There’s lots to like about Episode 4 of The Rings of Power, including some of the show’s most touching character moments and foundations for the future.
Although Episode 4 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power doesn’t quite reach the highs of the previous installments, the slower pace definitely works in favor of the show’s gradually-unraveling narrative. The show certainly isn’t in any rush to conclude any time soon, with Episode 4 taking a much more relaxed and less plot-heavy approach, in contrast to the series’ dense and rich beginnings. This may leave some audiences undoubtedly struggling with the slow pacing and lack of action, though Episode 4 of The Rings of Power sets up several new storylines that promise to culminate in a (hopefully) thrilling second half of the season.
This week’s episode of The Rings of Power focuses closely on a few characters that haven’t been explored much until this moment, including the Queen Regent Miriel of Numenor and the dwarven warrior Durin IV – whose separate journeys trace some surprisingly similar patterns as the story progresses. As mentioned, ‘The Great Wave’ is one of the show’s slowest and least story-focused episodes so far, but those aren’t automatically negative traits. The gradual momentum allows the audience to get sucked into the story without constantly being on the edge of their seat, and the emphasis on different characters ensures that things don’t feel too repetitive in this large-scale story. It’s just different, and in a way that might deter a few audiences who had more action-packed hopes for the show.
Now that we’ve seen half of the series, it feels safe to label both Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo as the standout cast members, with their performances as Galadriel and Elrond driving much of the show’s story so far. Whenever they appear on-screen, their overbearing presence immediately makes any scene more interesting. Ismael Cruz Cordova also shines as Arondir, one of the many characters in the show that most audiences won’t already be familiar with. His vulnerable performance brings a certain air of urgency and panic to the plot that contrasts the show’s slow pace in a much-needed way. Any scene that contains one of these three characters is bound to pique the audience’s interest, it’s just a shame that the other figures haven’t been given much time to shine yet.
The main problem with Episode 4 is that it feels too much like a ‘filler’ episode. It’s over an hour long, but by the time the final credits roll, it’s difficult to remember what’s actually changed in the story. Most of the characters are in the same (or similar) positions as they were at the end of Episode 3, and for a show with so few episodes, it simply can’t afford to waste so much time with unnecessary details. There are so many moments that could more effectively have been used exploring the other subplots that audiences are invested in (such as the incarceration of Arondir or the mysterious identity of The Stranger, who’s had surprisingly little screentime so far), but the show insists on making things much more complicated than they need to be. Extended runtimes and slow-build narratives might have worked in Jackson’s original films, but that’s because the story was always pointing towards the next exciting step – whereas The Rings of Power sadly feels lost and without direction.
Ultimately, Episode 4 basically feels like a bridge to the second half of the series – extremely necessary, but not the most entertaining of the bunch so far. All of the storylines are beginning to come together in a way that feels mostly natural, whilst the central conflict of the story continues to grow and become increasingly relevant. Whilst the episode itself was a little disappointing, the ideas that it sets up are full of potential that will hopefully be fulfilled in the weeks to come.
Episode 4 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.