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How The Wheel of Time designed the eerie looks of the Seanchan Empire for season 2

How The Wheel of Time designed the eerie looks of the Seanchan Empire for season 2

The Wheel of Time is back for season 2, and so are many familiar faces like Rand al'Thor (Josha Stradowski) and Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike). But the Amazon Prime Video adaptation of Robert Jordan's best-selling fantasy series also introduces some new characters into the mix with its sophomore entry. In particular, the arrival of invaders from the overseas Seanchan Empire is set to shake up the status quo on the story's main continent.

The Seanchan characters have a very different attitude towards channeling and politics than, say, the Aes Sedai do, and this is reflected in their remarkable clothing. As with other communities in The Wheel of Time, the Seanchan are a unique combination of different real-world cultures. Just as the Tinkers (seen in season 1) combine the nomadic lifestyle of Irish Travelers with the pacifist philosophies of Indian Jainists, the Seanchan fuse visual motifs from Mesoamerica with Imperial China.

"The source material is very strong and there's a lot of information in the books of what this culture looks like," costume designer Sharon Gilham tells EW. "One of the big things that's repeated is this idea of twisted leather for the soldier's armor, which gives a sharp edge and a sense of danger to their costumes."

'The Wheel of Time' season 2 First Look
'The Wheel of Time' season 2 First Look

Jan Thijs/Prime Video Lady Suroth (Karima McAdams) of the Seanchan Empire walks the mysterious Man (Fares Fares) in 'The Wheel of Time' season 2.

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Another way that Jordan often describes the Seanchan in The Wheel of Time books is that they have an insect look to their clothing. Gilham and her textile department dove deep into this "reptilian vibe," taking inspiration from Bauhaus painter Anni Albers and the reptile prints of the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen to design the costume for Seanchan leader Lady Suroth (Karima McAdams).

"We mixed all that up and we created Lady Suroth's kimono, which is a splayed creature that dissolves into this jagged print," Gilham says. "That's repeated in her mask and throughout the Seanchan world. So the Bloods, who are high-level Seanchan, their costumes also have this print on it. So it becomes iconography, another piece of storytelling for this culture."

Lady Suroth and her Seanchan attendants all wear insectoid masks, but makeup/hair designer Davina Lamont still had to design how they look under those coverings. Rest assured, viewers will see the true face of the Seanchan before season 2 is up.

But from the moment they first appear, it is clear that the Seanchan have a different approach to the One Power than what we've seen before. Unlike the Aes Sedai, who train female channelers to use their magic for the good of the continent, the Seanchan keep such women leashed and strictly controlled. The women who hold the leashes of channelers are known as sul'dam, and their faces are marked with blue.

"We started with a lot of R&D to get the right color blue, and also the scarification that they have underneath that, which will show throughout the season once that blue comes off," Lamont says. "Every single one of the Seanchan has a look underneath their mask, and those masks come off further into the series."

The Wheel of Time, Exculsive First Look
The Wheel of Time, Exculsive First Look

Amazon Prime Video The Man (Fares Fares) advises the Seanchan Empire in ‘The Wheel of Time’ season 2

In particular, Gilham and Lamont both say that viewers should get prepared to eventually witness Lady Suroth's face.

"She is terrifying underneath there," warns Lamont. "It'll be so great for everyone to see what she looks like."

Adds Gilham, "it was great because the actress who plays Suroth is totally up for looking as weird as possible."

The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time season 2 are streaming now on Prime Video, with a new episode following every Friday.

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