“Adar” places the protagonists in various forms of imprisonment as hope takes a beating.
Welcome back, Har’foots, Eldar, and Astari, to the weekly Spool recap of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. As with episodes 1 & 2, episode 3, “Adar,” gives us a lot to cover, so let’s dive in. As always, please be aware that this review contains spoilers for episode 3, “Adar.“ Before I dive in, I want to call out a correction from the first two episodes: The Stranger (aka Not Gandalf) is not portrayed by Joseph Mawle but by Daniel Weyman. Mea Culpa on that one.
This week’s director, Wayne Yip, has already stretched his fantasy muscles with The Wheel of Time, Doctor Who, and one of my favorites, Preacher. Talk about a show that knows how to lean into its extravagant weirdness.
We begin this week with Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) carried off to Orc Camp. The rest of his garrison is already hard at work digging there. “For Adar,” one of the orcs menaces before slapping Arondir’s lovely wrists in chains. I’m sure this is going to end well.
Meanwhile, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) wakes up in a berth on the fancy ship that rescued her and Halbrand in episode two. Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) brings her food, promising it isn’t poison…for humans! Nice one, dad, tell us another. The ruggedly handsome Captain (Lloyd Owen) recognizes Galadriel as Eldar and tells her they’re being taken to his “betters.” And where would they be? Why, the island Kingdom of Númenor, of course! Númenor is, like most of the other sets, gorgeous when it’s not visibly just a green screen. Maybe I’m a rube who is easily impressed, but the towers and massive faces carved into the rocks are spectacular visually. Also, you can see the visual inspiration for Gondor here, which is a nice touch.
Once docked, Galadriel explains to Halbrand (and the audience) that while yes, the people of Númenor are humans, they’re also blessed by the Elves for standing against Morgoth while the men of Middle Earth swore themselves to the enemy. Though by her tone, she doesn’t seem too pleased to be there.
The Captain escorts them into a throne room to meet the Queen Regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), an absolute boss in a dress with scaled armor and an elaborate headdress. Galadriel asks that Númenor grant them safe passage back to middle earth, a plan Halbrand is not down with.
The Chancellor (Trystan Gravelle) reminds Galadriel they don’t work at the demand of the Elves. Galadriel shoots back that Númenor wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the Elves. Pearls are clutched at this. The mood sours quickly. However, thanks to some nimble thinking and diplomacy from Halbrand, a three-day stay on the island is granted. Meanwhile the Queen Regent and her council will decide what to do with them.
Galadriel isn’t too thrilled with being restricted to palace grounds and is eager to return to Middle Earth, but Halbrand sees it as an opportunity to make a fresh start and find peace. The sexual tension between these two is not zero. Meanwhile, Miriel wants to know more about the Captain who brought the outsiders there. The Chancellor tells her that “his name is Elendil.” Oh shit, not the future King of Gondor and father of Isildur–middle earth’s biggest dupe–and ancestor of Aragorn! The very same! Isildur (Maxim Baldry), a strapping lad learning the ropes of seafaring, can’t stop daydreaming, which might not be the best trait for a sailor.
Númenor is, like most of the other sets, gorgeous when it’s not visibly just a green screen.
Miriel grills Elendil about his name, which in the Eldar tongue means “Elf Friend,” something you don’t want to be in good old Númenor, it seems. Miriel throws the word “treason” around, but Elendil insists he only did what he thought was right. For this, he receives a fancy new sword. It isn’t Narsil, but it is very pretty.
Back at the dirt pit, Arondir notices that the orcs have to run for cover whenever the sun peeks out, which seems like a fairly exploitable weakness. He and his pal Medhor (Augustus Prew) discuss this while walking through an army of Orcs. Guess Orcs are as dumb as they say. Medor, who has been there longer, tells Arondir the Orcs are searching for something, which is why they’ve been tearing apart whole villages on behalf of their leader. Watchwarden Revion (Simon Merrells) notes that the Orcs speak of their leader with an almost worshipful reverence, which can’t be good. He posits that Morgoth has a successor in Adar. But why would he have an Elvish name like Adar? Why indeed!
