Episode seven of The Rings of Power, titled The Eye, is the penultimate episode of the debut season of Amazon’s mega-budget Lord of the Rings production. Considering last week’s episode was an action-packed outing, this week’s episode feels much calmer and more nuanced by comparison. It lost some momentum, but the episode was also full of great character moments and growth.
We pick up some time after the explosive final of the eruption of Mount Doom and all of the primary characters have survived. The show never explains how, which is a little frustrating that some characters perished and others didn’t, but naturally all of the primary characters survived, which I feel diminished the gravity of the situation on an emotional level. But everything feels properly chaotic and confused as survivors pull each other out of the rubble and seek safety.
In an attempt to save the Southlanders, Isildur falls under a collapsing roof and is presumed dead. I wasn’t expecting the show to keep Isildur in Middle-earth and wonder what the show has in store for him since he’s not on the boat with his father and a now blind Míriel. His father, Elendil, didn’t take the news well though and laments that all this death and destruction is because he rescued Galadriel from the sea, thus putting the blame on the loss of his son on her and likely causing a rift between him and Míriel, who pledges support to the elves in the conflicts to come.
This episode had a lot of deviations from Tolkien’s text, but most are in such a way that they don’t outright contradict Tolkien’s work. The author of Lord of the Rings, as far as I’m aware, never said that Isildur spent some time in Middle-earth in his youth, nor does he mention anything about Míriel’s sight. I find her losing her vision to carry significant weight, as she now loses the power of looking through the palantír and will be unable to see the evil lurking in her own home.
A big change, at face value, is Galadriel telling Theo that orcs not only took her brother Finrod, but also her husband Celeborn. I was like, excuse me? Celeborn, in case you didn’t know, is the guy in Fellowship who asks “where is Gandalf, for I much desire to speak with him.” So the show declaring him dead is a big, BIG change in the canon, one I can’t imagine the Tolkien Estate approving. Galadriel’s wording though, keeps things vague enough that he very well might still be alive somewhere out there though. She tells Theo that she never saw him again after he went to battle, so he’s missing and assumed dead, not confirmed to be dead. Hopefully, he’s brought into the show. Galadriel, feeling the weight of all the death she’s instilled over the years in the pursuit of revenge after her talk with Adar, passes her sword off to Theo. I wonder if this means Galadriel is done being a warrior in the show and will now see her transition to a more political figurehead. When she and Halbrand depart for Eregion, the Southlanders lead a rallying cry and that’s something that’s happening a few times in this show and each time it happens, it feels really out of place to me.
The meat and potatoes of the episode was spent with Durin IV and Elrond, who try to persuade Durin III to mine Mithril to save the elves in exchange for strong Elven support for 500 years. Durin III ultimately rejects this plan, which leads to a lot of confrontation between the father and son, as Prince Durin claims his father is sentencing his friend to death or exile. His father states that the time of the elves is simply over and they can’t interfere with that. Owain Arthur as Durin IV and Robert Aramayo as Elrond are absolutely carrying this show emotionally and every time they’re on the screen, the show is easily at its best. But everything in this story thread is great, including Durin’s father, who wants greatness for his son but suppresses his ambitions, and Durin IV’s wife Disa, who encourages him to be his own man, even in defiance of the king.
This arc reveals that Mithril has healing/restorative properties, something new to the canon, which causes Durin and Elrond to dig without the consent of the king. Elrond is banished, Durin IV is no longer heir to the throne and the mine to the Mithril is holed up. We do see the Balrog lurking below, but I’m not 100% sure if he’s going to do anything or if that was just a little easter egg for the audience, as Durin’s Bane (as he’s called) doesn’t destroy Khazad-dûm until the Third Age. Or perhaps that’s set up for a later season, but I’m not expecting anything to come of this next episode.
A good portion of the runtime was also spent with the harfoots and the Stranger. The evidence is mounting that Meteor Man is a wizard, as he uses a spell to grow an orchard rich in food for the harfoots to feast on. But the Stranger is being chased by the cultists, who use magic to burn the harfoot’s entire settlement before continuing their hunt. I’m not sure though if they’re hunting him or seeking him out. That’s one thing that’s working well and against the show at the same time, but there are a lot of mysteries in this show and it feels like a J.J. Abrams mystery box at times. Considering showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay used to work at Bad Robot, this tracks. But I can’t deny it has been fun theorizing, but I do think some of those questions should be answered by now. A small company, or fellowship, of harfoots embark on their own little quest in order to refind the Stranger, who went off on his own, in order to warn him of the cultists.
The final major event that happened, potentially, is Halbrand getting injured to the point where he needs Elvish medicine. My guess is that this will bring him and Galadriel to Eregion and by association, Halbrand to Celebrimbor. If Halbrand is Sauron, this will set up that whole situation, assuming they haven’t already met before in the past. Remember, Celebrimbor stated that the forge needed to be completed by spring, which is a random and seemingly arbitrary deadline, but maybe Sauron has already conversed with Celebrimbor, either as Halbrand or under a different guise. Sauron would totally be capable of faking an injury using illusion in order to gain access to the elves.
The Eye ended on a rather weak note, as the Southlands gets relabeled as Mordor via text. This seemed more for the audience’s benefit, but we’ve been privy to the fact that the Southlands will become Mordor since episode three, so the show’s closing moments definitely lacked the punch I think the show had. Trust that your audience is able to figure out that the place with the giant volcano is Mordor. It felt very lazy, coupled with the setup of Waldreg asking Adar what the land’s new name should be, it felt very “wink-wink” to the audience.
With one episode to go and a lot of questions left unanswered, I’m expecting a dense and potentially lengthier finale next week. I hope the answers to these questions are satisfying and that the show sticks the landing. Tune in next week for the review of the finale, as well as the season as a whole.
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