TL;DR – As much as the title describes, this is an episode of crossroads, not all of them good.
Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.
The Rings of Power Review –
I always knew that The Great Wave would be a hard act to follow. Indeed it would be a hard act to get close to that again. However, I was not expecting this week’s episode to give me pause. Not a significant problem per se. More like when you are walking through a forest, and you stop because you have seen something odd in the corner of your eye, pause. Let us now dive into this week’s episode to explore what I mean.
So to set the scene, we open in on the Harfoots as they begin their long migration north, over mountains, through grasslands, and even some marshes where the dead will lie one day. Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and her family would have been left behind leagues ago because of their father’s (Dylan Smith) foot and being put in the back of the caravan. However, thanks to the help of The Stranger (Daniel Weyman), who fell from the sky, and much to the annoyance of the rest of the caravan, they have kept up. But in this wood, something stirs, and when there is no food, a couple of Harfoots look like a tasty morsel. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Starting with that first Harfoot storyline, we see our first potential parting. But before we dive into that, I want to take a moment to talk about the visual scope of this show. The migration was frankly just an excuse to show that time is passing in Middle Earth, which has been a source of confusion for some. But also to get them heading in a direction that will put them closer to where we know them from in the Third Era. But instead of just that, we got to see references to places that are known in the story, and we got to see some truly breathtaking scenery. This is a show that makes the most of New Zealand at every turn, and I wonder if it will be able to hold that up when a lot of the production moves to England for season two. All of this is set to a beautiful song about how ‘not all who wander are lost’, and I appreciated that reference.
The main thrust of this storyline is to remind Nori that the stranger is a powerful being who may not have complete control of his powers. The question then becomes whether he is a force for good or evil, which is a question because we are still playing the “which one of these is secretly Sauron” mini-game. My money is that he is one of the Wizards (Istari), possibly Gandalf, but we will see. More a being of immense power and one not to be trifled with, as some wonderfully created wolves found out the hard way. Then Nori discovered that same power and thus began the first parting of the episode. But while all this is happening, we see more contenders of “which one of these is secretly Sauron” The Nomad (Edith Poor), The Ascetic (Kali Kopae), and The Dweller (Bridie Sisson) in pursuit, raising the stakes and questions for all.
Our subsequent potential parting was between the Elves and the Dwarves as Elrond (Robert Aramayo) brought Durin IV (Owain Arthur) back to Lindon to meet with the High King of the Elves, Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker). I have seen many tense family dinners in my life, but this is up there, as both sides try to outplay each other. It was an interesting game of diplomacy through perceived slight after slight, which only ended when the Elves bought Durin’s porky pie. I liked how the power shifted throughout this dinner as if it was a game of verbal tug-of-war until Durin played the ‘sacrilege’ card that had been literally sitting in front of them this whole time. While still forwarding the story, it was a good blend of tension and humour.
The sub-text for this dinner and later the text in the conversations is that the Elves already knew about the mithril but didn’t tell Elrond about it. Gil-galad is quite hoity about this, but at least Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) has the humility to be sorry about it. All of this leads to a renewed bond between Elrond and Durin as Elrond stay true to his bond [but while all but confirming it]. It also leads to the Elves revealing their hand as to what they want the Dwarves for. While that is interesting in itself, it leads to a rendition of a story from the past and the depiction of a Balrog as they appeared controversially in The Lord of the Rings. It will be interesting to see how that hits the discourse over the next week.
Moving further south, things have gone from bad to worse for Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) as the Orcs build up in the valley below and it becomes more apparent that they have no hope of holding the tower. I liked how Bronwyn got to make one of those famous LOTR soliloquies only to be immediately undercut by the arse Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), who had been an arse all season long. He led half of those in the tower to kneel to Adar (Joseph Mawle), another parting. Also, I appreciate that they didn’t waste time hiding that Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) had the hilt. There was not a whole lot of story here, more suspense than anything, but I was underwhelmed by the fake-out as to whether they killed Rowan (Ian Blackburn). If they did, they should have committed to it. If they didn’t, then they are just putting off the underwhelming aspect.
This leads to the one story that did give me pause, unfortunately, Númenor. All of this week, all of it felt like filler, as if the story needed some padding out before it could continue. There was a definitive end to the story last week, and the walking back from that is just the dullest narrative choice. I did like that we got to see the machinations of Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), less so the stupidities of his son Kemen (Leon Wadham). Also that we got to see some touches of Gondor and Rohan in the armour design, but every time we cut back, I sighed. There was some interesting cross-cutting between this and the Southlands story that may imply that the show is doing a Westworld with its timelines, but that was not enough to keep coming back to it.
In the end, do we recommend The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Partings? Look, I did say that this week’s episode gave me pause. But while one story didn’t land for me this week, the rest met the challenge and charged forward.
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 Rings of Power
Directed by – Wayne Che Yip
Written by – Justin Doble
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 – Markella Kavenagh, Daniel Weyman, Sara Zwangobani, Dylan Smith, Megan Richards, Joseph Mawle, Nazanin Boniadi, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Tyroe Muhafidin, Lloyd Owen, Maxim Baldry, Trystan Gravelle, Ema Horvath, Leon Wadham, Charlie Vickers, Morfydd Clark, Cynthia Addia-Robinson, Sir Lenny Henry, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Charles Edwards & Benjamin Walker with Beau Cassidy, Ian Blackburn, Geoff Morrell, Peter Tait, Thusitha Jayasundera, Maxine Cunliffe, Anthony Crum, Alex Tarrant, Ken Blackburn, Edith Poor, Kali Kopae, Bridie Sisson, Edward Clendon, Ella Hope-Higginson & Jed Brophy