Last week, while I was off living a very Harfoot-y lifestyle in Scotland, my colleague Brady Langmann commandeered this space. While I have known Brady to pipe individual rings of power onto Lord of the Rings-themed brownies, he’ll always lose to me in a Tolkien trivia contest. Don’t worry, readers—you’re back in good hands. All the rustic bread and rolling countryside in the world couldn’t keep me from this week’s straight banger of an episode, full of thrilling battles, terrifying lava bombs, and things that go boom. Mark my words: anyone who’s complained that nothing happens on Rings of Power is going to eat their shorts when they see Mount Doom erupt into existence. Yes, that Mount Doom! Let’s get into it. Quick sticks!
And the Rings of Power Go To…
Come on: you knew that the Lady of Light would once again top our Olympic pyramid. At six episodes into the eight-episode season, most of our characters are finally together in one place, with Commander Galadriel leading the Númenorean army into the Southlands. Does High King Gil-galad know that she’s out here starting wars just weeks after he sacked her as the Commander of the Northern Armies and sent her packing to Valinor? It’s downright thrilling to see Galadriel & co. charge into Tirharad on horseback like a cleansing fire—and even more thrilling to see Galadriel hanging ten out of her saddle, slaughtering orcs while fully upside down. Yes, dear reader, you guessed it: she’s stolen the best stunt work crown right out from under Arondir this week. I had to chuckle when Theo and Arondir, dazed and dazzled, watched her scythe through a mountain of orcs, with Theo wondering, “Who’s that?” Galadriel: what a woman!
But it’s not all guts and glory for our girl; in fact, this week’s episode puts her through a serious dark night of the soul. While interrogating Adar, she vows to eradicate “the scourge” of orc-kind—then Adar challenges her perspective mightily, forcing her to confront her inner lust for vengeance. “It would seem I’m not the only elf alive who’s been transformed by darkness,” he taunts. “Perhaps your search for Morgoth’s successor should have ended in your own mirror.” The only thing stopping Galadriel from slitting Adar’s throat is Halbrand, who interrupts the interrogation at exactly the right time. Speaking of Halbrand…
Give it up for the King of the Southlands! After a mighty performance in the battle and a little help from Queen Regent Míriel, Halbrand’s people welcome him as their long-lost king. But like Galadriel, he’s tested mightily by Adar first. These two clearly have some history, even if Adar can’t remember it. Choking around Halbrand’s sword at his throat, Adar says, “Did I cause someone you love pain? A woman? Perhaps a child?” Rings of Power didn’t reveal anything further this week, but we all know it’s only a matter of time before we get Halbrand’s tragic backstory.
After the battle is over, Halbrand and Galadriel debrief about how they both nearly surrendered to their rage and slaughtered Adar—all that held them back was each other. Halbrand muses, “Fighting at your side, I felt… if I could just hold onto that feeling. Keep it with me always. Bind it to my very being… then I—” Galadriel interrupts, “I felt it too.” There’s definitely A Vibe, but Halbrand is called away before anything juicy can happen. Could a romance be blossoming here? Granted, Galadriel has A Vibe with more characters than just Halbrand—don’t tell me you didn’t pick up on what she was putting down with Elendil! Tolkien readers know that she’s bound for marriage to a boring elf who hasn’t shown up yet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have some fun along the way.
Halbrand’s “reluctant king stepping into his destiny” arc sure took a lot less time than Aragorn’s. With four seasons ahead, where else will this character go? Perhaps Halbrand was crowned so early because a fall from grace lies ahead for him; after all, viewers have theorized that Halbrand is Sauron in disguise, or perhaps one of the human ring-bearers who later becomes a member of Sauron’s fearsome Nazgûl. For my money, I do think that Halbrand is going to break bad, sooner or later. There’s clearly some darkness in his past, and what would make a better story for Galadriel than being massively disappointed by the first human she trusts?
I almost rescinded Arondir’s Ring of Power after he left Theo with what he thought was the evil hilt, convinced that this little dirtbag would do the right thing and surrender it to Númenor’s forces. My guy, how many second chances are you going to give this miscreant? But I can’t fault Arondir too much—not after his Rube Goldberg machine obliterated all the orcs who marched on Ostirith. Arondir suffered mightily to earn this ring of power; as if getting the snot beaten out of him by a massive orc and almost losing an eyeball wasn’t enough, he had to cauterize his girlfriend’s arrow wounds. Yeesh. Rough week.
It pains me to give Bronwyn a ring of power. It really, truly does. All along, this character hasn’t done much for me—her “strong, pretty lady” storyline has seemed dull and generic, almost like Eowyn lite. But I’ve got to hand it to her this week, if only because she suffered so much for the cause. After rallying the Southlanders to defend their homeland, Bronwyn takes an arrow to the chest and narrowly escapes bleeding to death, thanks to the brutal frontier medicine administered by Arondir and Theo. I’m grudgingly awarding some extra points for her beautiful, Samwise Gamgee-esque pep talk: “In the end, this shadow is but a small and passing thing. There is light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. Find the light and the shadow will not find you.”
By Durin’s Beard, What Was That?
Sauron Is Dead? Yeah Right!
Finally, Adar’s whole deal is revealed. “When I was a child, I heard stories of elves taken by Morgoth,” Galadriel says to him. “Tortured, twisted, made into a new and ruined form of life. You are one of them, are you not? The Moriandor. The sons of the dark. The first orcs.” While “Moriandor” is a new term dreamed up by Rings of Power, there’s canonical precedent for this: the first orcs were, indeed, fashioned from tortured elves. But it’s Adar’s story about Sauron’s whereabouts that really commands attention—Adar insists that Sauron is dead by his own hand. I don’t believe him for a second (and nor does Galadriel), but I’ll let you hear him out for yourself:
After Morgoth’s defeat, the one you call Sauron devoted himself to healing Middle-earth–bringing its ruined lands together in perfect order. He sought to craft a power not of the flesh, but o’er the flesh. The power of the unseen world. He bid as many as he could follow him far north, but try as he might, something was missing. The shadow of dark knowledge that kept itself hidden, even from him, no matter how much blood he spilled in its pursuit. For my part, I sacrificed enough of my children for his aspirations. I split him open. I killed Sauron.
Southlands, We Hardly Knew You
This week’s episode came to collect on Episode Three’s big reveal about Sauron’s plot to transform the Southlands into Mordor. When cowardly Waldreg makes off with the hilt and plunges it into some ceremonial stone like a key into a lock, it triggers the collapse of the dam at Ostirith, flooding the Southlands and the underground tunnels dug by the orcs. The rushing waters flow deep into the bowels of a mountain, where they cause a pool of magma to erupt into a towering inferno, transforming the mountain into a volcano. The eruption can be seen all the way in Tirharad, where lava bombs rain from the sky. It’s Mount Doom, people! The final moments of the episode are breathtaking: as Southlanders are blown to smithereens by airborne lava, Galadriel watches it all in slow motion. All along, she was right about evil’s return to Middle-earth. Haunted and resigned, she closes her eyes as a wall of volcanic flame consumes her.
Farewell, Southlands. Hello, Mordor. (Here’s hoping one of those lava bombs takes out Theo next week.)
Adrienne Westenfeld is the Books and Fiction Editor at Esquire, where she oversees books coverage, edits fiction, and curates the Esquire Book Club.
This content is imported from OpenWeb. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.