Prime Video‘s The Wheel of Time has seriously leveled up in its second season, deepening the characters’ journeys and expanding the show’s fantasy world like never before. However, the real standout of The Wheel of Time Season 2 has got to be Natasha O’Keeffe‘s interpretation of the Forsaken known as Lanfear. Originally introduced to audiences as Selene, a flirty inkeeper in Cairhien bedding Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski), Lanfear has captured hearts and minds like few other antagonists have on television. Lanfear and Ishamael (Fares Fares) are the rare fantasy villains who are compelling as they are terrifying. In fact, they might secretly have us jonesing to embrace the darkness. After all, they make serving the Dark One look so damn fun.
The Forsaken are a group of powerful channelers who originally lived three thousand years before the events of The Wheel of Time, during the Age of Heroes. Rand al’Thor is called the Dragon Reborn because he is the reincarnation of that time period’s most powerful channeler, Lews Therin Telamon (Alexander Karim). Back during the Second Age, Lews Therin Telamon fought and imprisoned the Forsaken. With the rebirth of the Dragon in the Third Age, the Dark One has dispatched Ishamael and Lanfear to attempt to woo Rand to the side of evil to ensure their victory in the upcoming Last Battle.
Decider spoke to The Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins ahead of this week’s Season 2 finale “What Was Meant To Be.” When we weren’t asking him super spoiler-y questions about the upcoming episode, we were probing him about this season’s breakout character, Lanfear, why he thinks fans love her so much, and what he thinks of a certain fan theory going around about Verin (Meera Syal)…
“I’m excited that the whole world is now as in love with Lanfear as the writers’ room of The Wheel of Time has been for the last few years since we started working on her,” Judkins said with an enthusiastic laugh. (Maybe even a cackle?) “She’s such an incredible character in the books.”
“I do think that Lanfear and Ishamael, we really tried to infuse the characters with a lot of what you learn about them from the end of the books right at the beginning so that their characters feel complete.”
As Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time books go on, book readers learn more about what drove Ishamael, Lanfear, and their fellow forsaken to go to the dark side in the first place. Ishamael (which means “Betrayer of Hope” in the Old Tongue) was originally Elan Morin Tedronai, a brilliant moral philosopher who joined the Dark One when he realized that breaking the Wheel and destroying everything was the only way to stop the perpetual cycle of pain that was life.
Lanfear (which means “Daughter of the Night” in the Old Tongue) was Mierin Eronaile, a beautiful and genius researcher who inadvertently unleashed the Dark One onto the world in pursuit of a source of the One Power that both men and women could channel. (Oops!)
Elan Morin Tedronai was Lews Therin Telamon’s best friend before his fall and Mierin was the Dragon’s former lover, who was driven to the Dark One after Lews Therin married another woman. So there’s an added layer of history between these two Forsaken and our boy Rand, even if he’s oblivious to it.
“You know, Rand only gets these kind of bare glimpses of them in the early books and you as a reader aren’t able to fully understand how complex and how real these people are and that’s what makes them interesting to us as writers,” Judkins said. “They’re not just capital ‘E’ Evil. Like they’re doing what they do for a reason and they’re extremely human faces of evil in The Wheel of Time.“
“And, you know, so really infusing both Ishamael and Lanfear with the most human aspects of their characters that you realize by the end of the book series right in the beginning was really important to us.”
The Forsaken aren’t the only agents of evil that The Wheel of Time examines in Season 2. We learn that Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) is a member of the Black Ajah, a secret sect of the Aes Sedai that serves the Dark One. The revelation is terrifying because it means, well, anyone can be a Darkfriend. (As underscored by the Season 2 Episode 7 reveal that Moiraine’s sweet nephew is a Darkfriend…)
Given that anyone could be secretly working for the Shadow, Decider wanted to float a fan theory about a particular Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 7 “Daes Dae’mar” scene. Verin Sedai comes to Rand and Moiraine’s (Rosamund Pike) cell to relieve Leane Sedai (Jennifer Cheon Garcia) from holding Rand’s shield. She leads Leane to believe the Amyrilin Seat has given this order, but she has not.
As Moiraine says, she chooses her words very carefully. So who did “order” Verin to take Rand’s shield? Was it one of Moiraine’s allies? Or could it be Lanfear?
“It’s supposed to be a mystery,” Judkins said, choosing his own words carefully. “But she says it was an order. So someone gave it to her.”
When Decider suggested Lanfear, Judkins demurred. “But, yeah, I leave it up to the fan theories of the world.”
“But [Verin], you know, she does not lie when she comes in that room.”
She just chooses her words very carefully…
The Wheel of Time Season 2 Episode 8 “What Was Meant to Be” premieres on Prime Video at 8 PM ET on Thursday, October 5.