I hate to tell you this. I really do. You know our Rings of Power recapper, Adrienne Westenfeld, who has been delivering a staggering amount of Tolkien know-how to you, week after week? Sauron got her. Sorry. Four recaps and an interview was enough to raise enough smoke for Sauron to come to Esquire, find Adrienne, and turn her evil. (Editor’s note: She’s on vacation.) Friends, you’re stuck with me this week—someone who watched The Return of the King in a moldy movie theater an interminable amount of time ago, and just binged three episodes Rings of Power this week. Quick sticks! Let’s go.
The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round… Until You Get Stuck in the Mud and Die
While I have the car keys to the Rings of Power recaps, I need to get something off my chest. From the moment I saw the Harfoots stuffing medieval berries into their mouths, the happy little clan has been my favorite part of Rings of Power. So imagine my surprise when I find out about this migration-death-gauntlet-journey-thing, where the Harfoots routinely die horrible deaths and/or are simply left behind. Then, think of my double-surprise when Nori made an oopsie, so Sadoc Burrows sends her entire family in the back of the caravan, to die a terrible death?! This might be as casual a sight as a lone, rusty pile of Stark tech in the MCU, but I think it’s pretty messed up. (Lardfoot Dungwine, esophagus ripped out by a rabid wolf… take a shot!)
Anyway, Episode Five picks up with the Brandyfoots pushing and singing and shuffling through their migration. The episode never returns to this particular journey later in the episode, which is a little odd. Have they already been left behind by Burrows and co., and another adventure is in store?
Tell Us He’s Gandalf, Already!
Turning water into ice? Speaking in a strange language? Scaring off a pack of wolves? Rings of Power, Amazon, Bezos, someone: please don’t make us sit through The Stranger finding out that he has superhero powers, one at a time, week by week, until the closing moments of the season finale. It’s been roaringly clear that something is up with this old man, who is as tall and long-maned as a spry Ian McKellen. And the evil plague thing going on in his forearm is surely a red herring, trying to make us think that the guy is Sauron but kind-of-maybe doesn’t know it yet. Give us the Big Gandalf Reveal in Episode Six, please and thank you.
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Galadriel, Get Your Gun
I’ll admit it: I agree with our House of the Dragon recapper, Josh Rosenberg, who quipped to Adrienne (in their fierce fantasy wars debate) that Rings of Power felt directionless, at times. Eight episodes isn’t exactly a ton of time for a series that Amazon hyped to oblivion. So we can’t really afford long stretches of time (looking at you, Episode Three) where we’re just kind of shooting the shit around large, pretty trees. I get that ruminating on life, love, and Sauron is kind of Tolkien’s whole thing, but I needed the forward momentum of Episode Five much earlier. In this episode, we’re truly seeing the prelude to the big fight. By the time the credits roll, the warring factions in Númenor unite and set sail, the standoff against the Orcs is cooked and ready to go, the Elves are about to get drunk off rocks, and the Harfoots are, seemingly, nearing the end of their journey. I know what the stakes of each and every side plot are now. I’ve bought in. And I’m ready to see some true battling in this season’s final three episodes.
And the Rings of Power Go To…
Durin: Everyone’s favorite bushy-bearded miner continues to be the beating heart of this show. First of all, the dude is one of the characters in Rings of Power that doesn’t take himself seriously. Life isn’t all about Sauron and the extinction of light in the known universe, OK?! Secondly, Durin is flat-out taken advantage of by the Elves—yeah, even Elrond. All it took was a pretty-please-don’t let-me-die from Elrond to make Durin give up the best thing that’s happened to his race in damn near forever. Cheers to you, sir.
Poppy Proudfellow: Poppy, your song! Don’t rip out my soul like that at 7 a.m. on a Friday morning. Not all… who wander… are lost…. 🥺.
Adar: The de facto leader of the Orcs? Awarded a titular ring of power, over Galadriel, in Adrienne’s absence? Chaos reigns. C’mon, you have to give it up to the baddie for making Waldreg, the cowardly traitor, eat crow in the most horrifying way imaginable. Oh, you pledge allegiance to me? Kill this brat teenager!
Theo: Just kidding. My guy, just take a few archery tips from the Elven warrior and don’t be a little shit about it.
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