Every character, it seems, dangles on a knife’s edge in this episode and must confront fateful choices that will define the rest of the season to follow.
In the Southlands, young Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) elects to stay with his mother over Waldreg and even goes so far as to open up to Arondir about his broken sword hilt. Both decisions pay off when Arondir immediately recognizes it as some kind of a “key” that (quite conveniently) lines up with an old stone statue at the watchtower. Whatever the specifics, it’s clear that Adar seeks to recover Theo’s hilt … at all costs.
Meanwhile, Isildur (Maxim Baldry) and Kemen find their actions intersecting in explosive ways on Númenor, when the former’s attempt to stowaway on one of the warships under the nose of his father Elendil (Lloyd Owen) coincides with the latter’s devious act of sabotage to blow up the fleet and prevent the island from entering war in Middle-earth at all. Bound by mutually assured destruction if either one reveals the other’s secret, the rest of the main characters must instead deal with the fallout of having only 3 ships left.
Ultimately, Halbrand alludes to dark secrets of his own when he stands as the deciding vote over whether to aid Middle-earth or not against Sauron. He heavily implies that he was forced to ally with the enemy in order to make it onto that raft in the Sundering Seas where he met Galadriel in the first place. But rather than judge him, Galadriel’s admission that she simply can’t stop fighting — to the point that even friends like Elrond could no longer differentiate herself from the evil she meant to defeat — draws even more parallels between the two characters. And though Halbrand wavers over whether to rise above his past or not, his sense of honor finally wins out.
Halbrand, Bronwyn, Durin, and more all hold the fate of kingdoms in their hands, and all factor into the episode’s impressively strong focus on overcoming great divides and past failures to do the right thing. With only a handful of episodes left, “The Rings of Power” has carefully positioned its characters to stand on the cusp of their biggest battle and most daunting challenge yet.