We’re back with another episode of The Rings of Power, this one titled “Adar.” Ominous.
Before we start, I went back to rewatch the first two episodes, and … still enjoyed them. I dunno, maybe I’m being overly positive, but I dig this latest venture into Tolkien’s universe. Granted, we’re only on Episode 3, and yes the pacing and writing leave a little to be desired, but there’s also a lot to enjoy.
I say all that with a caveat: I’m not a Tolkien expert in any way shape or form. I’ve never read The Silmarillion, aka that one unpublished manuscript everyone says is really boring that serves the basis of The Rings of Power. I recall briefly flipping through the Appendices, but only to discover what happens to Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas after Return of the King.
I’ve also played Shadow of Mordor, that kick-ass video game that takes place after the events depicted in Rings of Power. In fact, I just learned that Celebrimbor (a character in Amazon’s series) is the ghost guy seeking vengeance against Sauron in the game, which makes me want to tackle the popular title again. (Plus, you get to kill thousands of Orcs, which is never a bad thing.)
Otherwise, my knowledge of Middle-earth is pretty thin, which is probably why I’m able to enjoy the show from a purely “general audience” perspective. That said, I get why die-hard Tolkien fans would be upset at the departure from the established lore. That was one of the reasons I dismissed Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett — the showrunners screwed with Star Wars lore in all the wrong ways.
All this to say, I get why people are pissed. Even if I don’t get why people are pissed. I don’t know Tolkien well enough to know how much Rings of Power is breaking from lore, but if it’s departing significantly from the beloved books then fans have a right to be upset.
Personally, I find the show interesting. What’s more, the VFX and set design are surprisingly polished, which is a welcome change of pace after so many half-assed Disney+ shows. I like several of the characters, but do agree with critics who say the show lacks sex appeal. Characters are mostly duty-bound and don’t have time for anything resembling romance or nuance. Even Jackson managed to squeeze a love story into each of his LOTR trilogies.
Still, with five seasons on the docket (assuming the billion-dollar series survives), there’s plenty of time to tend to those details.
Okay, after that long intro onto Episode 3. Let’s do this!
What Happened in The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 3
We open with Arondir getting dragged through a cave by Orcs, one of which ominously whispers, “For Adar.” Our warrior Elf is tossed outside and quickly put to work alongside other Elves who turn out to be — his tower mates, including Medhor and Revion. Gasp!
We cut to Galadriel who awakens on a ship alongside Halbrand. She’s pissed, like always, even as she meets the ship’s captain, Elendil, who steers them through giant statues and rock faces (think Batman Returns, just less Tim Burton-y). Galadriel informs Halbrand that they have arrived in The Land of the Star, which is just a fancy way of saying The Island Kingdom of Númenor — a locale fans of Tolkien’s works will no doubt gush over for the next week or so. (We never saw this place in Jackson’s trilogy. I would’ve remembered the giant heads.)
(Note: at some point I expect Galadriel to explain how she expected to swim 100 miles to shore, but whatever. Maybe she hoped to run into a ship, or maybe Elves can just swim for days on end without much struggle?)
(Another note: kudos to Bear McCreary for his astonishing work, which evokes the best of Howard Shore without ripping off any of his themes.)
Galadriel and Halbrand wander through Númenor’s streets, which look more Game of Thrones-ish than LOTR. Though, the main structure has a certain Minas Tirith vibe that borderlines on knockoff. (Unless this is Minas Tirith? Someone help.) She explains that the people of Númenor stood with the Elves against Morgoth and were rewarded by the Valor for their actions, while Halbrand’s clan cast their lot in the opposite direction which is why the men of the Southlands struggle to survive. (This also explains the Elf hate.)
The pair arrive in front of the Queen regent Míriel (a story point you can read about on the World Wide Web). Galadriel looks to pick a fight, but Halbrand intervenes and manages to secure them a nice bed and breakfast for the next three days.
