Galadriel got a princess face, an Orc-killer body and a samurai Elf mind
Welcome back to Rings of the Dragon, a Wonder series where we recap new episodes of House of the Dragon (HOTD) and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (TROP), and then determine which show wins the week. Because we’re freaky.
SPOILERS AHEAD, as usual.
The Rings of Power Episode 6: Udûn
Things are finally happening! A lot of fans have been giving the show grief because of its painful pacing, but after five long, expensive episodes, shit’s going down and things are literally blowing up.
We start with Adar/Orc Daddy showing that he still has some Elf in him by planting seeds before giving a pre-battle speech to his Orc children. New life, in defiance of death. He addresses them as brothers and sisters, not just humanizing himself, but also his troops, who have always been portrayed as soulless monsters. Some Tolkien purists may hate this, but as a casual consumer of the lore, I like the added depth to the villains.
The Orcs march into an empty Ostirith. As they look for the villagers who are curiously missing, they get locked in the compound.
With one arrow, Arondir/Elf Cop brings down the tower on top of the Orcs, crushing a bunch of them. The villagers cheer from a (vast) distance. Round 1 goes to Elf Cop and the people of the Southlands. +1 point for the fun one-shot victory.
On one of the Númenorean ships, entitled Millennial Isildur gives a horse a total of one (1) bite of an apple, takes a total of one (1) bite of it himself, and then throws the apple with a total of two (2) bites into the sea. What a wasteful prick.
Back to the Southlands, as the villagers Kevin McCallisters their village, Elf Cop shares an Elf tradition with Bronwyn. He gives her seeds to plant before the coming battle. New life, in defiance of death. They then engage in a traditional pre-battle make out session.
Round 2 commences. Arrows fly, carts on fire crush Orcs, throats are slit, a big boy Orc spills an inordinate amount of black blood onto Elf Cop’s face. It’s a fun and frantic battle that ends with the victorious villagers realizing that they didn’t just fight and murder Orcs, but also their fellow villagers who swore fealty to Orc Daddy. Round 2 goes to the Orcs. +1 point for that moment the villagers realize that they’re fucked.
The villagers take shelter in the tavern while the rest of the Orcs surround them. Elf Cop and Theo patch up Bronwyn, who was shot with an arrow and is bleeding like a mofo. As the Orcs come knocking on their door, we see a short but epic shot of the Númenoreans on horses, riding towards the Southlands. +1 point for the sight of that army thundering through open fields in slow-mo.
Orc Daddy threatens to kill Bronwyn if the villagers don’t give him the evil sword hilt, so Theo quickly gives it up. Right as the Orcs are about to claim the W for Round 3, we get a Jurassic Park shot of a puddle of water vibrating. But instead of a T-Rex coming to eat everyone’s upper body, it’s an army of angry Númenoreans led by a pissed off Galadriel, the fucking Commander of the fucking Northern Armies.
One thing about Galadriel, she’s the baddest alive. She got a princess face, an Orc-killer body, samurai Elf mind. +2 points for her riding into the village, slicing and dicing Orcs like it was nothing.
The Númenoreans and the Orcs engage in a fierce battle as Orc Daddy asks Sauron fanboy Waldreg to do something for him. I’m sure it’s nothing.
Halbrand/Off-brand Aragorn saves Elendil from a gang of Orcs. Isildur rides into battle after everybody else. What a prick.
Orc Daddy tries to escape, but is cornered by Galadriel and Off-brand Aragorn after a thrilling chase scene through the forest. It seems Orc Daddy did Off-brand Aragorn dirty, but the former doesn’t appear to remember who the latter is. The latter is about to end the former, but Galadriel intervenes.
Back in the village, the captured Orc Daddy is interrogated by Galadriel. He refuses to cooperate at first, but she threatens to burn his Orcs with sunlight, so he relents. He claims that he killed Sauron. Orc Daddy demands his Orc children be given a chance to live their lives in their own lands, further selling the idea that he and his offspring are not just mindless agents of pure evil doing evil things. Galadriel insists that the Orc race is a mistake and therefore must be eradicated. Just as Orc Daddy was ready to kill an entire village of Men just to get a hilt of a sword, Galadriel is prepared to kill an entire race to…get rid of evil? Darkness has touched her.
After further taunting from Orc Daddy, Galadriel snaps and is seemingly about to end him, but Off-brand Aragorn intervenes. +3 points for symmetry and a quiet but tense scene that complements the loud, action-packed rest of the episode.
Galadriel and Off-brand Aragorn, after stopping each other from going past the point of no return, share a tender moment. After all their bickering and flirting in the first half of the series, it took just them violently riding into battle together and pulling each other from the maw of darkness before they finally admit that they’re into each other. Halbrand is Sauron, isn’t he?
If Off-brand Aragorn is indeed Sauron, things would become really awkward for everyone because they just acknowledged him as the king the Southlanders were promised. All hail to the true King of the Southlands and Possible Big Bad of the Story Maybe!
The people of the Southlands and the Númenoreans celebrate winning Round 3 against the Orcs by eating, drinking, hailing a new king and [checks notes] evading giant volcanic bombs?
