TL;DR – Could I see some of the plot points of this episode coming? Yes. Did that stop it from ripping my heart out? No, it did not.
Disclosure – I paid for the Amazon Prime service that viewed this episode.
The Rings of Power Review –
When watching a show or movie, you never quite know when something will connect with you, like really connect with you. Will a story pierce your heart like a barbed arrow and break through even the most hardened layer of cynicism? After not gelling with last week’s Partings, I wondered if the series was running out of steam with me, but nothing prepared me for today.
So to set the scene, the orcs had completely surrounded Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) and the remaining townsfolk in the watchtower of Ostirith. However, as Adar (Joseph Mawle) and the Orcs storm the watchtower, they find it empty. Well, almost empty. But while this delays the Orcs, the townsfolk know that soon the horde will be upon them and sure enough, in the distance, torches glow. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
While most of the episodes of the season so far have been expansive romps through Middle Earth and beyond, this week was a much more contained work. Bar two cuts out to the coming Númenor army, all the action stays within the surrounds of the village. The shrinking of the narrative is necessary for everything in the story that needs to happen this week. But it also concentrates the emotions which are required for each of the story beats to land.
Most of this episode is one long action scene or preparing for the coming action scene, and when you have episodes like that, you have a habit of getting exhausted by the end. It is just a relentless stream of heightened emotions that you can’t escape from. The writers clearly understood this, so we get moments of the battle but also of preparation and pause. These ebbs and flows shift the episode’s impact like a meandering river, so even though you know where the river is going, you are still there for every turn and switchback. It also allows you to add the moment of tenderness between Arondir and Bronwyn, which then makes you concerned for them because people don’t get to have happy endings like this.
It also helps that each battle has a different mood and feel. Right at the start, you were expecting a smaller Helms Deep, only for it to be empty and a bait and switch. You buy entirely that an Elf that had lived in the tower for decades would know the one spot to fire an arrow to set off a chain reaction that destroys everything. Then there were the Orcs, doing their own trap and the calamity that caused. Followed by the final horse charge. Each battle was not only different but was used to show a different side to all of the characters on the show, with everyone getting a moment to shine.
However, if bait and switch was the theme of this week’s episode, well, it succeeds on all fronts because all of the battles with the Orcs were almost a big misdirection. They wanted the tower because that is where the water was. They wanted the sword because it was the key to releasing that water. After all, this episode and possibly this season was not the story of the rings but how Mt Doom was birthed with fire and water. All the way back in the first episode of Shadow of the Past, you could see the mountain hanging in the background, a looming presence. But I never clicked that the lake and tunnels all had one outcome.
As Adar fled from the scene on his horse, a tension was added to the show that I could not place. This narrative hook seemed to be dangling, which looked to be tied up with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) coming to each other’s aid to stop them from crossing a line they could not walk back from. But even while this is all happing, the fact that the package holding the sword hilt was not being inspected raised suspicion in you. Then Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), the worst character in the show so far, let the water lose. The first horror is when you see what is happening and wonder why they are doing it, followed by a second horror when you realise what is about to happen and that everyone is just standing outside unprepared. As that wave of ash crashed towards the village, I was taken back in time to the aftermath of the two towers collapsing and seeing that dust cloud billow down roads, sucking up people in its wake. A feeling that has been hard to shake since I watched it.
In the end, do we recommend The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Udûn? Absolutely. This episode was a cake, where every layer built upon the foundation was laid to create something stunning. It connected with me on a deeply emotional level, and I hesitate to see what comes next, given where we left it today.
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 – Charlotte Brändström
Written by – Nicholas Adams, Justin Doble, 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 – Joseph Mawle, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Nazanin Boniadi, Tyroe Muhafidin, Maxim Baldry, Charlie Vickers, Morfydd Clark, Lloyd Owen & Cynthia Addia-Robinson with Geoff Morrell, Peter Tait, Anthony Crum, Alex Tarrant, Phil Grieve & Jed Brophy