Love hurts — just ask The Wheel of Time protagonist Rand al’Thor (Josha Stradowski). In season 1 of the Prime Video fantasy series, Rand effectively walked out on his childhood crush, Egwene al’Vere (Madeleine Madden), after finally owning up to his destiny as the prophesized world savior/destroyer, the Dragon Reborn. The former sheep herder’s love life only gets worse in season 2, after he seeks solace in a rebound fling with Selene (Natasha O’Keeffe): an entrancing innkeeper who shows her true — and decidedly terrifying — colors in season 2’s fourth episode, “Daughter of the Night.”
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for The Wheel of Time season 2, episode 4.]
Yes, it turns out that “Selene” is really Lanfear, one of the Dark One’s most powerful servants. It’s a twist that viewers familiar with Robert Jordan’s original Wheel of Time novels were waiting for, but poor Rand exits “Daughter of the Night” looking suitably flummoxed. Our hero likely isn’t the only one a little confused by the big reveal either, as episode 4 doesn’t devote much screen time to Lanfear’s backstory or wider role within The Wheel of Time’s overarching narrative.
That’s why we’ve pulled together this handy guide to all things Lanfear. It covers everything you need to know about the self-styled Daughter of the Night, including who she is, how she fits within The Wheel of Time lore, and where her story is headed in season 2’s remaining episodes.
Who is Lanfear and why is she so important to The Wheel of Time?
Lanfear was originally Mierin Eronaile, an immensely powerful Aes Sedai who lived during the Age of Legends (thousands of years before The Wheel of Time’s Third Age setting). Back then, she was a university researcher who (as dialogue scattered through season 2 implies) dated that era’s Dragon, Lews Therin Telamon, until he broke things off. Lanfear never really got over being dumped by Lews Therin, and (like in the Prime Video adaptation) later transfers her fixation with him to his successor to the Dragon mantle, Rand.
Lanfear’s claim to fame goes beyond being the Dragon’s ex-girlfriend, though. More importantly, she spearheaded the research that unwittingly unleashed the Dark One on the world, and for an encore, publicly declared her loyalty to the demonic entity. This is when she adopted the “Lanfear” name, which translates to “Daughter of the Night” in The Wheel of Time’s Old Tongue dialect. Thanks to her considerable smarts and strength in the One Power, Lanfear quickly found herself anointed one of the “Chosen” — the Dark One’s most favored (and most evil) followers, called the “Forsaken” by everyone else.
The Wheel of Time season 2 aligns with (or doesn’t otherwise contradict) all the above aspects of Lanfear’s portrayal in Jordan’s books. It also faithfully recreates the author’s description of Lanfear’s legendary beauty, which hair and makeup supervisor Davina Lamont remarked upon during Polygon’s recent visit to the Wheel of Time set, talking through the process she went through with O’Keeffe and showrunner Rafe Judkins to find the perfect look.
“[O’Keeffe is] such an impressive actor and such a beautiful human being, so for me to be able to put [Lanfear’s look] together was easy,” Lamont says. “And as much as dark, dark hair [can be wrong] — and I was against going too, too dark with the black [wig] and then Rafe would say, ‘No, no, no, we want to go black!’ And I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ But with the costume and everything and her porcelain skin, it looks absolutely amazing.”
How is Lanfear still active (and young) in the Third Age?
Lanfear’s striking good looks in The Wheel of Time’s season 2 are even more remarkable when you remember she was breaking hearts millennia before Rand was even born. How does that work? You can quite literally chalk up the Forsaken’s youthful appearance to beauty sleep. In both the books and the Prime Video series, Lews Therin and his allies managed to re-seal the Dark One’s prison, with the Forsaken (including Lanfear) trapped alongside their master. The upshot of this was that Lanfear spent a long time in dreamless, ageless stasis until finally breaking free to wreak havoc on The Wheel of Time’s Third Age setting.
Robert Jordan doesn’t depict the moment Lanfear emerges from her cosmic jail cell in The Great Hunt — the novel upon which The Wheel of Time’s second season is largely based. However, “Daughter of the Night” opens with a flashback to this very event. It’s a markedly more tangible affair than Jordan’s abstract approach to this aspect of the canon, and just as notably, makes the Forsakens’ de facto leader, Ishamael (Fares Fares), an active participant in the proceedings.
