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Riddles in the Dark: Episodes Six and Seven

At last! The long expected Riddles in the Dark “Split” special is here! A two-part special digging into the questions, evidence, and...

At last! The long expected Riddles in the Dark “Split” special is here!

A two-part special digging into the questions, evidence, and controversy surrounding where the two films will be split!

In this pair of special episodes, Prof. Corey Olsen and Dave Kale finally wade into the most hotly debated aspect of the upcoming Hobbit films, namely how the story will be divided between the two films.  To a thorough review of the evidence we’ve seen so far, they add an insightful and, at times, surprising analysis of the merits and implications of Peter Jackson and crew’s various options for the end of An Unexpected Journey and the beginning of There and Back Again.  In addition, they blaze trails of Hobbit speculation by doing a thorough review of story elements and evidence related to the White Council storyline, discussing how it may be modified and incorporated into the chronology of the main Hobbit story.

Episode 6: The main Hobbit storyline

In the first part, Prof. Olsen and Dave dig into the location of the split with respect to the main storyline: after the capture of the dwarves by the Elves? While floating down the river in barrels? After their arrival in Laketown? Acknowledging that the widespread consensus is probably right, they nonetheless unearth compelling reasons for each location; they also reach the surprising conclusion that – contrary to popular opinion – the filmmakers actually have far more content to work with then they will be able to fit into two films! Finally, the make a prediction about the tone of the very last moment shown on-screen.

Prediction: What will be the tone of the final moment of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey?

A. Suspense (the heroes in immediate mortal danger)
B. Hope (the heroes escape danger, leaving the audience with a sense of relief)
C. Foreboding (a looming, far-off peril is revealed to the audience but the heroes are in no immediate danger)
D. Grief (the film ends with tragedy)

Download: .mp3 (right click and choose “Save As…” to download)

Episode 7: The White Council storyline

In the second part, Prof. Olsen and Dave are joined by Fr. Roderick of SQPN (also Dave’s partner on the SQPN Secrets of the Hobbit podcast) to discuss how the filmmakers will handle the parallel storyline of the White Council and its opposition to the Necromancer of Dol Guldur.  The trio reviews what we know about the Necromancer and the White Council from the sources and discusses how it will make the transition to the big screen and which elements will be placed in which film.  They focus especially on Saruman’s role (and whether his treason will be hinted at) and on the actual confrontation between the Council and the Necromancer, presumably at Dol Guldur.  They also fret over the possibility that this will be conflated with The Battle of Five Armies (or that Sauron will show up at the Lonely Mountain) but ultimately dismiss the possibility.  Finally, they make predictions about how the Dol Guldur confrontation will be executed on-screen.

Prediction: How will the confrontation between the White Council and the Necromancer be portrayed on-screen?

A. Immaterial, spiritual conflict from a distance
B. Epic,
Battle-of-Helm’s-Deep-style battle between two large armies
C. Avengers-style small-band-of-superheroes vs. evil hordes battle
D. No conflict at all – the heroes will arrive to find the Necromancer has already fled.

Download: .mp3 (right click and choose “Save As…” to download)


  1. Bre April 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Based on all the legal logic discussed in episode 6, it’s more likely that the split is after the barrels.

    However, a lot can change once they’re in the editing room, and they may change their minds, even though they have most of it figured out in the script.

    I recently reread The Hobbit, during which time I was actively thinking about the split. When Gandalf leaves them feels like a good spot, but it’s too early. After the barrels feels right, but it may be too late. The problem is finding out what to do with Mirkwood.

    I think the first film will and should be very Bilbo-centric, just as the first half of the book is before it shifts into a more political story. Therefore, it would make sense to end the first part at an important character moment for Bilbo. This moment would have to offer resolution for Bilbo’s journey in the first half, which is him coming into his own. This moment would then have to be when Bilbo takes on the spiders.

    Not only is this Bilbo’s shining moment, but it does offer a climatic sort of fight to end with. In addition, we can end on a nice moment with Bilbo, where he decides to go after his friends, whether or not they’d do the same for him. After a moment debating with himself (which Martin Freeman is very good at doing on-screen), he trudges along after them, disappearing into the dark woods of Mirkwood. As he runs off, the camera will pan up through the trees until it slows over the canopy where we see the Lonely Mountain off in the not-too-far distance.

    This way Mirkwood is divided between the two films. Thorin, who is captured before the others, can be questioned briefly by Thranduil in the first part, with the filmmaker’s cutting to it, while Bilbo is running off to the spiders or when they realize Throin is missing (cut back and they captured by the same elves).

