Finally, after a week-long wait, we return to Middle-earth for the next episode in Amazon’s The Rings of Power, this one titled “The Great Wave.” With a title like that, I better see Galadriel surfing alongside Elrond and some Dwarves, or somebody needs to get fired. This episode also marks the mid-season point, so it’ll be interesting to see how far our plot advances in this one.
There’s really not much else to say. Last week’s episode introduced us to a young Isildur, wiped out a majority of our Elf heroes (save for Arondir), gave us our first out-of-focus look at Adar, showed us that a majority of the people in this land, including Galadriel, can’t spot the obvious (at least in terms of maps), Harfoot’s suck, Gandalf may or may not exist during this time, and Halbrand is most certainly Sauron, unless he’s not. (Also of note, we’ve reached the point where one skips the opening credits. No offense to Bear McCreary, but I can only listen to the same tune so many times.)
Let’s jump into “The Great Wave.”
What Happens in The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 4
Queen Míriel does that thing where she talks to no one in particular while a bunch of extras try to look interested. Except, this time she holds a child. She speaks in riddles, which is probably why no one reacts to her poetic phrases. Funny enough, when the island of Numenor begins shaking, her response is less poetic: “Sometimes our island just needs a stretch.” There’s a wicked shot of that wave from Deep Impact smashing through the city and eventually crushing our Queen Regent, but then — ah, it was just a nightmare.
Damn, I thought we were about to jump into a really intense episode.
Anyways, we cut to the streets of Númenor where the locals are quite upset at the Queen’s handling of Galadriel — no one is particularly fond of Elves on this show, even though they haven’t done anything at present to warrant such hostility. This negative sentiment of course stems from the previous war, which sharply divided the lands between those who supported Morgoth and those who defied him. The Númenórians sided with the Elves (their original king was Elrond’s half-brother) and were rewarded by the Valar for their efforts; hence, Númenor’s immense wealth. From what I gather via lazy internet sleuthing, despite their allegiance, the Númenórians were not permitted access to Valinor, aka the white light that nearly consumed our beloved Galadriel in the first episode, and is now bitter towards the Elves as a result. (I also learned that the Grey Havens is merely a port from which the Elves sail to Valinor, and not the name of the paradise they sail to. In case you were wondering.)
Now, Rings of Power hasn’t delved into these specifics, unless I missed something in the last episode. This is possible, considering the wanna-be Shakespearian dialogue thus often vexes my person. Also, there are a number of rights issues that may prevent the series from acknowledging events that occur in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, so who the hell knows where any of this is going.
Anyway, back to the episode.
Pharazôn, the Queen’s chancellor, tries to break up the “gaggle of mulling children” who have gathered to complain about Galadriel. Considering there are only about 50 people from the vast island at the rally, I’d say this isn’t really worth anyone’s time, but the plot has to happen. At any rate, Pharazôn swears Númenor will always reside in the hands of men, which prompts the crowd to cheer. Then he orders drinks all around and a number of extras appear with wine, and the crowd cheers even more. It’s the little things in life, people. (Imagine if he had free hotdogs!)
Eärien, Isildur’s sister, is also at the rally. She bumps into Pharazôn’s son Kemen, who is none too pleased with his father’s actions.
Back with the Queen, Galadriel tries to convince her worshipfulness that Halbrand is not just a common loser, but an actual king. She wants to reunite the Númenórians and Elves to fight Sauron, a pitch the Queen calls “the most ambitious I’ve heard in weeks.” What were the other pitches, I wonder? I mean, is there any other suggestion that comes close to matching “I think we need to unite our two lands in order to stop the most powerful wizard on the planet”?
Anyways, the Queen is like, “Nah, Halbrand is gonna rot in jail.” Galadriel then insists on speaking to her father, the King. The two bicker — “There is a tempest in me! And it swept me to this island, and it will not be quelled by you, Regent.” (Actual dialogue.) Galadriel goes to jail.
We then hop back to the Sea Guard with Isildur, who continues to hear voices from a distant land. So much so that he loses his grip on some rigging and gets himself kicked off the crew — on purpose. Unfortunately, his actions lead to two of his mates getting the axe as well. They don’t take the news too well and cast pathetic “Isil” aside.