Halbrand then hugs Elendil and slaps the captain’s back for good measure. Elendil is like, “Whatevs,” but seriously what was that about?
“What the fu*k,” Galadriel snaps at Halbrand, obviously pissed that she’s forced to delay her lifelong mission for another three days. He reassures her this is the best course of action and even hands over her dagger for good measure. Wait, did he steal her blade from Elendil? Or did he have that thing in his pants this whole time? (On second viewing, Halbrand stole the blade from Elendil who stole it from Galadriel.)
Nearby, the Queen asks her
Hand advisor, Pharazôn, for the deets on Elendil — a Sea Guardsman formerly of royal lineage who has a son. I mean, I’m not an advisor, but these seem like pretty shotty details.
Speaking of Elendil’s son, we meet the young man in the next scene. Ladies and gentlemen, behold, the mighty … Isildur? If memory serves, he’s the guy who blew it during the War of the Ring — the man who lopped off Sauron’s finger and stole his ring before vanishing into the wilderness. Well, turns out he’s rather heroic, leaping to duty when a fellow crewmate nearly flies overboard.
“There is no harsher master than the sea,”
Aquaman the captain exclaims after the incident. Thanks, bro.
Later, the crew turns up on shore. “The sea is always right,” the captain continues. Someone get this guy a TV.
Isildur is greeted by a beautiful woman walking alongside a horse. He runs towards her and — hugs the horse. She seems disappointed. This is Isildur’s sister, Eärien. I never hug my sister (or my children) so I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Anyways, Isildur demands to see father.
We jump back to Queen Míriel who
talks to herself discusses the white tree with Elendil and something about something. Elendil doesn’t believe in magic or superstitious hocus pocus. Míriel pivots to another topic and asks what his name means: “One who loves the stars,” he says. Try again. “Elf-friend,” he begrudgingly admits.
This pisses her off. Míriel hates Elves, you see? Just like everyone in Middle-earth.
“In my defense, the sea put her in my path and the sea is always right,” he says. However, he maintains that his allegiance lies with Númenor.
“Prove it,” she says, handing him a sword.
Back in the Southlands, Arondir is performing manual labor (which, for our younger viewers, involves working outside and breaking a sweat). He deduces the Orcs are looking for something, a weapon perhaps. He also learns that Morgoth has a successor — the mysterious Adar, which is weird since Adar is apparently an Elvish word. Revion thinks it might be one of Sauron’s names. “Well, shit,” Arondir says.
Revion suggests they escape, which seems like the logical move. “We can return with a full force and wipe these Orcs away like salt from a table.” (Actual line.)
An Orc approaches and tells everyone to shut up, but Revion (who likely won’t last long) says they can’t keep working because there are tree roots blocking their path. Actually, he just refuses to destroy a tree because, well, he’s an Elf. Another Orc named Magrot approaches, praises Revion for his bravery, and offers him water as a reward. There’s a drawn-out scene in which everyone drinks from the water jug and then Magrot, for whatever reason, slices Medhor’s throat and prepares to kill the others before Arondir stops the slaughter and volunteers to cut the tree down himself. (The Orcs are hilariously over the top but in a good way.)
Back with Galadriel, our pissed-off Elf (now decked out in a blue dress) sneaks about the city and actually smiles after tricking some soldiers. She plans to steal a ship, but Elendil happens to be chillin’ nearby. How he knew she would turn up there (of all places) is anyone’s guess. They bicker, but eventually, he speaks Elvish (or something) and brings up horses — two things that completely melt her soul.
Later that evening, the pair ride atop said horses in super slow motion … which makes her smile again!
Halbrand, meanwhile, is having a tougher go. He’s still stuck in the same clothes and can’t even get a job as a forger. Somehow he obtains food — clams and bread — but is harassed by the locals before he can dig in. At first, it looks to all the world like he is going to go all John Wick on a group of men, but changes tactics at the last second and offers to buy them some drinks instead.
