Spoilers for The Wheel of Time season one finale ahead.
The Wheel of Time’s first season took us on a journey across the land. From the Two Rivers, to Shadar Logoth, to Fal Dara, we traveled with Moiraine on her quest to find the Dragon Reborn. And find the Dragon Reborn she did, along with four other ta’veren, each with special traits and abilities. The season built up to a confrontation with someone, seemingly the Dark One, at the Eye of the World. But then, the final scenes showed ships arriving en masse at an unknown location. Women channeling cause a One Power-made tsunami to loom over the shore. If you’d like more context about who they are and what’s going on without book plot spoilers for what’s ahead in season two, keep reading.
Throughout season one, we’ve heard references to something happening with ships in the west. When Moiraine talked with Maigan at the White Tower, the Aes Sedai told Moiraine she’d received reports that ships have disappeared off the west coast. For book readers that meant one thing: the arrival of the Seanchan (pronounced SHAWN-chan). And indeed, the Seanchan arrive with their forces in style at the end of the season one finale.
Who Are the Seanchan?
The Seanchan have an extensive history in-universe. So, we’ll stick to the basics. The Seanchan empire calls a continent of the same name home. It sits thousands of miles west of the main continent, across the Aryth Ocean. After the Trolloc Wars (the same war that saw the fall of Manetheren), Artur Hawkwing sent a fleet across the ocean. Luthair Paendrag, Artur’s son, led the fleet and started a nearly 800 year process to unite the native nations, a.k.a. the Consolidation. This Consolidation formed the Seanchan Empire, ruled by an Empress or an Emperor with a very rigid class structure.
And now the Seanchan want to retake the continent their ancestors came from. They call it the Return. The Seanchan have been planning and gathering forces and supplies for the Return for decades. And they’re arriving with incredible numbers and formidable warriors, including a number of enslaved channelers. The Seanchan provide conflict and so many headaches throughout The Wheel of Time books.
What About the Women Channeling?
Those women channeling? Damane. In the Old Tongue, damane means “leashed one,” a.k.a. a slave. In the books, Seanchan use a ter’angreal, an object of the One Power, to control women who have the ability to channel. They treat channelers as property that they imprison and give over to sul’dam, “leash holders” in the Old Tongue. Sul’dam take damane from wherever they find them, not just from their own people. Yes, they even kidnap Aes Sedai.
The sul’dam, the Seanchan women we see standing behind the damane giving direction, control a damane’s every moment of channeling. Actually, they control pretty much every moment of a damane’s life. The books depict this relationship with a collar and leash, the a’dam. The Wheel of Time TV series adaptation seems to have reimagined this a little with what looks like an even more disturbing design. Pieces of metal cover the damanes’ mouths, and they wear matching collar-like pieces over their gray dresses. Damane all wear plain gray dresses in the books, while the sul’dam don blue dresses with panels showing red and silver forks of lightning. The sul’dam look here nods to that design.
It’s a horrific use of the One Power unlike anything we’ve seen in the TV series so far. You can only imagine how this might affect our characters as The Wheel of Time continues… the Seanchan aren’t going away anytime soon.
Featured Image: 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.