The Rings of Power Shows Us the Tears of the Valar and a Face of the Enemy in “The Great Wave”

This week on The Rings of Power, the plotlines finally start to become clear, the story of Númenor captures our attention, and Arondir gets to meet Daddy. It’s the strongest episode yet, despite a glaring lack of Harfoots.

 

Recap

Míriel wakes from the nightmare of a great wave sinking Númenor. In the streets, Eärien watches Pharazôn pacify a mob who are angry about Galadriel’s presence with a great speech. Galadriel brings the scrolls depicting Sauron’s map and the warning of his intention to build a realm of his own to Míriel, and tells her of Halbrand’s true heritage. She asks Míriel to send the Númenorans to fight with her and the Southlanders—when Míriel refuses, Galadriel demands to see the rightful ruler, her father the King. Míriel puts her in the dungeons.

Isildur deliberately sabotages his sea trial, accidentally getting his friends Ontamo (Anthony Crum) and Valandil (Alex Tarrant) thrown out with him. Valandil accuses Isildur of having had the opportunity handed to him, and declares that he has always been a problem. In the orc encampment, Arondir witnesses the arrival of the being the orcs call Adar (Joseph Mawle). Adar greets Arondir in his own tongue, and claims that the elf has been told many lies. Arondir considers attacking Adar. He is told that he is to be released so that he can carry a message to the humans.

In the watchtower of Ostirith, Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) tells Bronwyn that there is hardly any food left. Theo sneaks off to search the town for supplies. When he is attacked by an orc, he uses the blood-activated blade to fight it off. The orc recognizes the weapon and tries to take it from him, but Theo hides in the well.

Celebrimbor and Elrond admire the progress on the tower, and Celebrimbor admits that Durin seems to be avoiding him. Elrond goes to Khazad-dûm to talk to Disa. He can tell that Disa isn’t being truthful with him, and later spies on her and Durin, learning of a secret old mine where he is working. Durin accuses Elrond of being a spy, but Elrond manages to convince him that he has no idea what is going on. After swearing to keep the secret, Elrond is told about the discovery of a new kind of ore, which in the elvish tongue would be called Mithril. Durin admits that the mining of it is dangerous, which is soon proven true by the collapse of the mine shaft.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, episode 4, The Great Wave, Elrond and Disa

Image: Amazon Prime Video

Halbrand advises Galadriel to stop charging about and actually think about what has happened to put her in the dungeons (asking after the former king). Pharazôn arrives with some guards to inform Galadriel she is going to be shipped home, but she disarms the guards and forces them into a cell. Halbrand tells Pharazôn where she is going.

Galadriel breaks into the king’s chambers and finds Míriel waiting for her. Míriel shows Galadriel a Palantir, one of the seeing stones, and when Galadriel touches it she sees Númenor sink into the sea. Míriel explains that her father saw this fate and believed that the Númenorans had angered the gods, but the people rebelled against his desire to take Númenor back to the old ways. This is why she can’t help Galadriel.

Theo attempts to escape the orcs. He is discovered, but at the last moment Arondir appears and saves him. They are chased through a forest where they meet Bronwyn. Running out into a field, they turn to fight, but the sun breaks through the morning clouds and the orcs stop at the edge of the forest.

Disa performs a song to ask the rocks to release the four Dwarven miners who have been caught in the collapsed shaft. Durin arrives to report that the miners were saved, but he is angry at his father for insisting the shaft be closed for good. Elrond tells Durin about his own father, Eärendil, who the Valar lifted into the heavens to carry the evening star across the sky. He advises Durin not to waste the time he has with his. Durin reconciles with his father, and Durin III asks what he thinks about Elrond and Celebrimbor’s proposal. Durin answers that he suspects there is something hidden going on, and Durin III advises him to go to Lindon and find out what.

Back at the watchtower, Arondir tells Bronwyn about the message he was sent to carry—that the men of the Southlands will be spared if they swear fealty to the one who commands the orcs. If not, he will come for Ostirith. Waldreg confronts Theo about the cursed blade, telling the boy that it is a power fashioned for their ancestors and asking him if he knows about Sauron. He warns the boy to be ready. An orc reports to the being called Adar that the blade has been found, and that it is in Ostirith.

As Galadriel is sent to the ship that will carry her back to Middle-earth, the petals of the White Tree begin to fall. Míriel tells her people that this is a sign that the Valar are watching them, and declares her intention to escort Galadriel back to aid the beseagued Southlands. In the square, Elendil asks for volunteers for the expeditionary force. Valandil volunteers, followed by Ontama and Isildur, sparking a wave.

 

Commentary

Nothing about Númenor really impressed me last week, but this week’s episode has really found its footing with the larger plot, and everything that happens in Númenor this week is really enjoyable. The action is more dynamic and the actors have more to do, and the pacing of the entire episode flows very seamlessly. While I missed the Harfoots, I was also sort of glad to have an episode without them so that the plot of Sauron’s impending rise could be given more time to coalesce. Cutting from the scenes in Númenor, Khazad-dûm, and the Southlands didn’t feel like interruption after interruption, the way the scene changes sometimes did in the first three episodes. Instead, each complimented the other, advancing both the themes and the plot of the episode. It really felt as though the entire episode was actually rushing towards a single point—a Great Wave indeed.

