After last week’s cliffhanger left the fates of Galadriel, Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), Queen Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), the Númenorean army, and the Southlanders all up in the air, I’ll admit I approached episode 7 with some concern over whether credited writer Jason Cahill and director Charlotte Brändström would opt to skip over resolving this storyline altogether. It would’ve been a justifiable (if frustrating) creative choice to save the meatiest arc for what will surely be a show-stopping finale next week, to be fair, but thankfully it takes no time at all to return us to the devastation wrought by Adar, his orcs, and the traitorous Southlander Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) after the violent eruption of what turns out to be Mount Doom.
In the opening moments of the episode, the camera lingering on prone corpses, animals on fire, and more horrific imagery that emphasizes the true cost of war. In fact, few situations test the mettle of characters better than an unexpected, soul-crushing defeat at the last minute. With victory within grasp and this dark period in Middle-earth looking more promising than ever, Galadriel and the rest of our heroes instead have been forced to lick their wounds, accept the magnitude of their failure, and figure out how to move forward.
The chaos of the eruption provides a perfect excuse to experiment with brand-new character pairings, giving us the inspired dynamic between Galadriel and young Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin). Unsurprisingly, throwing the oldest and most experienced warrior in the ensemble together with the youngest character pays off remarkably well, uncovering new layers between two individuals who’ve wrestled with dark impulses in their own way. The guilt-ridden Galadriel led countless allies to the slaughter in her stubborn insistence to return to Middle-earth from Númenor, while the wayward Theo who assumes all his closest friends and family are dead and similarly bears responsibility for the calamity.
In their surprisingly moving conversations that follow, the episode lays bare its central idea of making peace with mistakes and finding the will to go on.