Spoiler Alert: This article is a recap of Episode 7 of The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power. Please watch the first five episodes before reading, currently streaming on Prime Video.
Well, before we talk about anything else, let’s confirm once and for all that if you’re a lead character in The Rings of Power, you can survive a volcano’s pyroclastic flow. Never mind if it is 800 degrees Celsius hot. Last week, I had predicted that each of Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Isildur (Maxim Baldry), Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), Elendil (Lloyd Owen), Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordoba) and Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) would survive the spectacular eruption of Orodruin. And yes, in the latest episode, called The Eye, they do indeed survive.
The episode picks up where it left off last week, as Galadriel gains consciousness to find the green rolling hills of the Southlands transformed into a fiery hellscape. Countless villagers and Númenóreans dead and houses on fire. Glowing ash flies everywhere, as a flaming horse shoots pass. She searches for Halbrand, and hears Theo looking for his mother. They find each other and set off for the Númenórean camp, where, Galadriel says, survivors are most likely to head.
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Next we see Isildur and the Queen Regent Míriel trying to help villagers escape the inferno. They rescue Valandil (Alex Tarrant) from under a fallen house. Ontamo (Anthony Crum), is buried under too, and is dead. So long Ontamo, we hardly knew you! While rescuing some other villagers, Míriel is hit by a flaming blast, rendering her blind. Isildur collapses under the burning wreck, seemingly dead (he’s not, obviously, because JRR Tolkien says so).
After an entire episode in the Southlands, the show now return to the Harfoots’ migration. The caravan reaches its destination, the Grove, but find it’s fruit trees destroyed by flaming debris from Orodruin’s explosion. Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry) says that he’s heard from his elders that dormant volcanoes to the south sometimes erupt “when a new evil is rising”. Everyone looks meaningfully at the Stranger (Daniel Weyman). Burrows then asks Nori (Markella Kavenagh) to ask the Stranger to restore the burned trees with his magic. When Nori refuses, Burrows asks the Stranger himself.
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The Wizard (I mean c’mon he has to be one!) then chants words in Quenya (the language of the Noldorin Elves of Valinor) to one of the burnt trees. One of the words, “envinyata”, means “to renew”, so we can see what’s going on here. The tree does come back to life, but the Stranger’s magic also causes a giant branch to crash, nearly crushing Nori and her sister. She’s even more scared of the Stranger now.
The scene now shifts to Khazad-dûm, where Elrond (Robert Aramayo) pleads with the Dwarf king Durin III (Peter Mullan) for permission to trade mithril in return for game, grain and timber from Elvish realms for 500 years. It sounds like a deal to the other Dwarves, but Durin III is unmoved. He tells his son, Prince Durin (Owain Arthur) that the Elves are designed to fade away when their time in Middle-earth is over. He will not risk his people to mine dangerously for mithril. “We do not dig in earth that cannot support it. Delving into depths beyond the darkness, tempting shadow, rock and mine to bury us all beneath the mountain,” he says, adding that helping the Elves might even lead to Middle-earth’s destruction. I feel he knows there’s a Balrog lurking somewhere beneath his kingdom.
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His son is distraught, and indeed, if the Elrond-Durin storyline has been one of the best in the show so far, to see Durin’s genuine anguish on behalf of his friend is truly moving. His wife Disa (Sophia Nomvete) is furious with the king. And when Durin sees one of the diseased leaves from Lindon’s sacred tree get magically healed by a chunk of mithril, he decides to defy his father.
Back in the Southlands, Elendil is distraught to hear from Valandil and Míriel that Isildur has fallen. Soon, Miriel reveals that she has gone blind. Meanwhile, as Galadriel and Theo make their way through the blasted landscape, they come upon a group of orcs. Theo wants to charge at them, but Galadriel holds him back, telling him that it is better to acknowledge defeat than to go off charging to certain death. Both of them feel responsible for what has happened, and Galadriel’s advice to Theo to not take on the burden of guilt, is probably the nicest and wisest thing she’s done all season. Theo listens, but it’s hard not to sympathise with the boy whose whole life has been turned upside down.
A little later, comes the episode’s big reveal. Theo asks Galadriel if she’s lost any of her family to the orcs. She mentions Finrod, and then her husband Celeborn! I think every Tolkien fan probably gasped at this moment, because Celeborn has been such a conspicuous absence in the show. Galadriel says he hasn’t been seen since he marched off to war with Morgoth. Now Celeborn is certainly not dead, given how crucial he is in Tolkien’s story. In the canon, he has always been by Galadriel’s side, never missing- presumed-dead.
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Meanwhile, back in Rhovanion, Sadoc Burrows sends the Stranger on his way. He points to a forest on the horizon and tells the Stranger that it is Greenwood the Great (this is the forest that becomes Mirkwood in the Third Age) and gives him a page of his star-map that shows the constellation that the Stranger has been searching for. The Stranger sadly takes the map, then sadly takes a proffered apple from a sad Nori and then sadly goes on his way.
We’re back at Khazad-dûm, where Prince Durin and Elrond are prospecting for mithril on the sly. Just as Durin’s father said, the rocks here are unstable, and there are earthquakes. But Durin finally breaks through the rock, and we see shimmering veins of mithril flowing down into a deep chasm. At this moment, Durin’s father walks in on them. Enraged, he throws Elrond out of Khazad-dûm, and, after a stinging altercation with his son, strips the prince of his claim to the throne.
