Pretty much from the very start, Amazon’s The Rings of Power has had a bit of a pacing issue. The show has been awe-inspiring in nearly every other facet of storytelling, but from episode to episode, it’s slowly become clear that this season of television was going to be a little slow. This feeling of creeping along has been due, in large in part, to multiple different plots occurring fairly separately from each other, with no immediate signs of coming together anytime soon. The lack of connectivity and variance in strength between arcs could often lead to difficulty with viewer engagement or cause the series to feel aloof despite the actual quality of the scripts being filmed. With this week’s ‘Udûn’, however, that problem vanished into thin air.
Udûn is an incredibly satisfying payoff to two of the four concurrent storylines happening on The Rings of Power. Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir and Nazanin Boniadi’s Bronwyn attempt to lead the people of the Southlands in combat against Joseph Mawle’s Adar and his dastardly army of orcs, while Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel sails toward Middle-earth with the forces of Numénor in tow. The ultimate culmination of these arcs leads to the show’s most epic, emotional, action-packed hour yet, gleefully pulling from weeks of build-up and suspense to craft an episode that feels like a season finale despite having multiple installments left to air. As per usual, the visuals are glorious, and the nearly episode-long battle between man, elf, and orc appeared to be pulled from a feature length film.
The intensity of the action in Udûn was rather impressive, with stunts and fight choreography that should remind audiences they’re watching the most expensive show on television. A moment between Arondir and an especially large orc stands out for its immaculate camera work and character design. When The Walking Dead was at its peak, it seemed that anyone and everyone had dreams of putting on zombie makeup and wandering around the set. The Rings of Power, especially in this episode, is making a great case for changing that dream to raiding villages in full orc regalia. It’s amazing how much fun it can be to watch a show when its best moments happen in broad daylight, and there’s no darkness to mask the stupendous work of the costume department and set designers.
Most of the action bits work as well as they do because the character moments in-between allow the chaos to feel earned. After a few weeks in which it sometimes seemed the show’s leads were just running in circles, most everyone in Udûn took leaps and bounds toward becoming as unique and interesting as the first few episodes had promised. The series’ villains, in particular, finally have a genuine motivation for viewers to understand, something that makes Adar and his vile crew even more entertaining to watch. Charlie Vickers‘ Lord Halbrand and Maxim Baldry‘s Isildur, along with Lloyd Owen‘s Elendil, also get some much-needed backstory and character progression that will hopefully make them more intriguing to follow going forward.
The episode’s ending, which plays out in spectacular style, has also undoubtedly left fans craving more. It was the perfect ending to an episode that felt like all gas and no breaks from the word “go.” Obviously, a show can’t survive on pulse-pounding action alone, but hopefully The Rings of Power has spent enough time slowly constructing its plots that the rest of the season can be as exciting as Udûn. If it sticks that landing, there’s no telling what kind of joy the series will bring as it moves on to greater pastures.