Got a lot to think about from this episode, and on the verge of episode 7 airing, I still have a lot to think about!
Still no Harfoots?
Another episode with zero Harfoot mileage in it, and now we have two episodes left in the season. Which suggests to me that we aren’t going to have much more time for anything else to happen in Nori’s part of the plot. We might get a reveal as to the identity of the Stranger, and/or the mysterious figures investigating where he crashed?
I do not get what’s up with Isildur
The kid clearly has some sort of existential angst going on about his general place in the world. But I’m not getting what he’s talking about when he says he wants to go “west”, or what he and Galadriel meant when they talked about “the real Númenor”.
Because what’s west of Númenor is Valinor. So is he longing to see Valinor or is something else going on with him?
That said: I did like his scene with Galadriel on the ship.
The humans vs. the orcs
Dara, Paul, and I mostly liked the conflict between the human defenders and the orcs coming at them. Bronwyn and Arondir were both mostly very effective in their decisions, and Theo played decent support.
I was really afraid at one point that they were going to fridge Bronwyn, but thankfully, they pulled back from that.
We were, however, rather baffled at the lack of apparent logistical sense as to why the humans retreated from the distinctly more secure keep back to their not at all secure village. Narratively speaking clearly they had to be back at the village for the end of the episode where the volcano blew. But still, I would have liked a bit more clarity as to why the hell they left the more defensible keep.
And I did like the reveal that the force that attacked them in their village was in fact their own people–even though I have some issues, writing about this now, buying why exactly the humans in question would have pivoted from “fuck it, we’re fleeing this village because we don’t want to die, and if we have to pledge to follow Adar, so be it” straight to “and oh yeah, we’ll go attack the very people we just abandoned.”
Did none of those people have any qualms about doing this? I get why the episode couldn’t show us that–because if they had, it would have ruined the reveal. But still, I gotta wonder what went through the minds of the humans sent back to attack their very own people.
Here come the
Riders of Rohan Er, Uh, I Mean, the Riders of Númenor
While it seemed fairly apparent that Míriel’s force was going to sweep in and save the humans at the last minute, I feel like we weren’t given enough to justify how the hell they knew where to go. One scene they’re all still sailing across the ocean and the next they’re all on horses charging across a plain, and then boom, they show up at the village and save the day?
That was definitely rushed. What happened there? Did Míriel had some sort of vision about where to go? Did Halbrand advise them? We’re definitely missing some information here.
Also, I feel like there was a bit too much callback to the Riders of Rohan swooping in at the last minute to save Minas Tirith in the Return of the King movie. Bit less direct callback to Jackson, please? I love Return of the King to bits, but we’re not retelling that story here!
Adar vs. Galadriel
I’m very ambivalent about the scene where Adar and Galadriel had their faceoff. On the one hand, Adar’s actor acted the fuck out of that scene. On the other hand, this is a Galadriel clearly in an extremely dark place, and a Galadriel I’m no longer entirely sure that I like.
Because basically, her entire speech to Adar comes across as “I know you’re one of the elves tortured in the creation of orcs, and I don’t care, I’m going to obliterate you and every one of your comrades because you’re twisted creatures who should never exist.”
Not “I’m going to wipe you out because you’ve been rampaging across our lands and killing my people, and you killed my brother, you motherfucker”, but rather “I’m going to wipe you out just because you exist.”
That’s a very important distinction, and Adar is absolutely right to call her out on it. He’s also absolutely right in his assertion that he and his “children” have the right to exist and have a place to call their own. But not at the expense of wiping out other races, which, if Galadriel were in a less dark place, she should have called him out on in return.
I hope this means that Galadriel’s story arc in this plot is going to pull her back from that precipice.
All that said: let me also note that I don’t necessarily dispute the narrative taking Galadriel in this direction. We know canonically that she is a character riding on the edge of darkness. She was, after all, extremely tempted by the Ring and had to explicitly fight back the urge to accept it when Frodo offered it to her.
Right now, though, I feel like the Galadriel we’re getting in this story is a Galadriel who wouldn’t turn down the Ring if it were offered to her. She doesn’t seem to yet have the wisdom necessary to do so. I really hope that her story arc will send her in the right direction.
One other thing definitely worth noting here: we got the reveal that yes, Adar is a survivor of Morgoth’s “torture elves to make orcs” program. Which Dara totally called.
What’s less clear still is what Adar is besides that. Is he an escapee from Sauron’s forces? Is he a rebel? Was he let go?
Or is he still actually Sauron and doing a very, very good job of hiding it?
Now we finally have at least one example of Halbrand actually directly answering a question about who the hell he is. But, I note, this was with an entire village’s eyes upon him, as well as Galadriel and the Númenorean forces. And only at this point is he finally vocalizing that yes, he’s the king.
