At the end of The Return of the King, the scenes that every Éowyn/Faramir shipper has waited for since the first hearing about the movie trilogy were condensed--- to two seconds of smiling. The entire Éowyn/Faramir plot became an after thought in the mind of many movie viewers. If they left with any notion of Éowyn and Faramir being a couple, it was only a slight observation at the denouement of the film, nothing that required much further thought than a shrug and perhaps a vague notion that they might someday get together. What is wrong with this picture? Not so much that the scenes were cut in favor of the much more exciting and pivotal plot lines of Mt. Doom and the Black Gates, but that the characters of Éowyn and Faramir were irreparably damaged by the pathetic attempt to resolve their complex plot lines in a matter of seconds. And while, as militant shipper, I could not help but have five coronaries on the spot, I cannot help but think that had there been no resolution at all it would have done more justice to these characters and their relationship than seeing them thrown together at the end of the movie.
Éowyn, as one of the only female characters in the trilogy, was put front and center in order to attract the female moviegoers that the film needed to be successful. And that’s fine: Éowyn is a great character and Miranda Otto’s performance as the heroine deserved every second of screen time she got. But all the attention she was given during The Two Towers and the beginning of The Return of the King leading up to her battle with the Witch King is a stark contrast to the rest of the film, where we do not see the wounded and despairing woman at all. Her character’s love for Aragorn is expanded in the films to create a tension between his relationship with her and his love for Arwen, but the resolution to the love triangle created in The Two Towers is all but non-existent. It is a not a surprise that many moviegoers would have preferred the Éowyn/Aragorn pairing at the end of the film: as far as they are concerned not only does Éowyn still love Aragorn, but his feelings on the matter are shallowly and hastily explained away as “I cannot give you what you want.” The fact that Éowyn smiles at Aragorn at his coronation, looking as happy as if she was marrying him herself, makes her character’s emotions and feelings not only seem shallow and weak, but also extremely ephemeral. What is she so happy about, when the man she once loved and wanted to marry is tonguing his elf wife as the newly crowned king? Any woman in her place would be in tears, a morose frown on her face, perhaps weakly trying to hide her disappointment and sorrow from Aragorn but certainly not ‘in bliss’ as she seems to be. If the audience recognized the connection with the man she was standing with, so much the worse. Instead of being the stoic, albeit unrealistic, woman who smiles as her hopes are dashed, she becomes the rebounding lover, throwing herself at the second most powerful man in Minas Tirith and completely changing her affections towards Aragorn for Faramir in a matter of a few cinematic minutes. Could she have possibly really felt deeply about Aragorn if she gets together with Faramir the minute he’s out of the picture? And, for that matter, could she care very much about Faramir? Éowyn’s character suffers from the deletion of her struggle to regain hope and find a way to live again, because the audience is never allowed to see her resolve her inner conflict, left with only a contradictory glimpse at her happiness.
Faramir, unlike Éowyn, was not a necessary plot element for the writers. With Aragorn already the established hero of the trilogy from the moment he saves the hobbits from the Nazgûl, and Boromir already the poster child for the ‘corruption’ that the Ring inflicts on the weak human race, where did Faramir, the lore loving, pacifist ranger fit in? Certainly not as a main character, and certainly not as an honorable man that is very much the equal of Aragorn, if a little less central to the plot. David Wenham did amazing things with the role he was given and in the end most fans were happy with Faramir in The Return of the King, but the fact of the matter is, Faramir’s role was minimized and corrupted by the script, and, as a result, his resolution was not important to the story. It is not such a stretch to believe that he recovered from his wounds because he begins to regain consciousness in the pyre scene. What happens to him next, is seemingly immaterial. His conflict is over: he forfeited the ring, helped the hobbits on their way and by doing so disobeyed his father. But what about The Return of the King? What’s Faramir’s conflict in this film? The conflict is standing up to his father and learning that he is not second best. Okay, so the last time we see him conscious he is riding to his death on his father’s orders… does that seem like closure? Faramir never stands up to his Father, never stands up for himself and what he deserves. And when would he have resolved this character arch and finally reached a better understanding of himself (as all good characters should)? You guessed it, The Houses of Healing. It is there when Faramir finally proves his ‘quality,’ refusing to let Éowyn slip off the edge, finally saying what he wants, finally being chosen above another man. Without the Houses of Healing, Faramir is still the manipulated second choice, the tortured victim, and the abused son. Not the noble and strong man of the Houses of Healing, not the thoughtful and insightful man who finally makes Éowyn see the light at the end of the darkness. And because Éowyn has never resolved her love for Aragorn, the audience members that did recognize her connection to Faramir would also see how this last plot point solidifies his place in as the second choice and as second best.
I can understand that it would have been difficult to go from the climactic scenes of Mt. Doom and the Black Gate to the psychological conflict of the Houses of Healing, but ignoring the healing and rebirth of these two characters cuts out a major message of The Lord of the Rings: there is life after suffering, there is happiness. The consolation prize of the Éowyn/Faramir stare insults and corrupts this message by letting the ‘happiness’ happen without any insight, the characters find life and find each other without ever resolving the darker elements of their characters. And if that means that I would have preferred no É/F at all, well then maybe that’s true. Because such a wonderful romance does not deserve to be an afterthought, a contradictory and character assassinating moment of ‘shipping bliss’, no matter how wonderful for shippers. It deserves to be the high point for both Éowyn and Faramir, and the lasting message of the film. And until the Extended Edition remedies this fault, neither Éowyn nor Faramir can possibly be done justice on film and there is a huge thematic gap in The Lord of the Rings where sorrow becomes happiness by trial and insight.