Welcome to my Episode 4 recap of The Rings of Power from the viewpoint of an amateur Tolkien scholar. There will be SPOILERS as I discuss how Amazon’s $1 billion showcase differs from the originals, how it is influenced by Tolkien’s more obscure writings (History of MIddle Earth) and idle musings about Prince Imrahil – you know you’ve done it.
Episode 4, entitled “The Great Wave” brings together a lot of key developments in the Southlands (Arondir/Bronwyn/Adar), Eregion (Elrond/Durin) and Númenor (Galadriel and the rest) plotlines. The latter is still the main one, so let’s cover the other two first.
Down south, Arondir is brought before Adar, the leader of the Orcs who are razing these lands – is it Sauron, as Galadriel fears? Another false lead. It turns out he is…an Elf! A very creepy Elf with a scarred face and a cryptic demeanor, as played very well by Joseph Mawle.
But how can this be? Were Elves on Sauron’s side? Well, they never went to war for him. However, there were definitely very, very bad Elves. For those who read The Silmarillion, or like spoilers, the names Ëol and Maeglin will ring a bell…or just Feanor and his wretched sons. As I mentioned in Part One, there is something in Elvish history called “The Kinslaying” and it’s just as bad as it sounds.
The elf closest to being a Morgoth ally is Maeglin, a figure from The SIlmarillion who betrayed the city of Gondolin to Morgoth in exchange for the promise of power and the woman he was in love with, his cousin Idril. It didn’t quite go as planned.
In addition, Elves were enslaved and tortured by Morgoth, and that Sauron did the same is not unreasonable. These Elves were damaged for life by this trauma, but they never swore allegiance to Morgoth/Sauron, destroying themselves instead.
So the idea that an Elf would ally with Sauron is unlikely…but not impossible. And we don’t actually know that Adar (‘Father’ in Sindarin) is teaming with the Dark Lord. However he does drop all kinds of mysterious dialog in convo with Arondir. Stuff like “I am not a god…yet,” and reminiscing about his days back in Beleriand, along the river Sirion, where Arondir was born. Beleriand was destroyed after the Great War at the end of the First Age so this makes both Elves quite old in human years.
Now (SPOILERS!!!!) fan theories are that Adar is Maeglin, which does tie things up nicely and is logical given Adar’s scars and Beleriand origins. I like this idea except for the fact that (once again) The ROP showrunners DON’T HAVE RIGHTS TO THE SILMARILLION. As we’ve seen many times, instead they do things that are kinda similar to ideas from The Silmarillion, but we’re not sure where they all end up just yet.
A similar fan theory is that Adar could be Maglor, one of Feanor’s seven sons, who suffers a tragic but ambiguous fate in The Silmarillion. (There are only two kinds of fates in The Silmarillion, tragic, or ambiguously tragic.)
Adar is definitely an intriguing character and his creepy pain/comfort hate leadership with the Orcs is in the grand tradition of memorable villains, so more to come. Also in the spirit of villains, Adar let’s Arondir free to go tell the villagers back in Ostirith to surrender. Classic monologuing; let a mighty warrior of the Elves free so he can defeat you in the end. Not smart, Maeglinadarglor.
Returning to the village various stuff happens. They are low on food so Theo goes on a supply run, like Glenn in the early days of The Walking Dead, and gets trapped by a zombie/Orc but escapes thanks to the timely return of Arondir and mom. Really this part was uninteresting to me (although the Orcs remain creepy) but it did reveal that Adar seeks the Morgul blade that Theo is concealing, and that it can turn into an actual blade. As this storyline ended, Theo revealed that he owned it to Bronwyn and Arondir and concerned looks were exchanged as ominous music played. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
MEANWHILE, over in Eregion/Khazad-Dûm, Elrond and Celebrimbor (or ‘Brim to his friends) are kicking back. This was by far my favorite plotline of this episode since it hewed to actual Tolkien lore. ‘Brim and Elrond talk about Elrond’s father, Earendil, who Celebrimbor knew back in the olden days. Earendil is one of the only characters in The Silmarillion to have a non tragic fate, although it is a bit ambiguous. He is sent into the sky in a winged ship to carry the only surviving Silmaril as the evening star. And he’s accompanied by his wife Elwing, only she’s turned into a bird!
Earendil was sent to the sky by the Valar themselves, so Elrond mostly grew up without a father OR mother.This scene actually plays on that, one of the few effective scenes to tie Tolkien’s incredible legendarium into actual human feeling. That’s what I came here for! Granted there is not a lot to go on in the Appendices, but that’s what good writing does.
While we can’t escape the feeling that Gil-Galad and Celebrimbor have some motives they have not disclosed to Elrond on his mission to make up with Durin, Elrond also discovers that Disa and Durin are hiding something from him. What he doesn’t know – but we do – is that it has to do with the Repo Man/Pulp Fiction glowing
briefcase treasure chest that Durin and his miners have been gloating over. In a rather amusing scene Elrond interrogates Disa on Durin’s whereabouts and Disa makes up story after story, each just plausible enough that Elrond can’t call her on her shit.
However, after Elrond leaves, Disa meets up with Durin and although they are smart enough to know they must keep their voices down, they are not smart enough to do it right away for, you see…ELROND HAS THE SUPER SHARP HEARING OF THE ELVES, previously seen in Legolas, and also a power that makes Superman someone you might hesitate to invite to a party.
