Ricky Church reviews the second episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power…
With the foundation set in the series premiere, the second episode of The Rings of Power builds off the series’ ambition while telling a more focused and character driven story. The fact it does this while weaving in new characters and elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive mythology makes ‘Adrift’ even more impressive with a promise things will only get more interesting after this.
One of the issues with ‘A Shadow of the Past’ was the premiere’s pacing with certain characters or storylines or how scenes were placed in the episode. Pacing is far less of an issue in ‘Adrift’ as the narrative is more tightly focused on the characters and where to push the story forward. It is also notable new character dynamics are explored as both Galadriel and Elrond are paired with characters introduced in this episode. Instead of being jarring, the pairings actually explore Galadriel and Elrond’s mindsets and the relationship they have with other people in Middle-earth. The premiere was focused so much on the Elves’ inner conflicts and the Harfoots that it is very nice to see how they are with races like Dwarves and Men.
As noted in the premiere, Elrond is is quite different from his older self in Lord of the Rings, being much more optimistic and friendly than he later becomes. That is further on display as not only is Elrond on very friendly terms with the Dwarves (or so he thinks), but he actually counts Dwarven Prince Durin IV as among his closest friends. Robert Aramayo and Owain Arthur did a lot of great work together that was both funny and emotional as Arthur brought a lot to the table in his performance as Durin. He held a commanding presence, could switch between dramatic and comedic easily and displayed a level of vulnerability in Durin as he explained how Elrond’s actions hurt him personally. Arthur’s emotional range added much to Durin and his relationship with Elrond.
Sophia Nomvete’s Princess Disa, Durin’s wife, was also quite good in how she acted as Durin’s rock and showed her compassion and intelligence in helping the pair mend their broken bond. It was easy to see how Durin and Disa could be such a loving and trusting couple with Arthur and Nomvete’s chemistry.
Likewise, Galadriel found herself saved by a small ship of Men and was drawn to Charlie Vickers’ mysterious Halbrand after a sea monster attack. Morfydd Clark and Vickers also shared good chemistry as they bickered and antagonized each other through Galadriel’s sense of duty and Halbrand’s mistrust of Elves. It is interesting how the two are on parallel journeys with Galadriel running back to Middle-earth out of duty while Vickers places his survival above all else and is running from something in his past. All the sequences aboard their raft were fantastic in nearly every category: Clark and Vickers’ acting, the writing, the cinematography and the visuals effects, especially once the two reach the storm and fight to stay even a little afloat.
Arondir and Bronwyn’s story felt more entwined in the overall story than they did in the first episode. Both Ismael Cruz Cordova and Nazanin Boniadi’s scenes made the characters’ romantic feelings feel more authentic in their brief scenes together. Most of the episode’s tension also came largely from their stories. Between Arondir searching underground for clues as to what caused the village to sink in to Bronwyn’s run in with the Orc, ‘Adrift’ felt like it suddenly shifted into the horror genre with how the scenes were presented. Even the way the Orc moved and fought seemed much more primal and monstrous than how they were portrayed in the LOTR trilogy. The make-up and costume design on it was very well done too and the fight between it, Bronwyn and her son Theo was well shot and choreographed, showcasing its threat and power in a menacing way.
Then we have Nori’s time trying to help ‘The Stranger’ and understand his language. Markella Kavenagh shines as Nori with her balance of compassion, comedy and emotion. There are several aspects to Nori’s motivation to help The Stranger that add to her character, whether it’s because she thinks its the morally right thing to do or because this is the opportunity for adventure she’s been searching for.
Daniel Weyman did a nice job conveying The Stranger’s confusion and power, a notable feat in a role where Weyman had to rely on his facial expressions and body language since Stranger doesn’t speak a word of English or any other Middle-earth dialect. It is intriguing to think of where his character will end up, if this is indeed a very early Gandalf or, perhaps in a twist down the line, Saruman. After all, Saruman was chosen as the head of the White Council and considered by many to be the the wisest and most powerful of all lords in Middle-earth save Sauron.
‘Adrift’ was an episode that improved on many of the series premiere’s weaknesses. The fact the show also introduced new characters and more lore, such as the mention of the Silmarils, showed how much attention to detail is being paid to Tolkien’s works while still finding room to carve out their own story as the trilogy had done. Seeing Khazad-dûm, the place that will be better known as Moria, at the height of its power and wealth was one of the best moments and a perfect example of The Rings of Power‘s blending of practical sets and visual effects to add to the series’ stunning imagery.
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