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Númenor and the Orc Tunnels Fixes One of 'The Rings of Power' Biggest Issues

By James Field | TV | September 16, 2022 |

By James Field | TV | September 16, 2022 |


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SPOILERS!

After a slow start with its first two episodes and a Middle-Earth that often felt barren, The Rings of Power brought a horde of new characters, extras, and a contentious monster design to its third episode. The episode was a step forward in terms of making Arda feel like a world rather than a series of set pieces, and focused primarily on Arondir, Galadriel, and the Brandyfoots as they all struggled with circumstances outside their comfort zone.

Arondir in particular is having a rough time, since he was captured by subterranean Orcs currently tunneling their way across the continent. Working both underground and in trenches disguised by tarps, Elven slaves are both enabling the Orcish invasion and searching for something, though the Elves don’t know what. I assume they’re hunting for the broken sword Bronwyn’s son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) found before the Men abandoned their village. Arondir is shocked to learn the depth of the Elves’ failure in wiping out Sauron’s forces, and together with Médhor (Augustus Prue) and Revion plan a rebellion that will hopefully allow some Elves to escape and warn Middle-Earth of the threat. That’s if they can escape the Orcs and their mysterious leader, Adar.

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Meanwhile, Galadriel (Morffyd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) are rescued from the endless sea by Captain Elendil (Lloyd Owen) and brought to Númenor, an island kingdom of Men who fought with the Elves and Valar against Morgoth’s forces. Unlike the Men who served Morgoth and Sauron in the first war, the Númenoreans’ lifespans could last centuries. But what was originally a strong relationship between Elves and the island has soured, though Galadriel doesn’t know why, and the shipwreck survivors receive a chilly welcome from Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and her council. Galadriel and the Queen take turns being snippy until Halbrand smooths things over. It’s clear Númenoreans have no love for the Elves, and Elendil is ordered to keep a close eye on Galadriel, with the implication that he might have to chop her head off if she steps out of line. Elendil has two children, a daughter named Eärien (Ema Horvath) and a son, Isildur (Maxim Baldry), who looks so much like Scott Stapp I expect him to break into “With Arms Wide Open” the next time he’s on a ship’s prow.

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Things aren’t going great for the Brandyfoot family or Nori’s friend Poppy Proudfellow either. It’s time for the — Party? Tribe? Caravan? — to move on. But since Poppa Largo injured his leg, this is more of a challenge. It appears the Harfoots practice a little “survival of the fittest” when it comes to their travels; if you fall behind, you’re left behind. And the survival rate for Hobbit-sized loners can’t be very high. They have a ceremony for those left behind, which is touching when those people have passed away, less so when they were abandoned as the group threatens to do to the Brandyfoots when the Stranger is discovered. The Brandyfoots must travel at the back of the group, and if they fall behind they will not receive aid. Side note; Malva’s very unpleasant and I hope she’s eaten by a forest troll.

One of the biggest issues with the first two episodes was that the world, apart from Khazad-dûm, felt sparsely populated at best. Númenor fixed that, and in a much more disturbing way so did the Orc tunnels. They felt claustrophobic, swarming with bodies of both Orcs and slaves. Arondir’s tragic battle for freedom was appropriately thrilling, though I’m not a big fan of the Warg design. It was better on second viewing - the first time through all I could think of was a rabid terrier, with its bat ears, bugged-out eyes and jerky movement. The designer must have a hyper Jack Russell. Plus it reminded me of too many preexisting animated characters.

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Besides, look at all those teats. Was the Warg a nursing mother?

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I envy the lucky bugger who gets to put “Lead Warg teat animator 2022 — present” on their resume. That’s an eye-catcher for sure. But where’s the Middle-Earth Warg Rescue Society when you need it? Poor Valorie will never see her puppies again, but for just a few coppers a day you can make sure her whelps grow up in a loving environment, with plenty of tasty Harfoots to chase. Still, she was ferocious and fast, and watching her catch Elves like fleeing rats was as nerve-wracking as intended.

The Rings of Power remains a sight to behold, with too much emphasis on slow motion, but with well-lit scenes that make it easy to catch every detail. The score is beautiful but sometimes intrusive. Last week’s episode brought a world teeming with life and larger conflicts, both physical and political. Cities teeming with people, and a secret invasion force laying the groundwork for Sauron’s return. We’ll see if this week’s, with a return to Elrond, Theo, and Bronwyn, can keep up the pace. Sauron — sorry, Adar — might even finally make his appearance!





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Image sources (in order of posting): Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Cartoon Network