The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Great Wave
September 16, 2022 6:38 PM - Season 1, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Queen Regent Míriel's faith is tested. Isildur finds himself at a crossroads. Elrond uncovers a secret. Arondir is given an ultimatum. Theo disobeys Bronwyn.

Director: Wayne Yip

Writers: Stephany Folsom, John D. Payne, & Patrick McKay

Recap: Queen Míriel has a dream about of great wave destroying the city of Númenor. Galadriel ask/demands for Númenor's help in the Southlands, where evil is attempting to take over. The queen says no, and that Galadriel will be escorted back to Elf shores. Galadriel escapes and attempts to visit the king, who was loyal to the Elves. Míriel meets here there and grants Galadriel access to a Palantir globe, which shows the Elf commander the future destruction of Númenor. This further convinces Galadriel of the importance of reestablishing the alliance between Elves and Men, but the Queen remains unconvinced, though she softens her stance towards the Elf.

Meanwhile in the Dward kingdom/mountain ofKhazad-dum, Elrond discovers the secret that Prince Durin IV has been hiding: mithril, a new type of metal that is light and incredibly strong. The mining causes a cave collapse, though all the Dwarves manage to survive. The Dwarf king, Durin III, orders the mining for mithril to cease, which enrages Prince Durin, though Elrond eventually calms him, and the Prince goes to make up with his father the king, who warmly receives him. This the show at its best, where the characters are etched clear and bright, along with their strong bonds. It gives the show a huge heart that makes it easy to fall in love with.

Huge shoutout to the character of Disa, Prince Durin's wife, who warmly keeps Elrond company, even as she lies to him to keep the Prince's secrets safe. It's a great bit of acting by Sophia Nomvete, as she leans into how much Disa loves the Prince and what she's willing to do to protect. It's a quietly powerful portrayal of of a woman who is not to be underestimated.

We finally met the leader of the Orcs, Adar, who turns out to be an elf! There's a surprising side to the Orcs shown, as they clearly rever Adar and he them. He comforts an Orc who was injured in last episode's attempted escape, and then tenderly mercy kills him. Orcs who care, who'd thought?

There's not much in the way of answers about Adar, though. He sets Arondir free, sending him back to the Southlands with a message to the humans: their lives will be spared if they join Adar's takeover of their lands..

Back in the southlands, the humans have holed up in the abandoned Elf tower. Bronwyn is attempting to figure how they'll survive, but it's hard going with the sudden rush of everything and cranky barkeep who questions her skills and right to lead. Her son Theo volunteers to go back to their village to help gather more food, but winds up in a game of hide and seek with the Orcs, who discover the magical broken hilt Theo wields and get very excited about getting it. Luckily Arondir shows up in time to help him escape, they run into Bronwyn on their way back to the tower, and daybreak manages to save them all, as Orcs are burned by sunlight.

In Númenor, Isildur purposefully blows his chance at becoming a sea cadet, which winds causing him and his friends to be sacked from the academy. His friends aren't happy with him, but they all volunteer to join Queen Míriel when she changes her mind and decides to personally lead the escort of Galadriel back to the Elves, in order to seek that alliance that the Elf commander had been seeking. The queen changed her mind after leaves began falling from the White Tree, which is like a warning from the gods. But that'll leave Númenor in the hands of her chief advisor, Pharazôn, who has no love of Elves i.e. this is not going to end well.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ok I might be coming around on Halbrand, that "let your enemy master their fear so you can master them" business feels very "here's a magic ring, no strings attached, I promise." But also, the mean barman maybe just said that Gandasaruman was Sauron? (I think THAT is a red herring. Oh god, they sucked me in on this. I think this is partly because I saw the still of Eminem Sauron on Twitter and I sure hope that's not the only actor we get portraying Sauron. Yikes.)

I liked the dwarf singing and customs! I liked the palantir drama! I love how neoclassical Numenor looks, like a painting come to life. And I'm just 100% team Galadriel now. The way she just charges into every situation is very funny and pure television excellence, do people really find this boring?!

