Warning: The following contains: full spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 5, streaming now on Prime Video. To refresh your memory, check out our review of last week’s episode.
War is on the horizon in The Rings of Power Episode 5, which takes a look at what various characters are fighting for. It’s also the first episode to feature both dwarves and harfoots, as the show’s various plots finally come together for the inevitable big fight for Middle-earth.
The harfoot plot is quite short, anchored by a sweet travel sequence set to music that really feels like it touches the adventurous spirit of Tolkien’s work. This storyline continues to make clear how powerful the Stranger is. Many harfoots would probably have been “abandoned” had he not been there to stop the warg attack. But after his weird healing frost trick, it seems even Nori is starting to get a little scared of her giant friend. I still don’t think the Stranger is a bad guy, but that much power is always dangerous and he has to do his best to make sure no one gets hurt. We also finally get a glimpse of the weird cult-looking characters seen in an earlier teaser who seem to be following The Stranger, but there are no new details about who they are or what they’re looking for other than the very creepy music which is played when they’re on the screen.
Meanwhile, things are not going well for the people of the Southlands who fled to the Elven Tower to escape Adar and his army. About half of their group has followed Waldreg, whom I can’t help but think of a Darkfriend from The wheel of time, to accept Adar’s offer of surrender. Waldreg has been an asshole since Episode 1, when he tried to hide news of the spreading corruption from Arondir, and he just keeps doubling down. It’s really funny how quickly he changes from swearing loyalty to Sauron to offering to serve the one who leads the orc army.
In many ways, it feels like The Rings of Power has established itself as the anti-Game of Throneseven if comparisons with House of the Dragon keep walking unrestrained. There’s no way we wouldn’t see Waldreg slit that poor kid’s throat and get covered in blood on one of those HBO shows. Here’s everything we need to know in Waldreg’s expression that changes from horror to grim determination. Game of Thrones would have played the council meeting in Númenor to show some sharp-tongued intrigue, but Rings of Power just gives us the lineup and then a shot of Halbrand showing how well he cleans up. Again, the character decision is all that really matters.
Honesty and goodness are almost always punished in Game of Thrones, but The Rings of Power shows that multiple characters find strength to solve their problems with their friends and loved ones. Theo finally tells his mother about the hilt, which gives Arondir and Bronwyn insight into what Adar is up to. Between Waldreg, Bronwyn and Halbrand, Episode 5 explores a lot about the role of humans in Middle-earth. Are they essentially orcs, doomed to serve the evil warlord that is currently on the rise if not carefully watched by elves for signs of treason, or can they actually have some measure of self-determination?
It’s easy to see why Bronwyn and Halbrand would be prone to despair given the bad choices ahead, but both decide to try and get past the darkness they’ve seen and fight on. It appears that Bronwyn and Arondir intend to destroy the tower to prevent Adar from reaching his target, but that will likely lead to their deaths unless reinforcements arrive in time.
Halbrand is willing to take on his responsibilities as king, but we still don’t know exactly what drove him to flight. Supposedly, the cuts between him and Waldreg imply that he also knelt before dark forces and is guilty of horrific crimes, but if he proves himself worthy, probably no one will really care when that comes out. The conversation between him and Galadriel where they share their traumas is powerful, especially Galadriel confessing that for all the confidence she exudes, she is a pariah to her people and so completely consumed by her quest to stop Sauron that she will end up in any relationship. destroyed her life. It’s a close moment that looks exactly like the kind of thing that could lead to a romance between her and Halbrand. For example, I would like to see them kiss.
Elsewhere, the relationship between Durin and Elrond becomes more complicated when Elrond discovers the real reason why he was sent to Khazad-dûm. The forge that Celebrimbor is working on, which should be ready by spring, will help protect the elves’ “eternal souls” from the spreading corruption. Even after the explanation, I’m not quite sure what that means. How fast would they fade without the light infusion? Will they just have a lifespan more like mortals? Is this why the elves have to leave in the third age? The episode has few answers, but the scenes in the elven forests are so distractingly beautiful that it drives home what would be lost without them.
I complained last week about Elrond mentioning mithril, but I really like the mithril origin story in “Partings.” The parallel between reefs and the roots of a tree works visually and also explains why the Balrog and the precious ore are inevitably linked. I’m glad Elrond refuses to break his oath and instead goes straight to Durin to get his help. Their friendship is the most charming relationship on the show, driven by how funny Durin is. The table bluff is wonderful because it’s such an easy way to get something from the arrogant, cunning High King Gil-galad. Plus, Elrond’s attempt to take credit for Disa is very cute.
Not everyone is telling the truth this episode. I’m very upset that Isildur didn’t tell anyone about finding a saboteur on the ship when he tried to hide. Perhaps that boy is just acting out of genuine concern that his country will be dragged into someone else’s war, but the admiration he expresses for Pharazôn makes me think that this was not his idea. Pharazôn continues to sow distrust of the elves and urge Númenor to remain isolated. Tracking down the source of the sabotage may have informed everyone of what he’s up to.
The Lord of the Rings movies in (chronological) order