– Episode 5 (of 8), ‘Partings’
– Written by Justin Doble
– Directed by Wayne Che Yip
Full spoilers follow for The Rings of Power episodes 1 to 5.
The Rings of Power episode 5, titled Partings, is a fascinating beast. The latest entry in the hit Prime Video series is one packed with deception, with many of the show’s major players revealing their true colors and the surprising rationale behind the choices they’ve made.
The result of this character-driven treachery is the high fantasy series’ darkest entry yet; an episode that certainly foreshadows the dark before the dawn. But, as the core message at the heart of episode 5 demonstrates – one that J.R.R Tolkien fans will instantly recognize – not all those who wander are lost. And, despite our heroes temporarily straying from their honorable paths, the actions they ultimately take in episode 5 ensures that hope will endure, even in the face of adversity.
Divided we stand
Of The Rings of Power episode 5’s four narratives, it’s the Southlands arc where that sense of hope is hit hardest.
With Adar wanting the Southlanders to bend the knee to him – and Sauron by proxy – Bronwyn and Arondir try to rally the townsfolk to stand and fight against Adar’s forces. It seems they’re successful, until Waldreg convinces half of Tirharad’s population to pledge their allegiance to Adar. Waldreg claims it’s the only way they’ll survive and leads them from the safety of the watchtower, much to Bronwyn and Arondir’s dismay.
It’s the first of multiple betrayals in Partings and one that’s steadily been brewing. Even so, it has the feel of a scene that should’ve closed out episode 4, rather than one that semi-opens episode 5 alongside the Harfoots (more on them later), which dilutes the gravitas of the situation.
That said, its inclusion in episode 5 leads into the most tragic scene in the series so far. After he pledges his allegiance to Adar and Sauron, Waldreg is handed a sword by Adar, who grabs Rowan (Theo’s friend) and forces him to his knees. Adar tells Waldreg that “only blood will bind” them, a move that seemingly results in Waldreg murdering Rowan to prove his loyalty.
It’s a dark scene that points to the evil in the hearts of men; something that foreshadows the corrupting power of Sauron on this race (and Númenor specifically) in future seasons. Still, it might have been more impactful if we’d seen the act play out on the screen. The Rings of Power isn’t averse to violence – we saw a warg brutally maul some people in episode 4, for instance – so there’s no reason why we couldn’t see this atrocious act carried out on the screen.
Back at the watchtower, after a heart-warming moment between Arondir and Theo, the latter shows Arondir the sword hilt he’s been hiding. Arondir recognizes the sword’s sigil, telling Bronwyn it was crafted by an ancient swordsmith and used to enslave the Southlanders’ ancestors. Bronwyn immediately loses hope that the watchtower’s inhabitants can hold Adar’s forces off. It’s an understandable reaction for Bronwyn to have, but one that feels like a heel turn, given how defiant she’s been in previous episodes.
It’s a U-turn all the more baffling with what happens next. A forlorn Bronwyn asks how long the remaining population could hold out against Adar’s forces before the watchtower falls. Immediately, she and Arondir realize they can use the watchtower to their advantage. Quite how they’ll do so isn’t clear but, thanks to Bronwyn’s “until this tower falls” line and expository panning up of the camera, it doesn’t take a genius to work out what their plan of action will be. Unlike the cut away from Waldreg’s character defining moment, it’s an expository scene we could’ve done without seeing.
There are betrayals in other episode 5 storylines, too, which shift the dynamics at play between certain characters.
Following a lavish Lindon dinner between Khazad-dûm’s dwarves and their elven hosts, High King Gil-galad reveals why he really paired Elrond up with Celebrimbor, which leads to Elrond reigniting his friendship with Durin: Gil-galad knows mithril exists and wants to use it to save the elves.
In short: long ago, an elven warrior and a Balrog fought to respectively protect and destroy one of Valinor’s two mighty trees. During the lengthy battle, the tree was struck by lightning, resulting in their combined powers – one “as pure and light and unyielding”, as Gil-galad puts it – seeping through the tree’s roots into the mountains to create mithril.
According to Gil-galad, mithril contains the light of the lost silmaril, jewels forged from the Two Trees of Valinor, and wants to use it preserve the elves’ immortality. As he explains to Elrond, the light of the Eldar is fading and, if it’s snuffed out, elves will become mortal. Celebrimbor knew this, too, which is why he was so keen to work with Elrond. The pair knew they could use Elrond’s friendship with Durin as a way to obtain vast quantities of mithril, bask in its light (which descends from the Valar), and remain immortal.
Unsurprisingly, Elrond feels deceived by his elder brethren. It’s a revelation that speaks to the elves’ hubris – those who are millennia old, anyway – and provides a riveting insight into how exploitative they can be when it comes to interacting with Middle-earth’s other races.
Unfortunately for Elrond, he’s place in a difficult quandry: betray Durin by breaking his oath to save his race, or uphold his premise and doom the elves. He comes to clean to Durin, which pays dividends. Durin agrees to aid Elrond and the elves, but they’ll need to convince his father to start mining mithril again.
