After what feels like months, we’re back with another episode of Amazon’s The Rings of Power, this one titled “Partings.” Last week’s entry, “The Great Wave,” felt slow to me mostly because we had spent so much time getting to know our characters that I was ready for a payoff of some sort. Instead, we dawdled around Númenor, hung out with Elves, and spent far too much time with Isildur in an episode that exemplified padding at its worst. There’s a point where exposition needs to give way to action, but here we are some 4+ hours into this series and our story feels like it’s advanced about three feet.
Maybe this installment will pick up the pace and get us closer to solving the ultimate mystery box — the one that has us tuning in each week: which one of these characters is Sauron?
Let’s do this.
What Happened in The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 5
The episode opens with Nori teaching the Stranger about the world. Food. Dangers. Death. The last one eludes him. “I’m peril,” he says. “No,” she replies,” you’re good.” Nori’s storyline with the Stranger remains the best aspect of this show and the element that most closely aligns with Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings.” I missed our friendly Harfoots last week.
Nearby, Nori’s family (nestled against one helluva view) prepare their supplies to continue the arduous migration
to the Great Valley. Nori suggests Poppy give them a song to speed up their journey and the plucky Harfoot obliges. The scene dissolves into a montage replete with an Indiana Jones map trekking their route. We see them pass the Undercliffs and the Grey Marshes, Trout Bend, Thistledell, and The Braids. At one point, Nori catches the Stranger atop a rock peering up at the Moon.
A smash cut takes us back to the Stranger’s first appearance on the show, nestled inside that eye-shaped fiery crater.
Speaking of which, the site lures three new characters, including one that looks exactly like Eminem. I can’t be the only one who thought that. He looks positively pissed.
Elsewhere, Adar stares into the morning sun. An Orc appears dressed like Chuck in his solar blanket in Better Call Saul to alert his Lord Father that “the tunnel” is finished. Adar states that he will miss the sun when it is gone and wishes his Orc pals could have felt its warmth as he did. Then, back to business: “Summon the legions. It is time,” he declares as a very serious expression splashes across his face.
An aspect of this show that has me slightly perplexed is the amount of time that passes during each storyline. We just saw Nori’s clan traverse a lot of territories, but when we cut back to Adar and Bronwyn, it appears to be mere minutes after we last saw them. So, either Nori’s story takes place much earlier (and is slowly catching up with the present), or our heroes at Watchtower Ostirith have done nothing for days/weeks/months. But that can’t be because Bronwyn quickly relays the information Arondir delivered in the last episode: that the enemy is going to attack unless the men of the Southlands swear fealty to Adar. I’m so confused.
(On top of that, Elrond has made the long trek to Khazad-dûm multiple times now; a journey that must take a few days at least, right?)
Anyways, Bronwyn gives a rousing speech and asks which of the men will stand and fight. A few hands rise to the sky, but resident d-bag Waldreg shuffles out of the crowd and offers a different solution: “Bend the knee! Like our ancestors did. They lived!” Everyone’s like, “Ah, right!” and heads off with their new leader. Waldreg beckons Theo to follow … the young boy glances up at his mom … what to do?
We cut back to Númenor where, ugh, Galadriel and Co. haven’t even left! Elendil coordinates the loading of supplies. Isildur approaches. Remember, the young eventual slayer of Sauron volunteered to join the army, much to the dismay of his father. The two have at it. “Put me at the front,” Isildur beckons. “What are your qualifications,” Elendil snaps, clearly disappointed that his son does not share his sea is always right ideology. “I’m ready to serve,” Isildur states.
“Nothing would make me prouder,” Elendil replies. “But you had your chance.” Ouch.
Elsewhere in Númenor, Elendil’s daughter, Eärien, pleads with Pharazôn’s son, Kemen, to change his father’s mind. The kids on this show, bro. He’s like, “I’ll see what I can do,” and we cut to …
Halbrand forges the hell out of some weapons. I guess he got the job after all? He’s summoned by the Queen who asks for advice on how to attack the Southlands. He rattles off some locations while Galadriel looks on like a proud mother. Then, the bombshell: “You’re gonna be awesome when we make landfall,” the Queen states.
“Wut,” Halbrand asks. Evidently, he planned to enjoy the life of a blacksmith at Númenor for time and all eternity.
“Nah, you’re coming with us,” Galadriel more or less orders.
So, if Halbrand is Sauron, he’s doing his best to stay as far away from
Mordor the Southlands as possible, which doesn’t make sense. I posit another theory: he will eventually become the Witch-King of Angmar. Why? I have no data or evidence aside from the mere fact that all of the men on this show are basically evil, or will eventually turn to evil. Halbrand is being set up as an Aragorn-like savior, but that feels like a bait and switch. This is Galadriel’s series, after all.
Anyways, Halbrand removes the necklace of his people from his neck and tosses it on the table. “Find someone else to wear the crown,” he snaps. Maybe that blacksmith job pays really well?