Executive producer Mike Weber addressed Ishamael’s hands-on role in Lanfear’s escape during Polygon’s set visit, framing this expansion on established continuity as a way of giving The Wheel of Time season 2 a worthwhile main villain. “Just to see your antagonist personified is much more effective and dramatic,” Weber explains. “You can’t just talk about ‘The Dark One is coming’ forever. You need to see it. You need to have that actor [Fares] be that representation of it. For audiences, for a fantasy series, that’s much more effective.”
Jordan also doesn’t mention anything about Lanfear’s return being an eerie, blood-soaked affair, but that’s certainly what “Daughter of the Night” delivers. It’s a dramatic scene that plays to TV’s strength as a visual medium — and capturing it on film took its toll on several members of The Wheel of Time’s cast and crew.
“That was a big day in the caves,” Lamont recalls. “And when we were shooting that, it was like, Hang on a minute: Do you actually want [O’Keeffe] to be covered completely head to toe in blood? It was literally pouring it on. And it was all day, so we shot it for, like, six hours. So, it was a massive day for her […] and they wanted to have this super-long hair as well, to kind of hit the ground, and so for us also to have time to find the length of hair was painful.”
As she laughs: “It was painful, but we did it!”
Are Rand and Lanfear together in the books?
Following her liberation (and in the show’s case, a very long bath), both the book and screen versions of Lanfear immediately set their sights on hooking up with Rand. Where these incarnations of the Daughter of the Night differ is in how successful they are. The Great Hunt doesn’t include any passages where “Selene” and Rand get it on, whereas The Wheel of Time season 2 devotes a not insignificant amount of screen time to intimate moments between the pair.
But then, Rand and Lanfear aren’t really a couple in Jordan’s novel — although he is very clearly attracted to her, and they do spend plenty of time together. Unlike in the Prime Video adaptation, Rand’s encounters with “Selene” aren’t limited solely to Cairhien, either, nor is it where they meet. Instead, they link up in an alternate reality (sowing the seeds for a Wheel of Time multiverse as yet unexplored in the series).
According to Thomas Napper, director of season 2’s first two episodes, the decision to omit Rand and Lanfear’s extra-dimensional jaunt had less to do with steering clear of pop culture’s current multiverse fixation and more about keeping the show’s sprawling source material digestible for audiences.
“I love that sequence in The Great Hunt where they meet. […] Wheel of Time is very special because it is so expansive,” Napper says. “It takes you not only to multiverses, to time travel, to dreamwalking, to collective consciousness in dreams and Eastern ideas and Eastern philosophy. It has Buddhism, it has Hinduism, it has Sufism, it has so many interesting philosophical and spiritual influences, and it is limitless. You know, it goes in all directions as far as you can imagine […] so it has an enormous canvas and there have to be choices in the real world around which of those worlds we go to [in the show].”
What happens to Lanfear in the Wheel of Time books (or season 2)?
Of course, there’s theoretically still room for Rand and Lanfear to visit another world in The Wheel of Time season 2’s four remaining episodes; however, this doesn’t seem likely. Not only is Rand now wise to “Selene” and her act, but Lanfear is seriously wounded by Moiraine (Rosamund Pike) in episode 4’s closing moments, seemingly scuttling any immediate travel plans.
Heck, being skewered and Pez dispenser-ed should have been enough to take Lanfear out of action for good, as even powerful channelers are susceptible to such injuries in the books. Subsequent comments by Moiraine — not to mention episode 4’s final shot of Lanfear regaining consciousness — indicate the same logic doesn’t apply to the Forsaken in the series. That said, the Dark One resurrects several of his followers in Jordan’s later novels, so that could be what’s happening here (although the circumstances involved are markedly different).
Regardless of exactly how Lanfear survives her brush with death, you shouldn’t expect her to give up on Rand so easily. The Daughter of the Night pursues Rand (and the dream of ruling the world by his side) until Jordan’s fifth book, The Fires of Heaven, so her screen counterpart is likely to continue trying to tempt the Dragon Reborn until the end of season 2, at least. And that means plenty of trouble on the horizon — not just for Rand, but for anyone close to him as well.