Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Episode 4
Amazon Prime, 2022
Reviewed by Steven Poore
As this series gets more firmly into its stride, so the episodes are gradually getting longer. I’ll admit I’ve got a wary eye on these running times, given that Stranger Things 4 was given a yard and ran off with a mile. In this instance, however, episode director Wayne Che Yip and writers Stephany Folsom and JD Payne & Patrick McKay certainly manage to pack a lot of movement and character work into seventy-odd minutes without making it all feel too rushed.
This time around the Harfoots are excused entirely in favour of developing Elrond’s relationships with the Dwarves once more. Just as with the switch-around in the last episode, I’ve no doubt that this is intended to make us want more of the mysterious stranger and his pint-sized new companions. But for now, we see Elrond sniffing out Dwarven secrets and smoothing over the troubled waters caused by his absence from Durin’s side. Both Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete make excellent use of their time on screen, fully owning the halls under the mountain. Robert Aramayo’s Elrond so far lacks the great solemnity of Hugo Weaving’s portrayal – understandable given that we are meant to be seeing a less world-weary Elf from a different Age – but he does have a great handle on that inability to fully understand the “shorter-lived” races.
Meanwhile, Arondir, the Elf in the Southlands, is released from captivity to take a message to the villagers hiding in the nearby watchtower. It’s not a plot point that makes a great deal of sense, given how much trouble he and his fellow prisoners caused in the last episode – Arondir isn’t the kind of person you leave to roam wild when there are Orcs around. The leader of those Orcs either has something up his sleeve, or else it’s a narrative necessity to get Arondir out of the frying pan and into the fire. Elven fighting skills get an outing again, with some nifty slow-motion arrow work, and youngster Theo (Tyroe Muhfidin) gets to show that he isn’t just a sulky teenager.
As ever, the landscapes are expansive. The camera roams across mountain-tops and forests to home in on towers and abandoned villages. For the sharp-eared, there are a few references to place names that foreshadow the darkness that will herald in The Third Age – the script doesn’t lose track of where it intends to take us.
Over in Numenor, home of bronze doors, fancy mosaics, and hard politicking, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) shows that Elrond is not the only Elf who has trouble understanding the lesser races. She has done little but rile up Queen Regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and needs Halbrand’s guidance to show her how to get what she wants. There’s an appearance by another piece of Middle Earth magic, one of the fabled Palantir seeing stones, which has foretold Numenor’s fate. Morfydd Clark, just as is Aramayo more slowly, has grown more fully into her portrayal of Galadriel, channelling the terrible strength at her core. Addai-Robinson can’t quite match her for fire, but she does a very good job of showing the character’s conflicted nature. And the effects making up much of Numenor itself are still wonderfully presented, the blossom falling prophetically from the White Tree as stunning as the water rising over the mountains.
It’s still glorious, both visually and narratively, and only getting better.