REVIEW: ‘The Rings of Power’ – ‘Partings’ Has Hope on the Brain

‘The Rings of Power’ delivered yet another gorgeous episode, that isn’t without its problems.

Of drink I have little
And food I have less
My strength tells me no
But the path demands yes

My legs are so short
And the way is so long
I’ve no rest nor comfort
No comfort but song

Sing to me, sing to me, lands far away
Oh rise up and guide me this wandering day
Please promise to find me this wandering day

The Rings of Power begins its fifth episode, titled Partings, with a song sung by Megan Richards‘ Poppy Proudfellow. Called ‘This Wandering Day’, the tune is described in-universe as something Poppy’s mother once used to entertain herself whilst walking for days upon end with the other Harfoots. In the real world, however, the song comes across as much more than just a means of keeping the brain occupied. The lyrics, written by the maestro Bear McCreary, instead double as a metaphor for the theme of this week’s episode, and perhaps the entirety of the Lord of the Rings franchise – holding on to hope, even when all seems lost.

The many plotlines of Partings all see their lead characters facing difficult choices. Robert Aramayo‘s Elrond must decide if he’s willing to break a personal oath for the sake of Elven kind, Nazanin Boniadi‘s Bronwyn is forced to watch as her people choose between the light and the dark, and the citizens of Númenor weigh the consequences of going to war. Yet, despite the dire stakes at hand in each story, the concept of a potentially brighter future looms larger than the tangible threats at hand. Thematically, it’s actually a welcome departure from the series’ previously doom-centric thought process. Partings feels like a lighter installment in the Rings of Power saga from the very get-go, which in turn makes it a bit easier to watch than the denser first quarter of the season.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the episode is without it’s hardships. In a particularly action-packed sequence, Daniel Weyman‘s mysterious giant saves the Harfoots from a pack of monstrous wolves. In another, Joseph Mawle‘s Adar revels in making a villager kill a child to prove his newfound allegiance to Middle-earth’s darkest forces. This is, unfortunately, par for the course in J.R.R. Tolkien‘s land of fantasy. As Poppy’s song, and Markella Kavenagh‘s Nori Brandyfoot, explain, the path to peace is filled with perils, something true of both Middle-earth and the actual planet it was based on. Partings does a fantastic job of relaying this message to the audience. There will always be setbacks on the road to finding true happiness. A person who lets that stop them will never know the contentment they were hoping to find in the first place.

That being said, the episode does also present a few problems for the series at large. One would think that with so much time to spend with the show’s vast collection of characters, fans would be able to care about more of them. Aside from a few standouts, many of the individuals getting screen time week-in and week-out are beginning to feel like they only exist to advance parts of the plot. The obvious leads of each arc are well-developed and fun to watch, but many of their smaller counterparts are beginning to mash together and become slightly forgettable. Hopefully, before the season ends, The Rings of Power will be able capitalize on a talented ensemble in the same way shows like Game of Thrones have done to capture audience’s attention.

Until then, the series will likely continue to stand on its greatest strengths. As per usual, this week’s episode was gorgeous, and the effects were impeccable. A particularly memorable moment involved the origin of Middle-earth’s most precious metal, which was shown via striking slow-motion images and beautiful color contrast. Despite any problems one may have with the series, its thematic element is also undeniably riveting. It’s as rich as anything Tolkien wrote and as comforting to watch as anything Peter Jackson put to screen. For anyone who has yet to be hooked, take this week’s entry as a form of advice – the road may not be perfect, but maintain hope, and the finale might just pay everything off.

At last comes their answer
Through cold and through frost
That not all who wonder or wander are lost
No matter the sorrow
No matter the cost
That not all who wonder or wander are lost

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