Episode 3 of The Rings of Power steps back from the grand storytelling of the first two episodes, focusing closely on a few of the series’ best characters.
It took two whole episodes to fully establish the narrative that The Rings of Power is setting up, but now Episode 3 proves that forces are fully in action and the season’s main story is well and truly underway. It sacrifices the large-scale worldbuilding and oversaturated subplots of the first two episodes for some more detailed, restrained character work that provides a much-needed emotional weight to these individuals and their respective journeys. The episode leans much more heavily into Lord of the Rings’ fantasy roots, introducing more of Middle-Earth’s rich history – which will please long-time fans of the series whilst never confusing or isolating the more casual audiences.
Unlike the first two episodes, Episode 3 of The Rings of Power chooses one or two of the show’s various subplots and sticks with them for the majority of the runtime – and thankfully, the writers definitely chose the right ones to focus on right away. The invasion of the orcs in the Southlands is clearly the show’s first major plot point, and this episode focuses solely on the characters that are important to this storyline – primarily Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who find themselves stuck in the ancient city of Numenor. The episode’s less crowded approach to storytelling immediately makes the show much more engaging and accessible, as it’s much easier to keep track of what’s happening on-screen when everything is clearly connected – a concept that the first two episodes failed to grasp.
Throughout their journey in Numenor, Galadriel and Halbrand uncover a web of political conflict and generational disputes that allow the show to seamlessly inject a healthy dose of historical background into the show without making it appear forced – which is extremely important when you’re dealing with a world as rich and dense as Tolkien’s. Episode 3 does a great job of blending the past and the present in a subtle way, ensuring that Middle-Earth’s lore is only explored fully when it’s relevant to the story – crucially preventing any more exposition-dumps like the ones in Episode 1. If they’ve managed to make it this far, even those without any prior knowledge of Lord of the Rings should be able to follow the story easily by this point.
The main area where Episode 3 of The Rings of Power shines brighter than the previous two is its narrative focus. The first two episodes felt quite muddled and disjointed, with loads of great ideas that never really came together in a clear way. Episode 3 manages to overcome this struggle, offering poignant character work whilst consistently keeping the show’s overall narrative (the return of Sauron and his dark forces in Middle-Earth) at the forefront. It makes the episode flow much more cleanly and cohesively than the previous two, leaving every scene feeling important and necessary.
That being said, the absence of characters like Elrond and Celebrimbor in this episode is extremely noticeable. They were a huge part of the show’s beginning, but now their entire storyline has been postponed for a week (at least) whilst the show focuses on a completely different subplot. And if next week’s episode decides to compensate for their absence by making them the focus, there’s a possibility that other storylines will start to lose their influence. It’s obviously a difficult task when there are so many different characters, but for The Rings of Power to truly shine, it needs to figure out a more effective way to deal with all aspects of its narrative equally – without losing focus of its main goal.
Regardless, Episode 3 of The Rings of Power remains the show’s most solid performance yet. It might not reach the visual and conceptual highs of Episode 1, but more importantly, it manages to avoid that same episode’s pitfalls by offering a safer, more grounded approach to storytelling. The world-building, character development and plot progression are all continuing at a strong pace, with gorgeous visuals and a mesmerizing score to keep audiences engaged even in the show’s more slow-paced moments. The Rings of Power is great television so far, but its only problem is that it’s neglecting its potential to be amazing.
Episode 3 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is now available to watch on Prime Video.