After the explosive ending to Episode 6 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Episode 7 was left picking up the pieces of the shattered storylines scattered across the shadowy landscape of the newly-forged Mordor. While a number of those pieces began their slow progress back towards reunion, the audience was given a number of surprising revelations about unexpected backstories and new plot developments, building towards what promises to be a curious and twisting season finale.
Your Guess is as Good as Mine for The Stranger
It seems that every week, the trail of breadcrumbs goes a different direction on the Stranger’s (Daniel Weyman’s) identity. This time around, though, the hints seemed to point in yet another direction. The Stranger was seen healing dead trees and renewing the life of the grove that had been scarred by the fires of Mordor, and heading off into “Greenwood the Great” at the end. The forest in question is another name for what is more commonly known as Mirkwood, the forest through which Bilbo and the dwarves travel in The Hobbit.
As a great many characters come from Mirkwood in Tolkien’s stories, this could mean a couple of different things, both for the story and for the Stranger. Sauron at one point took up residence in Mirkwood under the guise of the Necromancer, so the “Stranger is Sauron” theories have something to work with there, but a couple of other strands would indicate otherwise.
As Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) says in Episode 6, one of the Valar watches over growing things, such as trees, and that is Yavanna. Where this gets interesting is that the Valar had subordinate assistant spirits named Maiar who supported and worked with them. Sauron, for instance, was once a Maiar of the Valar smith Aulë, and Gandalf was a supporter of Manwë. But one of the wizards was associated most with Yavanna, and that was Radagast the Brown, who ended up living in Mirkwood. Both the tree-healing and the journey to Greenwood the Great would suggest that the Stranger may actually be Radagast instead.
Khazad-dûm Teases its Riches Yet Again
While the veins of mithril in the caverns of the dwarven kingdom were a sight to see, Khazad-dûm had a couple of repeat Easter eggs from Episode 2 as well. In the conversation between Durin (Owain Arthur) and Elrond (Robert Aramayo) in Durin’s home, his two ceremonial heads are placed prominently in the background, with the Dragon Helm of Dor-lomin again on display. Also, in the meeting that Elrond has with King Durin (Peter Mullan) early in the episode, a fierce-looking axe is on display in the background. This also showed up in a previous episode but is almost certainly Durin’s Axe.
And yes, I know what you’re saying: “Of course, it’s Durin’s axe! Who else’s would it be?” But this is not just Durin’s axe, but Durin’s Axe. You with me so far?
Durin’s Axe was a legendary heirloom of the dwarves and was carried by King Durin I himself, known as “Durin the Deathless.” It was kept in Khazad-dûm until the kingdom finally fell in the Third Age, and even makes a brief appearance in a reference in The Lord of the Rings book. When Gandalf is reading from the dwarvish record of Balin’s attempt to retake Moria, it is noted that his expedition found Durin’s Axe in their recovery efforts. As it was a legendary relic and heirloom of the dwarves, it makes a fitting appearance in the show.
Míriel’s Situation is Very Bad News
When Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) went blind in the fiery aftermath of the eruption of Mt Doom, it was a moment that had no foundation in the canonical material. Tolkien never noted that Míriel went blind, but her reaction and determination at the end to return to Middle-earth with a vengeance does make a couple of nods to the larger history of Númenor. While the timing is quite different in Tolkien’s chronicles, Númenor does begin to interact more and more with the continent, and that interaction becomes more and more predatory with time. While the Númenoreans first came to help and support Middle-earth, eventually they came for tribute, wealth, servitude, and an empire.
Míriel’s closing lines compound this sentiment. When she speaks of her vengeance, she invokes the name of her father, but curiously does not use the Quenya name “Tar-Palantir.” Instead, she uses the Adûnaic name “Inziladûn” for him. The significance of this change stems from the fact that, as hinted at in previous episodes, Quenya becomes associated with The Faithful in Númenor, and Adûnaic with the King’s Men. Generations of previous kings had taken Adûnaic regal names over Quenya, until Tar-Palantir attempted to change course. Míriel’s use of her father’s Adûnaic name would seem to suggest that she is beginning to throw in her lot with the King’s Men and their vision of the future, rather than the Faithful stance of her father.
There is Still Hope for the Future
Despite the seemingly dark turn by the queen and hints of a Númenorean empire, however, a few other references gave some hope for the future. For one thing, Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) indicates that the survivors will head for a port settlement at Pelargir, which is surprisingly significant in the Second and Third Ages. For one thing, during and after the Fall of Númenor Pelargir becomes a safe haven for those of The Faithful who have been driven away from their homes, and retains some of the memory of what was best in Númenor. It also becomes the site of another later salvation, as it is at Pelargir in the Third Age that Aragorn destroys the fleet of the Corsairs of Umbar with the help of the Army of the Dead, as he goes to the relief of Minas Tirith.
And speaking of Aragorn, Elendil (Lloyd Owen) is seen throughout the episode wearing some sort of brooch that may be a reference to his family line. It looks to be a serpent eating its own tail. The symbol itself is not exactly unique, but the line of Elendil also possesses the Ring of Barahir, which is later passed on to Aragorn. The Ring itself had a consuming serpent as one of its design elements, so Elendil’s brooch could be some sort of corollary of the design of his ancestral Ring.