The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power recap: Omens of doom
Welcome back to Middle-earth, where every father/son relationship is different and not all prophecies of doom are apparent at first.
It's the Harfoots' turn for a bye this week, as we instead catch up with our friends in Númenor, Khazad-dum, and the Southlands. This episode, "The Great Wave," had my favorite structure of all the episodes so far. I loved the way each storyline was resonating and echoing the others. So let's get into it!
First, let me let out a big sigh of relief that this episode brings all viewers onto the same page regarding Númenor. Yes, one day it's going to be consumed by great waves! Ahh, it feels so good to say that in writing. When preparing to cover The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and writing our introduction to the Second Age, I was really nervous about whether or not it counted as a "spoiler" to talk about Númenor's eventual destruction. If you know anything about J.R.R. Tolkien's work, then that flooding is the single most famous thing about Númenor! But who knows how many people watching the show are familiar with Tolkien's writings? I think the Rings of Power writing team made the right choice here by giving Queen-Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) a vision of Númenor's destruction. It would be all but impossible to keep Númenor's fate a plot secret (anyone can use Google, after all) and revealing it in this way both gives Míriel a powerful motivation and adds a tragic resonance to everything that will happen there.
The great wave is not here yet, though, and Míriel is striving to do anything and everything she can to prevent it. Since Galadriel's (Morfydd Clark) arrival is the beginning of the vision, Míriel at first seeks to expel the elf from her kingdom. But soon the two women realize they have more in common than not. Like Míriel, Galadriel knows what it's like to be the one person in a group who sees the coming doom and seeks to prevent it rather than rest on her laurels. So the queen-regent gives the elf warrior a taste of her Palantir, and Galadriel experiences the great wave for herself.
I really like the depiction of the Palantir here. In Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies, looking into the Palantir meant being consumed by the fiery eye of Sauron; but that power isn't in place yet, so you actually can use the seeing stones for their intended purpose. The visual effects of a user's ice-like entry into the world of the Palantir looks really cool, and is a good use of this show's massive budget.
Despite this connection, Míriel still insists on kicking Galadriel out. But when her departure is accompanied by a rain of leaves falling off the White Tree (another element of Míriel's nightmare vision), the queen-regent calls her back and takes a different course: Assembling a strike team of Númenorean warriors to accompany Galadriel back to Middle-earth and save the Southlands from the orcs. This is a noble undertaking, but with Míriel heading the team herself, it seems that Númenor will be left in the hands of her advisor, Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle) — who has a very different attitude to the elves and seems to be forging a connection with Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) that could very well be a dark mirror to the Galadriel/Míriel alliance.
Not all ill omens look so bad at first, though. Over in Khazad-dum, Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) shows Elrond (Robert Aramayo) his people's latest discovery: A new kind of metal, discovered deep in the mountain, that is both ethereally beautiful and impossibly durable. We know it as mithril, though the dwarves haven't coined that term yet. Even so, Durin can see that it will lead to a whole new fortune for his people, and he's right — but it will also, unfortunately, bring about the doom of his kingdom. We know from Lord of the Rings that they will dig for mithril, and dig some more… and eventually, they will dig so deep that they awaken an ancient Balrog who will come to be known as "Durin's Bane." Durin has no way of knowing that…
…except that mithril is already causing trouble in the present! While Durin is talking to Elrond, the mine shaft collapses and several other dwarves get trapped. Luckily, they're freed and safe by the end of the episode, but King Durin III (Peter Mullan) orders the vein closed and forbids more mining of mithril. Durin rages at his father for this, until Elrond reminds him that it's nice to have a father you can actually talk to. Elrond's father, by contrast, has become a star.
For those who don't know, Elrond is the son of Earendil, the great mariner who ventured to Valinor to successfully plead with the Valar to finally intervene in Middle-earth and save the world from Morgoth. Earendil is the secret hero of Tolkien's mythology — in some ways the inspiration for everything else. But Tolkien himself never set down The Lay of Earendil story as completely as he wanted, so a couple pages at the end of The Silmarillion is all we get of this legendary hero. Elrond is like us, in that way. He owes his father everything, but can never talk to him. He can hear about Earendil from long-lived elves like Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) who actually knew him, but even Celebrimbor's recollections of the legendary hero are strangely fleeting.
So with Elrond's advice, Prince Durin makes up with King Durin — who warmly reminds his son that he'll always be there for him. But as pleasant as this conversation is, it's also tinged with darkness, because it will lead to the mining of mithril, which will lead to the Balrog.
Speaking of great enemies, we get many hints of Sauron in this episode's Southlands scenes. Adar, the orc leader seen only blurrily in last week's episode, at last comes into focus — and he appears to be an elf! At the very least, he speaks Elvish and has first-hand memories of Arondir's (Ismael Cruz Cordova) homelands. He could be Sauron, since it's hard to imagine the orcs treating anyone else with such reverence — but Sauron is much more than an elf.
Adar's power is limited to some degree, because Arondir is finally able to escape captivity with Bronwyn's (Nazanin Boniadi) help — and together, they free her son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) from the orcs' clutches. But then something really interesting happens. Safe from the orcs, Theo is approached by the older barkeep, who reveals that he is a dedicated servant of Sauron who eagerly awaits his return to power. It seems that Arondir's late elf comrades were more correct about the temperaments of Southlands men than he gave them credit for.
Sauron hasn't appeared in the flesh yet, but Sauron could be anywhere. I love that. B+
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