The Rings of Power Episode 1.04: “The Great Wave” Review

Four episodes in, The Rings of Power finds a propulsive energy. “The Great Wave” is the first episode of this show where the characters and the story are going somewhere instead of just jumping around all over the place like a breakdancing spider just shooting webs of silk in every which direction. It’s the first episode that takes its cue from its preceding installment and organically builds upon character conflict and history and weaves it into the larger narrative without relying entirely on the audience having read the scant material the series has the rights to.

To start on a positive note, where this episode finds its goodwill is in its exploration of the relationship between Galadriel (Moryfdd Clark) and Queen Regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). Their first meeting was easily the highlight of the preceding installment and here their continued antagonism provides a crucial window into both their characters and the larger story. Galadriel is exceedingly haughty and continues to display almost breathtaking arrogance in front of everyone as if they were an empty canvas. She doesn’t bother to think about how her behavior is exacerbating the problems around her or how it’s actively proving to the people she wants to join her that she is as unreliable and dictatorial as they assumed all elves to be.

Moryfdd Clark, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and Lloyd Owen, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

For her part, Míriel is walking an exceedingly fine line. She is acutely aware of her status as Queen Regent and not Queen, something she is reminded of every single time someone addresses her. She is acutely aware that she is holding onto a precarious line regarding her father’s illness and that, at a certain point, the questions about what has truly happened to him will be far too difficult to ignore. She remembers the consequences that befell Númenor when her father had decided to go back to the old ways and fight alongside the elves. So she knows that there might be a point to what Galadriel is saying, but Galadriel had offered no space in return to ask what exactly was holding the Queen Regent back from offering her support. She had simply demanded it and that was never going to work.

The fine characterization between Galadriel and Míriel is the most thrilling element of this episode, but that characterization doesn’t extend to the other residents of Númenor. Trystan Gravelle’s Pharazôn is the most interesting. Established as an interesting and competent fixture of the island kingdom’s politics, he has the most potential. The same can’t be said for Maxim Baldry’s Isildur, whose ultimate fate is known to those who watched the original trilogy and here has such profoundly asinine characterization that it makes you wonder whether some pages of the script simply forgot about him. His conflict with his father, his relationship with his sister, the circumstances around which him and his friends were kicked off of the ships, none of it is competently established by the script – and I’m sorry, but having characters just say what someone’s characteristics are is not the same thing as characterization.


Nazanin Boniadi and Tyroe Muhafidin, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The rest of the episode has some excellent sequences, such as when Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) stays back to get even more food from the orc hut. It’s a trick as old as time, the “I’ll be back in just a minute, okay” move that every audience member knows is never going to work. It’s a credit to the camerawork and lighting that the sequence holds suspense and for a very brief second, I was open to the idea that The Rings of Power would surprise me and kill Theo off in that very scene.

It doesn’t. The Rings of Power is not here to exhibit any significant complexity or shake up audience expectations and while that could change down the line, that it hasn’t done so in the first half of its season gives me the impression that it just won’t. When Míriel tells Galadriel that while she understands the argument she’s putting forward, that she still couldn’t simply pick up arms and go with her to fight in Middle Earth, that felt surprising and momentous. Then a few minutes later, over a speech that I think is too lyrical for a political leader but that’s fine, we find out that the people of Númenor are, in fact, going to war against this impending darkness. The story is moving forward, but it’s difficult not to see all the potential it continues to leave in its wake.

Maxim Baldry, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

+ The romance on this show is some of the most boring and wooden romance I have ever seen. There is no investment in any of the romantic pairings in a way where even the story takes their romance seriously and more often than not, the chemistry between the actors is so dead that it’s astonishing when they speak to each other and the other responds
+ That being said, “Well, if I see one, I’ll be the first to let you know” is a great line
+ The titular great wave is the most fascinating element of characterization the show has introduced so far and I hope that it factors into the characters’ decision-making process, now that both Míriel and Galadriel have seen it
+ Nazanin Boniadi’s Bronwyn is here to take no shit and I’m here for it
+ I haven’t said this before, but the orcs look fantastic. This is easily the best they’ve looked since the original trilogy
+ Again, the lack of consequences is kind of galling – by far my favorites in this show are the dwarves of Khazad-dum, but I find it extremely hard to believe that every single dwarf who was caught in the collapsing mine turned out to be okay
+ Sophia Nomvete can sing!!! That peek into this Dwarvish culture was beautifully done
+ How did these first draft scripts gets filmed, someone explain this