The following article contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Do not read until you have seen episodes one to five …
A wizard is never late, nor is he early
After their absence from last week’s episode, it wasn’t a surprise to see the harfoots and The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) get a decent amount of screen time this week, opening with The Stranger learning some phrases from Nori (Markella Kavenagh). Let’s hope he’s not picking up that accent during the lessons – the Rings of Power needs another Oirish accent like it needs another character with an as-yet-undefined motive.
Just as Nori’s running through a list of things that can kill you, it dawns on The Stranger – a firefly killer of some skill – that he might be another of these perils of which she speaks. It was part touching, seeing the realisation spread across his face, and part David Mitchell dressed as a Nazi officer asking if he is, in fact, a baddie.
Later in the episode, as we watched him drag caravans from the swamp and easily scare off three charging wargs, it was easier to see him as a good character, but his clumsy methods and lack of control over his powers allow doubt to remain.
I still believe he’s going to be a wizard – not Gandalf – but an original character for this series who will serve a similar purpose to the wizards we know from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. But what about mention of “the star fall” last week being a sign of Sauron’s imminent return, you cry? My prediction is it’s part of a wider prophecy, one that concerns the arrival of a wizard when Sauron has gathered a certain amount of strength, rather than The Stranger literally being Sauron.
None of that explains who those weird folk in the white gowns are, though. Three of them are listed in the credits – The Nomad (Edith Poor), The Ascetic (Kali Kopae) and, the group’s leader by the look of it, The Dweller (Bridie Sisson). Are they a cult awaiting The Stranger’s arrival? But to what end? To worship him? To kill him? Executive producer Lindsey Weber hinted at their purpose in an interview with Time that “fans might like to know that her character is travelling from far to the east – from the lands of Rhûn …” Not much is known about Rhûn, although we do know that men settled in the eastern region and fell under the rule of Morgoth and later … duh, duh, duh … Sauron.
‘You are Sauron, are you not?’
From four characters of mysterious origin and intent to another – Adar (Joseph Mawle). He’s upping the ante in the Southlands, getting his orc army ready to attack, but Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) are prepared to meet them head on. After a rousing speech, half of their company in the tower say they will stand and fight. The other half think otherwise and leave, to swear fealty to Sauron.
We very quickly saw how swearing fealty is going to go, Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) thrown to his knees and ordered to kill another man.
Back in the tower and Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) showed his mum and Arondir the mysterious hilt he found. Arondir said it’s a key, forged to enslave past Southlanders, and revealed a statue he’s seen many times before in the watchtower.
Despite the movement in this storyline, several questions remain. Why did Adar react so badly to being mistaken for Sauron? Did he think it blasphemous? Or is he not as close with the Dark Lord as we first thought? What do Arondir, Bronwyn and about 50 Southlanders think they can do against all those orcs? Are they planning to destroy the tower rather than defend it? And, why is Bronwyn the only person in the whole of the Southlands who has any colour in her outfit?
Beyond the sea
To Númenor, with preparations well under way to help the people of the Southlands. Although, if I were under siege in a tower, an army of orcs on their way, I would hope my nearest neighbours would take less than 10 days to get a few sailors in a boat and set sail.
Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) got to show those blowhard sailors who’s boss, taking on about a dozen before one of them could land a blow on her, and Isildur (Maxim Baldry), despite acting like a flea in search of a dog, rescued Kemen (Leon Wadham) from the burning boat and, for some reason, kept his treachery a secret, too.
I ignored it last week, but the migrant narrative is becoming too heavy-handed. “Those elves, coming over here and taking our jobs, joining forces with our Queen-regent to aid the people of an imperilled kingdom across the sea …” You know how it goes. I also think sowing the seeds of Isildur’s character are a little too blatant. Yes, we know that in years to come he will defeat Sauron but fail to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom, leading to his downfall, but he doesn’t have to be painted as such a flimsy, fickle princeling to foreshadow such a momentous event. His sister (Ema Horvath) is also in desperate need of a purpose.
We got to see Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) – or Diet Aragorn, as the internet has christened him – being a blacksmith and later scrubbed up really well as he joined Galadriel on her quest. There wasn’t a lot of evidence for my “Halbrand is Sauron” file, save for his protestations about returning to the Southlands. But I remain vigilant – and convinced that I’m right.
Deep, deep down
Durin (Owain Arthur) was welcomed by the High King (Benjamin Walker), Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and other high-born elves. In a tense exchange, Durin inquired where the elves had obtained their fancy table, made from a sacred stone the dwarves only use for almost religious acts. In fact, he was lying, he later revealed to Elrond – his wife, Disa (Sophia Nomvete), wanted a new table and that was his way of getting a free one.
He wasn’t the only one to ’fess up – Elrond learned that he had been sent to Khazad-dûm with a hidden purpose after all: to find out about mithril – the mineral the High King thinks will save the elves from their fading light and ultimate doom. Good on Elrond for keeping his oath, and thereby preserving the slightly strained alliance between dwarves and elves.
There was a line in last week’s episode, about the ships departing Númenor for Middle-earth in 10 days, that made me slightly fearful those 10 days were going to be documented in great, long and uneventful detail. There was another conversation this week that rang a few bells, too. Prince Durin bemoaning the elves for taking so long to do anything could have been me yelling at the TV.
I had higher hopes for this episode, given the way episode four finished, but we closed out here not much further along than we were before; 15 minutes of story, ruthlessly crammed into about 71 minutes of TV.
But there is always hope – a fool’s hope, perhaps – that the next instalment will be better. Merging storylines, the interaction of characters from different realms and a bloody great battle is exactly what this series needs to kick it into life.
Notes and observations
Poppy sings a song when the harfoots are walking with their caravan. It features the line “Not all who wander are lost”, a line Gandalf wrote about Aragorn in his letter to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Arondir says it took him 200 years to gain the courage to stay on the battlefield – if that’s his full age, he is relatively young: elves reach their full size after about 50 years, so we can take it that Arondir is about 35.
“Enough with the quail sauce. Give me the meat, and give it to me raw” is a phrase for the ages.
What did you think? Is time dragging in Middle-earth? Are you looking forward to some action in the Southlands? And what do you think of The Stranger? Have your say below …