I really enjoyed the interactions between Míriel and Galadriel. Galadriel’s scenes continue to suffer from clichéd, overwrought dialogue (“a tempest lives in me,” etc.), but Addai-Robinson and Clark are great on screen together, and the chemistry between the characters really came to fruition in the scene with the Palantir. I wish Míriel’s dialogue had been a little clearer about the fact that she didn’t believe that her people would accept a decision to follow Galadriel to Middle-earth to fight Sauron—it is there in her explanation of what happened to her father, but the message is just a bit messier than I would have liked. It would have sold her change of heart after the falling of the white tree’s petals more powerfully. Nevertheless, that scene was beautiful, and Addai-Robinson proved that she could give a proper Lord of the Rings speech with the best of them.

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, episode 4, The Great Wave, Isildur

Image: Amazon Prime Video

I also enjoyed the way this episode brought Isildur’s story forward. The writers of The Rings of Power have said that their intention is to show Isildur as a tragic figure, rather than a foolish or evil one, and you can already see the way they are setting that up. The way Isildur’s attempt to get dismissed from the cadets backfires on his friends might very well end up being a theme of Isildur’s life, it seems—if you know anything about his death and the burden his heirs carried up into the events of The Lord of the Rings, you can see a sort of throughline beginning to emerge. Valandil’s accusations about Isildur being handed things instead of having to work for it also had an ironic ring to it, while at the same time drawing empathy from the audience for Isildur’s conflict. He shows his sense of honor and care for others later, when he tells Eärien that he doesn’t deserve to go West after ruining his friends’ lives and dishonoring the family name. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and more of Elendil too. I really like his wry, practical character, and I think you can see hints of his future there, as well.

Seeing Bronwyn and the people of the Southlands trying to figure out how to survive the orc infestation of their lands is of course reminiscent of the Rohirim’s flight to Helm’s Deep, and Bronwyn might be meant to remind us a little of Éowyn as well. You can see the leader emerging in her, and watching what was actually happening to the people of the Southlands made Galadriel’s plea to Míriel and the Númenorans feel much more immediate for the viewer. And while we have Nimloth dropping its petals to tell Míriel the will of the Valar, we have Waldreg warning Theo to be ready for the return of Sauron for an entirely different reason.

I loved that Arondir got another cool elf fight scene, this time with archery, but I have to wonder why Galadriel doesn’t get the same cool elf treatment? Don’t get me wrong, I love Arondir, but Galadriel is the Commander of the Northern Army—whatever awesome elf fighting we see him do, we should see her do thrice over. All we’ve had is her quick, efficient killing of the snow troll in the first episode, and that’s it.

When we had to sit through an entire episode of her being stranded in the middle of the ocean and menaced by the sea dragon, I assumed it was so that we could see her fight it. But it wasn’t. And then in this episode, she fights off several armed guards at once, but we only see one move and then the camera cuts to watch Halbrand playing both sides in his conversation with Pharazôn. I really don’t see why the show keeps choosing to rob Galadriel of impressive moments in favor of other characters—we know the show has the chops to do good action sequences! Theo’s had two, both really enjoyable, and there was one also with Bronwyn being awesome. (And of course Arondir keeps being amazing, I’ll say it again.)

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, episode 4, The Great Wave, Elrond and Durin

Image: Amazon Prime Video

I already knew I loved Sophia Nomvete’s portrayal of Disa, but she really shone in this episode, and I am glad that her character isn’t being shoved aside by those of Elrond and Durin. After The Hobbit films, we’ve all come to expect amazing singing from the Dwarves, and Nomvete blew me out of the water with her performance. I literally had chills, and so did the rocks. I also appreciated the reconciliation between Durin IV and Durin III—Dwarves are often reduced to stereotype in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, and the show is clearly very cognizant of such pitfalls. There is a warmth and strength Durin’s relationship with Disa that we see also in the scene with his father, and Durin III’s suspicion that there is more going on in Lindon than they’ve been told doesn’t come off as paranoid or prejudiced against Elves—it comes off as prudent and wise.

Owain Arthur is doing a great job acting from behind the prosthetics and beard, and he keeps hitting an absolutely perfect balance between seriousness and comedy using mostly just physical reaction. The sidelong glances Durin gives Elrond when Elrond explains how his dad became a star were really priceless. I was skeptical at first that the show would be able to sell me on this friendship, but it really has, and I’m enjoying the way the show is building their camaraderie and history together. The patter between them is pleasantly reminiscent of Legolas and Gimli, but the characters and their relationship still feel fresh and unique. Durin giving Elrond the piece of mithril was a moving moment, although I worry it heralds trouble for the pair—Elrond will no doubt keep his promise, but all it takes for the secret to get out is for someone to discover the nugget in his possession.

Sylas K Barrett seems to remember that the elvish ring Nenya was made of mithril… It may be that Elrond’s possession of a piece of mithril will lead to the Ring of Water being forged from the substance.

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