The Wheel of Time Season 1 finale introduced a terrifying new threat, the Seanchans – but who are these new villains, and what will Season 2 bring?
The dramatic Wheel of time The Season 1 finale ended with the introduction of a terrifying new threat – the Seanchan. Moiraine Sedai believed she had prematurely ended the current cycle of history when she brought Rand al’Thor to the Eye of the World. But at the end of Wheel of time season 1, episode 8, she realized she was wrong; the confrontation between Rand and the Dark One was their first battle, not the Last that would end the ages.
But another threat looms on the horizon. Wheel of time Season 1, Episode 8 ended with a glimpse of the mainland’s western coasts, where an invading fleet of ships arrived across the sea. Worse yet, they had Channelers – who combined their powers with destructive effect, summoning a terrible wave that would sweep inland and devastate coastal towns and villages. These are the Seanchans, a group seemingly separate from the age-old conflict between the Aes Sedai and the Dark One, a major complication of the fantasy world created by legendary author Robert Jordan.
Jordan envisioned a world where magic was real and he was determined to avoid simplistic representations of such a world. As a result, he deliberately chose to establish the Seanchan as another response to magic – a civilization that chose to view the channels that tap into one power as weapons, enslaving them and taking away their freedom to act. They call their Channelers damane, which means “Leashed One”, and they place a magic leash called a Adam on them. These women are kept on a leash by a controller called a sul’dam, and they have no choice but to obey their commandments. the a’dams are visible in the Wheel of time season 1 finale, and the damane who unleash the great wave on the western shores move in a disturbing concert precisely because they are controlled by sul’dams.
The Seanchans are the descendants of a great hero named Artur Hawkwing, a mighty ta’veren who ruled most of the known world – but whose empire fell apart after his death. The Seanchans believe they have a right to reclaim the old Hawking Empire and have come to the mainland to do just that. They are led by an Empress named Tuon, who – in the books – becomes a major character, strongly linked to Mat Cauthon. Visually, Wheel of time redesigned the Seanchan to emphasize that their approach to magic and technology has diverged over the centuries. “The bug armor is in there, there are all these pieces of what’s described in the books for them, but we really wanted them to look incredibly distinct. Almost like aliens arriving on our shores,“Said showrunner Rafe Judkins Decision maker.
In the books, the Seanchans invaded in The big hunt, the second volume in the series. Although they were a force to be reckoned with, they soon learned that their power was limited over Aes Sedai; the three oaths binding an Aes Sedai even meant a sul’dam couldn’t order an Aes Sedai slave to use the unique power as a weapon. The experience of slavery was still shocking, however, with Egwene – one of the most powerful Aes Sedai initiates – captured by them for some time.
Wheel of time Season 1 set up a basic good versus evil dynamic, but the addition of the Seanchans complicates matters considerably. They are most certainly antagonists, and many aspects of their civilization are deeply troubling – notably their dependence on slavery. But the Seanchans have a crucial role in the narrative, and their existence must be accepted if Rand is to triumph in the Last Battle against the Dark One in Wheel of time.
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