We’re back with another episode of The Rings of Power, this one titled “Adrift,” which could mean any number of things. Or maybe it just means a few of our characters are stuck on a boat. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
To recap, I liked the first episode of Amazon’s billion-dollar show. Visually, it’s spectacular. Most of the intro spent time, well, introducing us to this strange new world, its characters and the dangers lurking just out of sight. We met Galadriel, a young She-Elf seeking revenge for her brother’s death; Elrond, an elf with an affinity for politics; Nori, a Harfoot who yearns for adventure; and Arondir, a bad ass warrior dealing with love issues. These four formed the core group (as far as I could tell), while other side characters popped in on occasion to drop important bits of exposition.
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Our story seems to revolve around the evil wizard Sauron, who laid waste to much of the land before vanishing … I think? Before he left, the big bad left behind clues that guided his minions to his location, which seems a little foolhardy, but I’ve never been an evil wizard so what do I know? Last week’s episode ended with a giant meteor crashing down near Nori’s home, and when the little Harfoot investigated she found a naked man lying inside its ruins. Literally, the last thing I expected.
Galadriel, meanwhile, had booked a first-class ticket to the Grey Havens and, per Elrond’s advice, was on her way out of Middle-earth before destiny called her back home.
Arondir and Bronwyn (his not-so-secret love) happened upon a burning town whilst investigating mysterious black cow goo, while Bronwyn’s son Theo discovered a piece of Sauron’s blade buried underneath a barn. Details are fuzzy, but there was a lot to take in so don’t judge me too harshly.
Anyway, onto Episode 2.
What Happened in The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 1
Right out the gate, composer Bear McCreary — the show’s MVP thus far — gives us a juicy theme played over the opening credits. I don’t recall the first episode having opening credits, but I am old enough to remember watching Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in a theater.
Galadriel floats in the ocean. Since I saw Jaws on Imax last weekend, I’m instantly fearful for her life. Especially when the camera dips below the surface to offer a Chrissie-like view of our elven warrior silhouetted against the moonlight. Except, Galadriel is fully clothed. She turns and begins paddling, and as someone who nearly died attempting to swim 20 feet, I can tell you that is hard.
Nori stares at the naked man, though upon closer inspection it appears he has shorts on — so that’s a plus. Eventually, the Harfoot tumbles into the crater, because Harfoots. A mysterious man suddenly grabs Nori’s arm in dramatic fashion; the world around them erupts, and then grows silent. Poppy arrives and urges Nori to step away from the “giant,” but our plucky heroine needs the plot to kick into gear and insists on moving the man from his crater to shelter.
Nearby, Sadoc wanders through the Harfoot village with his wife, spooked by the “falling star.” He’s all Gandalf-like with his foreboding prophecies and signs, it’s no wonder Nori and Poppy opt to carry the mysterious man away in secret. They tuck him under a tree for the night. Poppy asks why Nori gives two squats about this ginormous stranger, and Nori responds with a monologue about fate. “Of all the hillsides in all the land …” she says. “He came to me.”
(Also, in case anyone wanted to know, at this point in Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo was about to have his first go with the Ring of Power whilst hiding out in The Prancing Pony. A lot had happened in the first hour, which is basically my way of criticizing Rings of Power’s sluggish pace. I’m all for epic runtimes, but we’re already 70 minutes into this series and not much has happened.)
Arondir and Bronwyn investigate the ruined town of Hordern. They find a secret passage and Arondir bravely steps into the darkness, probably thankful for something to do after being relieved of his 70-year-long post.
At Eregion, Elrond hangs out with the way too creepy Celebrimbor, who seems a bit disillusioned by his rudimentary work designing jewels and weapons. He longs to craft something truly special — a tower with a forge powerful enough to create … well, you know. He’s on a deadline and asks Elrond for aid. Since Elves are apparently too lazy to do anything but shoot bows, Elrond suggests venturing outside their own race for labor. “How far outside,” Celebrimbor asks.