Back with the Harfoots, Nori and Co. venture through some scary-looking trees. “What madness made them go this way,” Poppy asks. Remember when Gimli said that in Two Towers? Remember when he … said … that … Nori’s mum suggests they keep moving, which, well, yeah …
Nori and Poppy spot footprints in the mud — wolves!
Moments later, Malva (the Harfoot’s resident d-bag) scolds Sadoc for not leaving Nori’s family behind. The world around them looks different; scarier, emptier. She blames the Stranger. “Just cut their wheels and leave them be,” she beckons. Gawd. “It’s either us or them,” she notes before venturing into the forest for food. Luckily, Malva, No, and Poppy are soon attacked by those evil hellhounds from Willow, which sets up the perfect opportunity for the Stranger to prove his great worth. The big guy presses “X” on his controller and performs a SLAM MOVE that scares the wolves away.
Back at Númenor, Elendil decides now is the perfect time to train his men how to fight Orcs. Luckily, Galadriel offers to show his men some moves, leading to one of those scenes where a dude thinks he can easily take on a woman, smirks, and predictably gets his ass kicked. In fact, Galadriel battles Elendil’s entire army single-handedly, and rather than run for the hills over their inability to kill a single being, everyone saunters off with big smiles on their faces — “We are so f—ed! Yay!”
Halbrand takes the opportunity to show off some sword tricks to the delight of the crowd. “I never knew a sword’s aid who could do that,” Galadriel says. “Oh, you saw that,” his face seems to imply.
Nearby, Kemen pleads with Pharazôn to stop the war. “Don’t take orders from the Elf,” he states, immediately regretting his choice of words when he sees his father’s face turn to stone. Pharazôn then states his true plan: rally the men of the Southlands, give them a King, and then unite with them to take on the Elves. Or something of that nature. Absolute power.
The Queen Regent tells her pop that she’s going to Middle-earth to aid the Elves. He warns her not to go to Middle-earth. “All that awaits you there is … darkness,” he states, and the scene cuts to …
The Stranger speaks another language whilst freezing some water around his arm. Nori tries to stop him, but the dude’s in a trance. He shouts some words, tosses Nori aside, and then stares at his arm in awe as the forest seems to close in around him. The young Harfoot flees in terror and we get more of Bear McCreary’s foreboding male choir. This too feels like a bait and switch. There’s no way the Stranger is … evil.
In Lindon, Durin meets with the High King, Elrond, and a bunch of random extras. The Dwarf is pissed that the Elves are using sacred material to construct tables, i.e. the one they’re all currently eating off of. Mildly annoyed, High King offers to send the table back with Durin so that it can receive the proper treatment it deserves. This seems to please Durin … kind of. Later, High King scolds Elrond for lying to him (and is irked about his loyalty to the Dwarves). “Actually, you’re the liar,” Elrond shoots back as a random extra awkwardly clears the remaining dishes from the table. The High King, you see, knew about the Mithril and wanted Elrond to verify its existence.
We also learn that Mithril was created during a battle, during which an Elf and a Balrog poured all of their power into a tree rooted high above the Misty Mountains. Lightening struck the tree before either could fully complete their action and created a powerful ore containing the “light of the lost Silmaril” that seeped deep into the mountains. (The animation that plays over this story is pretty great.)
Elrond states that he cannot reveal Durin’s secrets, to which the High King replies: “What if keeping the Dwarves’ secrets leads to the doom of your people?” Well, that does change things, I imagine. High King leads Elrond to the decaying tree — “The light of the Eldar is fading,” he says. I feel like that light is always fading. “Did the Dwarves find the ore or not,” High King asks. Elrond once again refuses to sever his promise to Durin on the basis of mere hope, prompting this quote:
“Hope is never mere, Elrond … even when it is meager. When all other senses sleep, the eye of hope is first to awaken, last to shut.” Somewhere, a screenwriter leans back in their chair like:
Basically, if the Elves don’t get better, the bad guys will take over Middle-earth. What to do?
Back at Númenor, Isildur pleads with his pals Ontamo and Valandil to take him with them on their ship. He even lets them hit him. Still, “Sorry, Isil,” they say, “the sea is always right.”
Elsewhere, Kemen decides the best course of action is to burn his father’s ships. Before he can perform his task, he bumps into a stowed-away Isildur. “Are you about to burn the boat,” Isildur deadpans. As the ship explodes, Isildur opts to save Kemen; an action witnessed by Elendil. Everything worked out for everyone, you see?
Following the event, Pharazôn suggests delaying the voyage. The Queen Regent decides to convene at first light to figure things out. Galadriel, predictably, is pissed.
Back with Elrond, our boy meets with Celebrimbor who reveals that he knew about the High King’s plan to attain Mithril from the Dwarves all along. “Sorry,” he says, “but this thing is awesome! Nothing stops its light from shining. Believe me, I tried.”
