The Seanchan, a scary new enemy, was introduced in the dramatic “Wheel of Time” season 1 conclusion. When Moiraine Sedai led Rand al’Thor to the Eye of the World, she thought she had brought the present cycle of history to a premature conclusion. But by the end of “Wheel of Time” season 1, episode 8, she understood she was mistaken; Rand and the Dark One’s struggle was their first, not the Last One that would bring the centuries to an end.
However, there is another menace on the horizon. The eighth episode of the first season of “The Wheel of Time” closed with a view of the continent’s western coasts, when an invasion force of ships arrived from the sea. Worse, they had Channelers, who could combine their abilities to create a catastrophic wave that would wash inland and destroy coastal cities and villages. The Seanchan are a group purportedly independent from the age-old battle between the Aes Sedai and the Dark One, a major complication in famed author Robert Jordan’s fantasy universe.
Jordan envisioned a world where magic was genuine, and he was adamant about avoiding simplistic depictions of it. As a result, he purposefully chose to create the Seanchan as another reaction to magic – a culture that views Channelers who tap into the One Power as weapons, enslaving them and robbing them of their ability to act. They name their Channelers damane, which means “Leashed One,” and they bind them with an a’dam, a magical leash. These ladies are bound by a sul’dam, a controller, and they have no choice but to obey his dictates. The damanes who unleash the big wave upon the western coasts move in disturbing concert precisely because they are controlled by sul’dams, as seen in the “Wheel of Time” season 1 finale.
The Seanchans are descended from Artur Hawkwing, a mighty ta’veren who dominated most of the known world until his death, when his empire fractured. The Seanchans feel they have the right to reclaim Hawking’s former dominion, and they have traveled to the continent to do it. They are ruled by an empress named Tuon, who becomes a key figure in the books and is closely linked to Mat Cauthon. The Seanchan has been revamped visually in “Wheel of Time” to emphasize how their approaches to magic and technology have evolved over the years. “The bug armor is in there, and there are all of the elements that are mentioned in the books for them, but we really wanted them to stand out. It’s almost as if aliens have landed on our beaches” Rafe Judkins, the showrunner, told Decider.
The Seanchans invaded in The Great Hunt, the second book in the series, according to the books. They quickly realized that their influence over Aes Sedai was limited; the Three Oaths tying an Aes Sedai meant that even a sul’dam could not command an enslaved Aes Sedai to utilize the One Power as a weapon. With Egwene – one of the most powerful Aes Sedai initiates – trapped by them for a while, the experience of enslavement was nevertheless frightening.
Season 1 of “The Wheel of Time” established a basic good vs evil dynamic, but the addition of the Seanchans substantially complicates things. They are unquestionably enemies, and many features of their civilization, particularly their reliance on slavery, are very unsettling. However, the Seanchans play an important role in the story, and their existence must be accepted if Rand is to win the “Wheel of Time’s” Last Battle against the Dark One.