This post is several days after the fact, but I kind of needed several days to ruminate on what this episode dropped on us!
Spoilers behind the fold.
After the second episode ended with us seeing Galadriel and Halbrand found by a ship of some kind, I strongly suspected we were going to see Númenor in this episode–and I was right. Which meant several more things about this version of the Second Age timeline have now clicked into place.
One: we’re clearly far enough along in the timeline that Númenor’s ruling line has shifted away from supporting elves. Míriel is on camera, though she is identified here as Queen-Regent of Númenor. In The Silmarillion, she’s forced to marry Pharazôn, who at this point appears to be an advisor rather than her husband, so…
Two: Pharazôn is on camera here. In The Silmarillion, this guy basically takes over the throne and is the chief driving force of Númenor falling to Sauron, and their fleet making the doomed attempt to sail to Valinor. I’m kind of assuming at this point that we’ll see this guy start coming to greater prominence soon.
Three: The Elf-Friends who eventually become the survivors of Númenor’s downfall and who go on to found Gondor and Arnor are also now on camera. Hiya, Elendil and Isildur!
Four: Since Míriel and Pharazôn are on camera, by extension this has to mean we are close to the point of Númenor’s downfall, and long, long after its founding. Which means in turn that of course Elrond’s brother Elros is dead. But I was very pleased to see him at least mentioned. The mural on the wall (I think it was a mural and not a tapestry, but not sure?) of the two of them together, noticed by Galadriel, was a very nice touch.
Five: Queen-Regent implies Míriel is ruling on behalf of an heir to the throne too young to rule yet, but I’m not sure who that’s supposed to be? Or if she ruling on behalf of her father locked up in the tower? Her father is Tar-Palantir in The Silmarillion, but I do not see a character called that or even just Palantir in the credits for this season, so not sure how the show is playing this?
We see Míriel very clearly address someone as father at the end of the episode, though. Someone whose face we don’t see. So I’m just wondering why the mystery there.
Six: Míriel is also clearly treading very, very carefully in regards to how obvious she can be about lending any support to elf-friends. I expect this is going to blow up in her face very soon.
Other thoughts: Númenor in general is every bit as gorgeous as I expected. And I like how they’ve set up the culture to place huge significance on the sea, as they absolutely should.
Feeling conflicted about this guy! This episode tried very, very hard to make him come across as the Aragorn analogue of this plot, i.e., the lost rightful heir of the Southlands, who has to be pushed into stepping up and defending his home.
But on the other hand, the episode also made it clear that this guy is no Aragorn. He’s clearly not above stealing things when it suits his interests, and he did so twice in this episode.
Stealing back Galadriel’s sword, arguably, was not self-serving–because it helped Galadriel. But stealing that guild badge because he wanted access to the forge was definitely self-serving. And the camera made a very distinct point of showing Halbrand being really interested in that forge.
So I’m not entirely convinced he’s not actually Sauron yet.
On the other hand, if they’re setting him up to be a tragic, darker version of Aragorn, whose kingdom is eventually destroyed and turned into Mordor, I could see that being a powerful plotline all on its own.
And my friend Shanti proposed another very interesting possibility: what if Halbrand eventually becomes the King of the Dead that we see later on when Aragorn rallies all those ghosts to come and fight on the Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King? We know that that king betrays Isildur, and was cursed by him.
Given that we’ve already seen that Halbrand’s moral compass is at the very least somewhat bent if maybe not actually completely broken, it could be plausible that he’s going to eventually betray Isildur.
Any way you slice it, though, I cannot see Halbrand’s story ending well.
The Harfoots and the Stranger
As of this episode we certainly seem to be going in a direction of the Stranger being a newly incarnated Gandalf. And I have conflicting feelings about this.
One: As I wrote before, having Gandalf in this timeline feels like a bit too big of a change from what Tolkien wrote.
Two: It also feels like too easy a narrative choice. The events of the Second Age have enough power and tragedy on their own that they don’t really need to wedge Gandalf in there to drum up viewer sympathies.
Three: On the other hand, Tor.com’s recap post for this episode brings up a fair point: that if this is, in fact, a newly incarnated Gandalf, then having him found by the Harfoots actually gives him a very, very good reason to be so fond of the hobbits. I.e., because they are the ones who took care of him, and basically taught him all about how to have a body and how to live in the world.
And I’m honestly kind of okay with that. If they’re going in a direction of Nori basically being the one responsible for helping Gandalf become the renowned wizard we see much later, I can work with this. I certainly like this better than the idea of the Harfoots inadvertently nurturing Sauron!
Though I still think I’d prefer him being some other Maia. ;)
Arondir’s part of this episode definitely had some power and punch to it. I really liked seeing him desperately coordinating an escape attempt with the other elven captives. And also, how even as desperate prisoners, these guys still exhibited stunning grace in battle. Very cool to see them using their own chains as weapons.
I also liked that we see the Orcs vulnerable to light. This fits very well with how we see the Uruk-hai, much later, not fearing light. So clever of Arondir as well to try to rip down their protective tents rather than attacking them directly.
And of course, none of the elves make it out. Sniff. Because this whole plot thread leads to a new player coming on camera: the figure the orcs refer to only as “Adar”.
So now we have a new potential Sauron candidate here. And a plausible one. In The Silmarillion, Sauron explicitly surrenders to the forces of Númenor so that he can get them to take him to their island–where he then corrupts Ar-Pharazôn and proceeds to turn most of the society to worshipping Morgorth.
But this would mean we’d need to see this force of orcs receiving a smackdown from Númenor. So Númenor has to find out about them!
Which strongly suggests Arondir is going to have to escape and be the one that warns them. We’ll have to see how the next several episodes play out.