Dotted lines guide us to a familiar local: Khazad-Dum, the Realm of the Dwarves. Kickass. I love how Jackson’s films chronicled the painstaking journey from location to location — roads that were wrought with danger — but our heroes in Rings of Power can Fast Travel with minimal load time. Not that I want to watch Elrond and Celebrimbor walk all the way to Khazad-Dum, but why have a sprawling world if we’re only meant to see bits and pieces of it? (Then again, I complained about pacing so …)
Anyways, Celebrimbor reveals his admiration for dwarves and their astonishing craft. Elrond makes fans squeal by saying things like “Durin” and “salted pork.” Predictably, the dwarves aren’t too excited to receive visitors, prompting Elrond to invoke the Rite Of Sigin-tarâg. The doors open immediately. Elrond tells Celebrimbor to head home for a few days while he works his magic.
Inside, we see a wondrous local far removed from the gloomy ruins seen in Fellowship of the Ring. I mean, this is the same location, right?
Durin arrives and accepts the Rite Of Sigin-tarâg challenge, which involves breaking stones with a hammer. Somehow, Elrond, a politician, keeps up with his muscular dwarf pal, but I guess Elves were always able to basically do whatever the plot required.
Back with Nori, it turns out whenever the giant man screams, he basically causes a windstorm or something. They eat snails together, despite his skittish demeanor, and he attempts to communicate via scribbles in the sand. “Mana,” he shouts. “WTF,” Nori replies.
Back at camp, Nori’s father breaks his ankle whilst performing manual labor. It’s so bad that he may not be able to migrate. The Harfoots may have to eat him. Maybe.
Meanwhile, Galadriel continues her 100-hour swim. Eventually, a floating bit of wreckage carrying a group of people appears — lucky! — and rescues her from the ocean. I mean, this is good news and all, but what if these people hadn’t floated by? Would Galadriel have died? One of the men asks if she’s seen the worm — and he’s serious. He also notices that she’s an Elf and gets ready to cut off her head when they spot — the worm. A massive, CGI monster heads straight for their wreckage, sliding neatly underneath the craft, not unlike Godzilla. Hilariously, one of the women on the wreckage pushes Galadriel overboard, mostly so we can see the CGI marvel under the water. There’s a neat shot of Galadriel swimming towards the camera while the worm attacks the others behind her.
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At this point, once again adrift at sea, she’s probably thinking, “I made a huge mistake.”
Luckily, the lone survivor of the ordeal managed to break away from the larger craft. He reluctantly picks Galadriel up and announces that he’s Halbrand. Cool.
Back with the dwarves, Durin and Elrond smash a number of rocks. Our Elf boy grows tired and surrenders. “A dog may bark at the moon, but he cannot take it down,” Durin says. “Take your leave.” Elrond, very clearly hurt by the dog comment, asks Durin to escort him to the exit. “Gladly.” The pair hop on an elevator and we get more glorious shots of the Dwarf city — seriously, the FX are terrific! Elrond tries to make conversation but discovers Durin is pissed because his supposed friend never visited. “You cannot barge into my mountain and demand I welcome you with open arms.” That is the actual line. Twenty years is nothing to an elf, but a long time to a Dwarf, apparently.
“What do you have to say to that,” Durin asks.
“Congratulations,” Elrond replies. “On your wife, your children. I hope you can come to forgive me.” He also offers to apologize to his family.
Durin, still angered, agrees. (Owain Arthur is terrific as Durin, by the way.) We meet Disa, Durin’s wife (what, no beard?). She happily greets Elrond, fixes dinner and recounts how she met her husband, who continues to sulk nearby. Elrond notes how the pair have an Elf tree nestled in their living room. “Respect, bro,” he says, pounding his chest. Then he gets up to leave, which prompts Durin to calm the hell down. (This scene was actually really great. Arthur and Sophia Nomvete knock their characters out of the park, and infuse the show with some much-needed energy.)
The show cuts back to our shipwrecked couple, Galadriel and Halbrand. He points out that she’s probably a deserter, which causes our tough gal to snap. “Whatever the Elves did to you —” she starts, but he cuts her off. “It wasn’t Elves. It was Orcs.”
Snap! Galadriel takes a step toward the man. “Where was your home,” she asks.
“What does it matter,” he snaps.
They bicker back and forth. She asks about his King — “I have no King,” he says. She offers to help reclaim his lands, but he refuses to give her the local. Eventually, she word vomits her mission: to hunt and kill the Enemy. And a shit ton of Orcs. “The Southlands,” he states. “Let’s go,” she orders. (Lucky coincidence that she happened upon this man while doing laps in the ocean, but I’ll let the plot convenience slide.)
