The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power introduces a key character and digs deeper into Tolkien’s mythology while delivering plenty of action and visual spectacle to balance out the worldbuilding

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power - Episode 3 Review


Warning: The below contains full spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 3, which is now streaming on Prime Video. If you're not caught up yet, read a spoiler-free review of the two-episode premiere here, and dive deeper into a new major location this episode sets up here.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power continues its leisurely worldbuilding in this week’s episode, but the exposition never drags thanks to spirited performances and the show’s abundant visual spectacle. It’s a shame we don’t get any more Elrond — aside from seeing him in portrait form in the library of Númenor — but we are introduced to his future brother-in-arms Isildur along with the founder of Gondor’s whole family.
Episode 3 picks up almost exactly where the previous installment left off with Galadriel waking up on a boat and wondering if she’s been saved or just thrown into an even worse situation than being shipwrecked. The answer is complicated. She and Halbrand have been rescued by Isildur’s father, Elendil, who takes them to his home in Númenor despite the island nation’s ban on allowing elves on their soil.
Like the drama caused in Episode 2 by Elrond simply forgetting that 20 years is a long time for non-elves, Episode 3 drives home how immortality changes your perspective. This time, it’s Galadriel who is surprised how much Númenor has changed in the centuries since the Valar raised it from the sea to reward the humans who fought against Morgoth. There’s something deeply surreal about her walking into an ancient building and pointing out that she personally knows the guys that made it.
Morfydd Clark continues to shine as Galadriel, filled with ferocity and arrogance that doesn’t serve her well in the hostile court of Queen-regent Tar-Míriel. Halbrand helps cool things down, showing a keen gift for diplomacy along with his skills as a thief and a nasty temper when pushed into a fight. It seems that Galadriel has found an early Aragorn, a human king fleeing the responsibilities of rulership that she needs to push to rise to the occasion.
Halbrand, though, may be more rogue than ranger – like Aragon, he’s running from the failings of his forebears, who in this case served Morgoth. The fatal flaw of Tolkien’s humans is that they’re corruptible and it would be a fitting and tragic fate for Halbrand to be pushed to achieve enough greatness to earn one of the nine rings given to the human lords who would become the Nazgûl.
Speaking of humans with future dark fates involving rings, we meet Isildur as a precocious teen distracted from his disciplined naval training by strange whispers he hears on the wind. As played by Maxim Baldry, he’s instantly likable, his charms enhanced by his goofy buddies and the pressures he faces from Elendil, who seems far too quick to point out his son’s shortcomings while ignoring the good he’s doing by encouraging his sister. But his dad’s got good reason to discourage Isildur’s interest in sailing west. While the show hasn’t specified it yet, the elves banned Númenoreans from sailing too far in that direction to keep them out of the Undying Lands. When Galadriel decided to forgo her journey, she wound up in waters patrolled by Númenor, showing just how close the two realms are.
The scenes involving the Harfoots remain among the best in the series.
That ban is part of what caused Númenor’s big rift between those who want nothing to do with the elves and those who still honor them, dubbed the Faithful. Sauron will eventually capitalize on the human desire for immortality to corrupt the Númenoreans and we’re seeing the build up of that now. The show’s messaging around the elves is a bit muddy. On one hand, it seems to be portraying them as arrogant colonizers pulling humans into their wars and magnanimously rewarding those who side with them while subjecting those who don’t to generations of surveillance. But then the elves are also right in that evil has not been defeated. Those who would rather take their chances on their own are dooming themselves to corruption or death.
Not that the elves are capable of standing against that creeping darkness alone. Arondir is in an awful situation this episode, taken captive by the orcs along with the rest of his squad and forced to help them dig the tunnels they’re using to avoid sunlight. They’re almost assuredly searching for the very ominous artifact that Theo found, though we don’t see any of him or Bronwyn this week, so we’re left wondering what effect the kid’s blood will have on the blade.
Every Major Player in the Premier Episodes of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerGaladriel - Morfydd Clark

A brave elven warrior with a thirst for vengeance burning in her heart, Galadriel is a powerful fighter and determined leader. Though she longs for peace, she's driven by a greater purpose, one that goes back to a terrible loss. Her impressive combat skills make her a force to be feared, but it's her self belief and confidence that make her a true force to be reckoned with. These first two episodes reveal a new side to the enigmatic character fans first met in Fellowship of the Ring. These are the years and the fight that shaped who she would become. 
Finrod - Will Fletcher

