“Udûn” is an hour-long fight sequence with a few brief interludes thrown in for viewers to collect their thoughts, and it’s sure to please anyone who’s been waiting for “The Rings of Power ” to kick up the pace.
Elrond and Durin’s odd-couple bromance and the hobbits’ migration are both noticeably absent, making this episode the most focused to date. It also has the greatest impact.
It would appear that when attacking a fortress in Middle-earth, a larger and more powerful force is of little use. In the opening moments of “Udûn,” Adar learns this the hard way, just as Saruman did in “The Two Towers.”
He and his battalion of orcs and human conscripts march on Ostirith, the watchtower where Bronwyn, Arondir, and their people have taken shelter; the battle promises to be a short one, with little hope for the good guys’ survival, except there’s no battle at all. Adar tells one of his officers, “I can smell him,” despite the fact that the tower appears to be empty.
Of course, he is correct, but he hasn’t considered the trap he has just walked into Arondir, with a few well-placed arrows and some deft maneuvering, sends the whole building crashing down via a booby-trapped tower on his way out, likely destroying all of Adar’s forces in one fell swoop.
Arondir can always be counted on for a balletic action scene, even if he hasn’t shown as much personality as some of the show’s other characters.
However, the triumph is temporary, since one struggle always leads to another. Arondir’s forces appear to have won another victory over Adar, having retreated to a nearby village and preparing their flimsy defenses for the inevitable second round.
This isn’t the most credible come-from-behind triumph we’ve seen in Middle-earth, but it’s still fascinating to watch unfold, especially when Arondir is cornered by an absolute unit of an orc who comes dangerously near to terminating his life.
He’s spared in the nick of time, but not before the orc splatters his entire body with thick, black blood. While surveying the enemy’s fatalities, Arondir’s eyes are drawn to a nearby body covered in the more recognizable crimson, a sight that is as significant as it is revolting.
Then the heroes learn the dreadful truth: some of the orcs they’ve been fighting are actually members of their own people who stupidly accepted Adar’s offer of peace in exchange for vowing fealty.
They aren’t the only force capable of springing a trap, and arrows soon begin raining down from the sky, two of which strike Bronwyn. Who could have predicted that he wasn’t trustworthy?
Seeing Bronwyn pierced by two arrows is sure to have some viewers worried that her beautiful speech to her son Theo earlier in the episode was a kind of swan song: “This shadow is but a small and passing thing,” she tells him, quoting Sam’s words to Frodo at the end of “The Two Towers.”
“There is light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” If you go where the light is, the darkness won’t find you.
After several of his comrades have been murdered by the hail of arrows, Arondir pulls her into a temporary keep where the group’s noncombatants have been hiding.
Bronwyn’s wounds are severely cauterized, and Adar storms into the keep, demanding to know where “it” is. “It” is the sword Theo found, the one we are made to believe belonged to Sauron himself.
This is the darkest, most violent sequence of the narrative thus far. Even when Adar’s soldiers start killing prisoners, Arondir won’t tell him where it is buried under the floorboards, wrapped in cloth. Theo conceals the location of the blade until they focus on Bronwyn.
How many times must the heroes be rescued at the eleventh hour before the audience quits caring? It’s tough to say for sure, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Adar steals the covered blade, and just then we hear a distant rumble—the sound that can only imply approaching horses bringing Galadriel, Halbrand, and hundreds of Nmenóreans in what might be the most exquisite armor you’ll ever see.
After locating Adar and retrieving the sword, Galadriel and Halbrand almost kill him when Halbrand asks if Adar remembers him he does not. But Galadriel needs him to be alive, therefore it’s questioning time for you, my readers.
There is a brief interlude in which Halbrand is welcomed back as King of the Southlands, Elendil, and Isildur share a father-son battle, and the unbreakable link between horse and rider is discussed.
These quieter moments have always been the actual heart of “Lord of the Rings,” even though the series is known for its spectacular battles though, admittedly, few are as gory as the one we just experienced.
While being interrogated, Adar reveals his true identity as a “Son of the Dark,” an early orc who was originally an elf but was corrupted by Morgoth.
She tells him she will wipe out his entire race, and that she will let him watch his “children” perish before stabbing him in the heart with a poisoned blade. How did he react? Gasp!
He makes an excellent point, Galadriel, “It would seem I’m not the only elf living who has been altered by darkness.”
What, though, of the sword, which has yet to be unwrapped? Galadriel gives it back to Arondir, who has a talk with Theo about the sword and suggests they throw it into the ocean.
But they were both fooled, for Waldreg, who had abandoned his people in the expectation that Adar would protect him for his treachery, had secretly removed the sword’s blade and replaced it with an axe.
The episode’s title alludes to the reason for his actions, which will reverberate for millennia to come.
When the old man inserts the true blade into the lock, it sets off a chain reaction like something out of a puzzle book: the water drains into the tunnels below, erupting in geyser-like spurts all around our heroes, and then flows into the center of what at first glance is a perfectly ordinary mountain, where it erupts and turns the sky black.
Readers, please allow me to introduce you to Udûn, a valley in Mordor that legend has it was shaped by a volcano.
Mount Doom is the name of the mountain that recently erupted as a volcano. While the last eruption was indeed catastrophic, it pales in contrast to what lies next.