By Júlia Jorge and Matheus Herndl
When Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (ROP) was first announced, we, like many fans, were skeptical. This feeling worsened when the first trailer dropped, revealing how 1) most male elves had short hair and 2) no dwarven women had beards. Although these details seem small, they are consistent in Tolkien’s work, which shows that, as much as Amazon claimed they were respecting the source material, they weren’t actually paying attention to it.
Now that the first season of the show is completed, can Amazon disprove the skeptics?
In short — no. Set during some mysterious time period of the Second Age of Middle Earth, ROP — the most expensive TV show ever made — follows four simultaneous plotlines. The elf Galadriel is on a revenge mission against the mysterious Sauron, the Dark Lord who killed her brother. Her friend Elrond forges an alliance with the Dwarves to help the latest mysterious project of elven
smith Celebrimbor. The elf ranger Arondir investigates mysterious happenings in the Southlands with the help of Bronwyn, a human healer. Meanwhile, the Harfoot Nori discovers a mysterious stranger, whom she is determined to help. And, yes, we did use “mysterious” repeatedly for a reason.
But to provide a fair review of this season, we must approach it through two lenses: that of an independent fantasy show, and that of a Tolkien adaptation.
As a fantasy show, ROP suffers from slow pacing and fails to properly establish the main characters (with the exception of Nori, our lovable Harfoot, and most likely the best part of the entire show). Some of the plotlines are engaging, such as the Harfoots and their dealings with the
Stranger, and some relationships are better developed, such as the friendship between the elf Elrond and the dwarven prince Durin. The culmination of Arondir’s plotline in “Udûn” results in the best episode of the season. However, Galadriel and Arondir’s plotlines as a whole feel sluggish compared to those of Nori and Elrond. Overall, the writing is more inconsistent than that of “Supernatural” throughout its 15 seasons.
As an adaptation, ROP somehow manages to fail even harder. When the show is not actively contradicting Tolkien’s lore, it is too busy ruining complex and beloved characters such as Galadriel — who the show turns into a petulant teenage-like elf with anger issues that barely resembles her movie or book counterpart. The lore was butchered in an attempt to create conflicts that did not exist in the source material (which makes the entire show feel like fanfiction), and the timeline —which originally extended 3,441 years — has been compressed to the point that events that should take place over generations are taking place over less than a month, and characters that should have been born at the end of the Second Age are alive at the same time of climatic events of the start of that period. Additionally, ROP over-relies on mystery boxes to keep viewers coming back, which either don’t make sense or are so obvious that we question why they were made a mystery in the first place.
Sometimes, the dialogue tries to emulate the way characters speak in Tolkien, but it often feels forced and unnatural because the surrounding dialogue does not follow the same conventions. On the up hand, the show is gorgeous and truly depicts Middle Earth and some of its societies in their Golden Age, such as Númenor (when we can see it, for the show suffers from lighting problems in many of the nighttime scenes), giving a new glimpse into Tolkien’s universe that could not be seen in “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit”, as such movies took place thousands of years afterward when these societies had crumpled.
It also depicts important historical moments that were never seen
on-screen before, such as the Two Trees of Valinor. The score is another highlight of the show, capturing the atmosphere of the original Peter Jackson movies, so it’s not all faults.
The positive points, however, cannot change the fact that, as an independent fantasy show, The Rings of Power is painfully average. And, as a Tolkien adaptation, it makes us wish Morgoth had
won in the first place.
Title: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Starring: Morfydd Clark, Robert Aramayo, Markella Kavenagh, Ismael Cruz Córdova
Favorite episodes: “Udûn”, “The Eye”
If you like: “House of the Dragon” (the other, superior fantasy prequel of 2022), “Wheel of Time” and pain
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Shamrocks: 2 out of 5 (1 of them is entirely for Nori).
Contact Júlia and Matheus at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.