“The Great Wave”
- Creators: JD Payne, Patrick McKay
- Starring: Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo, Owain Arthur, Nazanin Boniadi, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Markella Kavenagh, Dylan Smith, Charlie Vickers, Daniel Weyman
Warning: Reviews of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 will contain spoilers.
As with most of the episodes throughout the season so far, The Great Wave doesn’t advance its story with great leaps and bouts. But where it lacks in big action set pieces or shocking moments, it makes up for with complex character developments. The politics of elves, dwarves, and men may not make for engaging water cooler talk, but this Tolkien nerd was engrossed by the ways the show copied the spirit of Tolkien’s works (and is it any coincidence that the Harfoots weren’t to be seen at all in The Great Wave?).
Trust between the races of Middle-earth has always been the backbone of all of Tolkien’s books, and this week’s episode continued to dive into their still-brooding histories together. The bulk of the episode continues on Númenór, with Galadriel continuing to warn Míriel about Sauron’s return and the urgent need to aid the Southlands. The only problem is that Míriel doesn’t want to risk her city’s peace and prosperity to send its citizens off to a war that technically hasn’t even begun yet. Plus the arrival of an elf has really stoked the Númenórean’s anti-elf beliefs, so Galadriel truly has to fight an uphill battle to convince the city to help her.
We also get a nice bit of character shading on Míriel, as she’s been acting as the voice of the King (her father) for years without anyone seeing him. The opening scene, wherein Míriel is seen envisioning the titular great wave coming to destroy Númenór, is a smart way to get us in her headspace as she frets about the future of her people. It also doesn’t help that she’s been using the Palantir, which has surely clouded her judgment. I have no idea how much Númenór will be featured in the rest of the show, but Cynthia Addai-Robinson has been a welcome addition to its cast, projecting a strong confidence as a leader, and a great scene partner to Morfydd Clark.
Speaking of trust issues, we return to Khazad-dûm this week to check in on Elrond and Durin IV after their absence last week. Despite the progress on Celebrimbor’s gigantic hearth moving along smoothly, Durin has been suspiciously absent, so Elrond pays him another visit in his home. One of my biggest issues with the Lord of the Rings films (and less so with the Hobbit films) was in Peter Jackson’s depiction of the dwarves as little more than comic relief, so it’s nice to see them once again depicted as real, three-dimensional characters. And Sophia Nomvete’s performance as Disa, Durin’s wife, is another highlight in The Great Wave, in what could have easily been a bit part.
The way the show teases out hints at future plot developments in The Great Wave serves as a subtle way to do fan service (take notice, Marvel) and keep the story dramatically compelling. Turns out that Durin has been secretive because he’s discovered a new material in the mines – mithril – and he makes Elrond swear an oath of secrecy that he’ll never reveal it. Of course, we know that in The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo is given a chainmail shirt of mithril, so the new discovery won’t stay secret for long. How it will get out remains to be seen though; will Elrond betray his friend, or will some other third party exploit it? Either way, it’s another solid way to introduce character-based drama that will surely pay off sooner or later.
Last week’s cliffhanger ending was probably the most intriguing for this week’s installment, as Arondir was led to speak with Sauron himself. His interaction with the Dark Lord naturally doesn’t reveal any Middle-earth shattering revelations, but it’s bold of the show to even show Sauron’s face for the first time at all. I remain skeptical about whether Arondir spoke with Sauron or if it was simply a kind of spokesperson, but Joseph Mawle imbued the character with enough menace that it’s certainly plausible. Regardless, Sauron’s plan is set in motion and shows that the people of the Southlands are in danger, when Arondir is released to deliver a warning to the refugees of the town that was decimated a few weeks ago.
I hate to keep harping on the similarities and differences between House of the Dragon and Rings of Power, but the latter’s lack of dependence on shocking moments or CGI spectacle is honestly refreshing. It speaks to a greater sense of confidence that the talent behind the camera has in the material. That’s not to disparage House of the Dragon (I’ve been watching along and enjoy it as well), and both pieces of source material are surely working toward different goals. But Rings of Power has shown that it’s capable of creating interesting plotlines and dynamic characters without resorting to sex and violence.
Episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be released on Amazon Prime Video each Friday