The Big Picture

  • The intense death scene in Episode 6 of The Wheel of Time Season 2 is reminiscent of a similar scene from the 2018 horror film Suspiria.
  • Elena Fokina, who played the sul’dam in The Wheel of Time‘s most disturbing death scene, also portrayed Olga in Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake.
  • Fokina’s background as a highly trained dancer and choreographer contributes to the effectiveness of the body horror scenes in both Suspiria and The Wheel of Time.

If you watched Season 2 of The Wheel of Time and got intense flashbacks to a certain 2018 horror re-imagining during that gruesome death scene in Episode 6, there’s a good reason for that. In the heartbreaking climax of “Eyes Without Pity,” the Yellow Aes Sedai Ryma (Nyokabi Gethaiga) and her Warder Basan (Bentley Kalu) fight against Seanchan sul’dam and their damane in an attempt to protect Nynaeve (Zoë Robins) and Elayne (Ceara Coveney) from being discovered. Unfortunately, Basan dies in the fight, leaving the angry and grief-stricken Ryma to go against the soldiers alone. In her desperate rage, Ryma uses the One Power in a way that leads to some of the most brutal deaths in the series so far, and one sul’dam gets their body broken and twisted in all the wrong places. This scene is impressive on its own, but even moreso when you learn who played the role of that sul’dam.

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Before ‘The Wheel of Time’ Season 2, Elena Fokina Starred in ‘Suspiria’s Most Brutal Scene

Image via Amazon Studios

If you’ve ever seen Luca Guadagnino‘s 2018 Suspiria — starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Goth — then you are aware of all the body horror and other forms of nightmare fuel throughout the two-and-a-half-hour film, but there is one scene that is especially difficult to watch, one that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

The 2018 rendition of Suspiria follows a mysterious young woman who travels to Germany to join a famous dance company that has had accusations of witchcraft amidst dancers going missing. One dancer who accuses the company and its teachers is Olga, who is played by Elena Fokina, the actor behind The Wheel of Time Season 2’s brutal scene. As Olga attempts to flee, the audience realizes the teachers of the company are witches after all. They lead Olga away from her escape and towards her demise, trapping her in a dance studio deep in the company. She is bewitched to be affected by the dancing of newcomer Susie (Johnson), and is flung across the room aggressively at every one of Susie’s movements. The scene itself is not quick, and cuts from Susie’s enchanting routine to Olga’s body being twisted and destroyed at every move. The sounds of Olga’s limbs and jaw breaking with her cries of agony are initially what makes the scene so difficult to watch, but her body being folded up into a mangled mass on the floor, next to puddles of her own bodily fluids, all while she is still conscious, is what makes the scene one of the most effective horror scenes in a film.

Elena Fokina’s History as a Dancer Is the Key to Successful Body Horror

Image via Amazon Studios

Body horror has a long history in film, from slightly unbelievable but memorable moments in 1980s slashers to its presence in recent horror films — and not just for shock factor. Including body horror on-screen to simply horrify audiences is arguably less effective, but with Suspiria, the weaving of dance and body horror into one stomach-churning scene makes all the sense in the world. Visually, it tells the story and drives home the ominousness of what will come later. The Wheel of Time Season 2 does this successfully as well, using its body horror to portray the vast grief experienced by Ryma, who wields her power and abilities as a healer to a more twisted advantage over the Seanchan sul’dam. There are additional components to making the jaw-dropping body horror in both scenes work so well, but the biggest is Fokina herself.

Fokina, in both Suspiria and The Wheel of Time, is not an actor first and foremost, but a highly trained and experienced dancer and choreographer, talents that were obviously used in her first big film role in Guadagnino’s Suspiria. While prosthetics were used for the scene, as Fokina is not a contortionist, barely any digital effects were relied upon. It was pretty much all Fokina herself. This is what can make a body horror sequence so successful, similar to why the action in John Wick films is so accomplished and praised. The talent of these actors who have such a specialized capability for movement and flexibility, both in terms of intense stunts and elaborate choreography, is what people are talking about when they call something “movie magic”. It’s exciting to see TV shows like The Wheel of Time incorporate this kind of skill into the story, especially with the inclusion of the actor behind such an iconic body horror scene.

The Season 2 finale of The Wheel of Time premieres Friday on Prime Video.

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