I know, the finale aired last night! But I didn’t get around to doing a post about the previous episode, so here’s that. I’ll cover the finale in the post after this one.
Right out of the gate in this episode, I saw that my hopes about Galadriel actually doing some magic when the volcano blew were going to be dashed. Oh well!
So since she clearly wasn’t in a state of magical trance, I return to some of my other thoughts here about whether she was thrown into a moment of despair here, a sort of “oh shit how can I keep fighting against a volcano” shock reaction? I have no idea, though, because the episode never actually told us. There was just the weird visual of her standing there while the ash blasted towards her.
I suppose she didn’t have time to actually react? But that’s hard to say just because it seems like she had several seconds before the ash reached her.
Meh. After that little bit of bumpiness, though, I did rather like her interactions with Theo for the rest of the episode, as she escorted him to the Númenor camp. Specifically because she started showing signs that yes, the conversation with Adar had rattled her badly, and that she realized she’d gone to a very dark place there.
I also specifically liked that Galadriel gave Theo her sword. It works symbolically on a couple of levels–one, because it balances the earlier creepiness of Theo with the Evil Sword Hilt of Doom, and two, because it gets across the idea of Galadriel going in a direction of laying aside her obsessions. She’s been the warrior all this time and it’s nearly destroyed her, and now it seems like she’s willing to move past that.
Also, we finally got a mention of Celeborn! Who, apparently, Galadriel thinks is dead? Or lost?
And to whom she is apparently already married? Which raises a real big question here: why the hell haven’t we heard about this before now? Why is it that carrying on her brother’s mission to destroy Sauron has been the only motivator we’ve seen for Galadriel up until now? No mention of “oh yes, and I’d like to find out what the hell happened to my husband“, because, y’know, that seems like it might be relevant to her interests?
Shit, if she thought he was dead, I should think that would also be of interest when Gil-Galad tried to send her off to Valinor. Because if he were truly dead, he’d be there in the Halls of Mandos, and she would see him! And refusing to go to Valinor would have meant, by extension, that she’d very possibly be giving up an opportunity to see Celeborn again. Not mentioning that seems like a lost opportunity to give her refusal to go to Valinor even more weight.
Corollary question to this: does Celebrian exist yet in this version of the story? Because Galadriel and Celeborn do canonically have a daughter, and Elrond marries her. I should think that all signs point right now to Celebrian not being born yet, but who knows? Up until this point I thought Celeborn wasn’t in the picture either, and then Galadriel threw off that one-liner about “my husband was lost”.
Clearly, they’re laying the groundwork for Celeborn to eventually show up in a later season. So we’ll have to see under which circumstances that happens. Is he imprisoned somewhere by Sauron? Is Galadriel going to have to rescue him?
The Harfoots, the Mystics, and the Stranger
And now, finally, we got more of those mysterious figures searching for the Harfoots’ Stranger. Who definitely turned out to be actively malevolent, since they were beings who clearly didn’t scruple to set an entire orchard on fire just because one Harfoot got brave at them.
I really did like the visuals here of that one person picking up fire in her unprotected hands, and blowing it straight out into the trees. That was cool and creepy.
From what I’m seeing on Tor.com’s recap posts, these characters are collectively called the Mystics, and the individual ones are called the Dweller, the Ascetic, and the Nomad. The Dweller is the one who blew the fire, and played by Bridie Sisson, who I’m seeing described as an “actress”, specifically, and at least one site uses female pronouns. The other two characters are likewise played by actresses referenced with female pronouns. So for now I’m assuming that all three of these characters are intended to be female.
That said: the Dweller totally looks gender-ambiguous to me, in a Tilda-Swinton-y kind of way, which I find cool as well.
Between this, and the Stranger healing the orchard the Harfoots had hoped to harvest for their travels, this solidly turns the Harfoots back around to Team Let’s Help the Tall Guy. Good.
