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LOTR: The Rings Of Power Episode 5 Recap: Picking Up The Pace

Contains spoilers for "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" Season 1, Episode 5 — "Partings"

Season 1 of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" is officially past the halfway point. The fifth installment of the season, "Partings," picks up the pace a bit (at least, as much as is possible with a story that is this scattered and disconnected). After Episodes 3 and 4 focused on a few storylines at a time, Episode 5 visits nearly everyone in the massive cast, moving their narrative arcs forward at a much quicker pace than we've seen so far.

From a fast-track account of Harfoot wandering to the break-neck preparation for a Númenórean expedition to a long-expected siege in the Southlands, the quinary installment of Season 1 is loaded with action. We also finally revisit the political drama brewing in Lindon, where a crowded dinner table full of important people gather to spill some wildly obscure secrets about Elven immortality, mithril, Silmarils, and Elrond's (Robert Aramayo) favorite subject — friendship.

With so many different storylines taking place simultaneously across such a complex and, at times, confusing world, it can be hard to keep track of everything that's going on. For those who got a little lost by the end of the episode, we've gone back and traced each story from beginning to end.

The Harfoots are on the move

Episode 5 picks up with the story of the Harfoots, who were conspicuously absent from Episode 4. When we see them this time, the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) is learning quickly. He and Nori (Markella Kavenagh) are able to have a distinguishable conversation before we're treated to a map-driven tour of the Harfoot's migratory journey. We're told that, at this point in the year, they're headed toward an oasis-sounding area called the Grove. This is clearly somewhere near future Mordor (based on the map), and as they go along, it becomes clear that the land isn't as fertile as it's been in the past (ominous portents, say we).

Along the journey, the group runs into a gnarly trio of wolves, which are about to help themselves to a hairy-footed snack, when the Wizard — er, the Stranger (come on, we all know at least that much, right?) — intervenes, scaring the perils off with some powerful Middle-earth magic. This boosts his stock as far as general Harfoot opinion goes. Things soon take a turn for the worse, though, when Nori joyfully visits her friend, only to have her arm nearly frozen off and be thrown several feet in the air by some unwieldy healing magic her giant friend is using to crudely heal his hand. The interaction is scary enough that it sends a terrified Nori running when the Stranger approaches her after the fact.

The juxtaposition of joy and fear, safety and danger, good and bad has been part of the Stranger schtick all along. All the same, it seems like things are heating up as he becomes more self-aware. Could a breaking point (followed by some sort of character reveal) be in the near future?

Division, tension, and glory in Númenor

On the island nation of Númenor, a fascinating mixture of excitement and tension continues to reign supreme. On the one hand, we have the opposition. In the source material, this pro-Mannish group is known as the King's Men, although the title doesn't apply to the "Rings of Power" story ... yet. This group of anti-Elvish individuals includes chancellor Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle) — more on him in a bit — as well as his son Kemen (Leon Wadham) and Elendil's (Lloyd Owen) daughter, Eärien (Ema Horvath). The two kiddos are shown conspiring to stop the military expedition to Middle-earth, and Kemen even goes so far as to blow up two of the five ships that comprise the armada.

For all the antics, though, the good guys ultimately prevail for the time being. Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) admits that she can't stop pursuing Sauron and continues to work her interesting approach of applying hard-headed, stubborn pressure to everyone around her to get what she wants. And it pays off, too. Eventually, everyone acknowledges that she is, indeed right. Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) launches the armada in spite of protests from both her father and some of her people. Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) finally embraces his fate as a returning king of the Southlands. Even Isildur (Maxim Baldry) weasels his way onto the expedition after nearly being left behind.

The episode closes with a gorgeous shot of the three ships, filled with several of the most important characters in the story, sailing off to Middle-earth, where an unknown doom awaits. There are so many storylines tied together here, it's going to be interesting to see how the show keeps them all sorted as we move forward.

Things heat up in the Southlands

A decent portion of Episode 5 takes place in the Southlands of Middle-earth. We've already established that the Southlands are right in the heart of future Mordor – you can even see Mount Doom quietly sitting in the distance from time to time. This proto-Land-of-Shadow setting has hosted most of the action up to this point as we've seen villages burned, slaves captured, and an army of Orcs continue to worm their way into the story — and Episode 5 only raises the stakes.

We see the Orc leader Adar (Joseph Mawle) soaking in his last sunlight and ordering his legions to go on the attack. We know that the villain is trying to get the broken sword hilt that Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) possesses, and we find out that the sword is some kind of key that helps bond the Southlanders to their evil past. How the magical talisman actually does this remains a mystery (there's no correlating sword in Tolkien's own writings to compare it to), but we do know that Theo's Southlander blood activates it, and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) hints at some terrifying power potential if Adar should get his hands on the device.