Elsewhere, Arondir awakens to Jeff Hornacek, aka Adar, murdering one of his Orc brethren. He doesn’t seem to enjoy this particular assignment. I’m currently replaying Shadows of War and have gotten used to slaughtering Orcs by the thousand without sympathy, so I can’t relate to this scene. Apparently, Adar means father, a notion that vexes Arondir. “You have been told many lies,” Adar says. He wants to watch the world burn, but can’t light the fire himself — he’s not a god, you see? He then orders Arondir to deliver a message to the men at the watchtower.
Helm’s Deep Ostirith, Bronwyn is on ration detail. The Southlanders grumble about their situation. Theo, Bronwyn’s son, offers to head off into town to find food. She’s like, “Nah, rabbits are fine.”
Theo defies his mum anyway and heads back to town with his handy Sauron blade in tow. How far away is this location from Ostirith? You’d think the Orcs would easily locate the townsfolk, or maybe they don’t care. No matter, Orcs attack Theo, who uses his blood to “activate” Sauron’s blade. The weapon expands and scares off the evil creatures. Nice.
We hop back to Elrond and Celebrimbor. The latter thinks Durin is hiding something. Elrond heads back to Khazad-dûm to speak with Disa. (How far away is Khazad-dûm from Lindon, because Elrond has now made the trek twice without much incident. Is it next door? Just down the street? Not much time passes in the other plot lines, so I assume the distance requires mere hours to traverse? I dunno. Maybe it’s not important. This isn’t Game of Thrones after all.) Something’s amiss. Disa lies about her husband, claiming he’s off-chiseling quartz. That can’t be, Elrond surmises, because he left his axe. She continues her deception, but Elrond isn’t convinced.
Later, Disa and Durin talk on a bridge. He tells her they’re making good progress in “the old mine.” The camera pans back to reveal Elrond, er, reading Durin’s lips from afar … I think. “The old mine below the Mirrormere,” he whispers. Apparently, he knows Khazad-dûm like the back of his hand and immediately heads to said mine, pounds a seemingly ordinary rock wall, recites a rhyme, and enters the secret locale. Durin quickly spots him and accuses Elrond of spying. The Elf swears he doesn’t give a shit about the shit in the mountain, which is enough to satisfy the Dwarf.
Durin then reveals the big secret: a new ore, Mithril, that could be a new start for his people. Unfortunately, it’s perilous to mine and Durin’s pop wants to keep the Dwarves safe. Elrond is enchanted by the ore, which seems to glow from within. I assume the quest to attain Mithril is what awakens the Balrog, a theory confirmed by a distant roar and earth shake that seems to collapse the unstable mine, putting the other Dwarves at risk. Durin and Elrond head inside to save their pals …
We cut to Eärien who accidentally bumps into Kemen again. Small world. He’s far too kind, which probably means he’s an asshole.
Elsewhere, Galadriel paces in her prison cell. After some back and forth with Halbrand, she deduces that something is up with the King of Númenor, otherwise, why would the Queen Regent lock her in a cell for asking to speak with him? Pharazôn arrives and loudly proclaims to no one in particular that Galadriel will be shipped back to the Elves under armed escort. Our pissed-off Elf steps out of her cell and easily thwarts the guards, then smirks at her own badassness.
She heads to the King’s tower and finds … the King lying in bed, presumably dying. The Queen Regent knew Galadriel would come to find her. We know this because Galadriel literally says, “How did you know I would come here?” The Queen Regent tells Galadriel to get the f**k off her island — she’s not a bad Queen, you see? Just doing what is necessary.
Galadriel is like, “Sorry for breaking your window, but I’d still like your help to prevent the end of the world.”
Míriel explains that her father tried to reunite the people with the Elves, but got sick before the deed could be accomplished. She then took his place with the promise of fulfilling his wishes, but — palantir! Gasp! The Queen Regent has one of the Seven Seeing Stones that once were — the other six are lost. Touch it, Elf, the Queen Regent orders.
“I have touched palantíri before,” Galadriel says with a straight face. “But you have not touched this one,” the Queen Regent says. No comment.
Galadriel does as instructed and gets wiped out by the same wave we saw at the beginning of the episode — Númenor’s future, a downfall that is apparently set in motion by Galadriel’s arrival. The Elf bids the Queen to unite with her, but she’s like, “Nah.” So we cut to the next scene.