With The Rings of Power set in Tolkien's Second Age, fans have long been wondering whether we'd see anything predating that era. And in the first two episodes we did. The premier introduces the First Age and Finrod, one of Galadriel's brothers. It's clear that the pair were deeply connected since childhood, but tragically we see Finrod killed in battle by Orcs. It's this brutal death that sets Galadriel on her mission to destroy Sauron. It's a vital expansion on the lore of Galadriel's family and the loss that ultimately drove her to go against her own people. 
Sadoc Burrows - Sir Lenny Henry 

Harfoots have long been a part of Tolkien canon, appearing in both the Lord of the Rings prologue and appendix, but we've never seen them brought to life on screen. Sadoc Burrows is an elder of the Harfoot community that we're introduced to in the first two episodes. He seems to be able to read prophecies, and he leads the Harfoots on their migration. While he appears short tempered it's clear that the safety of his community comes first. 
Nori Brandyfoot - Markella Kavenaugh 

Another new character created for The Rings of Power is a young Harfoot, Nori Brandyfoot. Her inquisitive nature can cause problems as she dreams of exploring the outside world. Her best friend is Poppy, who she regularly drags into her adventures. Nori's compelling curiosity draws her into the path of the fallen comet and ultimately the Stranger. But her innate kind-hearted Harfoot nature means she can't leave the odd new arrival to survive on his own. It seems likely that their unconventional friendship will play a major role in the show as the series moves forward. 
Poppy Proudfellow - Megan Richards

Nori's closest confidante and a fellow Harfoot, Poppy is a sweet and chilled soul who's happy to live within the safety of the Harfoot community. She's generous and brave, though she's often reluctant to break the rules with Nori. It'll be interesting to see where her story goes now that she's crossed paths with the Stranger. While Poppy is another non-canon addition, she feels very much in the tradition of classical Hobbits as we know them. The big question is will she venture out with Nori and the Stranger or will she stick close to the Harfoots as they migrate? 

