Episode 8 of Rings of Power, the most expensive TV show of all time begins with The Stranger waiting for the rain to stop before coming out of hiding, apple in hand. That strange trio of elves, led by our Eminem lookalike claim to serve him, bowing and calling him Sauron. But of course that’s not right because we know Halbrand is actually Sauron, so it’s another red herring.
Anyway, the trio encourage him to use his powers, but the Harfoots are waiting in the wings. They make a conscious decision to save The Stranger, which is pretty admirable given their code about leaving people alone to die on the road. Unfortunately, it’s another trap but just before Nori is hurt, The Stranger comes out and whips up a strong gust of wind, slamming them down.
After some repurposed scenes from Fellowship of the Ring – namely that of Saruman and Gandalf fighting with staffs – The Stranger is knocked down.
Their leader begins breathing fire around the trees while Nori speaks to The Stranger, telling him she knows he’s there to help. And just before the Harfoots are destroyed completely, The Stranger puts out all the fire and begins spewing Gandalf-esque lines. And if you hadn’t figured it out already, the trio whisper that he’s the other one and “istar” which means wizard. Gandalf, as we predicted. The Stranger uses his magic to turn the trio skeletal and seemingly gone forever. Whether they’ll return in a different form, like some sort of ring wraith, is left up for debate.
However, all is not well with the Harfoots. Sadoc has been fatally injured and decides to sit and watch the sun come up, passing away in the process.
Meanwhile, Elrond has consigned himself to failure and speaks to Celebrimbor, telling him they need to abandon these shores. Speak of the devil, Halbrand shows up with Galadriel, the former needing medical attention. Outside, Elrond apologizes for his failures while Galadriel talks about her foolhardy decision to jump off and swim hundreds of miles in the sea. She prayed it was the right decision and decides to do the same now, taking a leap of faith and swimming against the tide.
Halbrand is all healed up and arrives in Celebrimbor’s workshop, gushing over his tools and interested in his gemstones. At the same time, Isildur’s sister is told by Miriel’s father about the doom about to befall Numenor and tells her she needs to look upon it herself. So she does, she heads into the next room and pulls the cloth off a Palantír.
Meanwhile, Celebrimbor, Elrond, Gil-Galad and Galadriel discuss crafting a new kind of power, something that Halbrand initially suggested and convinced Celebrimbor to pursue. Instead, Gil-Galad rejects the idea and tells him to leave. “A power over flesh” is what dissuades him, which are Halbrand’s words.
Galadriel picks up on this but Celebrimbor shrugs them off like they’re nothing. Galadriel is suspicious, believing there’s more to Halbrand than she’s been told. Well, given no one has actually decided to verify any of his information, that’s hardly surprising.
Galadriel eventually confronts Halbrand outside, having looked in the archives and realized there is no King of the Southlands. I mean, given she was in the archives looking for information half a season ago, did she not think to actually look at this then? But in a show where humans can survive pyroclastic flows, who cares right?
Anyway, Halbrand admits that he’s had many names in the past as yes, he’s Sauron. “I alone can see your light.” Sauron says, going on to tempt Galadriel with power and suggesting they rule together and save Middle-Earth. Galadriel refuses.
When the visions end, Galadriel wakes up and finds herself in the presence of Elrond. She realizes that Halbrand has fooled them all and rushes to Celebrimbor’s workshop, suggesting they make three rings as that will balance everything out.
On the sea, Miriel tries to make sense of her surroundings while struggling with her blindness. As they make it back into Numenor, the harbour is bustling with ships. Hey, it sure would have been nice to have that lot during their attack on Middle Earth right?
With Sadoc dead, the Harfoots decide to continue their migration, chanting that “nobody walks alone”. Unless you get injured, of course, in which case you’ll be left behind! Anyway, Nori leaves the Harfoots to head off with the Stranger, who throws out some Gandalf repurposed dialogue about following your nose.
As the episode closes out, the three rings are formed while Halbrand aka. Sauron walks into Mordor.
The Episode Review
And thus this billion dollar production comes to a close not with thunderous applause but with an indifferent shrug. All the obvious mysteries are unveiled, with The Stranger all but confirmed to be Gandalf and Halbrand very obviously Sauron. Unfortunately, it also reinforces jut how creatively bankrupt this series has been. Sure, the visuals are great but you’d expect that from the most expensive TV show ever created.
Visuals are but one part of a show and when you set that aside and really look at the story, that’s where things begin to fall apart. Galadriel has been an unstoppable Mary Sue, we still get no explanation for how everyone shrugged off a pyroclastic flow from a volcano and the landscape of the Southlands has now suddenly changed from orange and charred red to blackened and rocky… in how much time?
Through all of this we have absolutely no semblance of time. The timelines for all these different characters has been lacklustre and given how characters have been teleporting all over the map, it’s actually surprising to find the show not even bother to give some sort of timestamp to show how much time has actually passed.
I appreciate there are a fair amount of people who enjoy this but I’m struggling to see a massive audience returning for season 2 in two years time. If I stopped and asked you what happened in episodes 3, 4 and 5 in a couple of months’ time, I’d imagine you’ll be hard-pressed to pick out more than “Harfoots go walking” and “Galadriel shows up in Numenor”. The minute details are what matter in a show like this and that has been utterly diminished to forgetful indifference.
Rings of Power is an average-at-best fantasy show but because of the sheer amount of money that’s been put into this, not to mention the disastrous marketing campaign prior to release, this is likely to be Amazon’s biggest flop, especially in the eyes of those in charge given they want this show to be bigger than Stranger Things. And I think a lot of people would rather watch another season of Stranger Things than Rings of Power. An indifferent ending to one of the biggest disappointments this year. What a shame.