Lord of the Rings: The Rings Of Power Episode Seven
Amazon Prime, 2022
Reviewed by Steven Poore
After last week’s focused and brutal battle for the Southlands, many viewers might have expected this show to maintain that pace through into the season’s final furlongs. But while last week saw blood flying in all directions, this episode is almost entirely without bloodshed. That’s not to say that it’s without darkness, however: thematically, clouds are appearing over all of the storylines, not just over what used to be the Southlands. Where the last time out was all about physical combat, this episode takes in the aftermath of defeat and adds in all kinds of interpersonal and familial discord. It’s definitely much lower-key than Episode Six, yet the stakes for the individual threads remain dramatically high.
As others have noted, The Rings Of Power does take a long time to get where it wants to go, whichever episode you happen to be watching. Here the camera lingers on individual moments as we watch the characters think, consider, and despair. Or it sweeps slowly over the remains of a village, or the wounded lying in a tent, or repeats a motif of ancient Corinthian-like helmets by Durin’s stairs. But in an episode where nothing is otherwise concluded, everything has been done to show the levers being placed behind the boulder that should be the season finale.
You can only empathise with Durin (Owain Arthur), a Dwarf Lord who yearns to grow into his prime yet cannot escape the shadow of his father’s rule. Yet Durin III’s characterisation is as sympathetic and heartfelt – the overprotective father who still thinks of his (married, a father himself) son as a boy. There’s plenty harking back (or forward) to Tolkien’s other great father/son relationships here. There’s the increasing strain between Elrond and Durin, too, the sense that something must eventually snap despite their love for each other.
The shadows have even cast a pall over the Harfoots, the Second Age’s precursors to the Hobbits. While there are snatches of singing and fun, the Harfoots are becoming aware of a change in the world – and that the Stranger they have brought with them is enmeshed in that change. It sobers them and makes them begin to question their blissful lack of involvement in the world outside their small community. And once the world acts upon them – even though they’ve sent the Stranger away – they have no choice but to react. This strand is about the loss of innocence as much as any of the narrative threads in this first season are. The fact that it’s taking so long to show all of this isn’t actually a bad thing – it’s more that we know the bad stuff is going to happen, and we’re impatient for the show to get there. What the showrunners are saying, however, seems to be: hold up, take your time, breathe it all in.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few bum notes along the way. This time around, there’s a mother-in-law joke for a facepalm moment, and Numenor’s fallback camp outside the Southlands looks like a flimsy flat-pack construction, curiously cheap given the show’s budget. Halbrand is underused and lacking in any presence. Overall, the character work is more than enough to pull the episode through, but these niggles are a shadow upon the Shadow. I’m hoping that the season finale leaves them behind.