(Review) The Rings of Power, S1 E4: "The Great Wave"
The Númenor and Khazad-dûm storylines continue to shine in Amazon Prime's Lord of the Rings series
Tall ships and tall kings Three times three, What brought they from the foundered land Over the flowing sea? Seven stars and seven stones And one white tree.
— J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
This fourth episode of The Rings of Power continues to impress with its respect for the lore of Tolkien’s legendarium and its exploration of themes that the Professor would have appreciated.
The savvy and mysterious Southlander Halbrand will likely remain the wild card no matter what happens. On the surface he appears to be a kind of distorted Aragorn figure, but many have speculated that he could secretly be an agent of evil, such as the Witch King or even Sauron himself. I have no definite theories yet, but I was particularly struck by his unsettling advice to Galadriel on how to manipulate people:
“Identify what it is that your opponent most fears. . . Give them a means of mastering it, so that you can master them.”
This certainly sounds like an MO straight out of Sauron’s playbook, especially in The Silmarillion where the Dark Lord uses the Númenoreans’ fear of death to manipulate them into making war on the Valar. Halbrand certainly has no desire to leave the island realm now that he’s found his way there. He’s definitely the character to keep the closest eye on going forward.
Back in the Southlands (a.k.a. future Mordor) we are finally introduced to the orc chieftain Adar, seemingly an elf from Beleriand with delusions of godhood. I suspect he’s a placeholder villain until Sauron finally reveals himself, but there may be more to him that what appears on the surface. Only time will tell. Indeed some of the Men of the Southlands are actively preparing for the arrival of the Dark Lord.
In Khazad-dûm the Dwarves have discovered a precious new ore, Mithril, and Elrond swears a solemn oath never to reveal the secret of the marvelous metal to anyone. The friendship between Elrond and Prince Durin IV might be my favorite storyline in the series so far. Elrond helps Durin reconcile with his father by relating the story of his own father, Eärendil the Mariner, whom Elrond has not seen since the end of the First Age.
In Númenor, Queen Míriel shows Galadriel a palantír, a “seeing stone”, in a moment that is fittingly and intentionally reminiscent of Galadriel showing Frodo her Mirror in The Fellowship of the Ring. The palantír communicates a vision of Númenor’s future destruction by a tremendous tidal wave. The Queen Regent tells Galadriel:
“Only Númenor can bring about her own downfall. The Valar gifted us this isle in a day of virtue. They can take it away should we turn to the paths of darkness.”
But the darkening of Númenor has clearly been going on for some time. When a portentous wind causes the petals of the sacred White Tree to rain down, Míriel takes it as a momentous sign:
“The Faithful believe that when the petals of the White Tree fall it is no idle thing, but the very tears of the Valar themselves, a living reminder that their eyes and their judgement are always upon us.”
This theme of faithfulness to the Valar and their authority to judge Men and Elves is taken straight from The Silmarillion and I hope to see it explored in future episodes. I was also struck by the strong motif of fatherhood throughout the series. Fathers seen or mentioned in this episode include:
King Durin III
Eärendil the Mariner
Adar (the name means “Father” in Sindarin)
I expect to see this motif become even more pronounced as the various storylines converge as the season finale approaches.
Overall, this was another great episode of The Rings of Power and I am eagerly looking forward to the second half of this series.