The fourth episode of The Rings of Power invokes a surprising variation of Lord of the Rings villainy

The fourth episode of The Rings of Power invokes a surprising variation of Lord of the Rings villain ...

With episode 4, The Great Wave, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay lean into this truism strongly, introducing several new and previously established antagonists into the spotlight. Its a move that pays off, too. Not only do The Rings of Powers baddies serve as compelling standalone programs, but they also delineate the show from the J.R.R. Tolkien books that inspired it.

Adar, a newbie to episode 4, embodies the best aspects of episode 4's villain-centric approach. He is arguably unlike any Middle-earth evildoer weve ever seen in Tolkiens' works or Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning big-screen adaptations. Yet, Payne and McKay, together with director Wayne Che Yip and writer Stephany Folsom, maintain a strikingly nuanced character.

Adar isnt some mysterious entity ruined by his desire for power, like Morgoth, Sauron, or Saruman, nor is he motivated by a pathological desire to savor the secrets of the Middle-earths past, which suggest a different personal agenda. Toss in Adar's unique aesthetic (Is he an orc? An elf? Something in between?), and Mawles' subdued performance, he becomes one of The Rings of

Even as they stand poised to greatly reduce the Southlands' human population, the rank-and-file orcs under Adars' command continue to reveal unexpected depths. Both episodes touched on orcs' religious devotion, and both elements are still at play in episode 4. However, The Great Wave adds something more, something even more terrifying.

Watch as Adar, who is well-known for his father, comforts and then kills one of his troops who was killed during the previous episode. This guy has a genuine, almost childlike attachment for his master. Throughout the remainder of episode 4, the orcs are the bloodthirsty ghouls (and, occasionally, tragic goons) weve come to love and hate. Here, though, there is a somewhat sympathetic quality to proceedings.

This will be interesting to see if orc culture evolves into a one-off proposition in the future, or if Payne and McKay intend to develop this idea further in the future. During the filming of The Rings of Powers, Sauron himself excelled at luring unwitting individuals into his service.

Pharazon (Trystan Gravelle) ostensibly remains on the angel's side; however, those familiar with The Silmarillion will notice signs of his inevitable heel turn. On the face of it, this is fantastic, as Pharazon demonstrates his ability to maneuver an angry mob early on in The Great Wave. Yet Pharazon's address to the crowd plays out to Miriel's (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) stunning, petal-infused vision.

Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) and his creepy Sauron sympathizer Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) complete the story of the Rings of Powers' overarching antagonist Sauron, who (true to form) continues to lurk off the camera rather than actively participating in the episode's narrative.

In The Great Wave, it's the forces of good that prove to be their greatest foes, something that is very true to Tolkiens work. Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is one of these best examples, continuing to demonstrate a skill of diplomacy so poor that she is not the only one of our heroes who are making life miserable for themselves and those around them.

Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) and Miriel fall under this category. Celebrimbor: Ignore people who would have considered at best a warning and at worst a threat but will likely die in tears. (Seriously, Celebrimbor: Try not to go into business with the person you know will one day decide your fate.) Miriel: If Celebrimbor represents the dangers of unchecked optimism, then Miriel is surely The Rings of Powers caution against going full Denethor

Both of these points mesh perfectly with Tolkiens' canon; specifically, the recurring plot device of having characters misinterpret prophecies and intentions as their foes close in on them. Yet the episode concludes on the kind of hopeful note that Tolkien was also fond of implying that evil is on the rise.