The Rings of Power is really just great, gosh-darn television. With its third episode, titled Adar after the mysterious nasty fellow, Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series has managed to grow beyond the awe-inspiring visuals of its dual premiere. It’s not simply the visuals, however, that put it above what fans have already seen. While the latest episodic entry is, in fact, quite gorgeous, what makes Adar so much better than A Shadow of the Past and Adrift is the way it doubles down on something perhaps far more important to a show than beauty. This week, The Rings of Power doses itself with intrigue, and the series as a whole has instantly become better for it.
Aside from one major exclusion, Adar takes the plotlines set up in the show’s premiere episodes and sprints full speed ahead with them. Seeking to gain the upper hand on Sauron and his army, Galadriel finds herself captive in the Kingdom of Men alongside a charming stranger. With the Harfoots set to begin another migration, Nori learns the hard way that she is not the only one who must face the consequences of her actions. Now a prisoner of the orcs, Arondir and his Elven compatriots devise a plan to escape and warn Middle-earth of the coming dangers. Every storyline is as engaging as the last, which is an accomplishment not many series achieve on a weekly basis. The Rings of Power had some slow moments out of the gate, made bearable by the splendor of everything around them. This no longer seems to be the case.
The common theme of Adar is imprisonment, in both a literal and metaphorical sense. All three plots deal with the concept in some way, and in expert fashion, they all bleed into each other thematically to keep the big picture a cohesive one. In Númenor, Galadriel pleads desperately to be let go and for help against Middle-earth’s greatest threat. Having lived for much longer than most, she is aware of how evil adapts so that it may survive. She knows that, even if Sauron has truly gone, there must be something growing in his wake. Men, on the other hand, refuse to change. They keep Galadriel prisoner without realizing they’ve imprisoned themselves in a cage of their own making. Through her experiences and that of Halbrand, it’s shown that man is unwilling to change in the same way as it’s hidden enemy, and therefore, is likely headed toward its downfall.
This sentiment is echoed in the events surrounding the Harfoots. The merry band of travelers, led by Lenny Henry‘s Sadoc Burrows, spend much of the episode restating their methods of survival and long history of sacrifice. Sadoc sits in front of his people and lists the names of those left behind due to injury or tragic circumstance, with the underlying intention of scaring the Harfoots into obeying their own laws. Like the men, prisoners of their way of life. However, when Nori’s secret is revealed and Daniel Weyman‘s nameless giant emerges from the dark, her family is not left to rot as the men might have done. Instead, they are given a chance, and ultimately, further deviate from their traditions by including the giant on their journey, if only as a means of staying alive. In direct opposition to the previous plot, the Harfoots show that change is vital for growth.
Arondir does not need to learn about change in Adar, but rather exists to demonstrate the severity of Middle-earth’s new big bad. Where the other plot lines comment on the nature of growth and self-imprisonment, this one puts an emphasis on why the men and Harfoots should be adapting in the first place. Orcs are always fun to watch, with their grimy faces and menacing growls, but this episode might have been the most fun they’ve been in a long time. Ismael Cruz Córdova gets to show off his action chops in an impressive escape sequence that also highlights the death and destruction that will soon be wrought upon the land. The baddies have not come to play, and they even brought a really cool monster dog to prove it.
As any third episode should, Adar leaves audiences with more questions than answers. A brilliant, thought-provoking installment in the Lord of the Rings franchise, that ticks off every box of classic television storytelling on a budget of $1 billion. Next week promises to be another good outing, with plenty of teases left hanging in the air for Tolkien fanatics to pick apart for days on end. The biggest of which is probably the identity of the titular villain, whose blurred face seemed to resemble that of Sir Christopher Lee‘s Saruman the White. Until then, viewers can think on the one word they heard more than any other – Adar.