Ashes fill the air, bodies cover the ground, and even those with the strongest of will have been brought to their knees. With this week’s episode, The Rings of Power takes a deep dive into a topic it’s been dancing around since the very beginning. Trauma, and the grief that comes with it, weighs heavy on The Eye, the penultimate episode of Prime Video’s hit Lord of the Rings prequel. Last week saw Adar and his army of orcs emerge from the battle of Ostirith victorious, laying waste to the Southlands and giving rise to Mordor at the cost of countless innocent lives. Now, the heroes of Middle-earth must deal with the fallout – something they aren’t incredibly well-equipped to handle.
The Eye is a necessary step back in energy after last week’s action-packed installment. Before the series can go full throttle into what will undoubtedly be a hectic finale, it needs to let its characters settle into the next status quo. The people of Númenor and the Southlands suffered great losses, and the episode does a wonderful job of letting them confront it honestly. Lloyd Owen‘s Elendil, especially, is the standout of this week’s entry. All season, the Captain has presented himself stone-cold and unfeeling, even if his underlying soft side was always threatening to break through the surface. In The Eye, the disappearance and presumed death of his son, Maxim Baldry‘s Isildur, finally pushes the emotion through. Owen‘s performance is heartbreaking and genuine. In an episode where the likes of Morfydd Clark‘s Galadriel and Cynthia Addai-Robinson‘s Queen Regent Míriel are faced with unthinkable challenges, it’s Elendil who forces viewers to feel the true pain of loss.
This feeling extends to the caverns of Khazad-dûm, where Owain Arthur‘s Prince Durin painstakingly claws his way through familial relations in an attempt to help his friend, Robert Aramayo‘s Elven favorite Elrond. Probably the other best performance in the episode, and this one has a lot of great performances, Durin’s tearful commitment to chosen family and the good of Middle-earth turns out to be the centerpiece of hope for the realm’s future. While all feels lost, Durin is willing to sacrifice his own birthright for what he knows to be good in his heart. Hope has been a theme throughout The Rings of Power, and many of the characters fashion themselves as symbols of it, but it’s the little Dwarf with a golden soul who makes it all feel real.
The writing for the show has really been kicked up a notch in the season’s back-half. The issues with pacing that were present in the first few episodes have all but vanished, with even the slower moments feeling faster and less arduous than they did before. It makes the anticipation for the finale more grand than one might have anticipated in the beginning. Even the Harfoots, who have been largely absent from the last couple weeks, have made their way into tie-in territory with the rest of the series. As it turns out, their humble encampment is not immune to the horrors of Middle-earth, and their loss – simultaneous with the events in Ostirith – hits surprisingly hard. The development of the Harfoot characters truly shines through in this sequence, as they look for ways to carry on and accept new methods of survival. After a full season of build-up, it’s nice to see how it all occurs so organically.
As with every week, there is also the usual commentary on set design and the beauty of the show’s effects. Mordor looks haunting, as it should, and the mines of Khazad-dûm are as stunning as the look on Durin’s face suggests they’d be. Among those effects, however, are several terrifying hints toward the future of the show. It would appear that the Balrog is still alive, deep in the mountain, and there are still many questions surrounding the identities of the mysterious stranger and the group of sketchy magic-wielders who are seemingly after him. Let’s hope the cast of characters in The Rings of Power got their fill of recovery in The Eye, because they still have much to take care of when the show’s finale drops next week.