[Warning: The following contains spoilers from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Read at your own risk!]
Isildur's (Maxim Baldry) fate is already sealed in the minds of Lord of the Rings literature and lore experts, but for new fans, the first son of the great Numenorean warrior Elondil (Lloyd Owen) is simply trying to forge his own path in the world on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Torn between following his younger brother Alarion, who has only been mentioned in the series thus far, and staying in Numenor, Isildur has made some questionable decisions in the first few episodes of the series. So far Isildur's attempts to break out on his own have led to derailing the lives of his best friends and blowing up some very expensive war ships.
"You're seeing Isildur torn by the fact that his brother ran away," Maxim Baldry told TV Guide in a recent interview. "There's also pain in there as well. His brother did abandon the family by going west and not really sticking it through as a family. There's a romantic notion of the West, which is that there's sort of the faithful people that live there, that are very pro-Elven and pro the kind of history of the island, and then you have Numenor, the city, beginning to become more nationalistic and progressive and less akin to the Elven ways that they were before."
Isildur's attempts to define his own life has also caused a lot of strife between himself and his father, who leaves little wiggle room for what he expects from his eldest son and the desire to follow Numenorean tradition, especially in light of losing his wife and a child already.
"The relationship with Elendil is still very difficult. They haven't found a way to communicate very well," Baldry elaborated. "He doesn't understand Isildur in the way that Isildur really hopes to be understood. It's very challenging when you're hurting. There is a deep yearning to be understood and heard, and I think that sadly, Isildur is very much alone."
However, the two have a chance to bridge the emotional gap between them as they assist Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) in finding and defeating Sauron. When she made the call for Numenor to join her in the fight, Isildur was one of the first to volunteer for the cause, abandoning his ambition to go west.
"I think it's the sort of romantic notion of leaving the island...It's fascinating for a Numenorean of his age to be able to leave the island which they haven't done for many, many years," Baldry said. "And an elf on the island, Galadriel, it's things that they've read in books, in the law, in history. An opportunity like this can only come around every so often. So there's an option of him going into the west, but this one seems more tantalizing. It's something that he feels like he should really be part of and do something worthy of Numenor, which is what his father really wanted him to do."
However, darkness lies in the Southlands, and someone as conflicted and lonely as Isildur might be ripe for the picking if Sauron and the orcs are looking for people to join the cause. Baldry agrees that Isildur is vulnerable to those influences, and it sets up a complicated story for the young sailor.
"That's the storyline we're exploring – the capacity of human beings, human fallibility," he said. "These characters have the capacity for good and evil. I think Isildur, if he's exposed to that – it will definitely shape him down the line. Hopefully, we can make a character journey, an arc, that is believable, honest, and tragic. It is a tragedy at the end of the day. He has good at heart. He is the son of Elendil, who is one of the most legendary characters in Tolkein." Baldry added that he hopes Isildur will grow during his time in the Southlands, and he's excited for fans to see what he becomes after he's had a taste of battle.
"I think he needs to heal," Baldry said. "He's done something honorable and worthy, but he hasn't really grown internally and healed some of the deep wounds. That takes time. That takes maturity. We see young Isildur but we haven't seen Isildur the warrior, Isildur the man. I've very excited to finally be able to show that to you. It's a lovely journey and one that is very nuanced and complex, but ultimately, very human and relatable."
Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power continues with new episodes every Thursday on Prime Video.