Episode 4 of The Rings of Power invokes a strange form of Lord of the Rings villainy

Episode 4 of The Rings of Power invokes a strange form of Lord of the Rings villainy ...

With episode 4, The Great Wave, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay lean heavily into this truism, bringing several new and previously established antagonists into the spotlight as the Prime Video series nears its halfway point. They also further delineate the show from the J.R.R. Tolkien novels that inspired it.

Adar, a newbie, embodies the best of episode 4's antagonist-centric approach. He is unlike any Middle-Earth evildoer weve ever seen in Tolkiens' or Peter Jackson's Oscar-winning big-screen adaptations. Yet, Payne and McKay, together with director Wayne Che Yip and writer Stephany Folsom, manage to create an impressively complex character.

Adar isnt a person easily deceived by his desire for power, like Morgoth, Sauron, or Saruman, nor is he driven by a pathological desire to hide in a Scrooge McDuckian vault of gold, like Smaug's. Instead, his motives come across as confusingly layered, including his cryptic statements to Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) about Middle-earth's history being

Even as they threaten to deplete the Southlands' human population, rank-and-file orcs continue to reveal unexpected depths. Both episodes touched on their capacity for religious devotion, and both elements are still at play in episode 4. But The Great Wave adds something more: orc tenderness.

Watch as Adar, who in his own words, elvish comforts and then mercilessly kills one of his troops wounded in the previous episode. Just look at the adoration in that orc's eyes as Adar caresses his face; this guy has an unmistakable, almost childlike affection for his master. Throughout the remainder of The Rings of Power episode 4, the orcs are the bloodthirsty ghouls (and, occasionally, hapless go

It'll be interesting to see if this glimpse into orc culture turns out to be a one-off event, or if Payne and McKay intend to expand on this concept in future episodes. This isn't necessarily a game-changing scenario, but it might address the moral dilemma faced by an inherently irredeemable race that the Oxford don supposedly faced throughout his life.

Pharazon (Trystan Gravelle) ostensibly remains on the side of the angels in Numenor, but those familiar with The Silmarillion will notice his inevitable heel turn. The greatest of these comes when Pharazon displays his ability to deter an angry mob early on in the Great Wave, although it plays out against Numenors future devastation in the same way as Miriels (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) stunning petal-infused vision.

Then there's the overarching villain from Episode 4 who (true to form) continues to lurk off camera rather than actively participating in the narrative. The Dark Lords return throughout the second half of the episode, with differing degrees of success. On the one hand, Theo's exchange with creepy Sauron sympathizer Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) perfectly captures the unrelenting fear Tolkien cultivates around the Middle-earths would-be conqueror.

In The Great Wave, the forces of good end up becoming their own greatest foes, something that is incredibly true to Tolkiens work. Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is an example of this best, continuing to demonstrate a skill of diplomacy that is so poor that she isn't the only one of our heroes who are making hard decisions for themselves and those around them.

Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) and Miriel fall under this category. Celebrimbor cheerfully pushes forward with his fantastic work in the face of prophetic counsel that any sane person would have considered at best a warning and at worst a threat and which will likely end in tears. (Seriously, Celebrimbor: Don't go into business with the person you know will one day decide your fate.) Miriel isnt much better, treating her subjective interpretation of the palantirs

Both of these points go well with Tolkiens' canon; more specifically, the usual plot device of having characters misinterpret prophecies and symbols as their foes close in on them. Yet the episode ends on the kind of optimistic note that Tolkien was also fond of indicating that all is not yet lost for the peoples of Middle-earth even if evil is on the rise.