Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode Six
Amazon Prime (2022)
Reviewed by Steven Poore
It’ll be difficult to talk about this episode without also getting into some spoilers, but this is where the first season of The Rings of Power finally lights up the road ahead and shows us where it intends to go. We spend the entire episode weaving together the threads of Numenor and the Southlands – with varying degrees of success. It begins with a speech by Adar (Joseph Mawle) that suggests the Uruk are a displaced people as deserving of a home as Bronwyn’s Southlanders and then moves to the watchtower of Ostirith. Rather than straightforwardly echo the siege of Helm’s Deep, here there is a cunning bait and switch, with the tower left as a trap for Adar’s forces.
But Arondir leading the Southlanders’ defence, knows this can only be a stalling action and that the real test will come in a final, desperate face-to-face battle back at the village. When this finally happens, it transpires Adar has a bait and switch trick of his own, one that turns the tide against the villagers and leaves them at the mercy of the Uruk.
Meanwhile, the ships of Numenor are bound for Middle-Earth, and Galadriel aims to bring Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) back to his kingdom. Isildur (Maxim Baldry) has managed to squeak onto the expedition, albeit initially as a stable hand. While Galadriel still burns for vengeance, Isildur is the young, fresh-faced hero looking for glory. As they sweep to the rescue of the Southlands, there is both vengeance and glory to be had – but a triumph that very quickly turns literally to ashes…
The photography in this episode is excellent. The battle scenes may rely a touch heavily on slow-mo, but this is bloody, chaotic stuff that doesn’t rely on Elves surfing the trunks of elephants to create stunning effects. The combatants use land, elevation, darkness and deception and the last stand in the tavern is a tense, gory scene. Ismael Cruz Cordova’s quiet, stoic Arondir feels like a doomed gunfighter in a Leone-esque Western, his light dimmed by the flare of Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel as reinforcements pour into the Southlands just as the riders of Rohan did at Helm’s Deep.
The pace of the narrative still feels deliberately slow, even though packing in so much bloodshed into one episode. It means we see nothing of the Harfoots, Durin, or Elrond, and there’s very little by way of light relief here. All is brooding and fighting, albeit beautifully so. My main issue, though, is with the task force of Numenor and the ease it charges into the Southlands, arriving bang on time as if Galadriel and Elendil have taken an Uber from the coast. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but in a series so deliberately paced, such a serendipitous arrival really does feel like a cop-out. At least it is balanced by the revelation of what the Orcs’ “tunnels” were intended to do, a feat of engineering that harks back in some ways to the trenches that Tolkien would have seen in the First World War, repurposed for a cataclysmic outcome.
An episode that flexes its muscles then but also falls prey to one of the most common fantasy tropes – “fast travel” – even as it sets the stage for Sauron’s return.