Remember Waldreg being asked to do something by Orc Daddy? Well, that something was to wake up a volcano. Waldreg uses the evil sword hilt to open a dam. Water flows through the trenches that we saw the Orcs digging in earlier episodes, and into the heart of a dormant volcano, which then comes to life.
As the volcano spews lava and molten rocks, the people of the Southlands and their new Númenorean friends try to take shelter from the rain of fire. Water bursts out of the ground as giant burning pieces of earth fall from the sky. There is panic and chaos everywhere.
Galadriel looks on as the massive volcanic eruption take over both sky and land. Like a beautiful, shining deer in the headlights, she stares at the blob of cinder, smoke and ash barreling towards her. Possibly feeling helpless, confused, afraid and even defeated, she closes her eyes and lets the unstoppable raging darkness envelop her. Sauron’s forge is now open for business. +1,000 points for the birth of MOUNT DOOM.
Final Score: 1,007
House of the Dragon Episode 7: Driftmark
In the aftermath of the deaths in the last episode, we see a multitude of HOTD characters gather to mourn Laena Velaryon. Harwin and Lyonel Strong are only mentioned in passing. We see several small interactions happening—some combative, some with compassion. A lot of awkward glances and stares are exchanged.
Otto Hightower is the Hand of the King again. Congratulations, Otto! +1 point for Otto!
Corlys and Rhaenys, Parents of the Year, have another debate about the choices they make that are supposedly for the good of their children. Losing a child is the most unimaginable horror that parents can go through. The only thing worse than that is losing more than one. We’ll circle back to this later.
Two old sweethearts who fell apart, Rhaenyra and Daemon, take a walk along the shore, catching up with each other’s miserable lives. They rekindle their tender, loving, incestuous relationship by having sex on the beach. Maybe this time, love won't end. +1 point for this magic moment
Aemond Targaryen successfully claims biggest big girl Vhagar. Congratulations, Aemond!
Hiccup Targaryen returns from his first flight with Big Girl Vhagar and is met by Daemon’s daughters (twins Baela and Rhaena) and Rhaenyra’s sons (Jace and Luke). The twins confront Hiccup for stealing their dead mother’s dragon, but he’s like “Finders keepers, nerds!”
Violence between all five kids breaks out. Leave it to GOT/HOTD to have children settle their differences in a knife fight. Things escalate and thankfully end when Luke cuts Hiccup’s left eye. +1 point for making it possible for reviewers and recappers to think they’re so clever by seeing this and saying, “It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Haha!”
The kids and their mothers (except Laena, R.I.P.) argue and blame each other for the mini-melee. Alicent demands an eye for an eye. Rhaenyra demands to know who’s spreading “rumors” about her children’s parentage, which sparked the baby brawl in the first place. Viserys, surprisingly, does not have a heart attack. He demands all the quarreling to cease at once, but Alicent is having none of it. Someone hurt her baby, so she’s going to hurt someone’s baby, too. She actually tries to attack little-ass Luke, but Rhaenyra stops her. Things escalate and unfortunately end when Alicent cuts Rhaenyra’s left arm.
Hiccup tries to calm her mother down by assuring her that losing an eye is worth it, because now they have Big Girl Vhagar on their side. He’s going to have a hard time riding a dragon without depth perception, but it’s worth it. It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Haha!
Alicent and Hiccup stand with the queen’s jerk friends, while Rhaenyra, Daemon and the Velaryons stand together across from them. Battle lines are drawn. +3 points for this fun, tension-filled chaotic scene where loyalties are challenged, and strained relationships are forever cracked.
As Viserys, Alicent and the rest of their entourage leave Driftmark, Rhaenyra asks Daemon to marry her to further strengthen her claim as heir to the Iron Throne. They hatch a plan to get rid of Rhaenyra’s husband, Laenor—with Laenor’s help. The plan is to fake Laenor’s death with the assistance of his secret boyfriend, Qarl with a Q. The plan is carried out flawlessly, ending with Qarl with a Q and Laenor with a shaved head rowing a boat out to an ocean of freedom.
Parents of the Year Corlys and Rhaenys wail as they discover the unrecognizable burnt body of (somebody else made to look like) their only son, shortly after the funeral of their only daughter. The ex-spouses of their children, Daemon and Rhaenyra, then marry each other in front of their respective children in a beautiful, incestuous wedding/blood pact. We don’t see Viserys and Alicent’s reaction to this union, at least in this episode, but I bet it’s going to be full of expletives.
+10 points for the Targaryens taking the idea of “blended family” to a whole new fucked up level.
Final Score: 16
With the final scores being HOTD: 16, TROP: 1,007, TROP has finally scored a win in Rings of the Dragon. Now it’s a fight. While it’s delightful to see the ever escalating civil war brewing between the Targaryens, it’s a good feeling to finally see TROP pulling its weight and delivering the entertainment goods. Let’s hope it can maintain this level of grandeur. Happy birthday, MOUNT DOOM!
We’ll see you again next week, fantasy fans!
Art Macky Arquilla