The Stranger may be gone, but his final act of magic is now literally bearing fruit. The Harfoots wake up the next day to see the grove transformed, with the fruit trees restored and heaving with bounty. But the magic has also drawn the three robed figures looking for The Stranger. The Mystics (as they are labelled in the credits) are creepy as hell, with Bridie Sisson’s The Dweller the creepiest of the lot. There’s a wonderful scene where the three figures stand in the Harfoot’s grove looking towards Greenwood. Nori tries to misdirect them, but they’re no gullible Harfoots. Feeling threatened, Nori’s father Largo (Dylan Smith) brandishes a torch at them. The Dweller simply quenches the flame with her hand and then blows it back on the Harfoots’ wagons, burning down their way of life.
At the Númenórean camp, Theo is reunited with Bronwyn and Arondir. Elendil let’s Isildur’s horse, Berek, go, after it refuses to depart with the rest of the Númenórean cavalry. Elendil is now a deeply aggrieved man, bitterly ruing the day he agreed to help Galadriel. I found that strange. When you head to a war, what do you expect? Galadriel and Bronwyn go to meet Míriel —who now has a band of cloth tied around her eyes—and Elendil. Galadriel feels abashed and guilty, but Míriel is in a fell mood. She tell Galadriel to save her pity for the orcs, and swears that Númenor will be back to avenge this defeat. A garrison of troops is to stay behind, to help the Southlanders move to the abandoned Númenórean outpost of Pelargir on the coast of the great sea (Pelargir later becomes Gondor’s chief port in the Third Age).
Finally, Halbrand is found as well, with a sword wound that has festered (much like the wound Frodo receives from the Nazgul in The Lord of the Rings). Galadriel declares that he is in need of “Elvish medicine”, and decides to take Halbrand to Lindon. She gifts her sword to Theo, who yells “Strength to the Southlands”, as Galadriel and Halbrand ride off.
We’re in for a couple of road trips in the season finale next week, because back at the Grove, Nori decides to go in search of the Stranger, in order to warn him. There’s a distinct Fellowship of the Rings vibes here, as first her friend Poppy (Megan Richards), and then her mother Goldie (Sara Zwangobani) decides to tag along. Sadoc Burrows, as a trail finder, will go too. The four shuffling Harfoots set off for Greenwood, much like their Hobbit descendants many thousands of years later.
Speaking of Lord of the Rings call-backs, how about this? Durin III orders the mineshaft to be sealed and tosses the Lindon leaf into the mithril chasm. The leaf falls through endless depths, to finally land on a piece of rock. It immediately burns into flame, as Khazad-dûm’s worst-kept secret, the Balrog of Morgoth (destined to be named Durin’s Bane one day, and battle Gandalf the Grey) comes into view. Meanwhile Disa and Prince Durin pledge to resume mining for mithril. Shivers.
If you were wondering where Adar (Joseph Mawle) has been, the final scene shows him mooching about with his orcs and the despicable Waldreg (Goeff Morrell) in the nuclear holocaust landscape of Orodruin’s eruption. Adar gazes lovingly at the distant Mount Doom belching smoke, and a needless text transition tells the viewers that this is no longer the Southlands, but Mordor. Duh!
-The episode—whisper it—is actually pretty good. I hope that finally, just as the first season is about to end, The Rings of Power is finally finding its stride. What works? Well, there’s a less cussed Galadriel, for starters, and her scenes with Theo (who gains some character development too, thankfully) are genuinely good. Galadriel does, however, ruin it somewhat by handing the teenager a sword and calling him “soldier”. Oh, Galadriel!
-I’m also very intrigued by the Mystics. I suppose they are Morgoth/Sauron cultist sorcerers who want to snuff out the Stranger—clearly an emissary of the Valar, like Gandalf—before he can pose any major threat to their Dark Lord. I’m wondering if the Stranger is actually the Maia Aiwendil, AKA the Wizard Radagast the Brown. In The Lord of the Rings Radagast lives near Mirkwood/Greenwood, and is a follower of the Vala Yavanna, the Queen of Arda (the Earth), who loves all trees and animals. The Harfoots storyline continues to get better too, though I still find Nori insufferable. The Elrond-Durin bromance is fantastic. And Sophia Nomvete is doing a magnificent job as Disa.
-Celeborn! I wonder what the show plans to do with him? Will he become a substitute for Glorfindel? That super-cool, badass Elf is the only one of his kind who was actually re-incarnated and sent back to Middle-earth in the Second Age by the Valar, after he died fighting a Balrog in the First Age. If Celeborn is The Rings of Power’s Glorfindel, then I, and other members of the Glorfindel fan club, will mourn. First he was shunted by Peter Jackson in The Fellowship of the Ring in favour of Liv Tyler’s Arwen. And now this.
-The ‘Is Halbrand Sauron?’ brigade will likely have much to chew on. Did Halbrand actually wound himself in order for Galadriel to take him to Lindon? I doubt it, though if he has been wounded by an evil Morgul blade, like Frodo, this could be the beginning of him eventually becoming a Nazgûl.
-I do still have problems with the unscientific nature of vulcanism in the show. Among other things, no volcano, not even Orodruin, would fling burning rock projectiles over 300 miles away. The Harfoots’ Grove, just south of Greenwood, is at least that far from Mordor. Tolkien created a fantasy world, but a fantasy world that behaved realistically.
-For the season finale, we will likely get a face-off between the Stranger and the Mystics, and I strongly suspect we will be introduced to Sauron, in his “fair” guise as Annatar, the bearer of gifts. Now that mithril is out of bounds, Annatar will most likely propose that Celebrimbor create the Rings of Power as a way to save the Elves. But dear show, the Rings took 400 years to be made. Not less than a year! We will also return to Númenor. Oh no! I hate that place and the people who live there.