With just three episodes remaining, the show’s narrative threads are beginning to converge.
What we want to do and what we must do are rarely the same thing, including in Middle-earth. Just ask the ever-honorable Elrond, who finds himself stuck between a mythical ore and a hard place on “Partings,” the latest episode of “The Rings of Power.” It turns out that there was indeed an ulterior motive behind High King Gil-galad sending him to Khazad-dûm, as mithril — which the dwarves, led by Elrond’s close friend Prince Durin IV, have been mining in secret — could be the only thing preventing the elves from slowly diminishing into nothingness. Asked by Gil-galad whether the dwarves have in fact found the precious ore, Elrond refuses to answer on the grounds that he swore an oath to Durin not to reveal what he saw in those mines. He’s then asked a much more loaded question, one that speaks to a number of overlapping conflicts on “The Rings of Power” right now: “And what if keeping your promise to his people meant ensuring the doom of your own?”
Galadriel and Halbrand face similar woes. Lest you think that Aragorn was the only reluctant heir in Tolkien’s legendarium, Halbrand is here to disabuse you of that notion — he’s none too pleased with Galadriel’s plan to sail back to the Southlands with the assistance of five Númenorian ships, too concerned with his own plight to worry about that of the people he’s meant to lead. He’s taking the voyage reluctantly for now, but at least he’s taking it. How he’s received upon arrival remains to be seen, of course, and one suspects it might not be as warm a welcome as the one Haldir received from Aragorn in “The Two Towers.”
And because no episode is complete without a Galadriel Being Awesome sequence, we’re treated to a challenge she poses to the sailors accompanying her across the Sundering Seas: best her in a swordfight, which in this context means merely making contact with her flesh. Anyone who manages the feat, Elendil (leader of this seafaring army) promises, will be promoted to lieutenant. The only one who manages to do so — albeit not in a one-on-one contest and not before Galadriel makes easy work of at least a dozen others in a stunning display of her abilities — is Valandil (Alex Tarrant), close friend of a character whose name should ring a bell.
That would be Isildur (Maxim Baldry), whom you may remember ignoring Elrond’s humble request to cast the One Ring into the fire and then being betrayed by it in the prologue to “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Though fated to make a supremely bad call sometime in the future, present-day Isildur seems like a good dude — though he does show signs of that same impulsiveness. Having recently been kicked out of the Seaguard, he now wants to join the expedition that will return Galadriel to Middle-earth. Not so keen on that idea? His father Elendil, who’s increasingly disappointed by his son’s habit of shirking his duties because he’s too busy being the hero of his own story. (Kids these days!) Isildur does eventually make it onto one of the ships, which is probably a good thing as long as there aren’t any rings of power onboard.
Having carefully considered Adar’s ultimatum to either swear fealty or die in last week’s episode, Bronwyn addresses her people with a rousing speech asking who among them will stand and fight with her despite the fact that she isn’t the king they’ve been waiting for (read: Halbrand). There’s dissension in the ranks, alas, and Waldreg (Geoff Morell), the same old man who creeped out young Theo last week by telling him whose sword he’s in possession of, convinces half of them to take their chances bending the knee to Adar and hoping he keeps his promise. Spoiler: He doesn’t! Waldreg’s performative oath of loyalty to Adar isn’t enough — perhaps because he misidentifies him (or does he?) as Sauron — and so the apparent elf-orc hybrid tells the wizened elder that “only blood can bind” before ordering him to kill a boy who followed him on this ill-advised journey. Maybe staying and fighting would have been preferable after all.
With just three episodes remaining in this inaugural season — Wayne Che Yip, who’s now directed three in a row, will also helm the finale after Charlotte Brändström (“The Witcher,” “Outlander”) steps in for the next two — “The Rings of Power” has thus far kept most of its narrative threads separate. That could change with the arrival of Galadriel and Halbrand in the Southlands, which has the potential of providing some needed connective tissue. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Arondir, a Sauron Truther in much the same manner as Galadriel, is about to defend Halbrand’s people from an army of orcs. “The Two Towers” functioned similarly, cutting from one set of characters to another throughout, but those characters’ didn’t converge until after they’d all joined a certain fellowship together — something that hasn’t happened here, meaning that our many heroes might not take too kindly to one another when they inevitably meet.
Speaking of which, the hobbitses are back on “The Rings of Power” after a one-episode hiatus — which means that The Stranger is too. He continues to live up to his name, and apparently still hasn’t had time to bathe since landing in Middle-earth cocooned inside a comet; his greatest power is dishevelment. The enigmatic figure is picking up English pretty quickly with Nori’s assistance, however, including such important words as “migration” and “kill.” (Surely that second one isn’t foreshadowing anything.) After a lovely caravan montage accompanied by a song sung by Nori’s friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards), however, we see the crater where he landed has been found by three otherworldly beings whose intentions don’t exactly seem pure.
For how well Nori and her new friend have been getting along, there is trouble in paradise. After using his abilities to fend off a trio of wargs, The Stranger goes into a sort of trance while healing his arm by submerging it in water and freezing it; Nori, confused by this, attempts to wake him by placing her hand on his arm. As her own hand begins freezing over, she tries desperately to remove it. The Stranger, still oblivious to her presence, eventually pulls away and throws her back several feet. She then runs off into the woods, fully aware of the potential danger posed by her new friend for the first time. He doesn’t know his own power; more worryingly, he doesn’t know himself. Neither do we, of course, and his true identity remains the most compelling mystery on “The Rings of Power” — one whose reveal has both a lot of potential and a lot to live up to.
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Originally published at variety.com