One drawback of these sorts of sprawling ensemble shows comes from the fact that most episodes simply can’t afford to spread themselves too thin by checking in with each and every character. That means that, after receiving much of the spotlight last week, Elrond and Prince Durin (Owain Arthur) completely sit out the action this time around. As for our lovable Harfoot clan, it takes nearly 40 minutes before we catch up with the drama involving Nori (Markella Kavenagh), Poppy (Megan Richards), and the enigmatic Stranger (Daniel Weyman) on the eve of the Harfoots’ planned migration. And sprinkled throughout the hour, we follow Arondir’s increasingly desperate attempts to free himself and his fellow prisoners from the sinister orcs.
These two storylines are linked by the idea of how far individuals will go to stick their necks out for another person — whether they owe them such selflessness and self-sacrifice or not.
Among the diminutive Hobbit ancestors, this takes the form of Nori remaining hellbent on assisting the Stranger at all costs. Despite his impressive star-related display last week resulting in the ominous deaths of all those fireflies, the helpful Harfoot concocts a harebrained scheme to break into Sadoc’s (Lenny Henry) book of mystical star charts and give the Stranger another tool to figure out where he needs to go. In a much-needed breaking of tension, we get one of the funniest sequences in the show so far when Poppy tries to give incognito directions to Nori while she fumbles around to grab the charts from right behind Sadoc’s back … even if it’s all for naught when everyone finds out about the Stranger anyway. Who says Middle-earth has to be all doom and gloom, all the time?
In the filthy hovel the orcs force their prisoners to dig out, Arondir finds out the hard way that cruelty and death can be meted out at a moment’s notice. Despite their valiant efforts, the senseless murders of fellow elves Médhor (Augustus Prew) and the watchwarden Revion (Simon Merrells) breaks something in Arondir. This bleak sequence ends without much hope, in stark contrast to the Harfoots earning the assistance of the Stranger as they migrate to a new home, as the eponymous and obviously villainous Adar finally makes its appearance in the closing moments.
Sauron isn’t the only threat our heroes will have to contend with.