Rings of Power Episode 7: Galadriel Has a Secret Family?!

Here we are, at Season One’s penultimate Rings of Power episode, and I’m… tearing up over Galadriel and Theo? Talk about an unexpected journey. This week’s Rings of Power hour has everything: disownings, dismemberments, odd fellowships, rousing speeches, and a muthafuckin Balrog! As Rings of Power moves its puzzle pieces into place for next week’s season finale, the series has delivered its plottiest episode yet. Buckle up, everyone—together, we’re heading down the rabbit hole… er, mining chute.

And the Rings of Power Go To…

Galadriel

It’ll take more than a wall of volcanic flame to snuff out Galadriel. Last week, our girl lost consciousness in the Southlands; this week, she awakens in Mordor, a red-orange wasteland of fire, ash, and blood. Her search for survivors turns up Dirtbag Theo, miraculously unscathed. Together they set out for the Númenorean encampment in a series of scenes that I’m going to call Life Lessons with Galadriel. Truly, she’s a goddamn fount of wisdom this week. When Theo celebrates killing orcs, the Lady of Light sagely replies, “It darkens the heart to call dark deeds good. It gives place for evil to thrive inside us. Every war is fought both without and within—of that every soldier must be mindful. Even I. Even you.” Later on their long trudge through these ruined lands, Theo expresses a sense of guilt, saying, “I gave power to the enemy, so that makes me responsible.”

Damn right you’re responsible, you little hilt-hoarding twerp! But Galadriel, ever the bigger person, consoles him: “Some say that is the way of things. But I believe the wise also look upon what is in our hearts, and this was not in yours. Do not take the burden of this day upon your shoulders, Theo. You may find it difficult to put it down again.” When is Galadriel’s self-help book hitting shelves? I’m ready to pre-order it now.

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Climate change is rough.

Courtesy of Prime Video

Many heartfelt conversations later, this odd couple makes it to the Númenorean encampment for some happy reunions in the healer’s tent. Theo embraces Bronwyn and Arondir, while Galadriel is shocked and gratified to find Halbrand alive (albeit dreadfully wounded). Halbrand needs Elvish medicine, so he and Galadriel saddle up for Lindon while the Southlanders cheer, “Strength to the king!” My side hurts just watching Halbrand jostle around on horseback with a gaping abdominal wound. Personally, I can’t wait to see High King Gil-galad’s face when Galadriel comes charging through the gates of Lindon next week. Not only did he fail to get rid of her with his little Valinor stunt, but she was right about the resurgence of evil all along. Time for Gil-galad to eat humble pie.

The Brandyfoot Family (+Poppy)

As it turns out, Mount Doom’s shockwaves reach far beyond the Southlands. When we first encounter the Harfoots this week, we find them stumbling upon a lava bombed orchard. “My great aunt used to speak of mountains to the south that could spit fire rock,” Sadoc Burrows muses. “She said they go to sleep, sometimes for hundreds of years, only to wake again when a new evil is rising.” Mere weeks after the Harfoots shunned The Stranger, they’re now hoping that he’ll use his magical powers to perform a miracle on their behalf. Poppy Proudfellow, the only person with any decency here, retorts, “He’s done so much for us. It might be rude to ask more out of him.” These other Harfoots don’t deserve The Stranger, but he gamely tries to reanimate a dead tree. The magic is working—until a rotten limb falls on Nori and her kid sister. Nori sure can’t catch a break, can she? I can’t wait for her installment in Esquire’s “How I Take an L” series.

markella kavenagh elanor ‘nori’ brandyfoot, lenny henry sadoc burrows,

Welcome to “How I Take an L” with Nori Brandyfoot!

Courtesy of Prime Video

So The Stranger has to leave, Harry and the Hendersons-style. Sadoc sends him away with the much-coveted star chart and Nori with an apple, clearly conflicted about letting him go. The morning after his departure, the Harfoots wake up to a lush orchard in full bloom—the magic worked! But the bounty is short-lived. Remember those scary mystical beings in white (more on them below)? They’re hunting The Stranger, and when the Brandyfoots dare to challenge them, they send the entire caravan up in flames.

I can’t help but wonder—could this year’s disastrous migration be how the Harfoots cease to become a nomadic people? If I’d endured what they have, I’d put down roots somewhere, become a homebody, and eventually evolve into a hobbit. Some of the Harfoots despair, but Largo Brandyfoot brings them together with a tear-jerking speech: “We’re Harfoots. We don’t slay dragons. We’re not much for digging jewels. But there’s one thing we can do, I warrant, better than any creature in all Middle-earth: we stay true to each other no matter how the path winds or how steep it gets. We face it with our hearts even bigger than our feet. And we just keep walking.” I don’t quite buy this, given how many Harfoots are routinely killed or abandoned during their annual Great Migration (looking at you, entire Proudfellow family), but hey, the sentiment is beautiful. This week’s Harfoot plot ends with an odd fellowship of four setting off after The Stranger, determined to tell him about the peril he faces: Nori, Poppy, Nori’s mother, and Sadoc Burrows. “We’ve left enough folk behind,” Poppy says. “We’re not leaving him.” My heart!

Durin

At the beginning of this week’s episode, Durin is brokering the biggest alliance in dwarven history; by the end, he’s been all but stripped of his royal title. In exchange for access to Khazad-dûm’s life-saving mithril mines, the elves of Lindon, represented by Elrond, offer “game, grain, and timber from the elder forests of Eriador for the next five centuries.” Sweet trade, right? But King Durin III, fearful of the mines’ danger, isn’t having it; “I will not risk dwarven lives to help the elves cheat death,” he thunders. Durin and Disa, for their part, are unimpressed with the verdict. “Licebearded, uncaring old fool!” she shouts.

