If you haven’t seen episode seven of The Wheel of Time, “The Dark Along the Ways,” turn back now.
From the opening scenes of Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time, we’ve known about Moiraine’s quest to find the Dragon Reborn. The importance of the figure and how they will either save the world from the Dark One or join the Dark One’s forces drives the story. And now, we know the Dragon Reborn is Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski). The youth has the realization in the seventh episode of the fantasy series. He then goes off to the Eye of the World with Moiraine. Rand leaves his friends behind to accompany the Aes Sedai into the Great Blight, an area of the land the Dark One has corrupted.
To do so requires no small amount of trust in Moiraine. And Rand, historically, hasn’t exactly believed in the Aes Sedai. Actor Josha Stradowski tells Nerdist, “From the start in the Two Rivers, Rand was the one questioning Moiraine. And that’s something that continues throughout that whole story until now even. The trust is something that they need to build. And between them it’s something that needs to be earned—and it’s not so easily earned, being who they are, both of them. But when Rand realized that he’s the Dragon Reborn, he also realizes that he needs her guidance again. So he decides to trust her.”
Following the Amyrlin Seat’s dreams about the Eye of the World, Moiraine says only the Dragon Reborn can go there and walk away alive. The Dark One awaits. She’s willing to risk the lives of all the Two Rivers youths who followed her into the Ways. But she doesn’t have to, because Rand learns the truth about himself. “It’s not an easy thing to realize and to accept and to see clearly, that you are the messiah of the world,” Stradowski explains about Rand’s realization.
He continues, “You know, it’s a lot of pressure. And who dares to face such a truth? So it’s small things, but it was really building up to the key moment when he channels for the first time trying to protect Egwene. And then adding on to that, when Moiraine says that whoever goes through the Eye of the World, who’s not the Dragon Reborn would die there, well that forces him to finally face the truth. Then he puts the pieces together and it must be him, and Min can only confirm that.”
Stradowski sees the act as Rand sacrificing himself. He doesn’t want to endanger his friends. Rand continually tries to make selfless decisions, big and small. Stradowski names it as Rand’s biggest lesson along this journey. He says, “I think he has learned it pretty early on, and that lesson only became more obvious as the story continues: that he has to sacrifice himself. That’s what he did in episode one with the relationship he had with Egwene. He realized that she needed something else and that wasn’t him, and so he sacrificed himself. He accepted that out of love, because he knew that she needed to become that. And he loved her for who she could become.”
“Then later on in the story, he’s trying to protect Mat and he is trying to take care of him, and he’s actively trying to reunite with his friends,” Stradowski continues. “And then when he realizes that he is the Dragon Reborn. Again he’s in that scene with Egwene, that is the conversation he wished he could have. He knows what he has to face and he knows he has to go alone. So, he again sacrifices what they have together. That is the thing of Rand I think—it’s sacrificing everything, everyone he loves, everything he knows, everything he believes, everything. He is trying to save the world.”
Rand’s focus has been on his friends almost entirely. Worried about Mat’s illness, anxious about being split from Egwene… he’s been focusing on all of that despite carrying around a secret. And not the Dragon Reborn secret. Rand only recently learns that. We’re talking about Tam’s fevered ramblings on Winternight. As Rand takes the severely-injured Tam away from their farm and into the village, Tam mumbles about finding a baby in the snow. Tam thinks he’s talking to Rand’s mother, Kari. The incident makes Rand think that maybe Tam’s not his real dad. Rand hasn’t shared this secret with anyone.
And indeed, the episode’s cold open—a flashback to the Battle of the Shining Walls, a.k.a. the Blood Snow—and Min’s vision confirm what Rand suspects. This baby born on the slopes of Dragonmount is Rand. Tam, then an Illian soldier, discovers one of the Aiel, a Maiden of the Spear, giving birth amid the battle. She dies from a battle wound, and Tam brings the child back to the Two Rivers. He’s never told Rand the truth.
Stradowksi says, “I think he has carried that throughout that whole journey really. And that’s always something that was with him, but he needed to take care of Mat and trying to reunite with his friends to protect them. That was the priority. Once they come together and then when they get out of the Waygate, that is really a moment when it all comes together—it is the moment to finally put the few pieces together. But I do believe that’s something he was carrying with him all the time. And will for a very long time.”
The Wheel of Time’s season one finale premieres next Friday, December 24, on Prime Video.
Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, available now. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.