Photo: Courtesy of Prime Video
It was! (Maybe!) “Partings,” the fifth episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, it ends with ships filled with hundreds of Númenórean soldiers (and an elf) heading to Middle-earth to face a still vague threat, or at least a threat that is vague to most of them. Some believe that there may be nothing of interest once they arrive or even that the danger will have passed before they even get off the ships. But semi-rim knows otherwise.
Halbrand’s presence and the royal lineage he was anxious to maintain for himself provide much of the justification for this excursion. Though he ends the episode fittingly looking like a king, a flashback reveals the source of his shame: Halbrand had fled the Southlands after kneeling before Adar, the elven warlord, who collected a considerable number of orcs. devotees; Adar scared Halbrand off once before and apparently humiliated him by making him go against his deepest beliefs. No wonder Halbrand isn’t looking forward to seeing him again.
The flashback is significant in other ways as well. Apart from some early scenes between Galadriel and Gil-galad, it is the first time the rings of power has brought together the plot threads and the characters that go along with them, albeit briefly. It is almost certain that he will not be the last. Even if Adar isn’t there to greet them, his arrival won’t go unnoticed.
It may not be right away, though: Adar intends to bring down the tower Bronwyn and her people have taken refuge in, and some of those she’s trying to protect don’t seem to care. Adar has demanded his surrender, most agreeing that staying where he is is the best idea. But a vocal minority led by Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), who has apparently been waiting years to sell himself to the forces of darkness anyway, disagree and set off in search of the enemy they believe to be Sauron. It isn’t, as Waldreg learns the hard way after calling Adar by that name. The only way to make up for such a slight is for Waldreg to kill a villager as a kind of oath of allegiance. (Is this the same shameful act Halbrand committed? No wonder he suggests everyone will hate him when they find out.)
So who is Adar and what does he want? We get more hints this week as you comfort an orc. Noticing his aversion to sunlight, Adar says, “It will soon be gone. And with him, the part of me that also knew his warmth. I’ll miss him.” The plan is to knock out the sun itself? That sounds really bad! Adar is shaping up to be one of the most compelling characters in the series. We see him commit horrible acts, but he gives off an aura of sensitivity. orcs, and no one is nice to orcs, so it’s no wonder they love him, but Joseph Mawle plays him with a strange vulnerability that suggests hidden depths and a sense of righteousness about the crimes he commits.
Still, Adar seems to be about to commit some terrible deeds against those hiding in the tower. Even Bronwyn considers giving up on her until Arondir talks her into it, a task made easier for her by recognizing the sword found by Theo, who remarkably did. No leaving with Waldreg and the other malcontents – he has some ties to a long hidden sculpture and appears to be the key to enslaving humanity. It’s the kind of thing worth fighting over to keep from falling into the wrong hands, in other words, though the fight itself will have to wait until a future episode.
In a bit of a parallel, both Bronwyn and Míriel find themselves battling the discontent of a vocal minority. Most of the villagers want to stay in the tower, but those who don’t shout their doubts with great disdain. In Númenor, Míriel finds considerable enthusiasm for venturing into Middle-earth with Galadriel, but it is certainly not universal. The protesters make his voices heard, and when that fails, Kemen, ignoring his father’s explanation of how good politics sometimes means going with the tide, takes it upon himself to thwart the mission by sabotaging a ship. He manages to eliminate two of the five, but only after discovering that Isildur has hidden himself and, unsurprisingly, he doesn’t want a boat to explode under any circumstances, especially one with him in it. As they wash up in the harbor together, Isildur covers for Kemen and lays the groundwork for a future alliance, however uneasy.
Speaking of uneasy alliances, Durin’s dinner in Lindon with Elrond, Gil-galad, and Celebrimbor doubles as a fact-finding mission where Gil-galad almost demands to know what the dwarves have been up to, and Durin almost demands the same. of the elves before embarrassing his hosts with the revelation that his dining table is a sacrilege to his people due to the rare material used to make it. It’s not, we’ll learn that later. Disa just needs a new table. But that little deception is a small price to pay for the promise that Gil-galad does his best to obtain from Durin.
It turns out that the elves need the precious mithril that the dwarves have discovered or they will die from light withdrawal. (The series doesn’t fully explain how it works, but it seems to fit in with Adar’s promise to block out the sun. Middle-earth needs elves to protect it; elves need light. Without it, wow, here’s trouble.) Gil-galad and Celebrimbor have tricked Elrond into confirming that the dwarves have this precious metal, made possible by a legendary showdown between an elf and a balrog. It is unclear what the next step in the plan would be. Taking it by force? Turns out that won’t be necessary. Durin wants to help the elves because in his heart he has no choice. but to help them. (And he really wants that table.)
This is a case of the show zigzagging when it looked like it was going to zag. the rings of power seemed to be staging a showdown between dwarves and elves, and we can calm Get that. (While it’s not really productive to compare the rings of power to other fantasy shows going for a totally different vibe, there’s no way this hasn’t led to some bloodshed on house of the dragon.) Durin is, of course, Durin III, and Durin IV still calls the shots. But it’s a true Tolkien twist to emphasize the power of cooperation and, well, companionship in the face of darkness.
However, it’s not the most faithful touch to Tolkien in this episode. That would have to be the scene where Poppy sings a harfoot folk song over a montage sequence against a map of Middle Earth after his trip. The episode begins with Nori telling the stranger why; they are a migratory people who move from place to place as the seasons change. His current journey to the grove is fraught with danger, and the Stranger fears he may be one of them. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not: Though he successfully scares off some hungry harfoot wolves, he terrifies Nori by freezing his arm while he heals hers. He seems to mean well, but he also seems dangerous. As with the rest of “Partings,” the series leaves it to future episodes to provide the answer.
• So who is the stranger, anyway? We start inching toward an answer this week with a trio that bear at least a passing resemblance to Tolkien’s wizards as seen in Peter Jackson. Lord of the Rings other Hobbit films. Is it one of yours? (Wizards love the robes and the staff.) There has been much speculation that the stranger could be Gandalf (a wizard notably hobbit-friendly) or Saruman. There is also a theory that he is Sauron, though that possibility seems less likely as the series progresses. However, this show exceeds expectations, so who really knows?
• About that mysterious trio: The end credits list their names as the Wanderer, the Ascetic, and the Dweller. Will we learn why they are called that? Determined.
• The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power he has largely avoided direct parallels between his world and ours, but the dissidents in Númenor and the tower have contemporary resonance nonetheless. They are wrong, but they are loud and obnoxious in a way that often drowns out people trying to do the right thing. (See also: All the Silly Objections to This Show’s Diverse Cast.)
• Is La Arboleda really the Shire by another name? Are the harfoots moving towards a less peripatetic and more buff existence?
• Bronwyn-Arondir kiss watch: Not even close this week, particularly once Bronwyn suggests giving up. However, it is nice to see Arondir behave with fatherly affection towards Theo. That child needs some positive role models.
• “I will serve you then, whoever you are!” Is Waldreg the most despicable character in the series? He loves Sauron, but any fascist in Middle Earth who wields power will do so in a pinch.