On Númenor, the palace guards are searching for Galadriel, who escaped by hopping from rooftop to rooftop. She watches the harbor, looking for a ship to steal. Elendil is there to break bad news. Unfortunately, none of the boats she’s looking at will even get her out of the bay. I’m not sure if this is Lloyd Owen’s real voice or if it’s an effect for the show, but there is a flavor of Viggo there. Say what you like about this show; you can’t say they haven’t thought about the details.
Elendil offers to take Galadriel to their Halls of Law, a short ride away. What follows is an absolute perfume commercial of Galadriel riding a white horse, hair flowing in the wind, a big stupid grin on her face. It’s wonderful. At the Hall of Law, they find a scrap with a familiar symbol, the same symbol Galadriel saw in the Fortress in the Northern Wastes! She realizes it’s not a sigil but a map pointing to a very specific area of Middle Earth. Hmmm. Could it be…Mordor?
Halbrand is trying his best to get a spot in a blacksmith’s shop, just asking for a chance. The smith thinks he has heart, but he can’t hire anyone who doesn’t have a badge of the guild. Attempting to drown his worries, Halbrand finds a bar, where some locals heckle him, one of whom just happens to be sporting a guild badge. Schmoozing ensues, with Halbrand buying everyone drinks before pocketing the badge for himself. Of course, the locals notice, and of course, they give chase. Halbrand insists he doesn’t want any trouble, but the locals seem to want exactly that. Too bad for them Halbrand beats them all handily before the guards rush in.
Say what you like about this show; you can’t say they haven’t thought about the details.
The Har’foots, meanwhile, are having their big harvest festival. They wear fun costumes and chant, “nobody goes off trail, and nobody walks alone.” While the festivities are underway, Nori is busy convincing Poppy to help her steal some pages from Elder Burrows’s (Lenny Henry) book, which she thinks has the constellation the tall stranger seeks. Through some Hobbitlike trickery, she manages to get the pages and leaves them for her friend to find. One of the constellations looks an awful lot like the Big Dipper, which is wild and kind of breaks the fantasy for just a moment.
Not Gandalf can’t read in the dark, however, and comes crashing into the festival just as Burrows solemnly reads out the names of those Har’foots left behind. Not only is Nori in big trouble, her whole family now has to travel at the back of the caravan when they depart the next day. An unenviable position as the passage of all the other carts makes the path much more difficult. Just when it starts to look as though the whole Brandyfoot family will join that list of left-behinds, Not Gandalf is there to carry their cart on his giant back. Win-Win!
Halbrand, cooling his heels in the clink, gets a visit from Galadriel, who brought him a present from the Hall of Law. It’s a symbol that looks an awful lot like the one Halbrand wears around his neck. It’s the symbol of a King who once united all the Southlands tribes under one banner. A symbol that could unite them all again to take back their land from the Orcs. Or rather, his land, as she knows now that he is the rightful king. Please do not tell me this sexy tall boy is doomed to Wraithdom! The discovery doesn’t thrill Halbrand as he feels shame that his people were so eager to side with Morgoth, but Galadriel isn’t here for any pity parties. He finally agrees to return with her but worries they’re still short an army. Not to worry, Galadriel has a plan.
Back at Orc Camp, the elves take their chance in the daylight to take on their captors. It’s a neat fight scene but ends abruptly when the Orcs release their Warg. The Warg makes quick work of most of the elves, and Revion gets arrowed, sadly. Arondir almost gets away but is pulled back into the pit, where now he will have to deal with the boss, Adar. Finally, we see a blurry figure, and that, friends, is Joseph Mawle. And the end of the “Adar”! Join us next time for more Elves, naked giants, and sea captains! Until next time, don’t steal and don’t sass any Regents.