WARNING: This post contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time season 2, episode 4, "Daughter of the Night."
Of all the Two Rivers villagers-turned-heroes on The Wheel of Time, Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) has had it the hardest in the first episodes of season 2. Sent to the White Tower alongside Egwene (Madeleine Madden) to train as an Aes Sedai, Nynaeve was put through the most difficult task a novice can face: The Arches.
Made of sa'angreal, a material that can channel the magical force known as the One Power, the Arches send a prospective Aes Sedai up against their worst fears in a way that feels terribly real. Nynaeve had to go through them three times. The first trip took her back to her childhood, forcing her to relive her parents' murder at the hands of bandits, while the second sent her to the Two Rivers, where she had to watch old friends die of plague in her absence.
But the third was the hardest of all: It forced Nynaeve to live through years of a peaceful retirement alongside her lover Lan (Daniel Henney), complete with children who were ultimately killed by Trollocs just as violently as her parents. She returned to the real world eventually, but not without some serious trauma — namely, a difficulty telling what's real and what's not.
"It was an absolute gift as an actor to receive material like that," Robins tells EW. "For me personally, I had to just make sure that I was on top of everything because we don't shoot chronologically and I could see myself getting lost very easily. So it was just a matter of reading the scripts both backwards and forwards. It was definitely emotionally taxing."
Prime Video Zoë Robins as Nynaeve on 'The Wheel of Time' season 2.
Filming The Wheel of Time can be intense, especially given the complexity of original books by Robert Jordan. But the actors learned important lessons on season 1 about keeping their heads on straight, and that helped with the subsequent material.
"Self-preservation is something that we've definitely learned on this job," Madden says. "The duration of it is so long, and at times the scenes can be quite challenging. So we had to learn just how to get through the days. But it's really nice feeling more grounded in the characters and the story, we're going in with the confidence that we've already established these characters. The pressure didn't feel as great this time around."
The more you do it, the easier it gets — and Robins says the pain is worth it in order to play with emotions as heavy as the ones Nynaeve has gone through in these first episodes of season 2.
"We're dealing with quite intense material — and not just emotionally, but physically as well," Robins says. "But as I said, it was a real gift to be able to explore Nynaeve's deepest, darkest fears and desires. I hope we get to do more of that with more characters, sit with them and learn about them more at a more personal level."
Jan Thijs/Prime Video Madeleine Madden (Egwene al'Vere), Zoë Robins (Nynaeve al'Meara), and Ceara Coveney (Elayne Trakand) on 'The Wheel of Time' season 2.
Perhaps the one person who could understand what Nynaeve's going through is her old friend Rand (Josha Stradowski), who got to see what his happy ending with Egwene might've looked like before rejecting it in order to battle the Dark One's lieutenant (Fares Fares) in the season 1 finale. In both cases, it was an illusion. Other things are more important to The Wheel of Time characters than their love stories.
"I think what's really beautiful about the Nynaeve/Lan relationship is that it's one of maturity and understanding," Robins says. "There's an awareness of their duty. Lan's duty has always been to Moiraine, well before Nynaeve came along. And for Nynaeve, it's her Two Rivers people above everything else. So there is a common understanding that it feels like the classic thing of 'right person, wrong time.' It's a timing issue. And I think what's wonderful is that we see these two characters who clearly adore each other, but also are adult enough to understand that life happens and sometimes it just doesn't work out."
But don't give up hope just yet, Robins says: "I do think we'll see as we go on later that the relationship keeps shifting and changing."
These interviews were conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike began.
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