I think...Brownwyn and Arondir and child are lucky that the orcs didn't start shooting when they decided the sun was too bright to walk in. I guess they all have plot armor at the moment, but I really wondered about Brownwyn for a second there.
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:56 PM on September 16 [2 favorites]

The actors are killing it, like Galadriel's constant anger, that occasionally softens, which was mirrored by the Queen, or Disa in general and her scenes with Durin. Most of the characters feel alive and three dimensional, as they express a range of emotions. Even Arondir, who tends to be more stoic, communicates so much in his scenes with the elf friends last episode and their deaths, and in this episode with Brownyn. Hell, the goddamn ORCs had me sympathizing with them a bit as those showed reverence and love for Adar.

The cast and crew are just goddamn killing with this show and I love it. I've never been a huge LoTR fan before, but RoP is just hitting so many good points for me.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:02 PM on September 16 [10 favorites]

Yup, I'm getting into this too. Elrond wondering whether he's living up to his father's, Eärendil's, expectations was a nice touch. Talk about pressure! But he seems to handle it well.

After Episode 1 I was among the disappointed but I’m now enjoying this series because I’m viewing it through a different lens. Let me explain.

Just as we have the historical record, documentaries and historical novels here we have the Tolkien books, the Jackson movies and this Amazon series. The Tolkien books are the historical record from which all else flows. The Jackson Lord of the Rings movies are documentaries, striving to be faithful to the historical record while making the sort of editorial decisions that documentaries require. But historical novels are fiction. That’s this Rings of Power series. They use the historical record as background but are peopled with new characters, some of whom are historical personages reimagined without constraint as the fiction requires.

With that understanding I can relax and enjoy. I was making a category mistake. I thought I was watching a documentary. But what I am actually watching is an engaging historical telenovela.
posted by mono blanco at 8:27 PM on September 16 [5 favorites]

Thank you Brandon Blatcher for your synopses. Righteous.

This has all been Very Good so far, nitpicks (out of love) of course. The negativity about this show - sometimes from unexpected sources - feels like a collective reaction to trauma from being reminded that someone somewherethat isn't directly pandering to them ... as much anymore.

Best actor for the role, who cares what some small aspect of them might not look like what was envisioned sometime/ somewhen else. Or sound like.

Skin colour is such a small aspect.
posted by porpoise at 9:20 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]

Thoughts on this -

1) Is the River question from Adar meant to hint that this is Galadriel’s brother? I can’t remember what he looked like, and he has a burned/scarred face now

2) I agree that it makes sense that the best of Numenor will go to Middle Earth and the rest will be destroyed/fall

3) This Galadriel also kind of makes sense of the Galadriel-as-touching-the-ring. Like, older Galadriel has calmed down, but she still remembers what it is to carry that rage and the desire to stop everything with her own hands.
posted by corb at 5:02 AM on September 17 [2 favorites]

Why did Galadriel make such a fuss of seeing the true ruler of Numenor after the princess turned her down, if she hadn't twigged there was some issue with them not having been around? It just seemed too obvious to need Halbrand to spell it out.

"Scrubbing is good for dexterity." Are we building to a Frankie Howerd homage? Are they hinting that destruction will be by volcanic eruption rather than a flood?

No leprechauns this week and better for it.
posted by biffa at 5:29 AM on September 17

Is the River question from Adar meant to hint that this is Galadriel’s brother? I can’t remember what he looked like, and he has a burned/scarred face now

Do you mean Finrod? Finrod was killed and marked by Sauron. Adar is definitely not Finrod. Plus the river scenes of Galadriel's childhood took place in Valinor, not Middle Earth.

Adar is probably a wholly new character.

If he is a pre-existing character, perhaps he could be a Noldor elf who betrayed several causes or people, like say Maeglin. But in the books most characters that could fit that bill, like Maeglin, died.

One clue is that he speaks Quenya, not Sindarin, which means he's probably a Noldor elf.
King Thingol forbid any elves in his kingdom from speaking Quenya when he learned of the First Kin-Slaying by the Noldor.
posted by ishmael at 8:33 AM on September 17 [2 favorites]

Yup, still enjoying it. It's interesting for me to compare my reaction to this series to the other fantasy series I followed recently, namely Sandman.

