- 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.
Middle-earth has never been a place for religious faith. Rather, it’s a place where fate is the underlying belief. Fate that can’t be undone; fate that every race is beholden to. Yes, all life was created by god-like creatures, but their names are rarely invoked, much less worshiped. Which is why it’s strange that The Eye features so much (western) religious allegory, both explicit and inferred.
It’s front and center in the Harfoot subplot: The Stranger has the power to create life from dead things, which he demonstrates after the Harfoots discover that The Grove is now a dead place. And if you didn’t get the metaphor, you surely noticed director Charlotte Brändström’s visual reference to Michaelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. The pockets of ashen ground suggest it’s a bit of collateral damage from the volcanic explosion that took place at the end of Udûn, but I can’t imagine it’s so close to the mountain that it would see any kind of effect.
That means there’s some other mysterious forces at play, and the creepy alien-like beings that are definitely related to The Stranger may have something to do with it. It feels harsh to say that the Harfoots are the weakest storyline in The Eye, but they certainly don’t drag the episode down compared to previous episodes. Color me intrigued as to where the mystery of The Stranger will go in future episodes, given the extra coloring that his pursuers receive here.
King Durin III may be the most god-like figure in the episode, after the events of Partings, and the elves’ discovery of mithril. He essentially holds the fate of the elves in his hands, and his portion of the episode deals with whether he will or will not allow the elves to mine the mithril, at the expense (or, in Durin III’s mind, exploit) of the dwarves. We haven’t talked enough about Owain Arthur and his stellar performance as Durin IV, but The Eye shows that he may well be the MVP of The Rings of Power. Durin IV and Elrond’s friendship has been a steady through line since the beginning, and Arthur nails Durin IV’s heartbreak when he believes that he may never see his friend again. After the mostly one-note portrayals of dwarves in the Middle-earth films, it’s great to see The Rings of Power give them some hefty material to show they’re an integral part in this world.
It was probably foolish to expect any more action after last week’s stunner in the Southlands, but the episode uses it to create some great character moments that stick to the episode’s religious theme. Regardless of whether there’s action or not, the filmmaking in this portion of the episode is a series highlight, especially in the ash-ridden village when everything is still pure chaos. It’s Galadriel and Theo who we see the most in the fallout from the volcanic aftermath. We’ve seen plenty of Galadriel the warrior and Galadriel the politician, but The Eye lets us see her compassionate side as well. Naturally despondent and wondering if his mother and Arondir are dead, Theo begins to question the grand design of the world they live in, but Galadriel reassures him that there can be light in the darkest of places.
It’s hard with streaming shows to point to an individual episode that stands out amongst the season. Even shows that release episodes weekly can fall victim to that. Maybe I’m reading too much into what The Eye was doing (hey, these reviews don’t write themselves), but when it sticks to a central theme, The Rings of Power has proven that it’s appointment watching. Next week is the season finale and, while The Eye didn’t contain any major bombshells as most series do in their penultimate episodes, its writing (credited to Jason Cahill) makes it one of the best in what’s been an excellent season – even with the incredibly lame way that the show revealed the Southlands’ transformation into Mordor in the closing moment.
Episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power will be released on Amazon Prime Video each Friday