Recap: ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ Episode 6 – 'Udun'
Galadriel and Halbrand ride to the rescue of Arondir and the Southlands, but they may arrive too late in this week’s episode of ‘The Rings of Power.’
All hell breaks loose in this week’s episode of ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ – literally!
After several slow-burn weeks that saw our heroes in the Southlands engaged in minor skirmishes, and Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) campaigning for an army in Numenor, episode 5, ‘Udun,’ hosts the show’s first major battle.
“Udun” is an elvish word meaning “Hell.” It’s also a land in Middle-earth, better known as Mordor. And, as we shall see, it’s a more-than-fitting title given what comes of this episode’s events.
Things kick off with Adar (Joseph Mawle) planting seeds before battle, which we learn is an old elvish tradition symbolizing a belief in life, even in the shadow of death. But as a former elf turned orc leader, Adar is hellbent on destruction. He rallies his troops to march on the Southlands’ tower. But when they arrive, they find the only one there is Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), who has the edifice – ‘Home Alone’ style – very heavily booby-trapped. Before the Wet Bandits, er, orcs realize what’s happening, Arondir escapes and sends the tower crashing down on them, stopping the army in its tracks. Or so it would seem.
When he reunites with Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and the villagers, Arondir tries to destroy the source of Adar’s bloodlust, the broken sword of Sauron. But to no avail. Like the One Ring itself, it cannot be easily destroyed. So Arondir resigns to hiding it, though he refuses to tell Bronwyn where. Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), however, overhears his plan, and, as we later learn, discovers the sword’s hiding place. Arondir then rallies the villagers to fight against the orcs. He tells Bronwyn his ultimate goal is a peaceful life with her and Theo.
When the orcs finally invade the town, they find it well-prepared. Here, ‘Udun’ offers the first of several glorious bursts of action, with Arondir leading the fight, before running face first into a giant orc that proceeds to kick his ass. He’s saved at the last moment by Bronwyn, who proves as capable a killer as she is a healer.
But just as the townsfolk are about to declare victory, they find, to their horror, that they’ve only defeated their fellow men, their friends who recently deserted them for Adar – dressed in the helmets and armor of orc warriors. The true orc army then marches into town. Bronwyn is shot by an arrow, and there’s a grisly scene of Arondir and Theo removing it. After a generous amount of bloodletting, they cauterize the front and back of her wound with a hot poker.
Adar and his orcs then arrive at the villagers’ makeshift stronghold. Adar demands the broken sword, and, with no patience left, he orders his troops to begin randomly killing people. Theo, seeing his mother about to be murdered, cracks and shows Adare where the sword is located, beneath the building’s floorboards. Before Adar can wield it, Galadriel and the Numenorean army ride into town on horseback.
The resulting battle more than makes up for the lack of action in previous episodes. Heads roll, orc blood flows through the streets, and Galadriel performs her now signature ‘Matrix’-style moves atop her horse, ducking orc arrows, and beheading her enemies while dangling off the side of her steed. Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) too proves his mettle, saving Elendil (Lloyd Owen) and finally earning our respect as a warrior worthy of a crown. The action culminates with Adar escaping with the sword. But Galadriel tears off after him. She’s followed by Halbrand, who heads both of them off and dismounts Adar. He almost kills the orc leader out of vengeance for slaughtering his family, but Galadriel steadies his hand.
She then imprisons and interrogates Adar, and we at last learn of his origins. It turns out he was one of the “first orcs,” an “Uruk,” who was mutated and tortured by Sauron. He claims he killed the Dark Lord and set off with an army of his “children” to claim the Southlands for himself. Galadriel refuses to believe him. Having lived only for revenge against Morgoth’s servants, she’s out to destroy the entire orc race, which she regards as a perversion of nature. Adar taunts her to the point of almost killing him, but she’s stopped by Halbrand, returning her earlier favor to him.
In a brief moment of peace, the two sit down in a sunlit glen and admit to one another that, after this mission, they always want to ride at each other’s side. Their moment, however, is interrupted by the Queen-regent (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Miriel announces Halbrand as the King of the Southlands to the cheers of the Southlanders, and revels are at last held.
Arondir, in an act of forgiveness, gives Theo the broken sword to hide. But Theo, upon unwrapping it, finds the sword has been replaced with a simple ax. Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), who’s been absent from battle, takes the real sword to the altar of Sauron and reforms it. He then uses it to trigger a mechanism atop the altar that unleashes a flood upon the valley. Filling the canals the orcs have recently dug beneath the Southlands, the rushing water eventually triggers a dormant volcano. The resulting eruption and shockwave envelop the troops of Numenor and the people of the Southlands.
It’s the birth of Mount Doom, the volcano in which the One Ring is forged. And it’s the perfect cliffhanger to the show’s best episode yet.
The elves are the MVPs of this episode. As underwritten as they’ve been recently, here it’s enough that Arondir and Galadriel are poetry in motion: hacking, slashing, dodging, parrying, and decapitating their way into our hearts. But even as the latter proves herself a champion of the oppressed, “Udun” reveals a dark side to Galadriel. She’s blinded by her singlemindedness, and never stops to consider that her mission is one of genocide, even as she learns there are some orcs who, like her, are against Sauron. But no matter. For even if Adar’s plan is to make the Southlands habitable for HIS orcs, the hell he’s unleashed will make it the perfect home for the master he’s rejected.
Next week: In the first season’s penultimate episode, the Harfooots and the dwarves return, as Galadriel stares down the Southlands’ apocalypse.