Except, it’s all a ruse. During the ensuing party, he steals a medallion from one of the men. Unfortunately, he’s not a very good thief (hint: don’t take a very noticeable piece of the mark’s wardrobe). The men easily track Halbrand down, surround him and start roughing him up. Halbrand stands. “Remember,” he says, “you wanted this.” He then proceeds to smack them around like Steven Seagal — or, in a manner more appropriate for an R-rated HBO drama than a PG-styled family adventure. (Seriously, the violence in this episode was, uh, shocking.)
Also, Halbrand definitely has a dark side.
Galadriel wanders through a room full of scrolls, aka the Hall of Lore. Following the whole Grey Havens experience, the sea monster and the giant rock faces, it’s a little shocking that this is what impresses Galadriel most — a tiny room full of scrolls. She spots Sauron’s symbol on an old piece of parchment and realizes its actually a very simplified drawing of the Southlands. How nobody put that together after all these years is beyond me, but just go with it okay?
Anyways, the old scrap of paper also helpfully explains a diabolical backup plan just in case Morgoth happened to die. His successor is to start a brand new evil world in the Southlands. That’s it. That’s the plan.
Elsewhere, we get more slow motion shots of Harfoots prancing about the forest in costumes that make them look like extras from Hook. All except Largo and Marigold, who are holed up on account of the broken foot he sustained in the previous episode. They’re worried they’ll be left behind during the upcoming migration. This seems a little harsh for a seemingly kind-hearted society, but nature is a bitch.
Meanwhile, Nori and Poppy debate how much to help the mysterious old man who may or may not be Gandalf (a pretty big theory floating around online). She peers through Sadoc’s book in search of guidance. There’s some lighthearted fun(?) when Sadoc arrives, the old man’s presence forcing Nori to continue her search whilst hiding under the table.
(Note: the lighthearted moments noticeably clash against the show’s darker elements. You can tell the writers want to juice the series with heavier content, but can’t push the TV-14 rating too far — even though we do see exposed bowels later on. Why is Lord of the Rings trying to be Game of Thrones, which was just an adult take on Lord of the Rings? Life makes no sense.)
Our mysterious old man who may or may not be Gandalf sneaks into camp, likewise looking for clues, and ends up fumbling about like a goon until he brings down the set. The Harfoots are shocked by his sudden appearance and even more stunned to hear him mutter, “Nori?”
Moments later, a council convenes. Nori’s parents defend her actions. “Have you ever seen a being fall from the stars,” her father asks. Touché. Yet, the strict Harfoot laws that have apparently protected these people for thousands of years deem it necessary to “decaravan” the young girl. Jeez, people.
Sadoc waves off Nori’s misdeeds as a youthful mistake but condemns her family’s cart to the back of the train during the migration. This is bad news as her father needed to be at the front of the caravan due to his broken foot.
Marigold snaps at her daughter. “Way to go, idiot,” she says. Nori tries to explain that maybe there’s a touch of destiny about this mysterious old man who may or may not be Gandalf, but rather than listen to the pleas of her forward-thinking f daughter, we get another unintentionally hilarious line: “Ever has your heart been like your father’s, but the tallest milkweed gets snipped.” Wut.
Back at Númenor, Elendil bickers with his son, Isildur over normal shit like Trump vs. Biden. Eärien tries to intervene and gets chastised for her efforts. Luckily, she gets a phone call and leaves. Elendil has his son’s best intentions at heart, prompting this line: “The watery part of this world has a way of healing even the deepest wounds.” Wut.
Eärien reappears and exclaims some good news: “I made apprentice. I’ve been accepted to the Builder’s Guild,” she says. Apparently, Isildur convinced her to reapply after being rejected. The angry young man vanishes before Elendil can thank him. (This feels too much like TV drama and not a sweeping, cinematic Lord of the Rings storyline.)
