Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 8
Amazon Prime, 2022
Reviewed by Steven Poore
Warning: Herein Be Spoilers.
With all eight episodes available for rewatching, what becomes clear is that the plan for this first season of The Rings Of Power was to wrongfoot the audience at the same time as satisfying all expectations of canonicity. Not ambitious at all, then, eh? If only the Wrongfoots were an actual tribe of Hobbits…
The creation of Mordor from the ashes of the Southlands could have been an epic season finale in its own right, but the production team shifted the goalposts and chose to focus on more personal battles, leaving the ashes to taste bitter in Galadriel’s mouth instead. The Elves have won a victory of sorts – but one that leaves both sides that much stronger. The Dwarfs have turned their backs on their old alliances, and Durin’s relationship with his father is also strained and bitter. The folk of the Southlands are scattered and homeless, those who did not ally themselves with Adar. The Queen of Numenor, Miriel, is blind and cannot see the black flags that hang in her city’s harbour to mourn the passing of their king, and Elendil has lost his son in the chaos of the Southlands. Even Halbrand is bitter over the choices that he has made or have been made in his name by Galadriel. Of them all, only the Harfoots are not wrongfooted, even though they, too, suffer losses of their own.
The episode comes across as a litany of poor choices and their consequences, many of them cascading down from previous episodes, especially in Galadriel’s case. Though writers Gennifer Hutchison, JD Payne and Patrick McKay open the episode with a particularly bold declaration to catch us all out, even this turns out to be a bad case of misidentification by the mysterious trio of priests tracking Daniel Weyman’s Stranger (Bridie Sisson, Kali Kopae, and the unrelated – as far as I can tell! – Edith Poor, all excelling in being quietly disturbing). It’s plain, however, that Weyman’s character could have tipped to either side of the line between good and evil and that it’s the Harfoots who have made the difference for him.
All is a sideshow next to the relationship between Halbrand and Galadriel, though. Callbacks aplenty in the dialogue link Morfydd Clark to Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Galadriel, giving her “Dark Queen” speech even more resonance. Elvish naivety begins to give way to harsh, silent grief. If their last metaphysical struggle in this episode does feel a little overblown, and Halbrand’s flight without finishing the matter is another poor choice, then the dispensing of the masks is still just as satisfying.
All of this is surrounded by some beautiful visual effects – dark spirits becoming moths, molten silver, gold, and mithril in Celebrimbor’s forge forming a fiery eye, and horses racing towards an Elven city in clear echoes of similar scenes from the original Rings trilogy. Even Halbrand’s drifting raft takes on the appearance of a terrifying crown. Plus, if you’ve made it this far, sit back and relax with Fiona Apple’s rendition of the closing song – another Rings tradition carried over to this series.
Some may still complain about the pacing, and to be fair, the Elven scenes can be somewhat stiff, so it’s to the credit of the cast that they have made this season such a joy to watch. Money well spent – and may their road go on!