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Just when we were going to give up on The Rings of Power, it delivers an hour of pure Tolkien action

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel - Amazon
Morfydd Clark as Galadriel - Amazon

That's more like it. Since the start of The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime Video) we have craved action. Tolkien is meant to be an epic sweep of duelling good and evil. Instead, we have endured five hours of exposition and pondering with iffy special effects. I exaggerate, but only slightly. Some viewers had given up on the programme altogether. Others were thinking about it. (Not me. I'm contracted for the whole series.)

So it is a relief to report that episode six dished out kinetic thrills like water spewing from a broken dam. There were swords, spears, flaming arrows, the ebb and flow of battle. The Númenor and Southlands plotlines dovetailed at last in the traditional Lord of the Rings manner: with a cavalry charge. There were even one or two moments of real grit. This at last was the Rings we have been searching for.

It opened with some effective ninja work from Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) as he trapped the orc vanguard. We were treated to Adar's (Joseph Mawle) motivational speech to his lads first, which was an effective bit of scripting. There is an amusing narrative in some corners of the internet that the forces of "darkness" are in fact simply seeking a bit of equality for the orcs in the face of the lordly and racist elf colonists. We won't labour the point, but Adar's speech hinted at the idea that the orcs might have interior lives. What if they are like the rest of us, and dream of settling down near a decent school in a nice house with no natural light?

The orc-humanity gave a slight frisson to the following hour, in which they were mostly slashed, stabbed, burned and, in one memorable moment, clotheslined with a chain. Their black blood gushed in satisfying quantities. The scene when they began executing civilians was surprisingly dark for a programme that has so far erred on the family friendly. My highlight was the sight of the Númenorean cavalry galloping across the Kiwi landscape to save the day, a moment that felt positively Jacksonian, although I also enjoyed Galadriel's (Morfydd Clark) Matrix-style horsemanship.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ismael Cruz Córdova and Charlie Vickers - Amazon
Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Ismael Cruz Córdova and Charlie Vickers - Amazon

For a while it looked as though the entire hour might be fighting, but with the orcs rounded up and captured, the episode brought the volume down a notch. Galadriel's turmoil was clear as she and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) counselled each other against killing Adar in rage. You would have thought in the hundreds of years Galadriel has been alive she might have found some time to work on her anger issues, but evidently not. "You cannot satisfy thirst by drinking seawater," she reminded Halbrand in a little callback to their time together on the raft, something to check if the audience is still awake and a reminder that professional scriptwriters were employed on this production.

Alongside this change in the fortunes of Rings, over on HBO House of the Dragon feels increasingly hemmed in by its focus on a single family. In the original series there were gritty northerners to offset all the courtly antics in the south. The contrast is Stark, you might say.

Rings has suffered from the comparison so far, but not this week. More like this, please. It may or may not be a coincidence that the showpiece episode did not feature a single dwarf or harfoot. You had to be 5ft or over to go on this ride.