Episode five of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power kicks things into overdrive, relative to the methodical and slower pace the show has exhibited thus far. Partings is the episode that pushes the plot forward the most to date while also giving us some much-needed answers and context while developing some characters along the way.
Clocking in at 73 minutes all in, this episode is certainly the longest and busiest to date. All the major storylines were present this week, from the harfoots to the elves, the Southlanders and the Númenóreans. Despite this, the episode never felt busy or rushed, striking just the right balance to give us the needed information.
That’s not to say everything was on the A-game. The episode gives a decent amount of runtime to Isildur and I’m just not on board with him 100% right now. I get where the show is going with it, he’ll grow into the King he’ll become one day eventually, but right now he comes off as entitled and desperate. He really wants on the expedition to Middle-earth but after being kicked off the ship, his prospects are low. So he attempted to stow away aboard but was discovered by Kemen, who was burning the ship down to sow dissent. Despite learning this, Isildur covers for Kemen, which earns him a place on the expedition for “saving” Kemen. It makes it hard to root for Isildur as not only did he not earn the role honestly, but he kept critical information to himself.
Elsewhere on the island, Miriel faces doubts about the war to come and how the citizens will perceive her and the campaign. Pharazôn, whose finally confirmed to be her cousin, continues to scheme and is very interested in planting a human king in the Southlands to pay tribute to Númenór, enriching their wealth and power so they can dominate the elves. Until things really start to take off with his character, it does feel like his wheels are spinning a little, but Trystan Gravelle does such a good job with the role that, like those around him, we get sucked into his spell. Despite being the lead, I’m not super invested in Galadriel at the moment, despite her story arc driving the narrative by bringing the armies of Númenór to Middle-earth to fight the growing shadow. There’s just something about the way Galadriel is going about it that seems off, as if she wants things to happen because of her title and experience, rather than her character. Contrast to this is Halbrand, who continues to be an interesting character and is now a “lord”, which would bump up the chances of him becoming a Ringwraith down the line.
The highlight of the episode was once again Elrond’s story, which saw him, Gil-galad and Celebrimbor hosting Durin at a dinner. Durin, always ready with some honestly good humour, cons the elves into coughing up a large, heavy table, but Elrond’s heart is heavy. He learns from Gil-galad that the time of the elves is fading due to a darkness creeping into the land and unless the elves leave Middle-earth and return to Valinor, they will simply fade away, something Elrond alludes to in the Jackson films. But with the help of Mithril, which in the show comes from the light of the Silmarils (something created for the show and coupled with an awesome shot of a Balrog fighting an elf on a mountaintop, evoking Glorfindel), the light of the Elves can live on. Gil-galad and Celebrimbor are, somehow, aware of the existence of Mithril and used Elrond’s relationship with the Dwarves to find a way to gain access to large quantities of Mithril to save their race. I’m not sure how they knew about Mithril’s being fact though, The Song of the Roots of Hithaeglir isn’t exactly concrete proof of its existence so I hope the show explains how they found out it was in fact real. I also don’t mind this original concept for the origins of Mithril, as there wasn’t one written to begin with. The way Mithril forks through the rock looks a lot how wood does when lightning hits it, so I can buy into that. As to how this elf had the light of a silmaril, I’m guessing he was using a phial, not unlike the gift Galadriel gave to Frodo. Or, this entire fable is just malarkey and Mithril doesn’t mean anything and they’re being led astray. I’m guessing Celebrimbor and Gil-galad’s plan will be to give the elves the light through the use of jewelry, like the rings, but they’ll only get around to making one Mithril ring, Nenya, which will delay the departure of the elves by a few thousand years, but will still force them to leave the shores of Middle-earth by the end of the Third Age, as depicted in The Lord of the Rings. Or if the fable is just that, then the rings will hold no such influence and the decline of the elves will continue as planned.
Elrond, of course, is stuck between a rock and a hard place if you don’t mind the Dwarvish pun. On one hand, he has his loyalty to his people and on the other, he has his oath he’s sworn to his friend. I really liked how Elrond has a credible reason to feel conflicted here and that I buy into his doubt and worry. Gil-galad, despite using Elrond and being a bit of a cold bastard, still manages to justify his actions as he tries to save his entire race.
Elsewhere, we caught up with Adar and I’m still thinking he could be Maglor, one of the sons of Fëanor. His left-hand sports a large gauntlet and he speaks to his orcs of burning. I think this reinforces the theory, as Maglor once held a Silmaril, which burned his hand. The show is pretty quick to seemingly validate that he’s not Sauron though. Adar gathers his followers and begins his march towards the tower, where Theo, Arondir and Bronwyn are fortified. We learn from Arondir that Theo’s magic sword is actually a key. Whether it’s a literal key or a metaphorical one is left vague, but considering Adar’s comment about sun no longer being an issue, I’m going to guess the sword hilt will unleash Mount Doom and cover the Southlands in ash, allowing the orcs to move freely. Until then though, he’s content with forcing his human followers to prove their loyalty by sacrificing their own to his name.
In the final arc, the harfoots return after being absent last week and I’m back to being intrigued with them. The harfoots/stranger storyline is the most inconsistent on the show so far. I think it works when there’s an air of mystery and intrigue and less on the day-to-day lives of the harfoots. We get a montage of travel set to a song that pulls elements from Tolkien’s writings (not all those who wander are lost), while also seeing a lot of clues that suggest the Stranger is a Wizard. A group of creepy-looking cultist ladies do show up and are tracking the Stranger though; whether they intend to kill a wizard or worship their master remains vague that said. But this storyline felt more focused and interesting than it has to date.
The Rings of Power isn’t as good as the Peter Jackson trilogy, but those movies set the bar so high that I’m not sure any fantastical film will achieve those heights again. Heck, Jackson couldn’t even do it for his Hobbit films. But I do think Rings of Power is getting a lot more flack than it deserves. It’s a slower-paced show sure and to say its writing is inconsistent would be an understatement, but I’m still enjoying it and am invested in most of the characters and plot lines and don’t see the show as being nearly as bad or as boring as some are making it out to be. There are worse things out there, for sure. As darkness creeps in and the hearts of Men falter, those who are pure of heart and good look to cast evil out. It’s a simple story, but it’s very Tolkien as well.
A few closing remarks, but there were some neat Lord of the Rings tiebacks in this episode. We hear the line “I was there, Elrond” which evoked Elrond saying “I was there, Gandalf” from Fellowship while Gil-galad’s explanation of the Light of the Elves echoes Elrond’s explanation of the phenomenon to Aragorn in relation to Arwen. Also, the balrog on the mountaintop looked almost identical to Durin’s Bane from the same movie, keeping the visual aesthetic from the Jackson trilogy alive in the Amazon series.