With its debut, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power left me wanting so much more. It felt like something replicating Tolkien well without nailing the format of an hour-long episode. Beautiful and worthy of the extremely high budget Prime Video spent on it, The Rings of Power set a solid foundation with episodes 1 and 2 even if slightly empty. But with The Rings of Power Episode 3, “Adar,” we get to goe deeper into Tolkien’s world as Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) enters Númenor, a beautifully rendered city given to the men who stood with the elves against Morgoth but had since cut off contact.
Despite what the people who call themselves Tolkien fans on the internet are saying, Tolkien has always included commentary around gender and the systems women find themselves caged by, Éowyn as Dernhelm is right there y’all. However, pigeonholing elves into traditional masculine aesthetics for heavy-handed commentary on gender was frustrating and remains frustrating. While changes to elements of Middle Earth should be changed and adapted differently for the screen, the choice to work in modern haircuts for nearly every man to somehow prove he’s manly is odd, to say the least.
That said, compared to the past two episodes The Rings of Power Episode 3 has a stunning visual scale and presence that gets closer to the epic stature that Tolkien’s world is known and loved for. This is due to the world-building elements like Númenor, the sweeping shots of the beach, the boats themselves, and how the characters have been shown to be small parts of it all. And while The Rings of Power has started to take strides with meeting the grandeur of Middle Earth visual, it’s the actors that push this series to a new height.
The true push towards something more than just generic fantasy trappings is happening by the strength of the actors on screen. For her part, the Queen Regent Miriél (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) of Númenor is striking and powerful. She’s dedicated to her path which makes her and her kingdom a direct danger to Galadriel but filled with compassion for the people she has to protect. Additionally, while we see Galadriel as someone to be feared because she’s an elf and because she can wield a blade, we also get to see Clark as an inspiration delivering a monologue on responsibility and healing Middle Earth from the scars of the war her people began. But what I find myself captivated with is the portrayal of a young Isildur (Maxim Baldry) resisting the future his father, Elendil (Lloyd Owen),wants for him and his place in the larger story.
The splendor of Númenor is juxtaposed against the most breathtaking sections of the episodes that take place in the Southlands. Captured by orcs, Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) and the rest of his group are enslaved by the orcs, forced to dig up the land and destroy nature at their corrupted behest. While it isn’t as grand as Númenor or the sea, the practical effects and costuming of the orcs are fantastical. Clad in white ash, there is a brightness to the orcs who clad themselves in the spoils of fighting and killing elves. It’s a detail that switches their position to once stoic and pristine elves who are now their prisoners.
Yes, Númenor holds beauty, but Middle Earth is also memorable for its darkness. And here, to match the danger, the stakes are raised, bringing death to Arandor’s group and making him go against his morality which cares for the land in equal measure. Cordova remains the best casting as an elf in the series, maintaining his ethereal quality while also showing a dynamic range to act in stunned silence and to what he needs to survive. And as the scene of the episode’s action sequence, the Southlands are the most interesting part of the story and Arondir is this episode’s strongest character.
But my one issue so far with the series is that there are too many stories happening at one time and while they’re each interesting in their own ways, with the hobbits’ introduction this episode being one of the most striking of The Rings of Power Episode 3, it feels stuffed in, as opposed to being a natural extension and return of the series’ narrative. This disconnect is easily identifiable in the one-hour format and the fact that we all know this will be a multi-season series. This isn’t to say that the hobbits’ storyline in this episode isn’t great, it is and their set remains one of the most lived in, it’s just that sometimes too much, is indeed too much given the format they chose to tell the story.
There is a lot to love in The Rings of Power Episode 3. While I’m still waiting to feel the magic, I am extremely excited about where the journey goes next, especially for Arondir’s story and what will come from the Southlands. There is a lot left to see in a series that aims to tell a sprawling story, and these one-hour pieces of it leave me wishing that Prime Video had released everything at once. But here we are with a weekly release and Adar’s entrance in this episode means it’s sure to spice things up for Episode 4.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 3 — “Adar” is available now on Prime Video with new episodes airing every Thursday.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episode 3 — "Adar"
There is a lot to love in The Rings of Power Episode 3. While I’m still waiting to feel the magic, I am extremely excited about where the journey goes next, especially for Arondir’s story and what will come from the Southlands. There is a lot left to see in a series that aims to tell a sprawling story, and these one-hour pieces of it leave me wishing that Prime Video had released everything at once.