Triumphant (for now) our heroes ride off into the sunset as we come to the end of Book 3.
Gandalf is rather testy with Merry at the onset of the chapter. I can only guess he's preoccupied since he rarely talks to the hobbits as if they are irritating children. On the other hand, he knows this is only one of many battles to be fought, even if he's oddly stumped on the method of communication between Mordor and Isengard. What does seemodd, to me, that with Palantir in hand, Gandalf is left wondering how in the world Saruman and Sauron managed to chat. Actually, I'm going to step back even further and boggle that Aragorn identifies the "Orthanc-stone," bringing it's identity to Gandalf's attention.
This chapter serves as an ending and a reminder of continuation. The story of Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn does not end here, but instead the time has come to look at the activities of Frodo and Samwise during all of this.
When watching the films we made the transition to The Return of the King several chapters back, with a transition made at a different moment of suspense. Or, as Gandalf speaks,"The battle for Middle Earth is about to begin." Our heroes even all return to Edoras to mourn the dead before a sleepless Pippin gets his hands on the palantir.
The details are well done, with Pippin suffering clearly from an obsession if not full on compulsion to see the palantir again and Gandalf sleeping with his eyes open. Then there's all the extra theater, with Legolas' elven senses tingling and the fiery special effects as the orbs send first Pippin into seizure and Aragorn into a faint. I guess it makes for a more striking visual than the descriptions from the text. Similarly, the changes in what Pippin sees make for more push to action and various conflicts of politics and interests.
Perhaps the most interesting (and effective) changes is that of Merry lashing out at Pippin, revealing details that would otherwise be shared by Gandalf on their ride together. Add in the incredible dynamics between Billy and Dominic, it makes for a very compelling and sharply emotional scene.