After the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power spent most of the time setting the context for the show — from history to geographical locations to races and people — it picks up pace in the third 70-minute-long episode released on Friday and sets up several narrative threads that we know will intertwine in the future. It also introduces a few new characters who have significant roles to play in the future, a place that we have heard of in The Lord of the Rings and hints at a place that we have come to dread.
Under The Southlands
The episode starts with elf Arondir becoming an orc slave and joining hundreds of others, humans and elves, including his leader and a compatriot from the watch tower. The vampiric orcs who can’t handle sunlight are brutal, killing, torturing and beating the slaves in the name of ‘Adar’.
For all the racist Tolkien “fans” who have poisoned the show by their toxicity, Arondir might not fit the description of Elves as the “fair folk”, but how can you not root for an elf who flips and jumps with the dexterity of Legolas, is fearless in his quest to free the people there, and can take out Orcs just by expertly and creatively swishing chains that imprison him? What does skin colour have to do with anything?! That is not the canon battle fans should be waging.
The island kingdom of Numenor. Amazon Prime Video
We get our first look at the island kingdom of Numenor, the Atlantis of Tolkien’s world, and it is glorious. The carved rock faces that guide ships into port, the majestic statues, the White Tree, the architecture and the prosperity. It is Gondor at a grander scale, and once again we miss the effect it would have had on the big screen.
Our portal to this new location is the Numenorean Elendil — “originally from a noble line, now a Sea Guardsman” — who rescues Galadriel and Halbrand and brings them before the Queen Regent of Numenor Miriel and her chancellor Pharazon. A meeting that doesn’t go well at all as Elves, who were earlier their comrades in the war against Morgoth and friends, are all but banned from the kingdom. Why? Because Numenoreans wanted immortality like the Elves, not happy with the longer than usual lives granted to them, along with the island of Numenor, by the Valar for their role in the defeat of Morgoth.
Elendil has a certain presence and grace that makes him believable as Aragorn’s grandfather. Isildur is charming but the fact that he can hear voices calling to him says a bit about his fate later. And his sympathies to the Elves and concern about the growing evil on Middle-earth paves the way for his role in the tale to come.
Also, Halbrand seems to be a royal in exile, just like Aragorn, and just like Aragorn, he has to bear the burden of the actions of his forefathers who sided with Morgoth in the war. Given his canny diplomacy and easy charm and links to evil, will he become one of the Ringwraiths of Sauron? We will have to wait and see.
Galadriel is forging alliances that will prove to be a significant step going forward, even when she is in open captivity under orders from Miriel.
On the Rhovanion plains
The day of the migration is here and the Harfoots celebrate the eve of it by remembering all the Harfoots that have been left behind, a touching moment overall, but particularly more so because we realise that Poppy has lost most of her kin, which kind of makes us love her a little more as she stays back to help Nori and her family as they fall behind the caravan. The friendship between Nori and Poppy seems to be one we can get behind just like we did with Sam and Frodo, but here they are more of equals than the Lord of the Rings pair ever was.
The Stranger — who might be Gandalf (would explain his love for all things Hobbit), but is probably not because he doesn’t fit in with the timeline — is still around and still strange, but seems to be joining the Harfoots in their adventures across the land, helping Nori and her family not be left behind.
We see a glimpse of Adar as Arondir’s escape is foiled and he is taken to the man who seems to inspire utmost loyalty among the Orcs. Is he Sauron, or is he one of his lieutenants who maybe created this batch of Orcs? I guess we’ll find out soon.
The other surprise was the reveal that the marks Sauron left were not a symbol and a map of The Southlands! A backup plan for evil to rule if Morgoth is defeated. And the kicker? The Southlands is very close to where Mordor should be on the map. Are we seeing the creation of Mordor and the Dark Tower? Again, we’ll have to wait and watch.
While the dialogues still feel clunky, the third episode has given the show a positive push and even if it never matches up to Peter Jackson’s epics it is the perfect vessel to sail away on for an hour every Friday.