Warning: the following contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 5. Turn back if you haven't seen the new installment in Amazon's epic Tolkien adaptation.
Galadriel’s an easy character to like, a difficult one to love. She’s ostensibly The Rings of Power’s lead, dominating the opening episode’s runtime. And yet, since diving into the Sundering Seas just moments before leaving for Valinor, Galadriel’s been on a downward trajectory. She’s headstrong and proud – two words used by Tolkien to describe her during this time period – but to a fault, and that faultline is rarely explored in depth.
As Halbrand points out during ‘Partings’, Galadriel’s out for vengeance. The series’ prologue established that she wants to destroy Sauron, having taken up the task following her brother’s demise. That’s a completely reasonable quest, and fantasy shows have been built on worse, but Galadriel has not exactly been going about things in the best way. With Halbrand, she cannot understand why he wouldn’t want to be king. He asks why she keeps fighting. "Because I cannot stop," she replies. She talks about her friend, Elrond, and the way her previous company of soldiers could not "distinguish me from the evil that I was fighting." Were they wrong? She pushes Halbrand and later the queen of Númenor to go against their own instincts. We will no doubt see Galadriel come to regret some of these decisions – her dogged approach to politicking looks set to backfire – but, right now, we’re getting a one-note character who needs a little more humanity injected into her.
Contrast Galadriel’s treatment in The Rings of Power with Elrond. He’s a lighthearted sort of fellow who sticks up for his friends, no matter their race, and gently approaches potentially tense conversations so that the outcome’s fair. He has a completely different approach and that makes him more inviting as a character. His interactions with Durin are once again a highlight, and seeing the dwarf in Lindon leads to some brilliant interactions, especially with the returning Gil-galad. There’s fun to be had at the dinner table and later a deeper purpose to Elrond’s own quest is revealed as the Elven king tells him that their kind are fading and they need mithril to survive.
Also on Middle-earth, Nori and her family are catching up with the other Harfoots. This tale of a group of travelers fighting against the elements – and wolves – while looking after a Stranger who fell from the sky is whimsical fun. There’s little doubt now that the meteor man is a wizard (and not a perilous one) and watching Nori teach him how to speak is a reminder of the intimate and brilliant storytelling possibilities in this TV format that would not have been possible in the movies. However, adding some new tension to proceedings is Bridie Sisson’s bleached blonde servant of Sauron (that’s presuming they’re not actually Sauron themself). It’s a brief moment, but one that shows there are evil forces pursuing The Stranger.
Meanwhile, Arondir and Bronwyn lose half their troops after a deceitful old man rallies a crowd and takes them straight to Adar. Turns out that Theo’s not a villain after all, but a lost young boy. Without negative external influences, he gives the cursed blade hilt to Arondir, and they realize it once belonged to Sauron. It’s one of the slower storylines in ‘Partings’ and it’s balanced by the continued presence of Adar himself. There’s something so intriguing about him, this Elf-like villain who fancies himself a god. We get a few more Orc interactions; they’re quickly becoming highlights of the show – again, it’s great that The Rings of Power has the runtime to be able to explore these different creatures. If we get some solid time with the Ents, I’ll be very happy.
Back on Númenor. Following queen Míriel’s change of mind about Galadriel last week, Isildur wants to join the expedition to Middle-earth. His father and his luscious mane of hair won’t allow him to go quite so easily. He tries to stow away and discovers that Pharazôn’s son Kemen, annoyed they’re all listening to the Elf, is trying to blow up the boat he’s on. There’s been some great world-building going on in Númenor as the tensions between the two factions – split into those who trust the Elves and those who do not – are starting to rise, it’s just unfortunate that Isildur’s sister Eärien and Kemen lack any palpable chemistry. Isildur is finally on a trajectory that makes sense, rather than him simply wanting to travel west like his brother for a mysterious reason.
Much of Númenor is still seen through Galadriel’s eyes. Her presence, after all, is the thing that has startled this nation – and these events will one day lead to Númenor’s downfall. Gil-galad said back in the premiere that he had foreseen that Galadriel’s presence in Middle-earth may, unfortunately, provoke the one thing she doesn’t want to take hold: the return of Sauron. If that comes to pass, then perhaps the unstoppable Elf will take a moment to reflect and let us peek under the tough exterior. As it stands, she’s someone who will unapologetically do anything and everything to achieve her goal, no matter what. It’s hard to love her, even when her goal is a just one.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is available now on Amazon Prime Video. After more Rings content? Check out our guide to the Lord of the Rings timeline and our interviews with the Rings of Power cast and showrunners.