I know some people feel like this show started out slow, but I liked it from the beginning. Basically every episode feels like 7.5/10 for me. Never great (although sometimes there are moments... in this episode I found the transition to Dusin singing really moving), but always good.

Sandman on the other hand was 7.5 on average I would say, but with more highs and lows. "The Sound of Her Wings" is one of the better episodes of television I've seen in a while, whereas after that the rest of the season felt less inspired (although we still didn't get around to the bonus episode).

I wonder how this will carry through to the end. My wife is a Tolkien nerd, and says the Second Age was supposed to be punctuated by a first battle with Sauron's forces, before the second one which ended the Second Age. So we're debating whether we'll get there by the end of Season 1. Presumably with a triumph over this Adar fellow, and then Seasons 2 and 3 or so will be the rings slowly taking over, leading up to the big battle at the end of the series.
posted by Alex404 at 12:37 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]

I've liked this pretty much from the start, but this was my favorite episode--I'm fine with meandering stories in a show this beautiful and so in my wheelhouse, but now we have a little more of the season's arcs are coming into focus.

Like The Last Jedi (which I loved) this seems to have divided opinions among people I respect in addition to pissing off the despicable types. I'm not quite sure I get why so many likely fans are turned off of this one. But I'm sure part is I just have lower standards! Fantasy, played more-or-less straight, and I think it's true to the spirit of the various books and stories even if they haven't quite nailed the tone.

But my tone comment reminds me that Adam Serwer argued that something like this is going to be inherently disappointing to fans. You probably remember the feeling you had with the books or the Peter Jackson movies, which were not only good but which you encountered at the perfect time to appreciate them--that's why your a fan, after all. So you're not just chasing the quality of the originals, but also that unrecoverable feeling of wonder. In my case I'm fifty-something remembering what it felt like to be a 13 year old hungry for more Tolkien stories, reading the appendix of the RotK. No TV show is going to actually give me that.
posted by mark k at 3:24 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]

It's interesting for me to compare my reaction to this series to the other fantasy series I followed recently, namely Sandman.

I find this comparison really instructive because the actual craft of adaptation is fundamental to why I think this show works and Sandman did not, for me.

Season one of Sandman is based on some very loosely connected issues of the comic which don't pretend to have a big over-arching story, just the same lead/narrator character and some other connective tissue in the DC universe.

Rings of Power is based on the appendices of Lord of the Rings, which inherently does NOT have a dramatic arc sewn into them and yet the TV series has found a way to take these parts of the history of Middle Earth and make them dramatic in a way that the first season of Sandman did not.

Tolkien wrote history books set in a fictional world. He thought drama was cheap and wanted to describe the history of a world. He probably would have hated this show and the Jackson movies, which specifically made choices for drama's sake (Faramir being tempted by the ring, for one obvious controversial example). The appendices of LOTR are sketches of the Second Age. The show has a lot of dramatic scaffolding to put in place to make the series interesting from that perspective. But there is still something so fascinating about the "historic" aspects of this show and Jackson's movies that compel me to watch them.

For me, the Sandman - being wholly faithful to Gaiman's writing (which I think is an explicit demand from Gaiman) - doesn't make it that interesting of an ongoing series for me. And the world-building aspects of it feel like nods to a larger world rather than actual pieces of it. I like individual parts/episodes of Sandman without finding that show to be completely engaging or satisfying, perhaps because Gaiman wanted it to replicate his works. I guess, Tolkien being long dead and the estate happy to leave them alone (?) means we get two similar approaches to the material that know that an authentic replication of Tolkien's historic fantasy isn't satisying over multiple hours.

