TL;DR – This is an episode with joy and tears, warmth and horror, action and romance, and warnings for the future
Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Review –
When they announced that Amazon would commission a new Lord of the Rings prequel series, many people [including myself] doubted if they could pull it off. Especially when it was revealed just what they could work with given the limited window their licence gave them. However, as I sit back from watching the fourth episode, it has become clear that those concerns were misplaced because few episodes of televisionthis year have moved me as much as this one did today.
So to set the scene, in Adar, we were introduced to the island kingdom of Númenor. A land was once given to man by the Elves, but a land that Elves are now unwelcome, something that Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) discovers first-hand when she is brought there by Elendil (Lloyd Owen). However, there is something behind Númenor’s reluctance, which haunts the dreams of the queen regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). However, things are going from bad to worse in the Southlands because the orcs have returned and are capturing people to dig their tunnels. Still, as Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) stands in chains, he looks in horror as the leader of the orcs is an elf called Adar (Joseph Mawle). Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
This week’s episode feels like a culmination of the last three episodes’ narratives before it rushes forward for the back half of the season. It was remarkable that we covered as much terror as we have in just three episodes. I honestly feel bad for House of the Dragon attempting to do the same thing, but its story feels much more restrained even though chronologically, it is marching forward at a quickening pace. They are different shows walking in different worlds, but I can’t help but compare them given their simultaneous launch. But to return from our tangent, this week sees a significant escalation in the Númenor, Dwarf, and Southlands storylines.
When we look at Númenor, I think we get both the strongest and weakest points in today’s episode. Since they were introduced last week, there has been a clear issue that something was behind the nation’s reluctance. Here, we get both a fantasy answer to that question and some very real-world allegories. There is a fear of a prophecy that Númenor will fall under a great wave, a fear which is reinforced for those who view the nation’s palantír hidden away in the palace’s tower. The second the palantír appeared, I liked that Galadriel immediately knew its importance and that the show understood its audience to understand it as well. There was almost an involuntary gasp as that cloth covering it fell to the ground.
Some of the water effects in the show still feel as if they are on a soundstage, not outdoors, but the rolling waves worked here. The opening sequence of the city being crushed under the wave was one of the show’s best effects so far. A good build was put into the story as the first rumble could be shrugged off, the second was concerning, and then the screams could be heard in the distance. It was the first but not the only moment of tension this week. Then, there was the political aspect to the show, with the people of Númenor concerned that elves would come and take their jobs, a view formed by years of looking insularly rather than externally. It was a very blunt message and one that you don’t have to look far to see happening around us today. However, they still don’t quite seem to have a handle on the Isildur (Maxim Baldry) story, but as we know where that is going, I can see the road they will go down, even if the car is going around in circles here.
Back on Middle Earth, we see more of Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and Durin IV (Owain Arthur) as both look to rekindle a lost friendship while possibly hiding things from each other. This creates an electrifying dynamic, where both find joy in this new relationship while also spying on each other. If there is an MVP of this week’s episode, I would say that it would be Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete), who has to valiantly navigate through all these shenanigans. I think even I was almost convinced that she was telling the truth when she was putting Elrond off the trail of the new mithril mines. She is also the emotional centre of the episode, with her calling to the rocks a moment that will stay for me for a long time. This is followed by a moment between Durin IV and his father Durin III (Peter Mullan), which is up there with the speech from Dune in good moments between fathers and sons.
Further south, we get the continuation of the dangers in the Southlands, where we get the action and horror part of this week’s episode. The transition between the Dwarf storyline and the Southlands is an excellent point to mention I have been profoundly enjoying Bear McCreary’s musical score for the series and how it is starting to take form. There is something cold yet compelling about a fallen elf. I think it must come back to those tales of the temptation of fallen angels that you see in many of the Abrahamic faiths. His cold politeness is almost more terrifying than the orcs’ brutal efficiency. Something we see as they hunt down Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), who has snuck back into his town to get food. There is this cat and chance moment as Theo tries to escape that was almost reminiscent of some stealth video games I have plaid in my lifetime. I did expect that Theo would be spotted when he smiled, that he was safe, and that he would not be harmed because Arondir would be there. But that didn’t matter because it led to the fight in the woods, where we got to see Arondir go into full-elf mode. It was a delight to see him catch an arrow out of the air before it killed someone before firing back and killing the orc that fired it. We also see how the show knows how to stop for its moments of wonder, here how the Sun rising in the morning saving the group in the clearing echoed the dawn when the riders of Rohan descended down the slopes to save Helm’s Deep.
All of this leads to the elephant in the room, and that is, where is Sauron? He is the drive behind many of the character’s emotions and actions in the show, but he has yet to appear. Well, maybe yet to appear. I know there were some press releases before the show went live about this, but putting those aside for a moment, the show has already dropped three characters that could be Sauron, or at least, the show wants you to possible suspect that they are. The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) fell from the skies, which is as dramatic as you could be, right up Sauron’s alley. Then there is the apparent lost king Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) in Númenor with the penchant for breaking arms and whispering advice to characters. Finally, there is the fallen elf that has his followers call him ‘father’. To be fair, it could be none or all of these. We are still not 100% sure the show is not pulling a Westworld with its chronology. The fact that the show is being coy on this and it is working shows the care they have put into this narrative.
In the end, do we recommend The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Great Wave? Absolutely. This episode provoked so many different emotions in me that I was not expecting, from awe to grief and everything in between. If the show is already at these heights, I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Directed by – Wayne Che Yip
Written by – Stephany Folsom, J. D. Payne & Patrick McKay
Created by – J. D. Payne & Patrick McKay
Based On – The Lord of the Rings and appendices by J. R. R. Tolkien
Production/Distribution Companies – Amazon Studios, Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Trust, HarperCollins, New Line Cinema & Amazon Prime
Starring – Cynthia Addia-Robinson, Trystan Gravelle, Morfydd Clark, Lloyd Owen, Charlie Vickers, Maxim Baldry, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Joseph Mawle, Nazanin Boniadi, Tyroe Muhafidin, Robert Aramayo, Charles Edwards, Sophia Nomvete, Owain Arthur Ema Horvath, Leon Wadham & Peter Mullan with Anthony Crum, Alex Tarrant, Peter Tait, Geoff Morrell, Ian Blackburn, Ken Blackburn Carmel McGlone, Jason Hood, Antonio te Maioha, Phil Grieve, Luke Hawker, Jed Brophy & Edward Clendon