Galadriel really, really, really loves riding horses.
She loves riding horses so much that The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power devoted an agonizingly long slow-motion sequence to show us just how happy the elven lady is when atop a galloping steed.
Seriously, this was not only a gratingly over-extended slow-mo scene, it was also the most we’ve seen Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) emote since this show started. Mostly, Clark’s version of Galadriel has been angry, determined or surprised. Here we got a whole bunch of happy, but in the most artificial way possible.
I am still mostly on Team RoP, and mostly happy with this episode, but it felt weaker than the first two for a number of reasons. The slow-motion sequence is one of these. There are others. Let’s do a blow-by-blow.
Galadriel and Halbrand Go To Númenor
One of the mysteries introduced in the two-part series premiere was solved almost instantly in the third episode, ‘Adar.’ Galadriel and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) are rescued and taken aboard a Númenorean ship captained by none other than Elendil (Lloyd Owen) who will certainly play a very important role in The Rings Of Power.
For those unfamiliar with the character (spoilers!) he ends up being the last king of Númenor, shepherding his people to what becomes Gondor. He is a descendant of Elrond’s brother, Elros, a half-elf who was the first king of Númenor.
Aragorn is Elendil’s descendant as well as Elros’s, which means . . . that Aragorn ends up marrying Arwen, his great-great-great-etc. grandfather’s niece. Aragorn and Arwen are related, distantly, but still now we know that this show has more in common with the incestuous House of the Dragon than we thought!
In any case, Elendil takes them both to Númenor where they’re greeted with hostility and suspicion by a populace that no longer loves the elves. A long and troubled feud has separated the two peoples, and Galadriel does herself no favors by meeting the cold greeting with a hot head and stubbornness. Halbrand is more diplomatic, though he, too, soon wears out his welcome.
Galadriel, Halbrand and Elendil are all brought to the court of Tar-Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) where she greets them with a wary eye. Her cousin, the scheming Ar-Pharazôn (Tristan Gravelle) seems equally suspicious of the arrival of an elf—a race not seen in Númenor for hundreds of years.
Much of the episode centers around this new island nation. Galadriel rides with Elendil to the Hall of Law, which is when we get the long, awkward slow-motion scene that would have been just fine if it were cut down to three or four seconds instead of fifteen or twenty.
Once at the Hall of Law Galadriel realizes that Sauron’s symbol isn’t just a symbol, but actually a map of the Southlands—of Mordor—and there’s some goofy stuff about a secret plan to spread evil in the event of Morgoth’s fall.
Honestly, I wish they would stop talking about Morgoth like everyone knows who he is. Other than Galadriel, almost nobody—and certainly no human—would even remember or know who Morgoth was. Few would have heard of Sauron. This is the stuff of ancient legend by now, but they talk about the dark god like he was a household name.
We also meet Isildur, a young sailor and son of Elendil who has grown tired of the sea and apparently wants to head West, to discover more about his family’s heritage. Isildur (Maxim Baldry) seems like he could add a lot to the show and is well-cast. On the other hand, Isildur wasn’t born for another 1500 years after the Rings were forged, so our timeline here is deeply broken.
More interesting is Halbrand’s story. We see him back at the forge he notices early on when they first arrive in the city. He wants a job there, and pleads with one of the smiths, telling him he is an experienced smith himself. The blacksmith replies that he can’t work in a forge unless he’s a member of the guild, signified by a guild coin of sorts that the guildsmen wear on their shoulders.
So Halbrand steals one. After mocking some of the local men who question him while he’s eating, he backpedals and buys rounds of drinks for everyone. It turns out, it was all a ruse. He’s swiped the guild coin off one of the men he bought drinks for—repeating the trick he played on Elendil earlier, when he stole back Galadriel’s dagger.
The guildsmen aren’t fooled, however, and when he tries to leave they follow him and surround him in an alley. “Please don’t do this,” Halbrand says, but they ignore his please and begin beating him. Alas, they “wake the dragon” and Halbrand suddenly goes berserk, quickly and easily taking down all of his attackers with vicious efficiency. Apart from punching, kicking and elbowing them, he breaks one of the men’s arms and smashes their leader’s face into a wall.
The guards show up and arrest him. Later, Galadriel seeks him out in his cell and reveals that she found out some important information about him in the Hall of Law. It turns out he’s a wayward king of the Southlands and, according to him, of a lineage that paid homage to Morgoth (again with the Morgoth knowledge!) “I’m not your hero” he tells her. I don’t think he’s Sauron in disguise, either, though he’s clearly a lot more than we realized. And his interest in the forge certainly calls Sauron to mind. After all, he did forge the most powerful Ring of them all.
The Harfoots Are Kind Of Awful, Actually
I am still a huge fan of the nomadic Harfoots and of Nori (Markella Kavenagh) in particular, but they aren’t quite the ideal society we thought they were based on the cheery series premiere.
In fact, the Harfoots are kind of a dystopian version of the Hobbits. They’re nomadic and when they ‘migrate’ they simply leave behind any of their number who can’t make the trek—kind of like how we Americans leave behind anyone who can’t afford their healthcare bills. It’s barbaric.
We get a comic sequence in which Nori and Poppy work together to steal a star-chart from the Harfoot elder to give to The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) who unwittingly lights the page on fire and has no idea how to put it out. In his panic, he’s revealed to the community.
Everyone is shocked. Nori’s secret is the biggest scandal anyone has witnessed in a generation, and one Harfoot woman suggests they ‘de-caravan’ the Brandyfoots over it, though Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry) the Harfoot chieftain is more inclined to clemency.
Ultimately, Nori and her family discover that befriending The Stranger has its advantages, as the “giant” is able to help push their cart along so that even with her father’s injured ankle, they can keep up with the rest of their people on the great migration.
Arondir The Slave
The other subplot centers around the elven soldier Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) who was taken captive in the series premiere. This week, we find him among his former elven platoon, all of whom have been captured off-screen somehow. The fact that all these elves are, by episode 3, prisoners of orcs they didn’t even know existed makes me think that Amazon is somehow rushing the show despite its slow pacing.
In any case, at one point the orcs demand that the elves cut down a tree blocking the ditch that they’re making their prisoners dig. When they resist, an orc slashes the throat of Arondir’s former partner. It’s a violent, yet weirdly bloodless, moment for a Lord of the Rings show. Arondir volunteers to chop the tree down to avoid more bloodshed.
Later, the elves rebel against their captors, once they realize how sensitive the orcs are to the sun. But the rebellion is short-lived and almost everyone except Arondir is slaughtered. He’s taken prisoner and, at the very end of the episode, the titular Adar strolls into the orcs’ midst as they chant his name over and over again. His face is blurred out, but he appears to be elvish with long dark hair. Could this be Sauron? Or just another red herring?
We shall see.
Overall, I’m still very much enjoying this return to Middle-earth but episode 3 has me a bit concerned, both with the direction this show is going and with the portrayal of its central protagonist, Galadriel.
Worried, sure, but not claiming this is “objectively terrible” like some people are, intent to write off the show before even seeing it. So far, I definitely don’t love it as much as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Then again, I never liked the films as much as the books to begin with. Nobody can do Tolkien quite like Tolkien, so we may as well enjoy the adaptations for what they are.
You can watch my video review of this episode below: