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Why Moiraine's Oath In The Wheel Of Time Means More Than You Think

On the other side of the Season 1 finale of Amazon's "The Wheel of Time," critics and audiences alike are beginning to notice some of the clever ways in which showrunner Rafe Judkins has woven Robert Jordan's beloved novels into the television adaptation. It's easy for audiences to observe the big stuff — main protagonists and antagonists, similar crises and themes, a condensed but loyal effort to rebuild a world that was itself built for the narrative in the books, and so on. When it comes to some of Jordan's more intricate subplots and subtext, however, it takes a truly savvy and novel-knowledgeable viewer to notice the many ways in which the series pays homage to its source. For example, a few fans on the series' subreddit noticed something interesting about a particular scene in episode 6. 

In the episode, we learn that Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) and the current holder of The Amyrin Seat, Siuan Sanche (Sophie Okenedo) have been lovers for some time now, despite the fact that The Amyrin Seat is meant to be impartial, neutral, and above all other Aes Sedai. When Moiraine — along with Aes Sedais Priyanka (Alanna Mosvani) and Liandrin (Kate Fleetwood) — are called before The Amyrin Seat after breaking one of the laws of The White Tower, Siuan is forced to make a display of disciplining the lover with whom she's been secretly working, exiling her, and making her take an unbreakable Oath. And here's where Judkins' adaptation leans into some important elements in the book, albeit subtly. 

Siuan Sanche and Moiraine have a few tricks up their sleeves

Importantly, Siuan Sanche isn't forced to discipline Moiraine for going along with or defending Liandrin Guirale's decision to "gentle" Logain Ablar (Álvaro Morte) without a proper trial. Rather, she's forced to discipline her secret lover because Moiraine refuses (in front of the other Aes Sedai) to answer Siuan's questions about where she's been and what she's been doing all the way up in the Two Rivers. Of course, Siuan knows full-well what Moiraine has been up to (searching for the Dragon Reborn) but as the mission itself is secret, The Amyrlin Seat is forced to make a display of exiling the powerful Blue Ajah whom she so dearly loves. (Although the exile, as you'll recall, is actually Moiraine's idea, so she can continue her mission without it looking suspicious to her fellow Aes Sedai and Blue Ajah).

Both Moiraine and Siuan play their parts exquisitely well in the exile and oath display they put before their fellow Aes Sedai. It certainly appears as though Moiraine is being forced to pay penance for her refusal to explain herself, and a dire one at that. However, when Siuan asks Moiraine to swear her fealty to the punishment and The Amyrlin Seat on the sacred Oath Rod, the slight edit the latter makes to the former's initial words conceals a whole host of important plot points.

As always, Moiraine's exact verbiage is key to her oath

Audiences learn early-on in "The Wheel of Time" about the Three Oaths a woman takes when she becomes an Aes Sedai, and that the One Power holds the Aes Sedai to these promises, making it literally impossible for her to break them. When Moiraine explains what The Oaths are to Egwene, she notes that the "exact verbiage" matters. "Words are important," she says, "and how we use them is important." 

For example, although Egwene thinks one of The Oaths is "to not lie," Moiraine says that the actual Oath is "to speak no word that is not true." Of course, as anyone who has ever been a lawyer, younger sibling, or "fine print" copywriter well knows, this doesn't include, for instance, lies of omission, nor does it mean Aes Sedai can't find ways to deceive or manipulate the truth using those all-important words to create loopholes. 

This is exactly what Moiraine does when she swears on the sacred Oath Rod. Instead of repeating what Siuan initially says, Moiarine doesn't swear to "obey the judgement of The Amyrin Seat, and to never return until she calls (her) home" but to "obey and honor" the Seat's current holder, Siuan Sanche herself, and "never return until (Siuan)" calls her home. This is important for several reasons. 

Episode 6 foreshadows a Civil War for the Aes Sedai

For one thing, as Siuan points out before handing Moiraine the Oath Rod, the One Power renders anything sworn on it "unbreakable and eternally binding." If Moiraine were to swear fealty, in general, to "The Amyrin Seat," the One Power would force her to return to the White Tower when whoever held the seat called her back — whether or not she managed to complete her mission. By swearing allegiance to Siuan, she ensures that their plan to find and assist the Dragon Reborn can continue uninterrupted or foiled by another Aes Sedai in the event that Siuan loses her position (a position that, as we learn from Moiraine's conversation with Priyanka in episode 5, is actually in danger), 

Perhaps even more importantly, Moiraine's oath seals her bond to Siuan, the woman she loves, and acts as a visible yet entirely hidden gesture of her unbreakable loyalty and fidelity. It is, in some ways, a kind of inalienable marriage vow — thanks to the One Power, it will bind her to her lover forever, not unlike the bond created between Geralt and Yennefer in Season 1 of "The Witcher" when he makes his last wish with the djinn.

Finally, in the series' source material, Siuan Sanche is ultimately deposed. By focusing intently on the "exact verbiage" of her vow, Moiraine has (unbeknownst to her fellow Aes Sedai) already locked herself into a side in the upcoming conflict