Appreciating the Best Fights from the Wheel of Time Book Series
This article contains full spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time book series and minor spoilers from Episodes 7 and 8 of the TV series.
Fight scenes will never be the same after the cold open of Episode 7 of the Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime. Until we were blessed with those epic three and a half minutes of TV, Tigraine’s last stand on Dragonmount was an off-page scene that lived only in our imaginations. Now, thanks to dynamic fight choreography, gorgeous cinematography, talented stunt performers, and a really cool camera, director Ciaran Donnelly’s Blood Snow feels like the only version we'll ever need. Savage, desperate, and heartbreaking, this fight—and Majda Sittova’s stunning performance—will be talked about for ages to come. Serendipitously, it was announced today that the Irish Film and Television Academy nominated Donnelly for Best Director in the Drama category for the Wheel of Time (Episodes 7 and 8).
During "the Longing" between Seasons, we are left to wonder if the Wheel of Time will continue to bring us fights as epic as a pregnant warrior defeating 6 armored soldiers. Will they use the same camera? Have we already reached peak Aiel?
By far, the most anticipated Season 2 fight scene is Mat besting sword-bearing brothers Galad and Gawyn with a quarterstaff (The Dragon Reborn, Ch. 24). With Mat headed back to Tar Valon in the Season Finale and Showrunner Rafe Judkins implying that Season 2 Mat (Dónal Finn) will reflect Book 3 Mat, it seems likely we’ll get to see it. This scene, and Mat vs. Couladin (off-page in The Fires of Heaven), go without saying as Essential Fights of Time.
For today's Maidens' List, let's take a look at some other confrontations that deserve to make it on to the big screen. Here are the top 10 Maiden-approved* fight scenes from the Wheel of Time book series:
10. Rand vs. Turak (The Great Hunt, Ch. 45)
In one of the most underrated sword fights in the series, Rand wields his borrowed heron-marked blade against an actual Blademaster—and wins. Somehow Rand's victory feels like more than just ta’veren plot armor as Robert Jordan takes us through the twists and turns of sword forms and the sheepherder's desperate inner monologue. It's a beautifully written fight through to the very end, when the pristine Seanchan carpets are soaked with Turak’s blood. Rumor has it Turak has been cast in Season 2, so let’s cross our extra-long, lacquered fingernails we get to see this fight.
9. Nynaeve vs. Moghedien, Part 1 (The Shadow Rising, Ch. 54)
The Wisdom matches the Spider weave for weave under a fossilized giraffe in the Panarch’s exhibition hall, and an epic rivalry is born. This fight may not look very exciting to an outsider watching two "maids" stare at each other, but it's the first time we see the true extent of Nynaeve's power. Always underestimating herself, Nynaeve is filled with wonder as she recognizes the strain in Moghedien’s voice for what it is: proof that she can face down a Forsaken. And although Nynaeve has several great moments of resorting to hand-to-hand combat when the One Power fails her, chucking the sad bracelets at Moghedien’s head is one of the best.
8. Moiraine vs. Merean (New Spring, Ch. 26)
Moiraine's desperate fight on a high palace walkway overlooking Kandor contains some of Jordan's most suspenseful and heart-wrenching writing. While Lan is occupied in a bloody sword fight with the Darkfriend who killed Bukama, Moiraine is on her own against a much older, much more experienced Aes Sedai of the Black Ajah. Shielded, Moiraine is forced to watch as Merean murders a child and his father on behalf of the male channeler pogrom. But Moiraine coldly exploits the loophole in the Three Oaths, and Merean gets what she deserves: a belt knife to the back.
7. Lews Therin vs. Trollocs (Knife of Dreams, Ch. 19)
Androl gets all the credit for creative use of gateways in battle, but Lews Therin did it first. When Trollocs attack Lord Algarin’s manor shortly after Loial and Erith’s hasty wedding, Lews hijacks Rand's body and introduces some brutal weaves from the Age of Legends: Deathgates, the only weave to kill Shadowspawn and clean up your battlefield in the process, followed by Fire Blossoms and Arrows of Fire that vaporize and explode tens of thousands of Trollocs into red mist. Worst wedding reception ever. After, when Lews Therin refuses to release saidin, you realize the true battle is the one in Rand’s mind.
