The Rings of Power: Episode 5 Review

Well, I’m back. After a harrowing journey to the backwoods of Pennsylvania (man, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that word in written form), I’ve returned to give you great folks your daily dose of the writing life. While I was on vacation, I got together with members of my extended family and got to introduce my cousins to The Rings of Power.

In fact, we went on a five-episode marathon, watching every episode of the show to date. After five hours of staring at a screen, it was apparent that everyone had enjoyed the show quite a bit, and I (per the usual) was scanning the last episode and evaluating it for review when I got back home.

So far, there are still no deathly errors. It hasn’t become a sermon; there are no terrible plot holes that absolutely annihilate the story. If you want my opinion, I think it’s not quite on the level that the original trilogy is on, but I’d say it outclasses the Hobbit trilogy for a few reasons.

I’m not going to bother with a recap (odd that I don’t when I usually do with such reviews) but I can tell you that I was wayyy more satisfied with this episode than I was with the last one. Just when Galadriel’s extremely obvious character arc seemed like it was going nowhere, this episode happened. While it doesn’t exactly fix the problem, I think that it does help.

Galadriel has already been well-established as a character who bangs her head against a wall and cannot be persuaded to do otherwise. However, keeping in stride with Finrod’s analogy in the beginning of the series, she is slowly turning from the stone into the ship, which has knowledge of the darkness but doesn’t succumb to it. I think they could have done a lot worse, but she made exactly zero progress in the first four episodes. She was turning from slightly boring to intolerable.

Things changed in this episode, however. All of Galadriel’s careful planning begins to teeter when Halbrand, one of the main reasons for going to the Southlands, becomes dead-set against accepting his responsibility and decides to stay. This (among other things) forces Galadriel to rethink her approach: strongarming people into getting what you want when you have very little leverage is often a bad idea. She gets that epiphany moment where she realizes that Halbrand resists her nagging quite easily, but by playing on his dark past she’s able to convince him.

When Galadriel tries to force people to get what she wants, she’s put in prison, defied, people rise against her, threaten violence, or she’s simply ignored. The show has done a good job of showing that so far, and this episode is signaling a turning point between Galadriel’s head-banging and taking less of a straightforward approach. Again, her character hasn’t been completely saved (she’s literally a step away from feminazi) but continues to tread a dangerous path. It won’t take too much to kill her character for me, so I hope they handle her better in episodes to come.

I’m glad they took a lot of the emphasis off the queen-regent. Miriel was honestly bland and uninteresting, which fed my distaste of the last episode. While they mentioned that Miriel’s father didn’t want her to leave Numenor (my theory is that she’s going to die so that Elendil can become king since he is in the movies), that sets up her death quite easily. Elendil is far more interesting than her right now.

Speaking of which, Isildur’s storyline promises much. While a lot of people hate the pacing of his scenes, I defy the haters to point out what’s missing in Isildur’s story. For example, his exile from the Sea Guard was quite abrupt, but it was for a legitimate reason. The same thing applies with his induction to the expeditionary voyage, but he did save the chancellor’s son. I don’t know where you come from, that’s got to count for something. Right now, his story includes all necessary elements despite being a little quick-paced. The velocity of this plotline may not suit your tastes, but narratively speaking, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Coupled with that, Elendil is brilliantly cast, acted, and written. He is a very consistent “no handouts” kind of father, not the generic “you have to make the sea guard because TrAdITiOn”. And the fact that Isildur feels his mother’s death while Elendil remains unfazed speaks of the differing attitudes the two have. The father-son conflict is classic, but like everything else in this show, it’s a fresh take on an old trope.

Halbrand is very interesting as well. His character arc of “accepting responsibility” is coming along better than the other characters’ arcs, and as such he feels a lot more satisfying than the rest. His depth of character is objectively better than the others, making him the best character in the show thus far. Again, aside from Galadriel’s would-be preachy feminism, there are no huge flaws in the writing as far as characters are concerned.

I don’t have time to touch in more detail about the characters in the Elrond-Durin plotline, but we’re shown that Elrond doesn’t have that “ends-justify-the-means complex” when he chooses not to break his oath for the salvation of his race. This is mirrored when he chooses not to kill Isildur to destroy the ring at the crack of Mount Doom.

Writing-wise, however, there’s a gap in the story that is worth mentioning but doesn’t destroy the plot. This is Gil-Galad’s knowledge of Mithril but needing Elrond to tell him about it. If Gil-Galad already knew about Mithril, then why does he need Elrond to tell him about it? That seems a bit absurd.

However, that’s easily solved: just have Gil-Galad know about the events that took place above Kazad-dum (the elf, the Balrog, and the lightning) but not know its result. Then have him get wind that the Dwarves are hiding something magical in their minds. This leaves a gap in Gil-Galad’s hypothesis: he knows the Dwarves have something that they’re keeping secret and (per his intelligence) that it could potentially help the elves out of their plight (per the lore). Mithril is just the bit that puts two and two together.

Also, some things in this episode were poorly communicated. The “light of the Eldar is fading” threat is legitimate because of Sauron’s return to Middle-Earth, but all we got was a rotting leaf that basically meant nothing. Foreshadowing that Sauron’s return would bode ill for the elves (perhaps a scene of Gil-Galad bending over in pain or having a wrinkled hand or something) would have made this better, but right now it’s at 50% as it is.

So right now, the show is definitely not great, but I would definitely establish it as good. Right now it could be a lot tighter as far as the narrative is concerned, but the cinematography and depth of character sold this show for me. So far, all the problems in the plotlines could have easy fixes that don’t require a lot of rewriting. The only character who needs work is Galadriel, and the rest of the “boring” ones have been properly backseated and the spotlight is on the better, more interesting heroes.

And…hoo, since this article is getting to be of behemothic size, I’ll leave it there. Don’t worry: if you don’t have the time to read these gigantic articles, I’ll make a video recap of the whole series once it’s over and post it on my YouTube channel for your convenience.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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