Warning: Full spoilers below The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 6, which is now airing on Prime Video. To refresh your memory, check out our review Last week’s episode.

Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power It felt a bit sluggish at times as it packed dense exposition to establish its characters, the state of the world and what was at stake. But all that grounding paid off in Episode 6, which delivered a fantastic hour of television that reminisces. The Lord of the Rings: The Two TowersBattle of Sowden Hill in the witcher, And the best Game of Thrones.

Adar came in as the villain Part 4, but he gets much more development in “Udûn”, which reveals his history and motivations. An Elf turned by Morgoth to become one of the first Orcs, or Uruk as he prefers to be called, he still adheres to certain Elven traditions by being loyal to his “children” and trying to do what is best for them, as he decides. Erasing the Southlands from the map to create Mordor.

I would have loved to know how Adar and Waldreig survived the collapse of Austerith, but the entire episode is a back-and-forth as the humans and Adar’s forces win great victories and then collapse in crushing defeat. The real action of the episode takes place after Bronwyn and Arondir retreat from the guard tower and prepare to launch a counter-offensive with plenty of ingenuity and tender moments.

Arondir sensibly tries to break the hilt, but at the very heart of Lord of the Rings is the concept that powerful artifacts are not easily destroyed. Arondir’s hammer breaking before it can be struck is a direct reference to Gimli’s hammer when he tries to bring down the One Ring. The Fellowship of the Ring. Arondir is smart enough to hide it, but the Dark Artifacts are also deeply corrupt. As Theo tries to resist Hilt’s pull, he’s a curious boy in over his head.

Seeing the “life defying death” seed-planting ritual twice in this episode provides some strong character- and world-building. When Adar first did this, it was thought that the dark magic was to create more orcs, or perhaps to protect his soul phylactery style if he fell in battle. But it is a part of his past that he clings to, why he decided to abandon Sauron. Adar is bored as the lieutenant of a deranged boss who sees orcs as disposable cannon fodder and has recently been using them as experimental subjects for his research.

Tolkien’s orcs have a complicated legacy that still plays out in debates in Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasy tabletop games, with disagreements over what the inherently evil race means, designed to make the heroes slay without feeling evil. The Rings of Power account for Orcs being viewed in different ways by Adar, Sauron, and Galadriel. They may have been created by an evil force, but now that they exist with their own emotions and worldviews, Galadriel’s vow of genocide seems utterly monstrous. Adar shows her own likeness to Sauron as she cleverly nods to the darkness when Frodo offers her the One Ring – she may indeed be Sauron’s successor because of her single-minded desire to reshape Middle-earth in her image. She may do so in the name of fighting evil, but the consequences will be just as dire.

Episode 6 showed a great ability to weave all this character building into dramatic action.

Galadriel and Halbrand take turns this episode to get each other out of a vengeful rage, their bond deepening until it looks like they’re about to become truly romantic before being interrupted to be pulled into the Royal Council. The author seems to be drawing a contrast between these supposedly noble saviors with somewhat questionable morals and Bronyon and Arondyr, who seem more grounded and genuinely good. Bronwyn seemed relieved to relinquish the leadership she had gained from the battle of the prophesied King Halbrand, but it is highly questionable whether she actually did so. After spending so much time running from the past he has yet to explain, it’s unclear if Halbrand is truly ready to take on this responsibility.

Episode 6 showed a great ability to weave all this character building into dramatic action. Scattered traps laid by the Southlands for the orcs, and Bronwyn killing a clutch of orc scouts to ensure they left, lead to a victory that is short-lived as it is revealed that Adar has sent in most of the first wave of humans. Although Waldreg was the true traitor, most of the defectors were probably desperate and frightened. Making the villagers kill each other is cruel and also plays into Adar’s ethos that orc lives are worth as much as human lives.

Of course Númenor shows up to save the day in a scene reminiscent of the arrival of the Riders of Rohan. The Lord of the Rings has always been a great franchise for horse lovers, and this episode features many spectacular riding shots, especially Galadriel’s impressive saddle acrobatics and her chase with Adar. Apparently Isildur’s mother was also part of a group with close ties to horses, so we’re likely to get more development on that front now that Isildur has attached himself to his mount in battle.

The fight scenes in this episode are superbly directed. Someone involved in the choreography clearly has a thing for chainsaws, which are cleverly used against Arrondir on a personal level, tripping up massed cavalry orcs. The fight between Arondir and the giant orc in particular was thrilling, with a brutal conclusion giving Bronwyn another moment to shine. A handful of actors have plot armor because it’s a prequel, but the stakes feel real because both Arondir and Bronwyn are original characters, and I thought for a while that Bronwyn was actually going to die in this episode when the tide turned and she got shot. .

Episode 6 of The Rings of Power delivers exceptional action and character development in a high-stakes hour.

But even Númenor’s victory was short-lived as Adar completely outwitted his opposition with some cunning and use of loyal agents. We were warned of Sauron’s plans for the Southlands, and apparently Adar decided to put the plan into action himself when he became engrossed in trying to find the shadowy realm connected to the One Ring. He really wasn’t kidding about reshaping Middle-Earth. When the key was first turned, it seemed like it was going to bring a devastating flood. Watching the device’s mechanics flow until the water hits the magma and sets off a devastating volcanic reaction plays out like a dramatic big-budget disaster movie where the heroes ultimately lose.

With all the action centered on the Southlands, there were no dwarves or harefoots in this episode. We’ll see next week what the timeline differences are between these storylines — getting everyone to the point where Mordor is created, or Adar’s successful gambit could jump right into their stories. Hopefully the show can continue the momentum of Episode 6 in the last two episodes of the season.

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