Anything worth doing takes a lot of time to do and Lord of the rings‘ The slow-paced approach to fantasy ended last week with the eruption of Southland Volcano. However, the audience’s patience was not in vain. It infused our heroes with integrity and resilience, and Middle-earth with a logic all of its own. These atrocities may be directed by spirits greater than elves, dwarves, and men, but they could have a greater purpose if we could only see through the ashes.
Last week’s action-packed blood fest has finally been delivered rings Fans of the epic battles TV viewers crave. But that’s not really what Lord of the rings is about. It’s not about betrayal, political maneuvering or fantasy violence. These things exist in Middle-earth, but connections and cooperation across borders are far more important. Darkness only makes the light shine brighter, and this back and forth between heritage and friendship can create division and strength in all forms of community. It is within them to overcome their prejudices and find hope and love in those around Middle-earth. Fantastic, visually stunning and best episode of the season, The Eye doubles down on these themes as Galadriel, Elendil and Durin attempt to keep hope alive amidst incalculable despair.
An Eye is the first image we see in the red-soaked Southlands Hellmouth. Cinematographer Alex Disenhof follows the breathless action of “Udûn” with a landscape inspired by photos of the California wildfires and the orange skies they brought to the west coast in 2020. Galadriel awakens in this ashen land, dusts herself off and begins searching for survivors, finding young Theo. As the show teases another Bronwyn-Friding, Queen Regent Míriel and Isildur search for survivors. The latter only finds death and discovers the lifeless eyes of his friend Otamno (Anthony Crum) staring at him. As he ponders Otamno, a beam breaks and a house collapses on Isildur, leading his friends to assume he is lost too. Later, when Elendil sees Isildur’s injured horse without a rider, he assumes the worst.
After weeks of wondering and wandering, the Brandyfoots finally catch up with the Harfoots at the Grove, who were burned by the volcano. On a nearby hilltop, The Stranger speaks unfamiliar words to a burned-out tree. Like last week in the pool, the stranger’s power explodes, startling the Harfoots. Nevertheless, a flower grows from the trunk of the tree.
The passing shadow is everywhere in this episode, bringing light and darkness. Last week, Bronwyn reminded Theo that there is “light and high beauty forever beyond the reach” of darkness. Galadriel, who enlists Theo as her traveling companion, goes one step further and teaches Theo not to let hate into his heart. “It darkens the heart to call bad deeds ‘good,'” she tells him. “Every war is fought without and within.” Theo and Galadriel battle the external loss of life in the Southlands and the internal responsibility of every soldier for it.
Galadriel’s remorse is palpable from the first frame of The Eye. She tells Theo that she feels responsible for the explosion, and in many ways she is. The obvious example is that she didn’t check the damn handle when she captured Adar. But elves have been missing warnings all season. When she gathered Númenor, the Elves in the Southlands missed an entire orc siege under her nose. As Jedi im war of stars precursor, the Elves of the Second Age are high on their own stock. This is what makes Elrond, the half-Elf, such a crucial character; He sees in elves what they cannot see. He knows what it costs to let this friendship wither away. Elrond didn’t even realize he hadn’t seen his best friend in 20 years and is willing to change his mind and admit when he’s wrong.
Galadriel’s war runs deeper and their detachment is understandable. As she and Theo regret the explosion, the elf reveals that she was once a dancer (and horse rider). Yes, she danced with me her husband Celeborn, whom she lost in the war. Unfortunately, the loss of her brother and her husband left her with no other choice.
She fights the war within, like Durin and Elendil. Elrond makes his play with King Durin (Peter Mullan), bending the knee and promising riches in return for the supply of mithril. But Durin refuses the offer, telling Durin that the fate of the Elves and the fate of Middle-earth are beyond their control. If this is the time of the elves, so be it. Durin breaks the news to Elrond, who must return to Lindon to tell High King Gil-galad they’re screwed. It’s a heartbreaking scene where Bear tiptoes in on McCready’s Elrond theme as Elrond Durin says that elves “don’t say goodbye” but “go with kindness”. The way Durin calls “namárië” turns on the waterworks. This show is wonderful.
