There's been no shortage of disturbing moments in The Wheel of Time Season 2: The new installment of Prime Video's fantasy series, which adapts Robert Jordan's books, is much darker than Season 1. And yet, across the show's first four episodes, few scenes were more chilling than that of the Seanchan's entrance. After the Seanchan ravaged the town of Atuan's Mill and subdued its people, High Lady Suroth arrives on a daunting pyramid-shaped palanquin. The masked woman is joined by the Dark One a.k.a. Ishamael (Fares Fares), but even without his presence her arrival is all shades of sinister.
"The Seanchan, especially off of the Robert Jordan books, are really a colorful group," director and executive producer Sanaa Hamri told TV Guide. "When the High Lady Suroth comes on scene, she is like a rock star. She's in charge and she doesn't have to say much." The High Lady Suroth, played by Karima McAdams, commands the soldiers around her with a simple flick of the nail — a long, ghastly nail, at that.
"She has her voice played by Jessica Boone, Alwhin. They have their positions and their masks and I think there's something extremely graphic about their world," Hamri continued. "It's a violent and dark world, but they believe in it because that's the way they live. So they've come to conquer."
The Seanchan have come to reclaim the land they believe is theirs, and this isn't the first time viewers are seeing them. At the very end of Season 1, they made a brief but frightening appearance. Besides High Lady Suroth, Alwhin, and the Seanchan soldiers are the Damane — women who can channel the One Power and are enslaved — and the Sul'dam, the trainers who control the Damane.
According to Hamri, bringing High Lady Suroth and the Seanchan to life was a "perfect marriage between costume, hair and makeup, set design, props."
"All of the cultures in The Wheel of Time, I start with the source material," costume designer Sharon Gilham said. "Robert Jordan was an expert in writing great detail about the way that people dress." Gilham said that from the books, the motif of insects stood out — and that was the pattern she tried to apply to the Seanchan's clothing. "The first thing I had to do was create the soldier costume," Gilham recalled. "We had this idea of twisting leather, and then putting gold foiling on it so it looks sharp — like you could touch any part of their armor and you'd be injured immediately."
From there, the costume team designed the appearance of other Seanchan characters. "That idea developed into some of the pleating and the twisting on Suroth's costume, on Turak's costume," Gilham explained.
Hair and makeup supervisor Davina Lamont worked closely with Gilham to realize the Seanchan's look. "It was one of my first designs I had to do for the whole show when I first arrived. And so I had a look at Season 1, what they had done," Lamont shared. "I wanted to change some aspects of it and the different colorings of the Sul'dam and the Damane."
The supervisor paid special attention to the characters' hair, describing it as a "big part of the detailed work." "Sharon had put so much work into the costumes that I needed to step it up and raise the bar on making it coerce and work together," Lamont said. Sure enough, the heads of Seanchan characters featured all kinds of intricate braiding.
Much deliberation also went into how exactly High Lady Suroth would make her entrance. "We discussed different versions of how she's arriving — on a boat? That's one of the options. Is she arriving on a palanquin?" Production designer Ondrej Nekvasil said. The team landed on the palanquin, and Nekvasil described the execution as a cross-department effort. "It has to be brought by special effects," he explained. "And we want to make it look as natural as possible. So we need a little bit of help [from] visual effects to clean stuff like wires to look like the slaves are really holding it."
And The Wheel of Time team is fully aware of the somber reality of the Seanchan. "It is a colonial occupation and that story is really powerful," director Thomas Napper said. "That's the wonderful thing about Robert Jordan. He's not afraid in these books to take on the big aspects of society."
The Wheel of Time Season 2 is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.