- 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.
With the conclusion of Partings, we’re officially more than halfway done with The Rings of Power’s first season. Which makes it all the more frustrating that little has changed since the beginning of the season to now, and this week’s episode feels like a perfect encapsulation of that frustration. There are some moments to like, but overall, I can’t help but feel like the episode spins its wheels on virtually every front. I’m truly struggling to figure out what has changed from the beginning of this episode to the end, and coming up mostly short.
One thing I haven’t touched on in these reviews is the length of each episode’s runtime. So far each installment has been over an hour in length, which hasn’t been much of an issue for me, despite my general lack of enthusiasm for long TV episodes. Partings is the longest so far, and I really began to feel the runtime as the episode went on. Elrond remarks in one scene between Durin IV and Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) that progress is slow for elves because a year or two for them is nothing compared to the vastness of their existence, and it feels like showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay reaching through to the audience to assure them that good things are coming. But the bulk of the episode essentially boils down to characters debating what they’ll do next, and it hardly gets more interesting or nuanced than that.
There are some action moments sprinkled in throughout the episode, but most of it concerns the looming threat of Sauron and how each group will prepare and respond. Whether it’s between Galadriel and the Númenóreans, or Bronwyn and the people of the watch tower, or Elrond and Gil-galad, and whatever the hell is going on with Isildur, they seem to be patiently waiting for Sauron to strike before they make any moves. Don’t get me wrong though, the debates line up with Tolkien’s themes of who would align themselves with evil in order to save themselves, but this doesn’t always make for interesting television.
Elrond does get some worthwhile character development, as Gil-galad reveals that the ultimate reason for their employment of the dwarves and Khazad-dûm was for the mithril hidden in the mines, which apparently would save the elves from extinction. Therefore he has to decide if he’ll betray his friend by keeping the mine’s secret, or risk the elves’ livelihood. This could have been an interesting plot thread to extend throughout the rest of the season, but I’m mostly just glad that the debate is resolved within the episode.
Almost by default, the episode’s best storyline goes to the Harfoots (I’m as shocked as you too). After a week away, Nori and the Stranger are still trekking along to the Grove, where they’ll reside for the season. This segment featured some exquisite landscape imagery, and the interplay between Nori and the Stranger is a nice highlight. We get another scene of the Stranger using his powers when he defends the Harfoots from a wolf attack, but still no more answers about where he came from or why he arrived. Though, in a brief scene, we get an implication that someone is searching for him, and probably doesn’t have his best interests at heart.
I just can’t muster up the strength to care about Isildur or his journey, either, and the show certainly wants me to, based on the increasing amount of screen time dedicated to him in each episode. Here, he mostly frets about being left off the expedition to help the Southlands, and argues with Elendil. I know that bigger and better things are coming for Isildur, and the show, but for now it’s hard as a viewer not to relate to him on a thematic level: knowing that adventure awaits, but being stuck in place due to bureaucratic stalemates.
Episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be released on Amazon Prime Video each Friday