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Adar Rings of Power review
Credit: Amazon Studios

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The Lord of the Rings, The Rings of Power: “Adar” – Dark Secrets Revealed

The Rings of Power, Episode 3: “Adar” Review

“Adar! Adar! Adar!”

So cry the Orcs who enslaved the Elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz) and his brethren to carve tunnels in the Southlands. They chant toward someone, or something, they clearly deem as powerful. A leader? Deity? A hoard of foul creatures, adorned in makeshift garments to protect their photophobic skin, repeating the mysterious name as if to haunt the captive Elves: We have a new force to be reckoned with. We are coming.

It is the eeriest scene in The Lord of the RingsThe Rings of Power (ROP) so far, and certainly in this eponymously-titled episode. Up until now, viewers were mostly privileged with being introduced to a great many locations and characters. Some glorious and regal, others scrapping by on tattered farmland.  The monstrous Orcs leading the charge of an underground passage are the first intense signs that the enemy is organizing and that it is comprised of many. Granted, an Orc appeared in the previous installment and attacked Bronwyn and her son (absent this week, as are the Dwarves). Now, however, the show demonstrates the dark clouds are moving faster than perhaps even Galadriel anticipated. 

Directed by Wayne Yip, “Adar” feels like it is the final lap of introductions. The Elves, scattered Humans, and Dwarves are already known to audiences. Reading the Appendices at the end of Tolkien’s “Return of the King”, the few pages that offer a drive-by review of the Second Age put much emphasis on the legendary island of Númenor. This is where Captain Elendil (Lloyd Owen) takes his castaways Galadriel and Halbrand. Elendil is a respected seaman of Númenor, but his audible call, allowing an Elf to set foot on Númenorean soil, goes against state laws, as Queen Regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) reminds him. We are also introduced to the captain’s young adult children, Isildur (Maxim Baldry) and Eärien (Ema Horvath)

Adar - The Rings of Power
Credit: Amazon Studios

While we await to see what exactly the writers and directors do with Númenor as the season and, one hopes, the series evolves, “Adar” opens the world of Middle Earth to one of the great Second Age puzzle pieces. Its existence as a state is owed to an agreement between the Elves and Humans who fought side by side in the battle against Morgoth. The Elves argue they “gifted” Humans Númenor. The latter argue it was earned through bloodshed. Time has elapsed and the ties that bind the two races have loosed, as already hinted at in the first two episodes, hence the cold reception upon Galadriel’s arrival. Steadfast and true (mostly steadfast) Galadriel finds a new potential friend in Elendil, whose familial and cultural background lends him to being open towards Elvin folk. Maybe he can help her get back to continental Middle Earth.

Whereas the premiere episodes exemplified the existing tension between Humans and Elves at the grassroots level, such as when Arondir patrolled the Southlands, “Adar” takes the time to showcase how the two communities communicate through more diplomatic channels. A face-to-face between the Queen Regent and chief general of the Gil-galad’s army won’t carry the same tone as that between an Elvin policeman at a decrepit tavern and its bartender. 

Director Yip wisely sidesteps the more laborious aspects of the politics, instead making the debates breezy and easy to follow along. Even so, “Adar” is the first sign thus far in ROP that the writers (Gennifer Hutchison, Helen Shang, Jason Cahill, Justin Doble et al.) are truly on their own when it comes to filling the holes left by Tolkien. Anyone who has read the Appendices knows, theoretically, how ROP will conclude, but so many details are left to the imagination of the showrunners. There is one specific scene in which Galadriel and her would-be friend Elendil learn something that sounds of great importance, yet its discovery comes off as a terrific stroke of luck. As in “Wow! Thank goodness all that information just happened to be there!”

Is the writing in the Númenor scenes somewhat clumsy? Yes. Not terrible, just a bit too convenient. Furthermore, those who loath poorly camouflaged exposition scenes might want to prep their eyes for some solid rolls when Galadriel and Halbrand are escorted to the Queen Regent and the Elf explains what Númenoris. 

Isildur - Adar
Credit: Amazon Studios

On the flip side, everything amongst the Harfoots is some of the best material the show and this third episode, in particular, has to offer. Nori and Poppy continue to be wonderful characters who play off each other’s differences like magic. As the episode played out it dawned on the author that ROP had introduced all the family members (Nori, Largo, and Marigold, played by Sara Zwangobani) but hadn’t let any genuine family moments breathe. “Adar” answers the call, and the Brandyfoots feel like a three-dimensional, tightly knit unit now. For that matter, there is a mournful but respectful ceremony hosted by Sadoc on the eve of the next migration that shed light on what it is like to be a Harfoot. What their aspirations are and how they wrestle with their difficult past. It’s quite well done and acted. 

Of course, we can’t forget the Stranger. Just as the Brandyfoots are faced with a dangerous trek (Largo’s ankle is still in dire straits), the curious “man” is no longer Nori’s little pet project but begins to truly understand what having friends is about. He’s no Harfoot, that’s for sure, but the Brandyfoots are a warm clan, and the dusty, towering person will tag along for wherever they head. 

Orcs enslaving Elves for an underground project. Galadriel and Elendil learn of the Enemy’s subterfuge. The Stranger no longer being quite the stranger given the Brandyfoots’ accepting him. Arondir is still held captive.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power returns next week!

The Appendices

-Lloyd Owen is excellent as Elendir. He carries himself with the grace and confidence of a seasoned man who can handle himself. Yet underneath there is some gusto, some moxie, and a sense of useful mischief. One gets the sense he’s going to be a cool character.

-Hearing the Stranger speak, even if he says very little, is a great moment. His utterance of “Nori” and “friend” suggests that the relationship will pick up speed from here on end. It should at least. Season 1 is almost halfway done. 

– Númenor receives the introductory treatment it richly deserves. Tolkien says enough about the land and its people for readers to understand that they are indeed a powerful clan. The Númenoreans are not to be meddled with and can hold their own. On the flip side, their rejection of the Elves and of almost anyone not from their shores will carry heavy consequences as show evolves. The physical place itself is brought to life with beauty and wonder. 

Tolkien geek alert:

-Isildur! That is a name even those only familiar with the Peter Jackson films will know. It’s very interesting seeing the character as a young man, learning the skills of seafaring. A little lost, a tad naïve. His place in Middle Earth history is extraordinarily important. 

-“Adar! Adar! Adar!” Who or what is Adar? The captive Elves have a quiet conversation amongst themselves about what the Orcs are chanting. He may or may not be a commander of Sauron’s legion. He may be some sort of physical manifestation of Sauron himself. A quick look at the Index of Tolkien’s Appendices and the name Adar…does not feature. 

-Edgar Chaput

Written By

A native of Montréal, Québec, Edgar Chaput has written and podcasted about pop culture since 2011. At first a blogger, then a contributor to Tilt's previous iteration (Sound on Sight), he now helps cover tv and film on a weekly basis. In addition to enjoying the Hollywood of yesteryear and martial arts movies, he is a devoted James Bond fan. English, French, and decent at faking Spanish, don't hesitate to poke him on Twitter (https://twitter.com/double_oh_Pop), Facebook or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/edchap14/).

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