By Janie Walenda
As you might expect from an episode titled “Partings,” the fifth episode of “Rings of Power” finds several characters parting ways or forging a new path.
For an episode filled with so much change and plot progression, I don’t understand how it feels like nothing happened. We’ve officially crossed the midway point of this season, and while I’m enjoying “Rings of Power” as much as ever, I feel as though I’m running out of things to talk about.
My opinions on the plot and characters have changed very little each week, and the show has given me few revelations to fuel discussion in the past few episodes. Hopefully, after a few weeks of carefully setting dominos in place, in the last half of its season “Rings of Power” will begin to tip them over.
Once again, Durin and Elrond are the best part of the episode. I think Elrond’s struggle between his oath to Durin and his duty to his people is done well, and I love how it concludes. More than anything else in the show, the strength of their friendship is highlighted through Elrond’s honesty to Durin and Durin’s willingness to work with Elrond. Especially considering how heavily this episode focuses on relationship conflict, it is lovely to see the characters in this storyline communicating.
Over in Númenor, I love following Isildur’s struggle to go to Middle Earth. I particularly enjoy his conversation with his father, Elendil. The show articulates Elendil’s lesson that actions speak louder than words well. The show hasn’t been too heavy-handed with Isildur’s future, but they’ve done an excellent job of setting the stage.
The rest of his family has been far under-utilized. Elendil is still an engaging character despite being underwritten. I always have a soft spot for characters who are good and noble, and I appreciate that about Elendil’s character. Isildur’s sister, Eärien, on the other hand, lacks the charm to make much of an impact.
Galadriel’s sword fight is our big action piece of the episode, and I think it is really fun. It reminds me of some of Legolas’s goofy stunts in the original films but slightly more grounded. However, I don’t like how the show depowers the Númenoreans. They’re not regular humans, thanks to their elvish ancestry. Perhaps this is evident in the fact that one of them could land a hit on Galadriel. Regardless, it is a fun sword fight.
The conflict between the Númernoreans who wish to go to Middle Earth and fight with the Elves and those who would rather remain safe is my favorite part about the Númenor story. We get our first glimpse at Pharazôn’s scheming and see that Númenor is far from redeemed despite making the noble choice to fight alongside the Elves. The political intrigue of Númenor is something new to the Tolkien films and may help bridge the tonal gap between “The Silmarillion” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Over in the Southlands, two major decisions are made this week. The majority of the Southlanders repeat history and pledge their allegiance to Sauron – or so they think. Meanwhile, Theo decides to stay with his mother and show Arondir the sword hilt. I am really glad that the show takes this direction with Theo rather than have him side with Sauron.
Even as the Southlanders make the same mistake their ancestors did, a mistake that caused centuries of mistrust, Theo shows that they’re not beyond hope. While “Rings of Power” may not be the most unpredictable show out there, it has avoided many predictable tropes which keep it feeling fresh.
As for the rest of the Southlanders, their betrayal reveals one very important fact: Adar is not Sauron. I felt fairly sure of this fact after his introduction in last week’s episode, but “Partings” eliminated any remaining doubt I had. For anyone playing the “Who’s Sauron” game at home, that leaves the Stranger, Halbrand, and the white-hooded figure as our most likely candidates.
Personally, I dislike all these options. I have different theories for all these characters, and I think they’re on the right track to introduce Sauron in a similar way to his involvement in “The Silmarillion.”
Thus far, “Rings of Power” has been a visually stunning and enjoyable slow-burn fantasy epic. This is a solid first half of a season, and it does feel like the plot is starting to pick up. The themes of the show are becoming increasingly obvious. The emphasis on the importance of honesty, redemption, kindness, and friendship may seem overly sentimental, but when it’s set against the darker events that “Rings of Power” portrays, it paints a beautiful picture. We see Elrond treat his friend with integrity while Pharazôn plots for power. Theo chooses his family over the power of Sauron while Waldreg kills a young boy just to serve a lesser power. The power in choosing good may not be the most obvious theme so far, but it is there nonetheless.
“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