This show works well to varying degrees. I'm not sure I'm that invested with characters invented for the series, but I like how the show is using Tolkien characters to propel the story. I expect the deeper we get into the series, the further things will stray from canon but right now the tissue and sinew of Tolkien's work makes the world and the characters feel real. Not knowing exactly how the (future) pieces will fall into place is really satisfying.
posted by crossoverman at 1:11 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]

A recurring theme in Tolkien, as I understand it, is that evil can never be truly vanquished in this world (ie only Heaven is perfect) - it led to him making notes for a LOTR sequel set in the Fourth Age, when worship of "The Dark Tree" begins as a cult. If so, then Galadriel's quest becomes truly heartbreaking - she will never, and can never, succeed. As mentioned previously, this puts her temptation by Frodo into stark relief - after many thousands of years of trying, will this finally give her the power to destroy Sauron once and for all? To end the endless war?
posted by Mogur at 5:49 AM on September 18 [9 favorites]

I think I’m in a good place to watch and enjoy this. I’ve read the Silmarillion and the Appendices from Return of the King, But it’s been long enough since reading them that I can roll with watching this show and not worry about the differences from the books.

I absolutely love the wide shots of places that we’ve only seen in ruin in the Lord of the Rings films, like Khazad-Dum.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:46 AM on September 18 [10 favorites]

I'm a sucker for the trope when a character rediscovers their identity and strength (King Théoden, anybody?). Multiply that by the entire nation of Númenor and I'm all in.
posted by whuppy at 9:35 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]

I've been loving this show all along - it had me from the start. Glad to see that others here are getting into it too! All I've seen in the wider 'net world is negativity, particularly negative comparisons to Heart of the Dragon (whyyyyy), so I've been craving some positive commentary on it.
posted by invincible summer at 7:05 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

I'm not fully sold on this, but I'm still watching and will probably keep watching.

It has the same kind of issues for me that all the PJ add-ons had on LOTR, they just don't feel right , but now it's the full show. It's part tone mismatch (the dwarf throwing.....), bad writing, and the fact that I can't match what's happening to something that was in the book, and for some reason that doesn't sit right with me. I'm ok with most edits because that's already > 12 hours of movie in there, but the add-ons/big changes never really worked for me.

Now this show, doesn't only share the setting, but clearly is trying to fit in the existing cinematic LOTR universe through the music and the visual design. And it's not a total failure, but it doesn't really work for me, especially the elves, which have lost that otherworldness they had in LOTR. This thing has such a huge budget, why can't the writing be better?
posted by WaterAndPixels at 10:31 AM on September 19

One thing that bugs me, and I don't know how much of this is the writing versus the source material, is that for an elf who has lived a few hundred years or whatever, Galadriel doesn't appear to know shit. Like, being an unrelenting dick to someone you need a favor from is always a bad approach. Elrond seems to grok that you catch more flies with honey, he should teach a course or something.

I'm still watching the show, though.
posted by axiom at 10:19 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]

One thing that bugs me, and I don't know how much of this is the writing versus the source material, is that for an elf who has lived a few hundred years or whatever, Galadriel doesn't appear to know shit.

Few thousand years old. Yep. This show is definitely off canon in that respect. I suppose this character is in contrast to the movie Galadriel for non-book people.
posted by ishmael at 10:47 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]

After one has been The Boss for more than a thousand years, one falls into bad modes of behaviour (vide any of our current billionaires). To her credit, it only took a few days (a week or so?) and a short incarceration for her to start actually talking to the Queen Regent, and then she started getting results.

Or, if you like, charging straight ahead like a battering ram has worked very well for her for over a thousand years, so it took a few days to course-correct.
posted by Mogur at 5:22 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]

Or, if you like, charging straight ahead like a battering ram has worked very well for her for over a thousand years, so it took a few days to course-correct.

Yeah, that's the trick, right? Like I can believe that she had been acting like that for a few thousand years, and stays in that mode because of her successes. She is related to Feanor, after all.

But it's harder for me to believe that someone like that is going to change because of a couple days in jail and the advice from Halbrand. She has probably been in some kind of jail and heard a version of that advice in the last thousand+ years.

That plotline works better if I conceive of her as someone in her early twenties, who is still learning how to deal with people. A couple thousand-year old person would require a pretty drastic and/or traumatic event to have them change their behavior.
posted by ishmael at 8:01 AM on September 22

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