Ever since his highly anticipated introduction, a figure like Adar (Joseph Mawle) has benefited from the built-in mystique surrounding his place in the canon. Is he Sauron in disguise? Or another obscure character pulled from deep within the lore? Or perhaps a brand-new villain altogether? As fun as that speculation may be, however, all pales in comparison to the simple fact of whether or not the character has been engaging to watch. After all, it’s terribly easy for a writer’s room to tip too far one way or another in balancing between maintaining a sense of mystery versus frustrating viewers by withholding too much and for too long.
Well, this latest episode — written by Nicholas Adams, Justin Doble, and Payne and McKay – picks up the slack in a big way with some of the show’s biggest character reveals to this point in the story. Almost as if in response to this very complaint, “Udûn” opens on Adar planting seeds on the eve of the battle set up in last week’s episode.
“New life. In defiance of death,” he mutters in elvish to nobody in particular, further hinting at his dark origins and disturbing new role as a “father” to the orcs. But any further examination will have to wait. There’s a battle to be fought and won, though he at least takes the time to launch into the kind of rallying speech to his minions that could easily be mistaken for the heroic one Arondir and Bronwyn later use to stir up their own people. Touting freedom from enslavement, a new homeland, and the chance to right some serious (perceived) wrongs, Adar spins the upcoming slaughter of the Southlanders as a righteous cause worth sacrificing for.
As far as the villain’s plan and motivations go, we only know it somehow involves the orcs’ excavations at that labor camp, a scheme to blot out the sun for his burn-prone orcs, and the search for a new home. Yet despite being kept in the dark, “The Rings of Power” puts us right in the headspace of the enemy anyway unlike no other Middle-earth tale we’ve experienced before.