(As a side: I do think this iteration of Galadriel is interesting. She’s far removed from the soft, warm Elf we saw in Jackson’s trilogy. Will the Rings of Power focus on her quest to discover her humanity? She seems consumed by revenge, and the show, to this point, hasn’t placed her mission in a positive light. Interesting.)
A storm rumbles in the distance and Bear McCreary cues up the male choir — goosebumps, people.
We zip back to Bronwyn, who tries to convince the men of that dingy old pub to aid Arondir. “Nah,” they say.
Nearby, Theo goes berserk on a mouse, clubs a hole in his floor, and spots a white eye peering at him from the darkness. Shit is getting real.
Arondir traverses the tunnel, spots a strange figure in the distance, and then does the rational thing and peaces the hell outta there. Unfortunately, he gets snatched away Evil Dead style by a bunch of hands. (Quick side: one of the best things about Jackson’s trilogy was how he leaned into horror. I love that the Rings of Power showrunners are following suit. We get some genuinely creepy imagery here, and some wicked cool POV shots.)
Anyway, Bronwyn heads home and finds her son Theo hidden in a cupboard, holes all over the kitchen floor. He urges her to hide as well. She slips into another cupboard. A figure rises from the hole in the floor — shit, this is great stuff — and attacks. (I think this is a goblin?) Bronwyn and Theo fight back and eventually, after stabbing the red-faced looney a number of times, manage to chop off its head. She shows the monster to the pub dudes, which is enough to convince them to head to the Elf tower.
Elsewhere, Galadriel and Halbrand have a helluva time navigating the treacherous waters. She beckons the man to take her hand and is promptly struck by lightning — for some reason I thought of this bit from Joe Versus the Volcano. Bravely, Halbrand leaps into the water and saves Galadriel’s life. Nice.
We then head back to Nori, Poppy, and the mysterious man. He breaks their lanterns and sets free the fireflies housed within. The tiny insects hover around the man and he whispers to them. “What is he saying,” Nori asks. “I don’t speak firefly,” Poppy quips. The man uses the fireflies to create a sort of constellation of stars — “That’s what he wants us to do,” Nori says. “He wants us to find those stars.”
Poppy notices one of the fireflies dying. “Shit,” she says.
Durin goes to see his pop, who finds Elrond’s appearance a tad too coincidental. They open a chest and the contents inside glow like something out of Pulp Fiction. What the what?
Back with Theo, he grips Sauron’s sword. Blood drips from his hand onto the broken weapon. Smoke and fire erupt — and Sauron’s sword seems to grow. Whoa.
Finally, Galadriel wakes up the next morning floating next to Halbrand. A shadow looms over them. Cue credits.
Final Thoughts on The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 2
Okay, now, since I’m writing about the show, it’s difficult to get a gauge on the pacing and flow as I’m constantly stopping to jot down notes and such. I’ll rewatch the episode later to get a real feel for it, but man I thought this was a great chapter. We’re getting to know each of our characters a little better and the plot is slowly coming into focus. All roads lead to Sauron, it seems. How everyone contributes to the battle is beyond me, but each character has a defining characteristic — be it knowledge, strength, kindness, or bravery — that will likely factor into how they impact the story.
Again, shout out to Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete, who feel ripped right out of Jackson’s series of films. I loved their chemistry. I’m also glad Elrond got a little more to do in this episode, even if his storyline this go-round was the weakest link (Durin and Disa notwithstanding.) Galadriel’s adventure felt like the writers were, ahem, treading water while the main plot played out with Nori, Poppy, and the mysterious man, but was still entertaining enough to hold our attention. And man, that Bronwyn/Arondir bit really caught my attention. Well executed. Bravo.
So, what does this all mean? No clue. I assume Sauron’s forces are gathering in the Southlands and, at some point, man, Dwarf and Elf will have to unite in order to overcome the enemy. I also assume Nori, Poppy and the mysterious man will head off into the world to find the constellation he pointed out, while Theo will eventually allow Sauron’s sword to consume him. I dunno.
So, is Sauron dead? Or is he only mostly dead? Will Galadriel and Halbrand continue their Brienne of Tarth/Jamie Lannister-styled relationship? Is Elrond doomed to help Celebrimbor forge the Rings of Power? Will Arondir get a kick-ass action scene in the next episode?
Find out on Friday, LOTR fans. I, for one, can’t wait!