callback to Jolene’s experiments using the Power to throw objects at Mat and circumvent the foxhead medallion, Teslyn chucks some furniture at the gholam and pulls Mat to safety with weaves of Air. The Red Sister coming to his rescue is a surprisingly sweet moment within an otherwise terrifying and bloody scene (RIP Lopin).
2. Egeanin, Rescuing Egwene (A Memory of Light, Ch. 23)
Putting aside her major failure with the domination bands, Egeanin has a lot of great wingmate moments—she protects a sul’dam from a Truthseeker, teams up with Elayne and Nynaeve in Tanchico, helps Aludra with her dragon cannons, and musters up an Illianer accent to get herself and Bayle Domon past Sleete and into the White Tower. But her rescue of Egwene during The Last Battle is the most poignant—a Seanchan woman saving Egwene from the Sharans, who would’ve surely enslaved her once again. Egeanin earns Egwene’s trust, which turns out to be critical later on in The Last Battle after a certain someone does something very stupid.
1. Davram Bashere, Tackling Rand (Path of Daggers, Ch. 24)
You might think it’s counterintuitive for your wingmate to tackle you, but in this case, it is 100% necessary. Bashere supports Rand in a lot of ways, but most importantly he makes sure Rand doesn’t blow everyone up with lightning because he’s mad about losing to the Seanchan. Daddy Bashere gets infinite cool points for tackling The Dragon Reborn while he’s channeling through Callandor like a maniac. And while not everyone survives Rand’s storm (RIP Jonan Adley), it could’ve been a lot worse if it weren’t for our #1 Wingmate.
Bain & Chiad is a regular contributor to thegreatblight.com. Check out her weekly opinion columns each week.