6. Perrin vs. Slayer (A Memory of Light, Ch. 33)
Perrin’s final confrontation with Slayer has several stages, but the scene from “The Prince’s Tabac” is the coolest. From sky to earth to ocean floor, Perrin displays his mastery of the Wolfdream, as he shifts himself after Slayer and fights through several creative iterations of “it’s just a weave.” Particularly memorable is what we'll call the Water Level: Perrin parts the sea like Moses, fights Slayer on the ocean floor, then freezes the water in order to escape after they both tumble in. While we love a good hammer fight (and we get one later), it's fitting for Perrin’s creator/destroyer arc that he bests Slayer here with both brains and brawn.
5. Mat vs. Gholam (Towers of Midnight, Ch. 31)
Mat may have luck on his side, but it's teamwork that makes the dream work in this culmination of Mat’s long, 5-book-spanning vendetta against the gholam. You can just hear the ghost of Nalesean cheering on Mat, Talmanes, Elayne, Captain Guybon, and the Kin, as they enact a clever plan to defeat the throat-ripping creature once and for all. It all plays out like an action movie sequence: flames everywhere, Talmanes smoothly tossing a scorched ashandarei to Mat's outstretched hand, Mat slinging around three foxhead medallions as he forces the gholam down a burning hallway. But the best part is Mat roaring for vengeance in the Old Tongue as he sentences his nemesis to a lifetime of endless falling.
4. Talmanes vs. Myrddraal (A Memory of Light, Prologue)
In the single greatest glow-up of the series, Talmanes ascends from reserved battle nerd to gritty war hero, refusing to let a little bit of fatal blood poisoning stop him from protecting the citizens of a besieged Caemlyn and recovering Aludra’s dragons. We knew he had it in him, but we didn’t know it would be this glorious. He kills two Myrddraal, lights a fire under some cowardly mercenaries, saves refugees, and gives the order to blow up the city wall—all while actively dying. And he gets a sexy new nickname in the process. Dreadbane, we stan.
3. Galad vs. Valda (Knife of Dreams, Prologue)
You could say it's only because we've just had 3 books full of character exploration and leather knot-tying, but we did the research: even on a cold reading, the opening to Knife of Dreams slaps hard. In quite possibly the best-written, most passionate fight scene in the series, the lawfully good-looking Galad avenges his mother’s torment at the hands of the slimiest Whitecloak in the Westlands, earning a heron-marked blade and a fancy new title in the process. It leaves you feeling all sorts of things you never thought you'd feel for the Lord Captain Commander of the Children of the Light. If you’re a fan of Galad vs. Valda, check out this blow-by-blow reenactment by the Way of the Heron.
2. Lan vs. Demandred (A Memory of Light, Ch. 37)
Everybody’s favorite ice sculpture with a death wish finally gets be One Man Alone versus the most powerful Forsaken at The Last Battle. Thanks to Mat’s foxhead medallion cancelling Demandred's ability to channel, it's a good, old-fashioned sword fight that turns the tides of the Tarmon Gai'don into the Light’s favor. Fans may disagree when ranking Blademasters in the series, but Lan's name is almost always #1 or #2. Even Demandred marvels at who this rock of a man could possibly be, claiming that no one since the Age of Legends has been so skilled with the sword. Just try to imagine Daniel Henney's voice whispering, “I didn’t come here to win. I came here to kill you," without developing an actual fever.
1. Egwene vs. Seanchan (The Gathering Storm, Ch. 40)
“The woman stood like vengeance itself."
Adelorna's awestruck description of the Amyrlin's fury hits like an arrow through the heart. We waited 8 whole books for Egwene to avenge her Seanchan enslavement, and the payoff is divine. Not only does she counter an aerial assault while perched on the ledge of a giant hole in the wall, she does so in a weakened state. Instead of using her strength as a channeler, Egwene relies on her brilliant leadership to rally the novices and siphon their power so effectively it has show-Amalisa turning in her grave. It's the perfect culmination of all Egwene's quiet persistence to undermine Elaida and make the Tower whole again, even as its walls are literally crumbling. And if it wasn't already awesome enough, this fight scene was the inspiration for some gorgeous cover art by Todd Lockwood for the e-book version of The Gathering Storm:
We'd be thrilled to see any of our Top 10 Fights get the Tigraine-treatment on the Wheel of Time TV show, but the truth is they're already epic just as they are in the books.
*Rankings are based on fighters' skill level, satisfaction of outcome, quality of narration, and overall emotional impact. Approval of the fight does not signify approval of the weapons used in said fight.
Bain & Chiad is a regular contributor to thegreatblight.com. Check out her weekly opinion columns each week.