The Rings Of Power’s Slow Burn Finally Erupts

Yesterday was an explosive episode of The Rings of Power, one that even a skeptic like me could appreciate after my interest had been slowly waning throughout the previous weeks.

At long last, the show finally slammed two of its disparate groups together, Galadriel and her Numenor crew, and Arondir and the humans under his protection in the Southlands. They joined forces to take on Adar and his band of Orcs in a sprawling battle that lasted essentially the entire hour. No harfoot breaks.

No, this was not on the scale of a massive battle like Helms Deep in the Lord of the Rings movies, but it was the best one we saw from the show so far. I appreciated Arondir’s Orc trap, bringing down the old tower on top of the army. The twist that they were fighting disloyal members of their own village was a pretty good one. And I am willing to forgive what was frankly an absurd amount of “fast travel” by Galadriel who somehow miraculously knew when and where this battle was taking place to help. I mean, I just liked her doing cool horse tricks.

The episode culminates in the pressing of the “Mordor button,” using an evil artifact to break a few dams and sent a rush of water into Mt. Doom, blasting it open and blanketing the land in lava and ash, just as it seemed like the day had been won. It was a pretty wild surprise, frankly, in a show that I wasn’t sure could pull off something like that, and after five slow episodes, this feels like a moment where things finally kicked into a much higher gear.

No, I don’t think that just because this slow burn did pay off in a big episode like this that it forgives what came before. I would still argue most previously episodes have been way, way too slow, even if we arrived at this point at last. The show also suffers from character and writing problems that are not going to be solved by the Mordor-ifiaction of the map.

However, if The Rings of Power can build on this momentum and start really accelerating to what we know is coming, the large scale expansion of Mordor and the forging of the Rings, we may move to a place in future seasons that avoids many of the problems of the opener, which really did feel like a five hour intro to a movie that finally is starting to pick up steam. And ash. And lava.

This was a good episode, probably the best the series has had to date, even if half the cast was missing. I am curious if we ever will get to the kind of large scale fights from LOTR itself, as even with the billion dollar budget, we aren’t there yet. But for now, this was good enough, and what the show needed to make me look forward to both the finale and the second season.

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