Bronwyn delivers food to the Southlanders, which consists of a bunch of men who are either unwilling or too lazy to fight. Rowan, Theo’s pal, arrives without Theo, who is hiding from Orcs in a well. The young man sneaks about the town careful to avoid the bad guys. He presses the right trigger and hides in tall grass, then presses X to hop between large structures. He’s eventually caught anyway, but before the Orc can finish the task, Arondir appears and saves the day. The last-second rescue is immediately followed by a slow-motion action sequence that’s more bizarre than thrilling. (The female vocals blaring over the soundtrack don’t help.) Why are the Orcs trying to kill Arondir? Didn’t Adar give him a message to deliver to his people? Why are the Orcs so hell-bent on killing Theo? Only one of them knew he had Sauron’s blade unless he told the others … I’m not sure.
As it turns out, the vocals blaring over the soundtrack were actually Dosa’s. After her song ends, Elrond asks, “What … the hell was that?” Disa was asking the rocks to release the trapped miners, which seems to work because Durin arrives stating that he found the last one — alive, no less. Unfortunately, the accident forces Durin’s father to shut down operations. Elrond takes the time to have a heart-to-heart with Durin, urging the Dwarf not to be too angry with his pop. (Durin and Disa remain the best part of this show.)
Later, Durin heads to his pop to ask for forgiveness. “It’s all good,” Durin’s pop says. Well, that was easy.
Durin switches gears. “Elrond wants me to go to Lindon with him tomorrow.”
“Go,” King Durin says, “and find out what the Elf boy really wants.” They trust Elrond, you see, but not the Elves. Something’s afoot.
Back at Ostirith, Arondir reveals Adar’s message to Bronwyn: her people may live if they forsake all claim to
Mordor these lands and swear fealty to him … or die. Simple. I like it. I’m not sure it was wise of Adar to release his strongest captive just so he could relay this message, but here we are.
Theo relaxes nearby and is greeted by Waldreg, the local tavern asshole. He knows all about Sauron’s sword … in fact, he has the dark mark on his arm. Waldreg goes into a trance and starts talking about the Dark Lord’s return, foretold by the “starfall” that occurred a few weeks ago. “His time is near, be ready,” he says. “Save your strength. You’ll need it, for what’s coming.”
Back with Adar, an Orc tells him, “We found it. It’s in the tower.” I assume he means the sword, but who knows.
Galadriel hops on another boat to sail away from Númenor. The city residents will be pleased. Except, before the Queen Regent can make the official announcement and offer more free wine, the petals of the White Tree begin to fall.
Wouldn’t ya know it? This sign prompts the Queen to sail to the Southlands with Galadriel to battle Sauron. I mean, it might’ve just been some wind, but these people believe in all sorts of nutty things.
Moments later, Elendil asks for volunteers and Isildur steps up to the plate. Gasp!
Final Thoughts on The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 4
Wow, so that episode took the long way around to move from Point A to Point B. A lot of things happened, but not much happened, you know? It wasn’t bad, just kinda slow. Oops, I just wrote a rhyme. This show is getting to me.
I’m not necessarily complaining. I don’t mind a slow burn so long as the results justify the journey. Clearly, events have been set in motion that cannot be undone. That’s the problem with prophecies — the harder you try to avoid them, the quicker they come true. Still, at least we’re making some headway.
Anyways, there’s a lot to admire about this show, but at some point, I need … something more to happen. We’ve had a few brief action beats, but nothing memorable. Characters journey back and forth between beautifully rendered locals to engage in plots that feel stretched out to fit the runtime.
Indeed, many of the plot beats feel like side quests in a video game. Elrond, for example, needed a thing from Durin. Before he can get the MAIN thing, he has to compete in a rock smashing challenge, then follow Durin to the mines to learn what he’s hiding … all of which leads to another side quest that will presumably play out in Lindon.
Galadriel must evade guards in Númenor, ride to a nearby library with Elendil to acquire information, break from her prison cell, sneak into the King’s tower … all to gain the Queen Regent’s allegiance. We just need a few scenes of her exploring hidden chests and we’d have ourselves the perfect Assassins Creed adaptation.
Still, I do like this show. Episodes 1-3 moved at a nice clip. This was the first one that felt … slowish to me. I guess that’s just the nature of TV where even the thinnest of plots must stretch to their breaking point in order to achieve the maximum episode quota. (By comparison, we were neck deep in the Two Towers at this same point in Peter Jackson’s trilogy. I’m just sayin’.)
At any rate, the board is set and the pieces are moving. Until next week!