The sixth episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (87%), a series developed by John D. Payne and Patrick McKay and inspired by the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, arrived on Prime Video yesterday and concluded with a spectacular reveal: the origin story of Mount Doom. Warning, spoilers for episode 6 below.

The mysterious sword that young Theo discovered in the first episode of the show turned out to be a key that was used to open a floodgate, allowing a large amount of water to flow through the orc tunnels. Finally, the torrent of water fell into the bowels of the famous volcano, causing an eruption of colossal scale that spread across the grasslands of the southern lands, a territory that will be known as Mordor.

Certainly, this Mount Doom origin story was a pretty clever way to use an essential element of nature to justify the relentless eruption. Series showrunners John D. Payne and Patrick McKay recently shared that this twist was something they thought through as they sought to tie the Orodruin’s origin to one of Tolkien’s most recurring themes. McKay explained the following (via The Hollywood Reporter):

A big theme in Tolkien is environmentalism and the way machines and industrializations destroy the earth. We wanted that to be front and center all the time. It’s something that comes up again and again throughout the show. So, in the writers room, we asked: What if Mordor was beautiful? All bucolic like Switzerland. And then what could happen that could transform it? We talk about the poisoning of the earth, which starts in the first episode with the cow. Then you find out that tunnels are being dug and sulfur is going up into the air. It’s all based on this geologically realistic way of lighting up the mountain that now darkens the sky for a very practical reason: Adar, our villain, sees the orcs as his people and they deserve a home where the sun doesn’t torment them. We hope it will take people by surprise.

Now, could the diverted water really have caused Mount Doom to explode like in the episode? It may sound like something impossible to some, but this time, an expert has taken the time to explain the science behind the reaction. Jeffrey Karson, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Syracuse University who specializes in volcanic activity and has written about the role of water in eruptions, went over the basics to enlighten fans. Karson had this to say (via THR):

Violent volcanic eruptions occur largely because water is involved. The water dissolves in the magma. The magma rises to the surface, the water forms bubbles that can turn into steam, and the steam and water expand so rapidly that they basically destroy the magma. Those things accumulate near a central vent and that’s what makes great volcanoes.

The specialist continued:

If that water is in a confined area, like a bottleneck, there will be a steam eruption, we call it a phreatomagmatic eruption,” he adds. “We see that happening in Hawaii all the time, where lava flows into the ocean, and some of the lava can blow away if water gets trapped underneath.

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