With every new episode, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has put increasingly more emphasis on the morally ambiguous decisions our heroes are compelled to make. Episode 6, “Udûn,” introduced the explosive fallout from many of these decisions, with the primary main conflict between good and evil culminating in large-scale loss of life and destruction. Sensibly, director Charlotte Brändström and author Jason Cahill don’t attempt to prime the pyrotechnics of “Udûn” in episode 7, “The Eye,” as a substitute devoting their hour of run time to unpacking the aftermath of all the things that’s occurred. The result’s an action-lite installment that forces Middle-earth’s would-be saviors to weigh up their private degree of accountability — not only for what has already occurred, however for what is going to occur subsequent, too.
Even these characters who performed no direct position in the occasions of “Udûn” can’t escape Brändström and Cahill’s meditation on obligation and final result in “The Eye.” Take Durin IV (Owain Arthur), who suffers more and more extreme penalties after refusing to roll again his earlier resolution to face by his brother from an elven mom Elrond (Robert Aramayo). Durin’s reasoning right here is morally unassailable — condemning your buddy and his total race to sure loss of life is a decidedly shitty factor to do, in spite of everything — but the episode ends with him bumped from the road of succession, mulling over whether or not to oust his outdated man.
It’s an efficient bit of plotting by Brändström and Cahill, even for those who received’t discover something remotely prefer it in The Lord of the Rings or its appendices. J.R.R. Tolkien paints a moderately extra flattering portrait of Durin III (Peter Mullan) in his novels, and what little we find out about Durin IV doesn’t embody any insurrectionist leanings. But Tolkien additionally doesn’t explicitly rule out a Battle of the Durins, and the idea finally works as a result of it’s grounded in key themes from the books, like friendship and cross-species cooperation. It additionally provides Mullan an opportunity to indicate off his character-acting chops, by moments resembling Durin III sharing a reminiscence of his sickly son as a sickly child that go an extended option to creating what risked being a thinly sketched half.
Losing his proper to the throne wasn’t the worst knock-on impact of Durin IV’s unsanctioned mithril mining efforts, although. The Rings of Power episode 7 reveals that the dwarven prince’s digging simply wakened Durin’s Bane, in any other case generally known as the balrog from The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s a suitably ominous bit of foreshadowing that additionally doesn’t fairly observe with Tolkien’s established canon (Durin’s grandson ended the balrog’s nap in the books) however nonetheless feels justified in an episode so strongly centered on the unexpected blowback of powerful choices. That Durin IV’s generosity is what unleashes the balrog on his individuals, and never the greed beforehand ascribed to his individuals in different media, solely provides to the pathos of the entire affair.
Durin IV’s not alone relating to paying a excessive value for doing the precise factor, both; a number of of our main gamers are equally rewarded for his or her good deeds in The Rings of Power episode 7. Over in the Númenórean camp, Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and Elendil (Lloyd Owen) are each grappling with super loss after coming to the Southlanders’ assist in “Udûn.” The former has misplaced her sight and several other of her topics (#OntamoRIP), whereas the latter has seemingly misplaced his son, Isildur (Maxim Baldry). Meanwhile, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) each blame themselves for the Southlands’ devastation and spend most of their red-stained, ash-coated scenes collectively working by their respective guilt.
Again, this doesn’t precisely jibe with Tolkien’s writings; nevertheless, it goes an extended option to fleshing out these characters, significantly Míriel and Elendil — including company to her arc and inside battle to his. Admittedly, Míriel’s blindness is an actual curveball from a Tolkien reader’s perspective, however as a method of conserving her personally invested in the battle to avoid wasting Middle-earth, it serves its goal properly sufficient. Purists can even little doubt battle with the thought of the poster little one for Númenórean advantage that’s Elendil consumed with bitterness. However, it suits inside the emotional context of The Rings of Power’s narrative. Better nonetheless, it leaves him in a extra fascinating place for season 2 than if he had remained the unwavering paragon of advantage Tolkien described.
What’s extra, you possibly can sense the affect of The Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay at play in storytelling decisions like these, which lay the groundwork for future seasons. In specific, the choice to have the Númenórean fleet go away with out Isildur (who everyone knows remains to be alive) is a brilliant one, as it would permit Payne and McKay to additional construct on his characterization as soon as he resurfaces with out consistently chopping again to Númenor. Getting to know Isildur higher can solely be a good factor for the Prime Video collection’ remaining 4 seasons, too, since his is a narrative as a lot about tragedy as it’s failure. Right now the long run king of Gondor is finest recognized for arising brief when Middle-earth was relying on him; the Rings of Power may assist us perceive why.
And talking of arising brief, the harfoots are again on the scene in “The Eye” — and if you wish to discuss accountability and penalties, look no additional than this narrative strand. The harfoots are on an actual reversal-of-fortune curler coaster this episode. One second, they’re in hazard from the Stranger’s (Daniel Weyman) out-of-control magical powers, the following they’re reaping the advantages of his supercharged horticulture, and on it goes. The general impact of that is that it ties the harfoot plot thread to The Rings of Power’s overarching story in a means that’s occurred solely very hardly ever previous to episode 7, which is a welcome change.
Not a lot of what occurs to Nori (Markella Kavenagh) and her nomadic group immediately impacts the broader forged of characters, it’s true. But seeing the harfoots come to phrases with their accountability for the Stranger’s well-being — and wind up severely punished for this good deed — is so thematically in tune with the remainder of “The Eye,” it makes the narrative gulf between this and different plot threads far much less pronounced. It’s not fairly sufficient to compensate for the harfoots’ total season spent on the broader plot’s fringes, however it actually doesn’t harm. Neither does the continued presence of Sauron’s creepy acolytes, whose curiosity in the Stranger appears destined to forge a extra concrete connection between the harfoots’ exploits and the remainder of Middle-earth additional down the road.
This final bit is one more instance of what “The Eye” does properly, other than its thematic unity: setting out a transparent roadmap for the place the story is headed subsequent. Sure, this episode’s deliberate pacing falters at occasions and, as at all times, the way in which Lord of the Rings lore is rewritten is sure to boost eyebrows, however what actually issues is that The Rings of Power has left the narrative aimlessness of early episodes properly and actually behind it.
With one episode left in the primary season — and 4 extra seasons supposedly on the way in which — the board is fairly clear. Durin IV is completed following his dad’s orders. Nori and the harfoots are operating to the Stranger’s rescue. Galadriel and Theo (in addition to Charlie Vickers’ Halbrand) are extra dedicated than ever to Southlands’ trigger, although that half of Middle-earth is formally Mordor now. And Adar (Joseph Mawle) desires to transform Mordor into an orc-safe haven free from persecution by anybody, least of all Sauron (an optimistic plan given even probably the most informal Tolkien scholar is aware of the place the darkish lord finally units up store).
Is any of this in the books? Not actually, no. But as with so many of the deviations from Tolkien’s legendarium in “The Eye,” that is largely a constructive reflection on The Rings of Power’s ongoing evolution from an uncertain adaptation to a assured story in its personal proper. As the season 1 finale approaches, it’s genuinely reassuring to know that Payne, McKay, and co. are centered extra on their obligation to inform a compelling story than on slavishly following Lord of the Rings lore to the letter — and rattling the results.