Spoiler Alert: This article is a recap of Episode 6 of The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power. Please watch the first five episodes before reading, currently streaming on Prime Video.
Finally, something happens. After five episodes of ham-fisted world building, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power lets rip in Episode 6: Udûn. The long-gestating battle of the Southlands breaks out, ending with the cataclysmic eruption of the volcano Orodruin, turning it into Mount Doom (much like I predicted it would in my review last week).
Despite all that, The Rings of Power remains a mess: badly written, shoddily plotted, and poorly acted. By bringing together the two worst plotlines in the series— Númenor /Galadriel and the Southlands—into one episode, the narrative holes were rendered even more stark. There were some redeeming features though: the spectacle of Mount Doom bursting into destructive life was quite breathtaking, and generally speaking the cinematography remains superb (if prettily vacant). And Sauron or no Sauron, Adar (Joseph Mawle) is a truly wonderful villain. It’s a pity his adversary is the smug and clueless Galadriel (Morfydd Clark).
So, here’s a quick re-cap. Adar gives a stirring speech and then his orc forces—along with the bad Southlanders led by the despicable Waldreg (Geoff Morrell)—march upon the Ostirith, only to find it deserted when they reach. Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordoba) brings the watchtower down on Adar and the orcs and escapes. The Southlanders, we find, have somehow shifted back to their village (which was behind enemy lines, remember), and are now fortifying it.
Arondir tries to break the magical sword, but, just like the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, he realizes that such things of dark magic cannot be easily destroyed. He hides it instead, but Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) spies on him and knows where he’s hidden it.
Meanwhile, in the Númenórean fleet, Galadriel and Isildur (Maxim Baldry) have a chat. The latter is delighted to learn about Galadriel’s elven farsightedness, while Galadriel gives him a speech about how the past glories of Númenor lie dormant in Elf friends like Isildur. We also learn of Númenor’s battle plans, which is to sail thousands of miles, and up the Anduin to somewhere near where Osgiliath would be in the Third Age and then into future-Mordor and down to Ostirith over hundreds of miles…all in a day!
Meanwhile, the Southlanders hunker down to defend the village (why would you do that instead of defending a watchtower?) and kill the first wave of orcs. Only, they find out that these were just the bad Southlanders in orc-wear. Then Adar leads his main army in, and kills a whole lot of men, women and children sequestered in an inn (no, Arondir, an inn is not a “keep”). Theo folds when Adar orders that the badly injured Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) be killed, and gives Adar the sword hilt.
On cue, the Númenor cavalry rides in (in sunlight, though in the village it was night) and kills the orcs. There’s some fake tension when Elendil (Lloyd Owen) is unhorsed by orcs, and Isildur rescues him. Then Galadriel chases the escaping Adar (with the sword hilt wrapped up in its bundle), but Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) somehow comes in out of nowhere and takes Adar down from his horse. Halbrand clearly hates Adar, and having the dark Elf at his mercy, asks, “You know who I am?” “No,” says Adar, hilariously. Galadriel now prevents a furious Halbrand from killing Adar and takes him captive instead.
Back at the village, it’s mission accomplished for Númenor. Isildur, Valandil (Alex Tarrant) and Ontamo (Anthony Crum) josh about, while Galadriel interrogates Adar in a barn. This is probably the best scene of the episode, probably even the entire show up to this point. First of all, Adar reveals that he has killed Sauron. Apparently, after the Morgoth wars of the First Age, Sauron was looking to create weapon from the Unseen World which would give him control over Middle-earth (so he could heal it, yeah right!). To that end he sacrificed countless orcs, to no avail. Adar, the first orc, or Uruk as he insists, would not stand for any more orc deaths and so he killed Sauron.
Galadriel refuses to believe him, and, with a twisted grimness that would have impressed Morgoth, tells Adar that she will eradicate every last orc before finally killing Adar, their “father”. Adar has good timing, so he sardonically informs Galadriel that if she is looking for Morgoth’s successor, she should take a look in the mirror. All this truth telling is too much for Galadriel, who decides to instead slit Adar’s throat. This time Halbrand stops her (I really wish I could insert the WTF emoji here). Adar is curious about Halbrand. “Who are you?” he asks suspiciously. Halbrand doesn’t answer.
Instead, ‘Lord’ Halbrand goes to meet Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), who’s having an impromptu feast with the Southlanders and a miraculously cured Bronwyn. Meet your new king, declares Míriel. Oh hi, king! Say the Southlanders, none of whom have any clue who Halbrand is. It’s evidently quite easy to become a king of men in Middle-earth Second Age! While everyone’s celebrating, and Elendil and Isildur are having a pointless conversation about Isildur’s horse and his mother, cataclysm ensues.
You see, Adar was just leading Galadriel on a wild horse chase. He had given the actual sword hilt to the despicable Waldreg, who had snuck off back to Ostirith. Here we learn that all that this magical sword does is to open a stone lock that breaks open a reservoir. I mean, couldn’t Adar have broken the dam without the need of a hyped sword? Anyway, the waters gush forth and flowing through the tunnels that the orcs have been digging, empties dramatically into Orodruin’s magma pit. The Kilimanjaro-like mountain erupts. Hello Mount Doom!
The volcano sends fireballs hurtling into the village, killing many (but not any of the principal characters). Captive orcs chant “Udûn, Udûn”. Adar somehow breaks his chains and escapes. A fiery pyroclastic flow inundates everything. Galadriel shuts her eyes as she’s engulfed.
-What is ‘Udûn’? If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings, you’ll remember that it is the name of a desolate plateau that stretches from Mount Doom and Barad-ûr to the Black Gates of Morannon. This is where Sauron holds his armies. But the name comes from one of Morgoth’s strongholds in ancient times, called Utumno by the Elves. This is where the Balrogs of Morgoth came from, and where the first orcs were created. Generally, the word means the underworld, or hell.
-How hot is a pyroclastic flow? Over 800 degrees Celsius. Will Galadriel, Isildur, Halbrand, Miriel, Theo, Elendil, Arondir, Bronwyn survive it? You bet!
-Is Halbrand Sauron? Is The Stranger Sauron? Who is Isildur’s mother? Ever since Game of Thrones popularized the ‘Who is Jon Snow’s mother?’ narrative, this form of piling on mysteries upon mysteries has become a lazy TV staple. As in The Rings of Power, this is a poor substitute for the lack of a plot. I mean, I am curious if Halbrand is Sauron (I still think he’s going to become the Witch King), but I’m more interested in a well-told tale. Although this episode was a huge improvement on previous instalments, the show remains bad.
-I see what the showrunners are trying to do with Galadriel. In The Lord of The Rings, when Frodo offers Sauron’s Ring to Galadriel, she says that if she takes it, then, “In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!” So, we know that Galadriel has it in her to become a ‘Dark Queen’. But the writers are taking that premise to a ridiculous extreme, with her genocidal hatred of the orcs.
-Speaking of the orcs, both Galadriel and Adar calls them “slaves”. Curiously, this fact doesn’t evoke any pity in Galadriel. For Adar, it makes a little more sense, given he actually rebelled against Sauron on their behalf. Even then, if anyone truly enslaved the orcs, it was Morgoth. Adar can’t hold that against the Elves. Also, despite all the talk of the orcs’ “heart” and need for freedom, they remain a most murderous rabble.
-Isildur remains a lost boy in search of a story.