– Episode 4 (of 8), ‘The Great Wave’
– Written by Jason Cahill, Patrick McKay, and JD Payne
– Directed by Wayne Che Yip
Full spoilers for The Rings of Power episode 4 follow.
The Rings of Power‘s first season has reached its midway point. And, with it, the epic fantasy Prime Video series ratchets up the tension ahead of what’s expected to be a more action-oriented second half.
So far, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV show has been fairly light on action, preferring instead to focus on setting up its multiple narrative threads, showcasing its grandiose settings, and explore relationships laced with duality. The Rings of Power’s fourth episode, titled The Great Wave, is no different – choosing to build on the foundations laid by the show’s two-episode premiere and its third installment.
Just like the trio preceding it, The Rings of Power episode 4 does a largely great job of leaning into these drama-fuelled moments, providing plenty for its complex cast of characters (and viewers by proxy) to chew over. However, the show’s reluctance to wade into more action-filled waters is holding it back slightly and, unless it ramps up the action soon, the Prime Video series may start to lose the head of steam it’s impressively built up in its first half.
Rekindling old alliances
Like episode 3, The Rings of Power’s fourth entry is primarily set on Númenor. Sauron’s orc forces and their leader Adar – more on him later – might be the more immediate threat to Middle-earth but, while the elves and Númenoreans continue to squabble, it’s the infighting between the two races that’s a far more pressing matter to deal with.
This feud is most evident between Galadriel and Queen Regent Míriel, whose disharmony shows no sign of abating. After their startling discovery in episode 3, Galadriel and Elendil present their Sauron-based findings to Míriel in private. However, Númenor’s leader refuses to aid the former’s quest to return to Middle-earth – with a Númenorean army in tow – to protect the Southlands from the Dark Lord. It’s a increasingly tense showdown that presents another fascinating insight into the relationship between these two powerful characters; a rare female dynamic, too, given The Rings of Power’s predominantly male cast.
Unsurprisingly, it isn’t long before tempers fray between the pair. A Hail Mary move by Galadriel – one that sees her seek an audience with Míriel’s father, aka Númenor’s actual king – leads to a furious exchange, which ends with Galadriel being imprisoned. As the elven warrior stews in her jail cell, Halbrand comes to the rescue again. He helps Galadriel see that her arrogant ‘act first, think later’ approach isn’t always the best one to take; a conversation that seemingly begins her journey towards becoming the wiser, more serene individual we see later in The Lord of the Rings.
Their chat is interrupted, though, with Pharazôn’s arrival. Long story short, Míriel has decided to send Galadriel back to Middle-earth, under armed guard, with Númenor’s population growing restless over her appearance in their realm. Galadriel agrees to leave but, as she’s released from her cell, she quickly overpowers Pharazôn’s guards and locking them up before leaving to secretly seek an audience with Míriel’s father. However, it’s a move that feels a bit too easy for an unarmed Galadriel to succeed in pulling off, even if she’s a battle hardened warrior.
Pharazôn, who appears ready to make a half-hearted attempt to stop her, is halted by a still-jailed Halbrand. It’s an intriguing piece of foreshadowing. Pharazôn might have the political charm to win over Númenor’s disgruntled populace – as he does so early in episode 4 – he’s not the brave fighter some might believe him to be. Could this be our first insight into his secretly weak-willed character that plays a huge role in events to come?
Breaking into Númenor’s main tower, Galadriel makes her way to meet the king – only to find Míriel sitting with her ailing father. Remembering Halbrand’s advice, Galadriel apologizes for intruding before she implores Míriel to explain why Númenor turned its back on the elves.
As Míriel explains, following his coronation as king, Palantir – Míriel’s dad – claimed Númenor had angered the Valar (Middle-earth’s gods, essentially) and that they must return the old ways when men and elves worked together. This enraged Númenor’s population, leading Palantir to take the difficult decision to fully sever ties with the elves. He soon took ill, though, leading to Míriel to govern in his stead and quell any further unrest.
It seems the Valar are still unhappy with Palantir’s choice. Míriel shows Galadriel the last remaining palantír (not to be confused with her father’s name), an indestructible crystal ball that foreshadows the future. Placing her hand on it, Galadriel receives a premonition of the Great Wave – a cataclysmic oceanic event that leads to the destruction of Númenor. Míriel has foreseen this event in the palantír and her dreams, and is convinced Númenor’s fate is sealed as, according to the palantír, Galadriel’s arrival has set these events in motion. Galadriel presses Míriel to join forces with her omce more, which might appease the Valar and subsequently save Númenor. Reluctantly, Míriel declines, deciding instead to send Galadriel on her way.
Or so it would appear. As Galadriel leaves, Númenor’s White Tree begins to shed its blossom; a palantír-based sign that suggests Míriel is making the wrong move. She reneges on her decision to cast Galadriel out and, addressing an assembled crowd later on, Míriel announces that Númenor will stand with Galadriel, sail to Middle-earth, and aid the Southlanders in their fight against Sauron.
But things won’t be plain sailing (pun intended). As Elendil reads a royal decree to another crowd, one which calls on Númenoreans to volunteer in following its Queen into battle, Isildur – Elendil’s son – and his former friends Ontamo and Valandil put themselves forward.
It’s a gripping move on the trio’s part – and not only because Elendil and Eärien look concerned that Isildur enlists to fight in a foreign land. It was Isildur purposefully throwing his training exam that got him and his two pals thrown out of the sea cadets, much to Valandil’s fury. Isildur and Valandil’s frayed relationship, then, is sure to be put to the test in enthralling fashion if they’re forced to fight alongside each other.