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It’s darker than a House of the Dragon episode up in this cave!

Courtesy of Prime Video

Wishing a tearful Durin farewell, Elrond returns their mithril friendship bracelet. But before Elrond can get out the door of Khazad-dûm, Durin witnesses a minor miracle: a diseased leaf from the Tree of Lindon, when placed next to the mithril, is restored to its former glory. Soon enough, these two buddies are once again mining, drinking, and sharing secrets. All that’s missing is a catchy working song (maybe Poppy Proudfellow can help them out). Right as they unearth a glittering chasm packed with mithril, King Durin III crashes the party—and summarily ejects Elrond from Khazad-dûm.

The ensuing fight between father and son shakes the Misty Mountains, with Durin claiming that Elrond is more of a brother to him than his own blood brothers and shouting at his father, “It’s you that’s betrayed our kind. Squandering our future so you can cling to the past. You profane the crown you wear.” King Durin III tears off his son’s royal breastplate, tosses it to the ground, and storms out. Talk about an exit! But Disa won’t let this knock-down-drag-out get her husband down: “That mithril belongs to us,” she urges. “To you and me. And together, one day, we are going to dig.” Meanwhile, elsewhere in Khazad-dûm, Durin III tosses the healed leaf down his son’s mithril mining chute, where it immolates in front of… you guessed it… a roaring Balrog! They didn’t call that one Balrog “Durin’s Bane” for nothing. Bring it on!

Míriel

The biggest belly-drop of the episode comes when Queen Regent Míriel asks Elendil how soon they’ll be clear of the smoke obscuring her vision. At his silence, she asks in dread, “How long have we been clear of it?” His reply: “Nearly a mile.” That’s right, reader: the battle for the Southlands blinded Míriel, who spends the rest of the episode with a red cloth tied over her eyes. But miraculously, it hasn’t made her bitter. “Do not spend your pity on me, elf,” she urges Galadriel. “Save it for our enemies, for they do not know what they have begun. For I, Míriel, daughter of Inziladûn, vow this: Númenor will return.” But Elendil isn’t quite so magnanimous. Believing that Isildur was killed in the volcanic eruption, he releases his son’s beloved horse back into the wild. “I should never have pulled the elf on board,” he says bitterly, shaking with grief. “I should’ve left her in the sea where I found her.” At the episode’s conclusion, the Númenorean forces are headed back across the sea, while the Southlanders plan to rebuild their lives at an abandoned Númenorean settlement elsewhere in Middle-earth. But if you’re one of the scant few Isildur fans out there, don’t worry—this kid has plot armor.

By Durin’s Beard, What Was That?

Celeborn?!

Tolkienites know that Galadriel’s “will they or won’t they” with Halbrand has always been destined to hit a brick wall with the introduction of Celeborn, her boring elven husband. Although the lore states that these two lovebirds were wedded way back in the First Age, I’ve assumed all along that Rings of Power would retcon their first meeting to the series’ Second Age setting. After all, if Galadriel was married, surely she would have mentioned it by now, right? Apparently not. Imagine my shock this week when Galadriel, asked by Theo if she’s ever lost any loved ones, replies, “My brother, Finrod. And my husband. Celeborn was his name.” She wistfully remembers their meet-cute: “We met in a glade of flowers. I was dancing and he saw me there. The war seemed so very far away then. When he went to it, I chided him. His armor didn’t fit properly. I called him a silver clam. I never saw him again after that.”

Canonically speaking, Galadriel and Celeborn had little to no involvement in the First Age’s War of Wrath—but hey, if Galadriel can get a military makeover from Rings of Power, why shouldn’t Celeborn? Even Tolkien himself was often loosey-goosey with their story; as the author’s son Christopher Tolkien notes in Unfinished Tales, “There is no part of the history of Middle-earth more full of problems than the story of Galadriel and Celeborn. It must be admitted that there are severe inconsistencies embedded in the traditions; or, to look at the matter from another point of view, that the role and importance of Galadriel only emerged slowly, and that her story underwent continual refashionings.”

Rings of Power threw us a real curveball with this bomb-drop, but mark my words: Celeborn isn’t dead, despite what Galadriel presumes. He can’t be, unless the series is planning a major break with canon; after all, he’s got a kingdom to rule during the Third Age, and his descendents play a major role in shaping Middle-earth’s future. Does this reveal mean that Celeborn and Galadriel’s daughter Celebrían, canonically born early in the Second Age, is out there somewhere too? I didn’t have Galadriel pegged for the secret family type, but maybe we’re in for another Tolkien-style refashioning.

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This crew has come all the way from Rhûn to take out The Stranger.

Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Who Are These Scary People in White?

The Stranger’s villainous pursuants are sure a motley crew—but just who (and what) are they? Fans speculated that their leader could be Sauron until executive producer Lindsey Weber shut that down. “We are enjoying all the speculation online and can tell you Bridie Sisson is an incredible actor,” Weber said. “We also thought fans might like to know that her character is traveling from far to the east—from the lands of Rhûn…” Tolkienites know that Rhûn was home to a people called the Easterlings, many of whom supported Sauron and later fought under his banner during the Third Age (fans of the Peter Jackson films may remember them riding giant Oliphaunts in Return of the King). The members of this trio mucking about in Harfoot territory clearly have magical powers, meaning that they’re not mortal men—could they be evil Maiar? Whoever they are, it’s not good news for The Stranger.

Stick with us as we slide into home plate for next week’s finale, when all will be revealed.

Adrienne Westenfeld is the Books and Fiction Editor at Esquire, where she oversees books coverage, edits fiction, and curates the Esquire Book Club. 

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