“Partings” is The Rings of Power settling into a status quo. Characters in different locations face down interlocked threats, all of them vaguely pointing to Sauron, while their interpersonal relationships are threatened by Sauron’s return. Some subplots, like Durin and Elrond’s relationship, work quite well, while Arondir and Bronwyn fail to go anywhere. In short, we now know what an average Rings of Power episode looks like.
To give this show its minor due, we must concede the show has gotten stronger in its theming. It draws parallels between its sundry plots, indicated by titles like “Partings.” The Rings of Power has paired up a number of characters who seem to be working towards the Last Alliance of Men and Elves, or at least paving the way for the Second Age’s world. Elrond and Durin’s plot, which while contrived (all elves’ fates rely on Durin? Really?), uses mythology as a roadblock to character’s healthy relationships. Elrond’s devotion to his oath while Celebrimbor bullies him (and will probably close out Season 1 by crafting the titular Rings) is genuinely affecting, and works to give Elrond a character beyond “look at this guy you liked in the early 2000s.”
Galadriel and Míriel get a fair piece of the action too, guiding Númenor towards the Last Alliance of Men and Elves. Having women determine this part of the mythology is genuinely valuable, and admittedly even undermines Tolkien’s patriarchy ever so slightly. Turning Galadriel into simply a hot girl who swings swords good undermines this somewhat, but admittedly, this show is running so low on pleasures that I’ll take “hot sword lady.”
Not all of it works. Arondir and Bronwyn are still flipping a big nothing burger. Isildur’s character lacks content outside of “will be important later,” amounting to little more than a failson rather than the tragic failed hero he really should be. Nori and not-yet-Gandalf are… perfectly fine, if hardly moving forward. The moment where not-yet-Gandalf pieces together language while adjusting to his new body is one of the show’s better moments so far.
As ever, the politics are insidious. This isn’t an artistic problem in itself — if it were, I wouldn’t be a D-list Tolkien scholar. But this show’s approach of “women take charge while men stumble in pursuit of their destiny” still validates a “women need to do the hard work approach.” And the valorization of high birth lionizes an upward mobility mindset that’s absolutely revolting to come out of Amazon.
This show hates commoners and poor people. Only those who align themselves with power or come from noble birth are moral people. This isn’t Tolkien, it’s Amazon with pointy ears.
Which is to say this is one of the stronger episodes so far, and sees The Rings of Power becoming slightly less awful.
1. The Great Wave
4. A Shadow of the Past