Míriel, Elendil, and Isildur
A little surprised that they blinded Míriel in this episode. But I suppose it’s a means by which they could put her into a more vulnerable position, as she returns to Númenor?
They couldn’t kill her off as part of this volcanic eruption–she is too important later as the fate of Númenor unfolds. But blinding her definitely makes her more vulnerable. Particularly given what we saw in the finale episode, but more on this in the next post.
Also a little surprised that they chose to separate Isildur off from the rest of the Númenorean forces, and set it up so that everybody thinks he’s dead. Particularly his father. He’s very clearly not dead, we know what happens to him later. Hell, even people familiar with Tolkien only through Jackson’s movies know from those what happened with Isildur, and that he’s eventually the one who chops the Ring off of Sauron’s hand at the Siege of Barad-dûr–the battle we see at the very beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, during Galadriel’s prologue.
So at least for me as a viewer, it’s a little difficult to be entirely invested in the angst of “OHNOEZ ISILDUR IS DEAD”, because I know for a fact that he isn’t.
But that said, I feel like Elendil’s actor’s doing a grand job of getting across his character’s grief at his son’s apparent loss. Even if the viewers all know Isildur isn’t dead, Elendil the character doesn’t, so it’s important to portray that.
And from a storytelling perspective, I’ll be curious to see what they do with this in season 2.
I think the only part of all this that didn’t quite sit well with me is that they let Isildur’s horse go, since the horse kept flipping out. The implication here being that the horse is totally going to go find and save him. I.e., that horse is going to pull a Brego. (Aragon’s horse in the film version of The Two Towers, who saved his ass from the river after the battle with the wargs.)
This is another example of this series having a bad habit of leaning way, way too hard on Jackson’s films to try to drum up viewer sympathy.
Elrond, Durin IV, Disa, and Durin III
Elrond making his pitch to Durin III and trying to enlist the aid of the dwarves was, for me, the most compelling part of this episode. Durin IV and Disa are now solidly on Elrond’s side, and Durin III digging in his heels and being obstinate was played very well too.
As viewers we clearly sympathize with the younger Durin. But I feel like the episode did a grand job of showing where the older Durin is coming from, so even when he eventually denies Elrond’s plea, I couldn’t entirely lose sympathy for him. The power of the scenes between father and son have lent a great deal of nuance to his whole part of the plot, which I really appreciate. It’s in these scenes that the show has been its best so far, and this rests squarely at the feet of how excellent the actors playing the Durins are.
Likewise, Disa was magnificent, a stalwart rock to support her husband, and so passionate about helping Elrond that she was willing to encourage Durin IV to try to overthrow him. That Durin IV balked at that idea was, again, excellent nuance. All of these characters have been so splendid throughout this season that I was fully engaged by the stakes of this conflict.
Which, inevitably, led to father and son exploding at each other and Durin III no longer acknowledging Durin IV’s position as prince.
I absolutely adored the scene where Durin IV tried to give Elrond his secret name, and Elrond gently dissuaded him. Oh you guys. Oh my heart. <3
And yet–with all this brilliance going on, we got another instance of the show once again leading too heavily on Jackson’s movies. Because we got the leaf spiraling down into that deep cavern, and we got the glimpse of the Balrog. Which looked pretty much exactly like it did in Jackson’s films, and which seemed way too heavy-handed here for the plot we’ve seen at this point.
The Balrog is eventually unleashed because the dwarves delve “too greedily and too deep”. Right now, though, the dwarves aren’t being greedy, and they’re barely delving at all.
I saw a commenter on Tor.com calling this “Chekhov’s Balrog”, which, LOL, yeah. If they’re going to show us the Balrog at all, they damn well actually better deploy the Balrog later. Which suggests to me that later seasons are going to show us the dwarves indeed delving too greedily and too deep. Perhaps spurred by when Sauron finally shows up and starts them in on creating their Seven Rings.
BOY HOWDY do I have thoughts about the finale! Stand by for next post!