The following article contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Do not read until you have seen episodes one to seven …
Ashes to ashes
We closed last week with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) standing still as the volcano erupted around her. She had failed to stop Adar (Joseph Mawle) in his mission. We picked up this week almost immediately afterwards, as the commander of the northern armies awoke to that new reality – the land she had come to liberate now covered in ash, flames and darkness.
She quickly found Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), forming the least likely double-act of the series, while Queen-regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and Isildur (Maxim Baldry) rescue Valandil (Alex Tarrant), and sadly discover Ontamo (Anthony Crum) lying dead. There go his dreams of staying in the Southlands, marrying and becoming a farmer – although if it’s any comfort, the Southlands are now Mordor, and I don’t think the lands are very fertile, plus most of the Southlanders died in the eruption.
As the Númenóreans returned to their ships, we learned that Isildur has been missing since that house collapsed, and that Míriel has lost her sight. Given what we know Isildur goes on to do (or not do, as the case may be), there seems very little tension in that particular story arc, although perhaps some time in Middle-earth will be all he needs to realise it’s the perfect place to set up a new kingdom.
The scene of Galadriel and Theo sitting beneath the tree, swapping stories, was perhaps my favourite of the episode. Galadriel managed to offer some comfort to her young companion (who seems smitten), and made me realise her husband Celeborn is still out there. She said she never saw him again, not that he was dead, which is Rings of Power foreshadowing for “Hello, it’s me” in season two.
Elendil (Lloyd Owen) grew more bitter, and Míriel completely doubled down on her commitment to help Galadriel eradicate evil in Middle-earth. No small task. And finally, Theo was reunited with his mother (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova). Bronwyn’s shoulder seemed to have healed nicely in what, a day?
With all the geological activity of late, you might have forgotten all about the harfoots. No longer isolated from the rest of the storylines, they are now on a collision course with the action. Interestingly, and possibly too conveniently, Sadoc (Lenny Henry) realised right away that falling fire rocks are a sign of a new evil rising in the east.
The Stranger (Daniel Weyman), seemingly speaking quenya, then got busy talking to the trees to revive them, but once again managed to injure some harfoots in doing so. He’s going to be so handy once he learns to control that power – perhaps a big stick and a pointy hat would help? (Come on, now, is that Gandalf or not? I’ve been adamant since the first episode that The Stranger won’t turn out to be old Stormcrow himself – he and the four other istari weren’t sent to Middle-earth until the Third Age, for starters – but enough with the suspense.)
And with that he’s on his way, an apple and a star map in his pocket, off to face The Dweller (Bridie Sisson), The Ascetic (Kali Kopae) and The Nomad (Edith Poor). My hunch for the finale is that, just as it looks as if he’s defeated, he’ll be saved by his halfling friends who are following.
Misty Mountain hop
There’s more trouble brewing in Khazad-dûm as King Durin (Peter Mullan) rejects Elrond’s (Robert Aramayo) plea for a supply of mithril. With a heavy heart, the king decides he won’t step in to save the elves, as their fate was decided many years ago.
Of course, Prince Durin (Owain Arthur) and his wife Disa (Sophia Nomvete) don’t take that lying down – especially after they saw how that one leaf was brought back to health by a tiny piece of the mineral.
I loved the showdown between the king and prince, but really, all of this was window-dressing for the big reveal – the balrog lying beneath the mountain.
I’m taking the closing moments of this episode as proof that Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) is Sauron. Lying wounded in the tent, he smirks as Galadriel announces that she must take him to her people, to be treated with elvish medicine. “Southlanders found him on the road” did they? “The wound soured overnight” did it? A likely story, Lord Sauron. Watch now as Galadriel takes him to the heart of the elvish people and he corrupts them into doing his bidding. It’s all coming together nicely. (I also forgot to mention last week how his outfit is literally covered with rings. He’s obsessed.)
So yes, last week’s episode was rather strewn with plot holes and convenient turns of events. I like to think, had I been in Middle-earth that day, I would’ve checked to see it was the hilt wrapped in that rag and not a decoy axe, and yes, I reckon Adar and the orcs could’ve got all that water into the volcano by destroying the dam manually, rather than scouring the the Southlands to find it then staging a siege to retrieve it.
But none of that marred my enjoyment – I was so overjoyed for something – anything – to be happening that I wasn’t bothered about how the Númenóreans knew where the village in the Southlands was, or why it was dark when the orcs first started firing arrows but bright sunshine when the cavalry arrived. Sometimes people just know things and the sun rises. And this week was far less problematic on that score. Let’s forgive, forget and move on to next week’s finale. I can’t wait.
Notes and observations
Did anyone else think of music hall star Sandy Powell and his catchphrase “Can you hear me, mother?” when Theo was wandering around shouting “Mother!” at the start? Maybe the showrunners are fans of British variety from the 30s and 40s? Sadly it wasn’t raised in this excellent Hollywood Reporter interview.
The Dweller extinguishing Largo’s (Dylan Smith) torch was a neat callback to the first episode, in which the torches carried by Galadriel’s company couldn’t warm the evil air of Sauron’s laboratory.
In the books, that particular balrog, Durin’s Bane, lay dormant throughout the Second Age, the setting of this series, until it was awoken by dwarves mining too deeply. Upon waking, it slew King Durin VI and his son Náin I (distant descendants of the Durins we see in The Rings of Power), leading the dwarves to abandon their mountain home. We then saw Gandalf and the rest of the Fellowship encounter the same balrog 1,000 or so years later. Unless there’s going to be rewriting of that chronology for this series, I’m not expecting to see the balrog again.
The words “The Southlands’ appearing in the final moments and changing to “Mordor” on screen … it may have been going for dramatic effect, but was it really needed at this point? It felt cheesy to me.
What did you think? Has the series picked up? What do you think will happen in next week’s finale? Have your say below …