Elrond begins his exit, returning the mithril ore to Durin, who pushes it to the edge of his new table in disgust. The mithril will resurrect the plant if it lands next to the rotting elf leaf, proving Gil-galad’s theory. The two dig better.
Later, when the buddies are chiseling at the mithril mine, the two share a series of affectionate conversations, each venturing through gentle teasing and admissions of how much the other means to them. Director Charlotte Brändström bounces between intimate close-ups as they deepen their relationship and become a chosen brother to each other, with Elrond stopping Durin before he hears his secret dwarf name. It’s a scene destined to inspire thousands of fanfictions. We thank Elrond and Durin for their service.
Your emotional deepening resonates in the stone. Shortly after attaining catharsis, Durin and Elrond discover the mother vein of mithril, but King Durin will not resist. He banishes Elrond from Khazad-dûm. Peter Mullan gives a fantastic account of the night he nursed his young son Durin back to health and beams with joy as he predicts his son will ‘move mountains’. But Durin is not convinced. “How can I move mountains when you crush my ambition.” The conversation does not end well when Durin tells his father that “he is desecrating the crown”.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown, as Durin and Míriel learn. After trying to save villagers from the flames, Míriel goes blind and can only see grey, a powerful metaphor for the state of the world. It’s not all black though – light flashes through. Sunshine returns the further they stray from the Southlands. In the morning, after the stranger has cast a spell on the tree, the grove is teeming with new life. The dead tree now bears juicy red apples. In return, Sadoc gives the stranger directions to the great people, where he could find information about his lost stars. Nori gives him an apple before sending him on his way, telling her mother, “She’s just a Harfoot.” She won’t be up to such mischief again.
But all that glitters is not gold. Three fair-skinned figures dressed in white chase the stranger and arrive at the Grove the night he disembarks. Nori bravely does her best to throw her off track. But when Largo sees her looming over Nori, he rushes over with a torch. The character extinguishes it with his hand, blowing the ash into the air and magically setting the Harfoot camp on fire.
By the end of the episode, everyone is on the same page. Halbrand will bring “Strength to the Southlands” and travel to Lindon with Galadriel and face the elves. It’s easy to forget that the Elves probably assumed that Galadriel sipped drinks from a coconut on the beaches of Valinor. But they have their own problems. Adding to Lindon’s entire lack of mithril, King Durin awakened a Balrog when he casually discarded the Elven Leaf.
As new enemies awaken, our heroes are on the move. The Harfoots will rebuild and take on challenges with “hearts as big as their feet,” as Largo puts it. Nori decides to set off to find the stranger. The rest of the community admits some concerns and shows some of the regret Elrond expressed earlier this season. But she won’t go alone. A community of Harfoots will set out and take their place in the wide world. They will keep going and thrive as long as they stay true to each other and just keep going.
- Robert Aramayo’s scenes with Owain Arthur were breathtaking in their warmth, empathy and understanding. Aramayo has quietly crushed every episode he stars in, but the reunion between Elrond and Galadriel is something we eagerly await.
- The same goes for Dylan Smith’s “just keep going” speech, which beautifully recalled Aragorn’s phrase about Gimli and Legolas community of the ring. “As long as we stay true to ourselves.” That’s the essence of Tolkien’s work, I think, and Rings of Power explores and enriches this theme in surprising and impactful ways.
- Halbrand’s mysterious absence from this episode will no doubt have conspiracy theorists in a frenzy.
- I enjoyed the show’s live map, but the burning of Chiron was perhaps a little more spice than I needed.
- “Every war is fought without and without” gets bonus points for using this archaic form of “outside”. Tolkien loved old words and used old versions of words in his work. Many have criticized it, but this show’s dedication and care, as Tolkien wrote, is truly off the charts. There’s an intense attention to detail in the language of the show.