The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episode 6 ended with a (literal) bang. Now, showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay have explained the thinking behind the decision to change Middle-earth forever.
Spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power follow. Look away now if you haven’t caught up!
After the battle between Adar’s Orcs and the combined forces of Numenor and Bronwyn’s Southlanders, it is revealed that Waldreg made off with the mysterious black sword – and used it as a key to open up a dam in Middle-earth.
The end result is catastrophic: water rushes down the mountain, through tunnels, and into a dormant volcano. The explosion – which may or may not be the origins of Mount Doom – changes the landscape forever and causes untold destruction.
For Payne and McKay, this was a way to echo one of author J.R.R. Tolkien’s overarching themes in The Lord of the Rings. "A huge theme in Tolkien is the environmentalism and the way machines and industrializations destroys the land," McKay told The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab). "We wanted that to be central and core all the time. It’s a thing that comes up again and again throughout the show. So in the writers’ room, we asked: What if Mordor was beautiful? All bucolic like Switzerland. And then what could happen that could transform it?"
McKay continued,"It all builds towards this geologically realistic way of igniting the mountain which now blacks out the sky for a very practical reason — Adar, our villain, sees the Orcs as his people and they deserve a home where the sun doesn’t torment them. We’re hoping it will take people by surprise."
With just two episodes left of the season, we should get answers amid the ash very soon. For now, we can ponder some of The Rings of Power’s biggest questions: who is Sauron and what do we know about Adar?