Galadriel bounces back after a setback, the Harfoots try to figure out what to do with The Stranger, and we get more important namedrops.
After last week’s triumph was cut short by the incredible explosion of what we now know is Mount Doom, this week has few triumphs to give us. But it has a series of great and small disasters and miseries, and those that persevere through it, which is very on-brand for anything Tolkien-related. We begin “The Eye”—a portentous title if there ever was one—with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) waking up in the middle of a burning hellscape that was lovely and green only moments ago.
This week’s episode was helmed by Swedish-American director Charlotte Brändström, whose deft hand makes the disorientation and terror of this post-disaster moment feel incredibly real. Many are dead, and the survivors are scattered. The chaos and confusion, the ash and fire, make everything so nightmarish that we can’t even feel the slightest relief when another survivor is found.
Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and Isildur (Maxim Baldry) manage to rescue Valandil (Alex Tarant), but Poor Ontamo (Anthony Crum) never got the chance to enjoy his retirement from soldiering. There is little time to mourn with so many to help, and those unfortunate enough to have taken shelter indoors are now stuck in fiery death traps. Still, Miriel, Isil, and Val try their best, only to end up with the building supposedly falling in on Isildur, blinding the Queen Regent in the process.
Galadriel, unable to find her boys Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) and Elendil (Lloyd Owen), stumbles upon Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), searching for Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova). She takes him under her wing to get them back to the Numenorian camp, where everyone is most likely to regroup. Theo asks so many questions along the way that it feels a tad Are We There Yet, but he does get Galadriel to open up in a way no one else has managed to do. She tells Theo of the loss of her brother Finrod and husband Celeborn.
While we haven’t seen Celeborn yet, anyone who has seen The Fellowship of the Ring knows that Middle Earth’s greatest trophy husband is alive somewhere. But Galadriel hasn’t seen him since he went off to The War of Wrath looking like “a silver clam.”
Things aren’t just dire for the humans and their battle elf this week, the disaster of Mount Doom has also touched the Harfoots, The Grove, which was supposed to provide them with food and shelter enough to last the winter, is now scorched and bare. Sadoc (Lenny Henry) asks the Brandywine’s pet wizard to pitch in and help, and The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) chants a spell to help heal an apple tree. Even that goes quite badly, trapping Nori (Markella Kavenagh) and her little sister Dilly (Beau Cassidy) under a fallen branch.
The Harfoots, defeated and trying to minimize any further damage, send The Stranger (not unkindly) towards a town for big folks in the hopes that he might find what he’s looking for. The tragedy is that The Stranger’s weird tree spell worked — the Harfoots wake up the next day to find the grove blooming and bursting with fruit again.
Because last week’s episode already set the precedent, it’s no real surprise when the celebration of this plenty is as doomed as the Southlands were. The three mysterious strangers we saw in the last episode are back, and now they have names. They are The Nomad (Edith Poor), The Ascetic (Kali Kopae), and The Dweller (Birdie Sisson), the memorable black-fingered androgyny. The Big Boy Magic that The Stranger worked on the trees has drawn their attention. After regretting letting her friend and charge go, Nori tries to misdirect them, only for them to menace her and the rest of the Harfoots.
This rather intense confrontation ends with The Three burning all the caravans (which were full of all the fruit they’d harvested that day). It’s incredible how terrifying The Three are with zero lines of dialogue. If they ever speak, it will either make them scarier or shatter the illusion forever.
Undeterred, Nori, Poppy (Megan Richards), Marigold (Sara Zwangobani), and Malva the trail-finder (Thusitha Jayasundera) set out with Sadoc the next day to find The Stranger and bring him back. It’s a lovely moment to see such acceptance from this very insular community and the bravery of wanting to protect their own even in the face of almost certain death. After all, it’s not just the Three Weird Hotties roaming around unchecked, but also orcs, wargs, rogue southlanders, well-meaning but dangerous magical amnesiacs, and some seriously pissed-off Numenorians.
And they are mightily angry, none more so than Elendil. With Isildur presumed dead and Queen Regent Miriel now blind, Elendil growls that he wishes he’d never hauled Galadriel out of the water. Galadriel, for her part, is crushed by the guilt she feels about Miriel, Isildur, and the fate of all those Numenorians. But Miriel isn’t having it, not guilt or pity. All she’s got is a cold fury and a full-throated vow of revenge.
While there was plenty of life-or-death tension following the players in the Southlands this week, there was a different (but no less compelling) kind of attention in Khazad-dûm. Elrond (Robert Aramayo), with Prince Durin (Owain Arthur) at his side, is literally pleading his case to King Durin (Peter Mullan). While Hugo Weaving’s Elrond will always be my favorite, there is an undeniable likability to Aramayo’s portrayal. There is a sense of gentleness and humility to this younger Elrond as opposed to his loftier, more remote elder counterpart. And Elrond puts that humility to good use in showing great deference to King Durin and the other Dwarf Lords.
In exchange for their help in recovering the Mithril, Elrond offers the Dwarves grain, game, and timber from their sacred forest for the next five hundred years. While the Dwarf Lords are intrigued and the Prince practically salivating, the King declines. Elrond takes the news graciously, despite clearly being heartbroken, and is ready to break the bad news to the High King when Durin sees the chunk of Mithril heal a diseased leaf from Gil-galad’s (Benjamin Walker) tree.
Seeing the proof of Mithril’s magic is enough to prompt Prince Durin and Elrond into a covert, two-man dig. It’s a scene crafted to give the audience pause for breath between the troubles happening elsewhere. Still, it also reveals much about these two characters and their friendship (which, after this week, I’m not entirely convinced was just a friendship).
After an illuminating heart-to-heart in which Prince Durin nearly reveals his secret name (something precious only shared with nearest and dearest) to Elrond, they strike gold…er, Mithril. But even this excitement is short-lived, as King Durin discovers them, banishing Elrond and disinheriting Prince Durin. Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete) stands by her man, and you get a good glimpse at the ruthless ambition that lies behind all of that beauty and good humor. So with things looking a bit Macbeth in Khazad-dûm, Elrond leaves with a strangely happy glint in his eye.
It will be interesting to see how Elrond and Gil-galad react to the news that not only did Galadriel take this retirement and shove it, but that Orcs have destroyed the Southlands and made it their own. Oh, and she’s been to Numenor, and they’re involved too. It’s possible Elrond’s even-keeled sense of diplomacy won’t survive the news. But like it or not, Galadriel is headed back to Lindon with a badly wounded Halbrand in tow. Will Halbrand bristle and take offense to seeing how dismissive Gil-galad and Elrond can be towards Galadriel? After last week’s gorgeous confession between the two, it stands to reason there will be fireworks ahead.
There is a glint of hope in all of the darkness of this episode, but the two final scenes are a parting shot right to the gut, promising an exciting finale next week. King Durin tosses the leaf of Lindon into the Mithril cave, where it falls and falls and falls until it hits the ground, and burns, waking the Balrog. That’s a whoopsie daisy, for sure. And then, we get Adar (Joseph Mawle), who managed to escape before Mount Doom popped her top. His Orcs and surviving humans are making themselves at home in the ruins of the Southlands.
Adar, a big-picture villain if there ever was one, insists it’s no longer The Southlands; it deserves a new name. We see the map letters change to black and rearrange themselves to spell MORDOR. It could have been worse: Adar could have named it Renesmee.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is currently streaming on Prime Video.