Elrond must make a choice. Save his people, or betray a friend?
Celebrimbor uses a story about Elrond’s father to guilt him into performing the deed.
In Númenor, Halbrand angrily sweeps his floor. Galadriel appears and tries to sway his vote. “You don’t know what I did before I ended up on that raft,” he says. “You don’t know how I survived.” His words are overplayed with the Southlanders marching to the Orc encampment at night. Led by Waldreg, the group bends the knee. “And when these people discover it, they will cast me out,” Halbrand continues.
“Sometimes to find the light, we must first touch the darkness,” Galadriel responds. I can’t tell if our Elf warrior truly believes in Halbrand, or is too caught up in her own quest for vengeance to listen to reason.
Halbrand then forces her to reveal why she is fighting. For her brother. For vengeance. (Did Jonathan Demme shoot these scenes?)
“Why do you keep fighting,” he asks.
“Because I cannot stop,” she says solemnly. “The company I led mutinied against me. My closest friend conspired to exile me. And each of them acted as they did … because I believe they can no longer distinguish me … from the evil I was fighting.”
“Ah,” Halbrand says.
She notes that nothing in Númenor will bring them happiness. They must fight to find peace.
Back with Waldreg, he pledges his undying service to Adar — Sauron. “You are Sauron, are you not,” Waldreg asks. Adar gets pissed, tosses Waldreg to the ground and then tells the man to kill Theo’s friend to prove his loyalty.
Speaking of which, Theo decided to stay at the Watchtower. You would think Waldreg might have tried to take Sauron’s sword from the young lad, especially when he refused to join the party. But, nah. Anyways, Theo is still jaded at the Elves who have “counted every whisper and sharp knife” of my people. “We’re about to die, why die with us,” he asks the Elf. Arondir replies, “Because I’ve gotten to know the people behind the whispers and the knives.”
“Half of us just left,” Theo says.
“But half stayed,” Arondir notes.
Theo decides now is the best time to show Arondir Sauron’s sword. “I’ve seen this before,” the Elf says. He goes to a nearby structure, pulls away some brush and we see an image carved in the rocks of Sauron stabbing a man with the sword. Convenient.
“It is a key,” Arondir later tells Bronwyn. “I’m not sure what it does, but your son has the power to activate it.”
Bronwyn tries to change the subject to something more positive. “How long before the Orcs arrive to kill us?”
“Days,” Arondir replies. “Maybe hours.” Uh … that’s not very helpful.
She suggests bowing to the enemy. “There must be another way,” he says.
“Nah, we’re destined for darkness. When they march upon us, this tower will fall!”
A light flips on. Arondir and Bronwyn exchange a look. The tower will fall. Noice. Orcs march through the night en route to the Watchtower. I guess the battle is … next week?
Back in Lindon, Elrond deduces that Durin was making the whole “mystical table” thing up. “Disa’s wanted a new table for a while now,” he laughs as a bunch of extras load the extremely heavy piece of furniture. He glances at Elrond. “What’s up?”
Elrond speaks in riddles, which frustrates Durin.
“Give me the meat and give it to me raw,” he says.
“I came to Khazad-dûm for Mithril,” Elrond blurts out. “Without it, my kind must abandon these shore by spring, or perish. Our immortal souls with diminish into nothing.”
Durin takes the news in stride. “So the fate of the entire Elvin race is in my hands,” he says, falling on a rock. He’s actually quite enamored by this and decides to help, but they have to convince his father.
High King watches nearby.
In Númenor, Halbrand eyes his necklace and is summoned by the Queen Regent. At first, he discards the thing but then returns and snatches it off the table. We cut to Halbrand, looking very kingly in some armor atop a horse. Music swells for the return of the King. He marches in a parade and even Isildur joins in the fun, much to the dismay of his sister.
Later, the armies board the boats. Elendil takes the opportunity to once again humiliate his son. “Go pick up horse shit,” he orders. Isil’s pals laugh and let bygones be bygones.
Galadriel gets a boss moment as she strides onto the ship in slow motion, likewise adorned in armor. She embraces Halbrand and the pair set sail for Middle-earth.
Final Thoughts on The Rings of Power Episode 5
There was a lot of nicely built-up drama in this episode, some good character beats, and (as always) a number of well-crafted visuals. The dialogue remains as clunky as ever and the story continues to move at a sluggish pace, but all of this will be forgiven if the payoff hits a bullseye. Judging by the previews for next week’s episode, the showrunners aren’t quite ready to unleash the great battle of Amazon Prime, but hopefully, we’ll have a clearer picture of where this season (and this show) is headed.
Will Galadriel’s quest for revenge bring about more sorrow? Will Halbrand turn to evil? Will Arondir do anything? Will Bronwyn wear a different outfit? Will the Stranger finally reveal his true purpose? Will the real Sauron please stand up? So many questions, so few answers. But that’s part of the fun, I suppose.
Until next week, folks!