Speaking of Arondir, he and Bronwyn do their best to keep hope alive as the refugees in the tower divide over how to handle their predicament. Half the group leaves to bow the knee to the enemy, but the rest remain in their stronghold, preparing to make a desperate last stand that seems pretty hopeless at this point, in spite of the Elf-warden's insistence that there must be a way to survive the ordeal. If only a large army of unexpected horsemen could arrive to help them in the nick of time. It's a eucatastrophe we've seen before, right?

Political intrigue in Lindon

The Elvish haven of Lindon is a major factor in the Second Age story. It's where Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) and Elrond primarily operate (until Elrond goes off and builds Rivendell). Its armies will eventually provide a lot of the Elvish muscle for the Last Alliance. It's the spot where the Elves can still set sail to go back to the Blessed Realm. Suffice it to say, this is a really important place. And yet, after a glorious introduction in the first episode, we don't see Lindon again ... until this episode, where we're treated to a special gathering as Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) pays a visit to Gil-galad. Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) and Elrond are present, as well, and the quartet, accompanied by some interestingly-dressed Elvish maidens, has a tension-filled dinner. After the delightfully stressful discussion, Gil-galad finally reveals to Elrond this series' version of the origin of mithril and why they need it by next spring to save their people from fading or fleeing Middle-earth. Celebrimbor's in on the plans, too, and the cornered and outmaneuvered Elrond finally comes clean to Durin about his accidental treachery.

The whole idea of mithril being required to, as Celebrimbor puts it, "saturate every last Elf in the light of the Valar once more," is a bit of a stretch. J. R. R. Tolkien makes a big deal about light, and the Silmarils certainly glow with their own inner light, sparked by the Two Trees of Valinor. Heck, the Sun and the Moon come from that light, too. But from our research, Tolkien never connects it to mithril or requires the Elves to bathe in the light to stay fresh. Our best guess is that this is a precursor to creating the Three Elven Rings, which hold off the decay of time. We'll see ...

Villains continue to plot, scheme, and finally take action

Episode 5 didn't just move all of the heroes' stories forward — it also gave us some critical development with the antagonists of the tale. Most of this action takes place in the Southlands, where Adar officially gathers his legions and inaugurates his attack on the watchtower of Ostirith. We know that the Father of the Orcs is searching for Theo's broken blade and that obtaining it will give him a mysterious new level of power and authority, but what that looks like is still shrouded in mystery.

While Adar makes his first move, some of the Southlanders opt to help him. Led by the troublemaking tavern owner Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), half of the group of refugees (including Theo's friend Rowan) take Adar's offer of clemency by abandoning the fortress and bowing to their former enemy. In the process, Waldreg refers to Adar as Sauron, which infuriates the warped Elf, leaving little doubt that he isn't the Dark Lord some suspected him to be.

Meanwhile, off on Númenor, Pharazôn informs his skeptical son, Kemen, that if his cousin, the Queen Regent, wants to sail off to save Middle-earth, that's her affair. He's going along with the deal not to save people, though, but to exploit them. The prospect of leveraging a Númenórean victory to obtain ore, lumber, trade, and tribute is too good for the chancellor to pass up. It's a line of reasoning right in line with his original character in J. R. R. Tolkien's source material (in fact, in the books, the Númenóreans are already busily exploiting Middle-earth before Pharazôn is even born) and is definitely a sign of darker things to come.

When does The Rings of Power Season 1, Episode 6 air?

Episode 6 of "The Rings of Power" is set to release on September 30th at 12 a.m. EST. The show has been refreshingly consistent with its release schedule and is on track to drop all eight of the 1st season's episodes in weekly installments without a single break right through the finale (which is scheduled to air on October 14).

After a busy and information-filled Episode 5, it will be interesting to see where the sixth installment takes us. At this point, the task of revealing the "Rings of Power" world, showing off its several major geographic regions, introducing its massive cast of characters, and setting up its multi-faceted story is all behind us. To quote Gandalf from "The Return of the King," "The board is set, and the pieces are moving." The question now is what moves each side will make.

Will Adar's orcs be an unstoppable force? Will he get his hands on the sword hilt he's after? What happens after that? What about Mount Doom, resting quietly in the distance? The Númenóreans are officially on their way, too. Do they arrive in time to make a difference, or will three ships be too little, too late? Will the Elvish ambitious to use mithril work out or will it leave them scrambling for a more ornate, circular solution? And what on Middle-earth is going on with the Stranger? Can we please get some clarity there? Episode 6 may not be the end of the season, but here's to the hope that it will start to give us some answers.