“Sometimes we cannot know [the light] until we have touched the darkness.”

These are the words whispered by Finrod (Will Fletcher) in the first episode of the new Amazon Prime Video series, Rings of Power, to a young Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) in the light-filled kingdom of Valinor. Dressed in robes of pure white amid flowing fields of green, the elvish siblings ruminate on the method and posture necessary to fight evil in the world. Their conversation sets the tone and pace for the rest of the series.

Galadriel trots across Middle Earth, wearing a suit with a star emblem emblazoned on the breastplate, obsessed with the desire to wipe out Sauron and his evil army of orcs. Her narrative arc, however, has an anti-hero trajectory.

Though she is valiant, her efforts create a trail of destruction. As the elf king, Gil-galad, predicts, she brings the very evil to Middle Earth that she sought to eradicate. Galadriel’s warpath feels strangely reminiscent of the way many pursue justice in our own world: with outrage and a desire to burn evil to the ground. What comes around goes around, however.

Galadriel herself does not wipe out Sauron’s army. Instead, she plays a role in the awakening of Mount Doom and its fires that ravage the countryside. Is this what Galadriel had hoped for all along? Galadriel’s character is a representation of our own moral fragility.

She is always one step away from giving in to more violent machinations. Not once does she mention a vision for a better Middle Earth, or a plan for restoration after the orcs are destroyed. Instead, the more she battles evil, the greater the wreckage she and Sauron unleash on each other.

In a letter to his son, J.R.R Tolkien writes, “You can’t fight the Enemy with his own ring without turning into the Enemy.” Likewise, Scripture tells us not to fight evil with evil, but to overcome evil with good (Rom 17:21). Christ followers cannot touch the darkness if they truly want to live their lives in accordance with God’s goodness. We must choose the better way; the way of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). But if we let hate guide us, we will move down a path toward becoming the monster we seek to fight in the first place.

The beardless, bootless Harfoots offer a foil to Galadriel’s pursuits. Relatives to the Hobbits, they live in the highlands and hillsides in holes called smials. The goodness of their characters is as clear as the acorns and flowers hanging from their unkempt hair. When the Three Witches take the Harfoots’ guest, the Stranger, and burn their caravans in the process, the Harfoots fight back. Nori Brandyfoot, Poppy Proudfellow, and Malva and Sadoc Burrows scamper after the witches in the dead of night.

Their aim isn’t to destroy evil per se, but simply to save their friend. The words of Nori’s father, Largo, keep them on the straight and narrow: “We stay true to each other.” The love of family guides them. The Harfoots know what to fight against, because they know what they are fighting for. The Stranger has become family, and it is the Harfoot’s love that empowers him to send the witches packing (presumably back to the land of Rhûn).

The old adage rings true in Rings of Power: The ends don’t justify the means. How we fight against evil in the world matters. We can fight obsessively, with a tunnel-vision and disregard for who gets hurt in the process like Galadriel, or we can choose to take a stand against the dark through simple acts of kindness and self-sacrifice like the Harfoots. If our chief aim isn’t to build a stronger, healthier future, then we will do no better than spread destruction, sorrow, and ruin. There is no victory for the person who fights evil and succumbs to the darkness in the process.