It’s another touching moment between the pair; one that emboldens their friendship and continues to show the emotional weight that Owain Arthur and Robert Aramayo bring to Durin and Elrond. The duo’s partnership is one of the most enriching, amusing, and endearing in The Rings of Power, and it should lean more into this unique friendship as a refreshing alternative to the more ominously-positioned narratives in the show.
Checking in with the Harfoots, things are largely rosy for Nori and company.
Well, initially at least. With the Stranger’s help, the Brandyfoots reunite with the Harfoot caravan. Later, he comes to the rescue of Nori, Poppy, and Melva, who get themselves in a slightly eye-rolling and expository pickle when a group of wolves pursue them through an eerie forest.
That’s when things start going awry, though, with the Stranger unintentionally betraying the naive Nori’s trust. The Stranger uses his power to blast the wolves away from Nori and company, which causes the wolves to flee. However, the Stranger injures himself in the process. He finds a standing pool of water and, using an ice-based ability (and the water), begins to heal his arm and hand after entering a trance-like state.
Believing he’s harming himself, Nori tries to stop the Stranger – only to get her hand caught on his ice-covered arm, which causes the spell to start freezing her hand. Nori desperately tries to wriggle free, but it isn’t until the healing ritual is over – its conclusion creates another energy blast, which sends Nori flying – that she’s able to break away. Fully healed, the Stranger approaches Nori but, to his bewilderment, she runs away, fearing he’ll hurt her again.
It’s a welcome change of pace that shifts the balance of power, narratively speaking, between the pair. Nori finally sees the Stranger poses a threat to her, even if it was an accidental incident. It’ll be fascinating to see how this impacts their bond moving forward, particularly with the arrival of Bridie Sisson’s enigmatic Rhûn character and her companions. They’re clearly searching for the Stranger, so how Nori handles the fallout from this incident could have a big bearing on whether the Stranger stays with the Harfoots – or leaves and invariably runs into Sisson’s party.
Setting sail for a Sauron skirmish
Over in Númenor, things are as tense as they’ve always been.
Whether it’s the strained relationships between fathers and sons – Elendil and Isildur, or Pharazôn and Kemen – or the breakdown in communication between Galadriel and Halbrand, trust is in short supply on the island kingdom of men. The familial and friendship-based drama that plays out is intriguing, but it feels a bit piecemeal and forced on occasion. The Rings of Power would do well to dig into some of the relationships more to quicken the pace when it comes to character development or, in the case of Galadriel and Halbrand, stop retreading old ground in their subterfuge-style bickering.
Thankfully, it seems the show is finally getting to grips with the latter. After the pair fall out over their perceived using of each other, Galadriel and Halbrand apologize to each other. Pleasingly, Galadriel also opens up to Halbrand over her brother’s death and why she can’t stop fighting; a poignant moment that belatedly allows us to empathize with Galadriel through her vulnerability.
It’s a pivotal scene between the pair – and not only because it speaks to the unspoken level of trust that’s developing between them. Galadriel’s decision to reveal the real reasons behind why she continues to fight is what compels Halbrand to do likewise.
As we’d learned earlier in the episode, Queen Regent Míriel and Númenor won’t come to the Southlands’ aid without Halbrand’s involvement. Remember, he’s the Southlands’ supposed king-in-waiting, so his participation in taking the fight to Sauron is vital. He’s been reluctant to head home since crossing paths with Galadriel. As he teases, his previous actions make Halbrand believe he’ll be a pariah in the Southlands. But, buoyed by Galadriel’s belief that they’ll both find peace if they stand together and defeat Sauron’s forces, Halbrand elects to fight.
Episode 5, then, ends on a high note, with Galadriel, Halbrand, Míriel, Elendil, and even Isildur – despite Eärien’s shock – sailing to Middle-earth for a skirmish with Sauron. It’s a satisfyingly hope-filled ending after what’s been the darkest episode in the series yet, and one that hopefully sets up a much-needed and extravagant action set-piece in episode 6 or 7.
Special mention to the playful, swashbuckling Númenorean sword-fighting scene, too. The Númenor arc has been packed with brooding and stubborn individuals, as well as suspense-riddled subplots. It’s about time, then, that this storyline livened things up with some mischief and light ribbing. It’s also enlightening to see just how experienced Galadriel is from a combat perspective – the elf’s fighting expertise on full display as she teaches Númenor’s would-be warriors a thing or two about the art of combat before they set sail for Middle-earth.
What we think
The Rings of Power’s fifth episode is a predominantly pleasing return to form after a middling episode 4. It’s an entry that’s laying the foundations for multiple crescendos before the season 1 finale, as well as teasing where character arcs – we finally get an insight into Pharazôn’s calculating ambition – and storylines might go in future seasons.
There are some narratives that were in danger of becoming too pedestrian, such as the Númenor arc. There’s a distinct lack of screen time for some of the series’ more captivating elements, including Durin and Elrond’s delightful friendship. By and large, though, Partings delivers drama and revelatory surprises aplenty, and actually feels like it’s driving towards more thrilling events as the season barrels towards its conclusion. If The Rings of Power begins to merge its multiple storylines together in its next episode and reveals more concerning its biggest secrets, we could be in for a grandstand finish on October 14.
The Rings of Power episode 5 is available to stream on Prime Video now.