Of equal intrigue is Eärien’s seemingly blossoming relationship with Kemen, Pharazôn’s son. The pair’s likely romance feels a bit forced even at this early stage, but it’s one that’s sure to drive a wedge between Elendil and Pharazôn. The duo are Míriel’s closest confidantes, so a power struggle may erupt between them if either party is unsettled by Eärien and Kemen becoming close. Both instances might unwittingly sow more seeds of division among Númenor’s people, giving Míriel more headaches to deal with.
As for the Southlands, things are truly going, well, south.
After making it to the abandoned elven Watchtower, things look bleak for the townfolk of Tirharad. Food rations are running low and, despite Waldreg, Tredwill, and Theo all suggesting a search party should be sent back home to gather supplies, Bronwyn forbids it as it’s too dangerous.
Theo isn’t one to listen to his mom, though. Enlisting the help of Rowan, the duo return to Tirharard to raid their stores for food. However, the arrival of dark clouds blot out the sun, giving an orc scouting party the chance to find new subjects to kidnap. As Rowan escapes, one orc attacks Theo, who defends himself with the blood magic sword in his possession. Unfortunately, the orc recognizes the blade, leading Theo to flee and hide down a well until night arrives.
As the orc scouts scour Tirharad for Theo so they can reclaim the sword for Adar, Theo makes a break for it – only to be found by the same orc he attacked earlier. Just as he’s about to be maimed, though, Arondir arrives to save the day, killing the orc and helping Theo escape into the nearby forest.
Wait, wasn’t Arondir imprisoned? Yes but, after his ominous meeting with Adar – the latter of whom looks like an elf who’s succumbed to Sauron’s evil (that is, if he isn’t Sauron in disguise) – Arondir is released, told to return to the Southlands, and deliver a message to its people. It’s a cheap plot device that allows Arondir to rescue Theo and one that drains the suspense from the scene. After all, why would Adar allows Arondir to leave with his weapons if he only has to deliver a message to the Southlanders?
Anyway, the pair manage to escape. They meet up with Bronwyn in the forest, who has come looking for Theo after Rowan – who made it back to the Watchtower – told Bronwyn that Theo wasn’t with him. The trio make it to the safety of the sun-lit treeline (without being struck by a single arrow from the pursuing orcs, mind you) in a slow motion action sequence that, franky, is wholly unnecessary. Along with episode 3’s superfluous slow-mo horseback ride, The Rings of Power really needs to do away with these irrelevant shots.
Back at the Watchtower, Arondir delivers Adar’s message to Bronwyn – the Southlanders will be allowed to live if they forsake their lands and re-pledge their allegiance to Adar and his orc army (and Sauron by proxy). Meanwhile, Waldreg finds Theo and delivers his own foreboding message: Waldreg knows Theo has the blood magic sword in his possession because he stole it from Waldreg. Oh, and Waldreg also ominously reveals the arrival of Meteor Man/The Stranger means that Sauron’s return is close at hand. Back at Adar’s camp, the orc scouts tell their master that they know where the sword is. Cue foreboding music and glances all round.
Mistrust in the mines
Over in Khazad-dûm, things are equally tense. Elrond returns to the dwarven realm to find out why Durin hasn’t visited Celebrimbor in Eregion yet, despite progress of Celebrimbor’s tower furnace progressing at a great pace.
Princess Disa tries to cover for Durin, but Elrond isn’t having it. Later, he overhears the pair chatting about the old mine and heads off to investigate. There, Elrond finds a secret area where the dwarves are mining mithril, a rare ore as strong as iron and light as silk. It’s a fun call back to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, where Frodo and Bilbo were gifted mithril chainmail to protect them on their respective quests.
An annoyed Durin confronts Elrond, believing the elf’s real visit – and desire to rekindle their friendship – is so he can steal Khazad-dûm’s mithril reserves for his kinfolk. It’s a bit of unnecessarily forced tension, particularly in light of the pair seemingly making up back in episode 2. A surprised Elrond suggests this isn’t the case and, after swearing not to tell anyone about the material, Durin reveals more about it.
However, the pair are interrupted when an earthquake causes a mine roof to collapse, trapping four dwarves in the process. Durin races off to save his people and, later after Disa sings to the mountain to ensure the quartet’s safe return, Durin confirms that all four dwarves survived. Disa apologizes to Elrond for lying about Durin’s whereabouts, while a frustrated Durin lambasts his father’s decision to end all mithril mining due to the roof collapse incident. Elrond calms his friend with a touching story about his own father, reminding Durin that he should make the most of the time he has left with his dad. It’s a poignant moment and one that The Rings of Power should build upon between Elrond and Durin.
Unfortunately, it seems that won’t happen for a while yet. After reconciling with his father, Durin admits he’s still sceptical about Elrond and the elves. His father instructs him to accept Elrond’s offer to visit Lindon and find out the real reason behind the elves’ wish to reconnect. Okay, Elrond’s sudden reappearance after so long away is sure to make the dwarves suspicious, but the show’s penchant for driving a wedge between the two races is already becoming a bit tiresome. Here’s hoping we see the last of it following Durin’s visit of Lindon.
The Rings of Power episode 4 is mostly a good watch, but some of its expository moments and the reappearance of tensions between certain races is starting to become a bit wearisome.
The Great Wave does a fine job of setting potentially more exciting events in motion and there are instances where strained relationships are compelling to see. Episode 4, though, feels like a momentary step back in some areas, though, with the Southlands and Khazad-dûm arcs held back by the show retreading old ground.
With episodes 5 to 8 appearing as if they’ll be more action-packed, The Rings of Power might finally move past its narrative set up and give us something truly engrossing to watch. However, if it doesn’t do it soon, even the most passionate viewers might start to become uninterested in where the series is ultimately going.
The Rings of Power episode 4 is available to stream now on Prime Video.