    Spiting Mirkwood between the two films also means that Bilbo’s extended stay in the King’s halls can transpire during the gap between the films. Having stuff happen between cuts is one of the oldest tricks in the books and would work well here. Then the second film can start with a fast-paced escape sequence.

    While ending with the barrels still seems more likely based on the evidence, I know my envisioned ending could work well because it’s very similar to how they ended Fellowship of the Ring: A journey interrupted by a small but lethal band of foes, one member of their own is taken from them, members of the group are kidnapped and must now be sought after in the next film, a defining character moment with our lead hobbit, a foreboding image of things to come.

    Based on the conversation in episode 7. I’m going with D (the heroes will arrive to find the Necromancer has already fled), because there isn’t going to be time to fit another battle in, but they have to somehow conclude that thread, which they are clearly setting up in the first film.

    This a simple and clean way to deal with it, and is a smart decision, especially since the scene would also have to be short enough to not throw of the pacing of the second film, which will be Lonely Mountain-driven. Spending too much time on the Necromancer stuff takes too much away from the story at hand, which is a Bilbo story. The Necromancer subplot is an excuse to get Gandalf to leave Bilbo and the Dwarves on their own, and to foreshadow The Lord of the Rings. It’s also really attrative to have the situation reversed on them, where at first it seems a good thing that he has run way, but then they realize he’s returned to Mordor.

    Ultimately there doesn’t need to be a battle. And I personally would rather they not further confuse their audience on exactly how much magic the wizards can do, because Tolkien’s idea of magic doesn’t line up with Hollywood audience’s definition of magic (yay personal pet peeves).

    However this scenes is handled, it will probably be cut to well before the Battle of five Armies, becuase he needs time to get there, so it’ll probably be during the slow perioid just after the Smaug is slain. Two plot conclusions (The Necromance and Smaug out of the way) one after the other.

    As for Saruman, all hints to his darker edge will most likely be portrayed through subtle dialogue hints, and reactions made by the other members of the council. I don’t think there are going to be too many scenes outside the main council (a lot of ground can be covered in that council, think Council of Elrond), which will not only set up the Necromancer plot, but more importantly foreshadow the growing unrest of the Orcs, which eventually leads to the Battle of Five Armies.

    The only thing that throws off my theory is that the Necromancer has lines, but this could just be sound effect work like how they handled Sauron in the trilogy. If some battle does make it in, then it will be in the extended cut.

  2. Dave April 30, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    All I can say is, “Wow.” We’ll definitely be discussing this on tomorrow’s episode.

  3. Greg Gray May 1, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    I too think that something D-like will occur at Dol Guldur but my reasoning is based more on how I think Peter Jackson will want to emphasise the interconnectiveness between the White Council plot with the main Quest for Erebor plot, particularly for theatre goers. So ..

    While Sauron has foreseen and has prepared for the attack of the White Council, the sudden death of Smaug (his ally on his right flank), will force him to rethink and to bring forward his plan to remove himself to Mordor.

    During the White Council attack, Sauron will offer a small amount of resistance and then retreat, but not before orchestrating the attack on the Lonely Mountain with the aim of retaining the upper hand in that area by destroying all resistance.

    So, while the Orc and Warg attack to some extent is caused by The Quest stiring up trouble in the Misty Mountains, it’s more meta cause is that of the imbalance of power caused by the unforeseen death of the Dragon.

  4. Feorhund May 3, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    In “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” (which is a great source for tidbits on extended material like the White Council) Saruman was “already a traitor in heart” and “envied” Sauron as competition and did not “hate his works” when Gandalf reported to the council that Sauron was the one at Dol Guldur rather than a Nazgul. The reason he didn’t want to attack Dol Guldur was that he hoped the Ring would surface with the presence of Sauron and he could “forestall both his friends and the Enemy” while he took the Ring for himself. Saruman even used Radagast’s birds as spies to search for the Ring. Poor Radagast thought he was using them to watch for the Enemy.
    Saruman finally assented to attacking Sauron in order to keep him from further searching for the Ring near the River.

