'The Wheel of Time': Who Are the Aes Sedai, and Why Do the Whitecloaks Hate Them?

Amazon Prime Video’s The Wheel of Time has joined a growing lineup of fantasy TV series, and it’s bringing some new lore to the genre. While the show dips into many familiar tropes, including the Chosen One narrative, it breathes new ideas into its world-building. And one of the most unique elements pulled from Robert Jordan’s best-selling novels is the concept of the Aes Sedai. A sisterhood of women with powerful abilities, they promise to play a central role in The Wheel of Time. But who are the Aes Sedai, and why are many of them being hunted?

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of Amazon’s The Wheel of Time series.]

Who are the Aes Sedai in ‘The Wheel of Time’?

The Wheel of Time introduces the Aes Sedai in the form of Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike), who shows up in the small town of Two Rivers just in time to show off her magical prowess. Moiraine hails from a sisterhood of powerful women, all of whom channel the One Power. While that power tends to corrupt men, the women have a handle on it — and they dedicate themselves to keeping it from the Dark One.

Translated to the Old Tongue, the Aes Sedai are called the “Servants of All.” After training at the White Tower of Tar Valon — where Moiraine wishes to take her new wards — they use their abilities seemingly for the good of their world. They’re bound by Three Oaths, which Moiraine breaks down in the first episode:

  • Speak no word that isn’t true.
  • Make no weapon with which one man can kill another.
  • Never use the One Power as a weapon unless their life or the life of their Warder is in danger.

As Moiraine notes, the women find clever ways to get around those promises. For example, although they can speak no word that isn’t true, they can withhold truths they aren’t asked about.

With so much power, it’s probably no surprise the Aes Sedai have made enemies. Even Rand (Finn Jones) and his friends don’t really trust Moiraine at first. But she and her sisters have a much bigger problem to worry about — and no, it’s not the Dark One.

Why do the Whitecloaks hunt the Aes Sedai?

Those who have seen the first three episodes of The Wheel of Time know the Dark One isn’t the only enemy the Aes Sedai need to worry about. The second installment, “On the Run,” introduces the Whitecloaks, or the Children of the Light. And after one of their questioners tortures and burns Moiraine’s sister alive, there’s little doubt about where they stand when it comes to the organization.

Less obvious is why the Whitecloaks are so committed to capturing and killing the Aes Sedai. The religious zealots seem just as committed as Moiraine and her sisters when it comes to weeding out Darkfriends. However, they mark the women as their enemy. It seems their connection to the One Power — even though they use it to fight the Dark One — places them on the Whitecloaks’ list of threats.

And when the story picks up, the Children of the Light appear to have far more military influence than the Aes Sedai. They could present a problem when it comes to Moiraine completing her quest. But is that something fans should even be rooting for?

Are the Aes Sedai the good guys in ‘The Wheel of Time’?

While it seems obvious viewers aren’t meant to sympathize with the Whitecloaks, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should trust the Aes Sedai. Shows like The Wheel of Time don’t often break characters down into purely good or purely evil. And despite Moiraine’s attempts to find the dragon, there’s no telling whether that’s actually in the best interest of Rand and his friends.

In fact, a Darkfriend even suggests the Aes Sedai will kill the next Dragon once they discover who it is. That could simply be a ploy to draw Rand and Mat (Barney Harris) to the Dark One. However, Moiraine has proven herself ruthless when it comes to her mission. The fates of individuals don’t seem particularly important to her, begging the question: who should we be cheering on?

The Wheel of Time will answer that as the story continues to unfold. New episodes of the series drop on Amazon Prime Video every Friday.

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