The Rings of Power ended in a flurry of mistaken identities. Who was Sauron? Who are the mysterious white figures? Who was Gandalf? Who was Halbrand? There were more bluffs than a poker tournament. This twisty finale, titled Alloyed, felt like a fitting end for a series that has been slowly working out what it is over eight long hours, in the full view of the world's attention.
"We have little choice then but to keep serving," said Elendil (Lloyd Owen) to Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), about halfway through the finale "And I for one will see to it we make the end worth the price." Viewers will have sympathised, at least with the first half of his statement. By this point we were committed to a programme that has not always rewarded our faith. We only hoped it would be worth it.
It was, in parts. Nori's (Markella Kavenagh) farewell to the other Harfoots was a sweet dollop of pure Jacksonian Hobbiton, with that mix of excitement and foreboding that comes with growing up, leaving home and heading towards an active volcano with an old man. Kavenagh has had to do a lot of lifting as the moral centre of the series. She has given Nori real heart.
If only the same could be said of some of the elves. Questions about how these supposedly intelligent creatures could be quite so stupid and badly informed kept piling up until I decided not to let them bother me. All the same, it would have been fun to watch this episode with a structural engineer. Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), supposedly a fine engineering and architectural mind, was only introduced to alloys by Halbrand (Charlie Vickers). Hasn't he been alive for hundreds of years? What're all their swords made out of? Lead? How do they make all those tall buildings? The scene in which they riffed through the possible options for what kind of item to make with their small amount of metal might have been out of a Lord of the Rings pantomime. "Oh I don't know, shall we make a crown? A sword? A brooch? A pen? A promotional keyring?"
I've tried to be fair to The Rings of Power, which hasn't always been easy. There has been plenty to criticize. The chintzy look and feel especially of the interior scenes and above all around Númenor, the clunking expository dialogue, the glacial pacing of the early episodes. Given the scale of the hype around this programme, its notorious budget, and the weight of audience expectation, The Rings of Power has to go down as a disappointment. Perhaps anything would have been.
But it is still fighting. Filming has begun on series two. There will be more Rings. And in recent weeks it has begun to find its footing, as the stakes have become clearer and the lines of conflict drawn up. These characters that we know will have such important roles to play, such as Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), are beginning to emerge. As Sauron gazed out over Mordor, we had the sense of knowing where we were for the first time. Or a vague idea, anyway. It's a start.