    And as far as the portrayal of the D.G. battle, don’t forget “force push” and “light attack” as Wizard powers we have seen in the films;) With the new descriptions of what Gandalf finds in Dol Guldur (don’t want to spoil it though), there might be another type of power that can be used against Sauron and his minions. And the 3 rings might even come into play.
    We could see elves, and possibly men, holding off whatever minions Sauron has on guard at D.G. (if any) while the Wizards/Ring bearers use “magic” to ward off Sauron. And there could be non-fireball “mind battles” as part of the fight, ala the flashes of the Eye in LOTR.
    I don’t think this has to be a huge battle that will overshadow the BOFA. It can be smaller but with far reaching consequences as I pointed out above.

    As for where the attack on Dol Guldur will occur in the films, they could portray it at the end of film one, and as they drive Sauron out Gandalf realizes that Sauron might now turn his whole will towards securing Smaug as a weapon. Gandalf then rushes to Erebor as he realizes that they haven’t defeated Sauron, but only drove him from Plan A. Then when we then cut back to the barrels heading for Lake-town and see the mountain, we get the ominous sense that the stakes just got much higher. The last shot could be smoke and flame as Smaug stirs in his lair.
    This makes the defeat of Smaug and the BOFA more important for the overall saga. Just as Gandalf thinks it is over with the death of Smaug, the dwarves, men, and elves begin to fight over the treasure. Gandalf recognizes that this could weaken any future chances at defeating Sauron. Gandalf thinks that Sauron may have won the battle after all. Sauron could be a weakened “presence,” at the Battle and not directly involved in fighting. He could “whisper” things into peoples ears that dishearten them and make them distrust each other. This might especially work if they include the Dwarf Ring somehow in influencing Thorin’s decisions. If we have the flashbacks to Thror and Thrain acting foolish due to the ring, this helps drive up the tension also.
    When the Goblins show up it is an ironic turn as it ends up uniting the three races and gives hope for future alliances against Sauron.

  5. Feorhund May 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

    Correction: When I said “as I pointed out above” I meant “point out bellow”.

  6. Scott Underhill May 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Regarding Tauriel as the chief guard, I think it would be unusual (in an interesting way) to have a woman and man getting drunk together to the point of passing out. Not the sort of role you see a woman playing very often.

    And I would personally put the split with Gandalf leaving the dwarves at the gates of Mirkwood: not a cliffhanger exactly, but the dwarves are left facing the grim task of crossing this disturbing forest and Gandalf is faced with the grim task of taking on the Necromancer. Apparently the evidence suggests that Jackson is doing it a different way, though, and that’s fine. :)

  7. Don July 23, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Just listened to Digest 4 and was intrigued by all the possibilities. Makes me think that the Hobbit could easily have been split into a trilogy with the first break coming at the entrance to Mirkwood, the second with Thorin’s proclaiming his return to the men of Lake Town after exiting the barrels and the third dealing with Smaug and the BOFA.

    My thoughts are that the first film ends with Thorin proclaiming his return (though that crams a ton of material into the first film) but ends with a lingering shot of the Lonely Mountain and the desolation of Smaug (but no glimpse of Smaug himself).

    I think the assault on Dol Guldur will appear in the second film, but that it will be a relatively easy affair for the members of the White Council to wipe out the Necromancer’s rear guard since Sauron will have already left with the Nazgul. i think Sauron’s portrayal in the film will be one of an incomplete spirit. Evil not quite fully formed as he reconstitutes himself. He will be biding his time building his strength and attempting to use cunning rather than brute force to search for the One Ring. Similarly, he will want to keep the Nazgul under wraps until he grows stronger himself since their appearance would likely wake people to the threat and cause the elves, dwarves and men to create an alliance against Sauron. That’s why Smaug is such a strong potential ally for Sauron. Smaug is already a known entity and can occupy the north while Sauron gathers strength in the South.

    I can see Peter Jackson showing us a Nazgul visiting Smaug offering an alliance from Sauron, but no Sauron or Nazgul at the BOFA as that would give away Sauron’s return. As usual lots to think about. Great job.


  1. Riddles in the Dark: Digest 4 | Mythgard Institute - July 20, 2012

    [...] this episode of Riddles in the Dark Digest, co-hosts Dave Kale and Trish Lambert, revisit Riddles #6 and #7, focused on The Split and the much anticipated Battle of Dol-Guldur.  They review predictions and [...]

  2. Riddles in the Dark: Digest 5 | Mythgard Institute - August 22, 2012

    [...] co-hosts Dave Kale and Trish Lambert share analyst and listener comments about Riddles in the Dark episodes 6 & 7, covering what had been the split between the two films but is now the break between Films 1 2. [...]

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