I’m feeling ambivalent here, too.
On the one hand, he and Galadriel did have a very effective scene together. I really liked that little exchange in which they fess up to only feeling like they can fight past their trauma when fighting at each other’s sides. If Halbrand is who everybody’s assuming he is, that makes for a really nice character bonding moment. And if you happen to be a romantic sucker, you could easily see that being a seed to eventually ship the characters.
On the other hand, I am still not entirely trusting that Halbrand is who everybody’s assuming he is. I find it suspicious that he only said “yes” when asked about his identity point-blank to his face, by a woman very clearly desperate for hope and reassurance. Mind you, an above-board read of his hesitation when Bronwyn asks him who he is could be simply that he’s psyching himself up to actually acknowledge in public what he’s been hiding all this time…
And yet. If he’s legitimately the king of the Southlands, and if he’s also as drawn to Galadriel as this episode would have us believe, I feel like he would have been more honest with her about his background.
So yeah, until we actually get a confirmed other character as Sauron on camera, I ain’t letting this guy off the hook yet.
Dara thinks he is the legit king of the Southlands–just unworthy of it. Which would fit the behavior of the man we’ve seen in this story so far. This man abandoned his people on purpose out on the ocean, after all. She also proposes him as a candidate for future Witch-King of Angmar.
And there’s also Shanti’s theory of Halbrand being the eventual King of the Dead, too.
I think I’d actually like either of those possibilities. They’d fit well with the story we’re getting so far. And it could be really compelling to have Halbrand succumb to the temptation of accepting one of the Nine Rings from Sauron, on the strength of a promise that he’ll get to rule his realm forever.
Back the hell up, how did Waldreg get the evil MacGuffin?
This was one part of the episode where all three of us were baffled as fuck: the reveal that Waldreg had run off with the sword hilt, while what Arondir and Theo thought was the hilt turned out to be a hand axe.
None of us felt like the episode gave us the slightest hint that something was up with that. So the sudden cut over to Waldreg plugging the hilt into what basically turned out to be the Turn On the Volcano system was very, very sudden, and made us all feel like we’d missed an entire scene somewhere.
This is the third time the editing has been very strange in this series (see also above commentary re: the Númenoreans coming straight to that village), and I really hope they don’t make an ongoing trend of this.
And speaking of that volcano going boom
I don’t think the episode ever gave us an on-screen name for that mountain, but when I search about the question, yeah, I’m seeing multiple sites confirming that this was in fact Orodruin, i.e., Mount Doom.
Which means that Adar’s plan was in fact to kick off that volcano as part of making a homeland for the orcs. And it gives weight to his earlier line about how he’ll miss the sunlight.
But this also ties right back in to the question of who the hell Adar is and what function he’s serving in this plot. We have these possibilities:
- Adar is not Sauron, but he is acting on Sauron’s behalf, and is deliberately hiding his involvement with his master
- Adar is not Sauron, but is being manipulated by Sauron in a grand plan to take over the Southlands and make Mordor, and he just thinks he’s rebelling with his orcs and making them a homeland
- Adar is not Sauron, and is a completely free agent, which would require Sauron to swoop in later and seize control of the Southlands/Mordor from him
- Adar actually is Sauron and doing an excellent job for the moment at hiding it
Dara and I both are kind of hoping he’s not actually Sauron, just because the idea of an elf survivor of the creation of orcs is itself a very compelling character idea. And making him Sauron in disguise diminishes that.
Galadriel? Hon? Uh, you might wanna dodge that incoming ash cloud…?
Which leads right into that open question mark of exactly what Galadriel was doing just frigging standing there, while a cloud of ash was pouring towards the village and everybody was running for cover.
Míriel, quite correctly, was bellowing orders for everyone to take shelter (although you can argue, where is everyone supposed to take shelter when a nearby volcano is erupting?). But Galadriel was just… standing there?
What was going on in her brain at that time? Dara posits “thinking I was right motherfuckers“, and also, shaking with rage.
it seems pretty obvious that something in her just locked up. A fear reaction seems unlikely; this is a woman who, after all, has relentlessly pursued her foe even after her own company mutinied on her. So what’s going on here? Despair? Resignation? “Shit, how can I fight a frigging volcano?”
Also: are we about to see her exhibit a burst of power here? Maybe wild and uncontained?
I could easily see her temporarily holding off the ash and fire by flinging up a massive wild shield, giving the human forces (and Arondir) a chance to evacuate. And then she keels over, because magic isn’t a thing this Galadriel has done before from what we’ve seen.
But this would be an excellent time for it to show up.
We’ll see what happens in tomorrow’s episode!