By Janie Walenda
(This review contains spoilers for episode six of “Rings of Power”)
As the pieces fell into place, “Rings of Power” proved why slow-burn shows could be so effective. While the previous five episodes still had their problems, not all of which were fixed in episode six, “Udûn,” they successfully built up to one of the most nail-biting and jaw-dropping hours of television I have ever seen.
We spend most of our time with the Southlanders as they prepared for battle against the Orcs. After Arondir brought down the fort of Ostirith on Adar and his army, the Southlanders fortified the town of Tirharad and prepared for a final showdown with the Orcs.
One of my favorite moments of the episode was the first appearance of the Orcs, represented by the growing number of torches in the background. The camera work was particularly effective in this scene, going in and out of focus to use the effect of the torchlight to its full capacity. This, accompanied by a particularly ominous score, set the stage and tone of this battle brilliantly.
In this episode,“Rings of Power ” proved that it’s willing to get dark, from Arondir’s duel with an Orc to the scene in the keep where Adar looked for Sauron’s broken sword.
The most thematic dark moment, I found, was the reveal that many of the soldiers that the Southlanders fought were not Orcs, but instead their own people who had defected. This led to the Orcs ambushing the Southlanders and the Númenorean army rescuing them. We saw the return of physics-defying Elf horseback stunts, and I found Galadriel and Halbrand’s pursuit of Adar thrilling.
Galadriel’s character frustrated me a bit. I liked some elements. Her conversation with Isildur on the boat highlighted Galadriel’s wisdom and true strength.
However, some of her actions in this episode confused me. While I understand why she despised the Orcs, it still felt like it came out of nowhere for her to be that hateful. This led to Adar’s wonderful point about the darkness that was growing in Galadriel.
I hope we will see her acknowledge the hate that’s building in her, rededicate herself to protecting the good of Middle Earth, and grow into the wise leader she was always meant to be.
Many people pointed towards this episode as further proof that Halbrand is Sauron. While I can see the show potentially building towards that, I still didn’t see it. I didn’t doubt that he would end up fighting for the forces of darkness, but I just didn’t see any evidence of him scheming and manipulating events.
Either I’m hopelessly naïve and the show has done a poor job of building up to its biggest plot twist, or the show has something clever in mind.
The crown jewel of this episode was its final scene. I loved the small detail that Galadriel and Arondir – who hadn’t held Sauron’s sword before – couldn’t tell that Adar swapped it for a decoy, but Theo could tell right away.
The visuals as Waldreg used the sword to flood the tunnel, eventually leading to the volcanic eruption, were simply jaw-dropping. The chaos and devastation that ensued were at the level of any disaster movie.
What made this moment so spectacular was the in-universe implication of what we saw. We didn’t see just any volcano erupt over any town; we watched Mount Doom and the creation of Mordor. While my brother informed me a few weeks back that the Southlands would eventually become Mordor, I didn’t expect it to happen so soon.
We’ll see the fallout of the destruction in the next episode; we know that Galadriel, Isildur and Elendil can’t die. And so far, “Rings of Power” has been reluctant to kill any of its characters. Regardless, it was extremely satisfying to see such a strong tie-in to the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. If “Rings of Power” continue to build on this foundation and implement the rich backstory from Tolkien’s work, then I believe it can become an iconic work of fantasy.
“Rings of Power” is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video
Janie Walenda is a sophomore Global Business major and the A&E editor for Cedars. She is passionate about musicals, animation and cold brew.
Images courtesy of Prime Video