Largo Brandyfoot - Dylan Smith

Nori's father is a sweet and kind man who encourages his daughter's unusual curiosity. After his accident it's unclear whether he's going to be able to join the Harfoots on their migration, but it seems highly unlikely that his brave daughter and loving community will leave him behind.
The scenes involving the Harfoots, meanwhile, remain among the best in the series, serving the same role as the Shire did in Lord of the Rings by demonstrating the stakes of the coming war and the people who will be inevitably swept up in it no matter how much they just want to mind their own business. Nori and Poppy are consistently adorable in their antics. Poppy helping Nori steal from Sadoc Burrows brings some solid comedy to an episode otherwise packed with serious drama and exposition.
The ritual of the book of those left behind, which resembles the Jewish Yizkor service, is a beautiful way to show more about the Harfoots as a people and Poppy as an individual while also demonstrating the stakes facing Largo Brandyfoot. It’s nice to see The Stranger finally literally pulling his weight for the Harfoots instead of just being kind of a messy nuisance. While the jury is still out on who this mysterious character will end up being, I’m fairly convinced this is a very addled Gandalf sent to help Middle-earth in the coming crisis and his connection with the Harfoots will later explain his enduring soft spot for the Hobbits. (That said, there are a few reasons it might not be Gandalf, which you can read about here.)
Like in the previous two installments, everything in Episode 3 is visually stunning. Númenor is reminiscent of both the majesty of Gondor and The Wheel of Time’s Tar Valon, while somehow exceeding both in its detail and grandeur. Every costume is finely crafted, from the veils the orcs wear to try to shield themselves from the sun to the Harfoot ritual getups. Using scrolls instead of books in the library of Númenor helps show its age but must have been much more complicated to put together since there’s so much variety between the craftings.
The cinematographers also do a fantastic job of blending majestic sweeping shots of the landscape with dramatic closeups. Galadriel’s ride with Elendil is reminiscent of the long journeys spent on horseback throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy and, visually, it does a great job of selling Galadriel’s joy of being in the saddle with the imagery of her beautiful white horse’s hooves lightly touching the sand.
The Rings of Power continues its sweeping worldbuilding but keeps the exposition from being too burdensome.
Episode 3 also delivers the show’s most spectacular fight to date in the elven escape plan. It’s a brilliant work of creative choreography and escalating stakes as the group artfully stacks their chains in a perfect star to attempt to break free and seizes the advantage of daylight by breaking down the orc canopy in the midst of an incredibly high-stakes game of tug of war. The wild-eyed warg is also appropriately terrifying and having the whole noble effort end in tragedy is a brilliant emotional misdirection.
Thinking forward to next week, it looks like we’re finally going to get a glimpse at Adar. It seems extremely unlikely that he’s actually Sauron — he’s more likely just a powerful lieutenant deployed on the hunt for an item his master covets. Adar means father in elven, so it’s possible he’s responsible for creating this batch of orcs. Next week will surely deliver some answers and hopefully bring us back to the dwarves to reveal what they’re trying to hide from Elrond.
The Lord of the Rings Movies in (Chronological) Order<h3>1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)</h3>
The only potential confusion in the Lord of the Rings-Hobbit timeline comes from the fact that The Hobbit trilogy is set 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, despite being released a decade later.<br><br>
Chronologically, the story kicks off with 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which sees Martin Freeman take on the role of a younger Bilbo Baggins (played by Ian Holm in the LotR trilogy). Gandalf – one of several characters whose stories run through both trilogies — recruits Bilbo to join Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Company to help reclaim the Dwarven kingdom beneath Erebor, aka The Lonely Mountain, that had been sacked by the dragon Smaug. Along the way, Bilbo encounters Gollum for the first time and comes into possession of the One Ring.<h3>2. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)</h3>
Thorin and Company continue their journey toward The Lonely Mountain, fending off giant spiders and orcs along the way. Orlando Bloom’s Legolas (another LotR staple) joins the fray alongside newcomer Tauriel (played by Ant-Man’s Evangeline Lilly). While the company reaches Esgaroth, a lake-town south of Erebor, Bilbo descends into the mountain, where he encounters Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). Smaug ultimately leaves his lair and departs for Esgaroth, setting up the conclusion of The Hobbit trilogy.<h3>3. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)</h3>
The conflict with Smaug is resolved and the film’s titular battle ensues involving the armies of men, dwarves, elves, and two tribes of orcs. We’re being extra vague here as The Battle of the Five Armies is ripe with resolution (and therefore spoilers), but prepare for an action-heavy film that ultimately leaves off where The Lord of the Rings trilogy begins: back at the Shire, 60 years later, as Gandalf visits Bilbo on his 111th birthday.<h3>4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)</h3>
The first Middle-earth film by release date (and the fourth chronologically) is 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The perspective shifts from Bilbo to his much-younger cousin Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). Following some exposition that sets up the current state of affairs in Middle-earth, we return to Bilbo’s 111th birthday celebration in the Shire.<br><br>
Bilbo departs on one last adventure, leaving the One Ring with Frodo; Gandalf warns Frodo he must leave the Shire, as Sauron (the Lord of the Rings) and his evil cronies — specifically the Nazgûl, a host of nine horse-mounted wraiths — will be coming for the ring. Frodo departs the Shire with his best friend, Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin), along with fellow hobbits Merry and Pippen.<br><br>
After some perilous travel and character introductions, including Aragorn (Mortensen), Legolas (Bloom), and Saruman (Christopher Lee), a plan is devised to destroy the Ring in the fires of Mordor's Mount Doom, where the Rings of Power were forged. The plan is to be carried out by a ragtag group dubbed the Fellowship of the Ring: the wizard Gandalf; the hobbits Frodo, Samwise, Merry, and Pippen; the elf Legolas; the dwarf Gimli (John Rhys-Davies); and humans Aragorn and Boromir (Sean Bean).<br><br>
A treacherous journey leads them to Lothlórien, an Elven realm ruled by Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel, who also appears throughout The Hobbit trilogy and is one of the main protagonists of the new Amazon series (this younger version of Galadriel is played by Morfydd Clark). Galadriel advises Frodo, and he decides to continue his journey to Mordor without the others, bringing only his most trusted confidant, Sam.<h3>5. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)</h3>
Frodo and Sam take on a third, reluctant travel companion in Gollum (voiced by Andy Serkis), a hobbit long ago corrupted by the power of the One Ring. The trio makes it to the outskirts of Mordor, though are stalled by an unforeseen intervention. The other members of the Fellowship embark on a rescue mission; Gandalf takes a new form; and the trilogy’s first epic battle occurs in the gorge of Helm’s Deep.<h3>6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)</h3>
As with The Battle of the Five Armies, The Return of the King’s plot is essentially all spoilers, so we’ll again highlight only the broadest story beats. Gollum, exploiting the influence of the Ring, pits Frodo against Sam and leads the former into the lair of a deadly foe. The other members of the Fellowship, meanwhile, partake in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields — a massive, final fight against the dark forces of Sauron.<br><br>
Frodo and Sam ultimately enter Mordor in disguise and, with help from the other members of the Fellowship, see the original plan through. With the journey concluded, we enter the Fourth Age of Middle-earth and are treated to a bittersweet finale.
This story originally appeared on: IGN - Author:Samantha Nelson

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