How does the most action-packed episode of a show still be this slow? Must be Elven magic. The sixth episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, titled ‘Udun’ (Sindarin for hell and what the Elves called the shadow lands), has an epic battle, bloody slaughter and exploding volcanoes (was that volcano always there?) but it only just limps towards making two of the many storylines that it follows finally meet.
The long-drawn battle
Adar the Orc-father rallies his Orc troops and Waldreg to fight for their rights to a homeland, a far more motivating speech than Bronwyn’s before Battle One-Part I commences. For her advice to Theo, the writers seemed to have cobbled together a speech from Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings about shadow, darkness and light. Adar and his troops attack the watchtower only to find it empty of everyone but Arondir, who pulls some more Legolas moves (yay!) to bring down the tower on them. He then joins Bronwyn and the others in the same village they fled to take shelter in the watchtower. Because who needs fortification when you have a handful of untrained villagers as fighters against an army of Orcs with brute strength!
As expected, the Orcs haven’t died and attack the village at night. The villagers rally and defeat the Orcs. Arondir is saved at the last minute by Bronwyn and Bronwyn is saved right back by Arondir when she is shot by Orc arrows. The scene where Arondir and Bronwyn lift the helmets of those who have fallen and realise that most of who they fought were not Orcs at all but the other villagers who had gone to bend the knee to Adar is a good one hinting at how Sauron could turn people against each other.
Even as the survivors of the battle gather in the tavern (because apparently a wooden structure is safe against Orcs who march with torches), Adar leads the rest of the Orcs and Waldreg (how did they survive the collapse of the watchtower?) for Battle One-Part II and it is as easy as breaking down a wooden door and walking in. Theo gives up the mysterious sword hilt to Adar to save his mother and everyone is about to be slaughtered when the Numenoreans ride in to save them. How they arrived at the exact moment having been still at sea when the Orcs first attacked is a mystery, as is the fact that they know exactly which village to ride to (because they have spies? Who knows).
The king that was promised
We are leaving out the Numenoreans sailing to Middle-earth because it just has a lot of rank-pulling by Galadriel and more Isildur conversations that lead nowhere. And yes, we are making a point.
Back to Battle One- Part III. Adar gives Waldreg a task and flees with the Dark Object and is given chase by Galadriel. The scene is quite nicely done, except that it was already done better in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring where Arwen was fleeing the Ringwraiths with Frodo. Galadriel even gives the same command to her horse as Arwen. And honestly, Halbrand’s tripping-the-horse trick is kind of a letdown after the chase.
Halbrand’s interactions with Adar and Galadriel once again bring up the question of whether he is Sauron but we are still leaning towards the one-of-the-Ringwraiths theory. Is there something brewing between Halbrand and Galadriel? Really?
After the poor villagers’ version of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, Halbrand is welcomed as the ‘prince’… oops… we mean ‘king that was promised’ and the villagers lay out a feast (you have lost many of your own. Show some respect!). But the feast is interrupted by an exploding volcano, which we assume is Mount Doom.
The Southlands are doomed
While Adar was pointing out some harsh truths to Galadriel (someone had to tell her she was insufferable), he had sent Waldreg (!) with the Dark Object to the tower to break the dam with the key, flood the tunnels the Orcs have been digging, and trigger Mount Doom to explode. And it is Waldreg (!!) who is ultimately responsible for turning the Southlands into the unlivable lands of Mordor. We didn’t see that one coming.
As the Numenoreans and Southlanders try to flee the flames, Galadriel stands still and is engulfed by it. If only we didn’t know that she is still alive thousands of years later, we would have heaved a sigh of relief.
So yes, the episode finally gets the story moving but still without making us care about it. And maybe it would be a good idea to include the best parts of the show in every episode, namely Elrond and Durin and The Stranger’s journey with the Harfoots. We sincerely hope they’ll be the focus next week.