That’s right, it’s snooping Elrond, who realizes Durin is hiding something, and then swears an oath not to reveal what it is after Durin explains its the really awesome silver that seems to be “lit from within.” Unfortunately the Dwarves must also dig deeply and that leads to a cave in, which Disa uses her “rock singing” powers to rescue them in a rather eerily beautiful scene. Durin IV’s dad, Durin III calls a halt to the digging but in a scene that harkens back to Elrond’s father-lacking speech, the two Durins bond in a touching father son moment.
I have to say, all kinds of warning bells went off for me with this plotline. In the books, mithril is not just found in Khazad-Dum – it’s even found in Numenor, though this is mentioned in Unfinished Tales! But the worst part is Elrond demanding to know where Durin is…why? He’s just a visiting pal, and Durin and Disa have a right to privacy. Elrond’s relentless snooping seemed really obnoxious and the strong willed Dwarves just putting up with it seemed really unlikely to me. Or as Disa put it “”Calling a dwarf dishonest in her own home is a recipe for strong gravy!”
There is much strong gravy here.
On the plus side, Sophia Nomvete as Disa is easily one of the best characters on the show, and Owain Arthur as Durin 4 is just as good. I guess when people say saucy things in a Scottish accent they automatically become lovable.
On to our final and most crucial plotline, Galadriel and Halbrand in Numenor. Galadriel continues to be a total asshole, berating regent Miriel in her own conference room, getting thrown into jail for it, and then escaping by beating up some people and then breaking into an invalid’s bedchamber.
She’s out of control.
In the middle of all that, Halbrand delivers some wise counsel to her, as they are cell mates in jail. Why not use actual diplomacy and a knowledge of human nature, he suggests, instead of fighting all the time? Good advice and Galandriel seems to vibe it.
After breaking into the tower where Tar-Palantir, Miriel’s father, is confined due to his poor health (physical and mental) Galadriel finally begins to feel a little shame for her brash deeds. Especially after Miriel shows her a palantir and she looks into it.
Palantirs – seeing stones – are familiar from The Lord of the Rings, both book and films, but Miriel oddly says there were seven but six are lost. I guess this is an Easter Egg for book fans, because we know that Elendil brought all seven with him to Middle Earth.
Looking in the palantir, Galadriel sees the vision that has been troubling Miriel for a whileL Numenor being annihilated by an immense flood. It’s the future, says the queen regent.
But it’s all tied up in the complicated Elf/Human/Valar relations on Numenor. In the books, Numenor was founded by the Valar as a reward for helping out in the war on Morgoth. And it was founded by Elros, Elrond’s brother. While Elves and Humans were friendly for a while, things got rather chilly and, on the show, Palantir is deposed because Numenoreans don’t want an Elf-friendly ruler.
Thus, it seems that Galadriel’s presence on the island is causing quite a bit of commotion on Numenorean talk radio, and is the subject of a classic “They took our jerbs!” speech from disgruntled folks, who fear that sleepless, ageless Elves will…take their jobs. That’s what they said. Maybe they will take their human women too, although this isn’t said outright.
Pharazon, Miriel’s cousin and chancellor, is also revealed to be fomenting this anti-Elf sentiment, but he calms the crowd by buying a round – a tactic that Halbrand took last episode suggesting that Numenoreans are borderline alcoholics. Pharazon also has a kind of weasley son, Kemen, who is in architecture school with Earien, Elendil’s daughter, and takes her out on a date of sorts. Kemen is useful as someone for Pharazon to talk to and reveal he is not totally on the up and up.
With all this, Galadriel’s plan to enlist Numenor in her battle against a returning Sauron – with Halbrand leading the hosts of the Southlands – seems to be about to go down in flames, as Miriel orders her sent back to Middle Earth in a ship (something she was desperate for when she arrived but see below.) However, at this moment the leaves begin to fall from the White Tree of Andalunie, a sure sign that the Elves are dying, Numenor is fading, and taking on Sauron is the right idea after all.
Galadriel’s plan is going to happen after all.
- Is Halbrand Sauron? Well, his mastery of manipulation, keen interest in smithing and origin from a Morgul-ruled area all suggest yes but….if he were the Sauron of the books, let’s just say he would probably be acting very differently. I continue to believe this is all a red herring and we haven’t actually met Sauron yet.
- If you are tired of Galadriel and everyone else rolling rrrrrs (“Sa-oo-rrrrrrron”, sorry that’s how Tolkien laid it down in an appendix covering languages and pronunciation.
- Galadriel sucks. Her motivation varies depending on what direction the writers need the story to go in, and it’s wildly out of character, and I mean the one that Tolkien mused about, not Cate Blanchett. Galadriel of the books was headstrong and devoted to fighting Morgoth and his lieutenants, but she was also a Noldor, the greatest of the Noldor! She was wise and trustworthy and not the blundering jerkwad we’ve seen thus far. Even the wise can be misled, as Tolkien showed many times, but that would be tragic, not just freaking annoying like this! Also, she is absolutely wise enough to see that Miriel is another noble and wise ruler, and she should treat her with respect, not go HAM all over the city. I’m beginning to really dislike the writing on the show. Not only is it full of cliches (not just tropes!) but the character act in incredibly stupid ways just to advance the plot, like Adar sending home Arondir, and Elrond snooping on Durin.
- I haven’t even mentioned Isildur who has the dumbest plot of all. Let’s just say that he doesn’t want to go to sea, as dad Elendil intended, so gets all of his friends tossed out of school because Isildur is a dope, which isn’t fair at all. He keeps saying he wants to go west which…I mean take a gap year in Andúnie, it’s okay, don’t rat out your friends over it. Isildur is one of the most interesting characters in all of Tolkien and I was dying to see him brought to other media but I don’t like where this is going. Also, ongoing Anarion erasure!
- Bear McCreary.
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