Elsewhere, Galadriel visits Halbrand in prison and believes he is more than he claims. She saw his symbol (the one hanging around his neck) on a piece of parchment. He claims he found the necklace on a dead man and liked its pretty colors. “Many ages ago,” she says, “a man bearing that mark united the scattered tribes of the Southlands under one banner. The very banner that might unite them again today against the evil that now seeks to claim their lands. Your lands, Halbrand.”
Then the big reveal: “Your people have no king, for you are him.”
He warns her that his ancestors swore an oath to Morgoth. “I am not the hero you seek,” he says, echoing Aragorn. “For it was my family that lost the war.”
“And it was mine who started it,” Galadriel shoots back. Meeting in the middle of the ocean was not fate, luck or karma … this is something greater. “You must see it.”
She invites him to Middle-earth to redeem their bloodlines.
“You’re gonna need an army to get off this rock,” he says.
“I’m working on it, dammit.”
So, does this put all of those “Halbrand is Sauron” theories to bed? Or only enhance them further? I mean, men are not held in the highest esteem during LOTR, which means someone screwed up somewhere. One could argue Aragorn’s apprehensive loyalty to his kin stems from Isildur’s failure. Except, Sauron rose to power somehow, right? Who was responsible?
Also, in Episode 1, the High King and Elrond explain that they wanted to send Galadriel to the Grey Havens in order to prevent her from inadvertently bringing back the enemy. “The same wind that would put out a fire may also spread it,” the High King said at the time. Was that foreshadowing? Does Sauron rise to power because of Galadriel? Is Helbrand actually Sauron or merely a vessel to contain his power? So many questions.
Elsewhere in the city, the Queen wanders into her room and says (to no one in particular), “The moment is here, father. The Elf has arrived.” Wut.
Back with the Harfoots, we see the Brandyfoot’s struggling with their cart. Luckily, there happens to be a mysterious old man who may or may not be Gandalf nearby. He utters one word: “Friend.” (Kinda like the bit in Fellowship where Gandalf said the same word to open a magical Dwarf door.)
Nori says, “This is it. This is how we keep up with the others. He helps us and we help him.” (I actually like this storyline. It’s rare to see good people on the big or small screen. And honestly, Nori might be my favorite character not named Durin on this show so far.)
Back with Arondir, our Elf boys strike back at the Orcs via a surprise attack. They’re doing pretty well until a mutated Sonic the Hedgehog arrives and begins disemboweling the group. Arondir pulls off some Matrix-style moves and escapes the pit with Revion. Unfortunately, the local is surrounded by a legion of Orcs who proceed to give Revion the Boromir treatment. Womp.
Arondir is pulled back into the pit. He’s about to meet his maker when Magrot orders the other Orcs to take Arondir to Adar. We get our first look at the big bad, but since the cameraman forgot to focus it’s hard to tell if he’s a man or an Orc … or a Morc? Who can say?
Final Thoughts on The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 3
Okay, so that was Episode 3. I think I liked this one more than the first two. Sure, the pace is leisurely, but we’re still getting to know these characters. Nothing wrong with a little slow-burn drama. The script is full of far too many half-assed platitudes, but LOTR was never one for subtlety.
My biggest gripe is that Rings of Power can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a prequel to Jackson’s trilogy or an entirely separated adventure with a much harder edge. Does LOTR need blood and guts to draw viewers? Can’t we just have a PG-13-rated family drama? Jackson’s films managed to be intense as hell without utilizing too much gore. Just saying.
Also, as entertaining as this series is, I will continue to ask why Amazon didn’t just produce three new LOTR movies? TV is such a tricky feat to pull off. Personally, I rarely go back to watch an entire series a second or third time, but I can honestly say I’ve seen Return of the King 2,123 times. Movies are better.
All in all, The Rings of Power is good. Not great, but good. I imagine the bigger set pieces are lurking just over the horizon. Until then, I’m happy to wander around Middle-earth with this new lot for another three hours.
Until next week, folks!