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'The Rings of Power': There and back again

By Mike Diez Published Sep 03, 2022 4:56 pm

What does one do if one has acquired the rights to produce a TV series based on the most beloved literature of all time, but want to tell more beyond its author’s output? Why, of course, one builds a story out of the book’s massive appendices!

When news broke of Amazon’s deal with the Tolkien estate in 2017 to produce a multi-season Lord of the Rings series, fans were all agog as to what the streaming service will come up with. It turns out Tolkien fanatics will be exploring uncharted territory with Prime Video’s The Rings of Power, which made its debut on Friday, Sept. 2.

Riding on the back of relative upstarts JD Payne and Patrick McKay, Amazon hedges their bets with The Rings of Power on the loyal following that LOTR has. Fortunately, they have been working closely with the Tolkien estate, particularly with J.R.R. Tolkien’s grandson, Simon Tolkien. But do the first two episodes of The Rings of Power live up to the high expectations of Tolkien fans?

Slow burn 

The Rings of Power starts off slow. I mean, well-up-to-the-last-quarter-of-the-first-episode slow. This deliberate pace is quite understandable as the show takes great pains to introduce its premise and new characters, as well as how it all connects with Tolkien’s trilogy masterpiece, LOTR.  

The show takes place in the second age of Middle Earth, thousands of years before the events of the LOTR trilogy. We are introduced to a young Galadriel, who we last saw onscreen as The Lady of the Woods, and a young Elrond, who we last saw onscreen as the father of Arwen. In The Rings of Power, Galadriel (played by Morfydd Clark, familiar to horror fans from the movie Saint Maud) is a commander of the Elven army, taking up her brother’s quest in seeking out Morgoth’s apprentice, Sauron. Galadriel finds herself alone in this quest, as most of her elvish kin as well as residents of Middle Earth believe that the evil that has once plagued them has long been extinguished. Elrond is her dear friend who tries to convince her to give up the fight and take her reward of returning home to the Undying Lands.

We are also introduced to new characters, such as Arondir, an elf soldier assigned to an outpost keeping a close eye on a village full of human Morgoth sympathizers. We also meet the Harfoots, one of the breeds of Hobbits in Tolkien mythology. These characters are analogs to the original tale: we see the love between elf and human (Arondir and the human Bronwyn in Rings of Power, Arwen, and Aragorn in LOTR), we see the dynamics of friendship between Harfoots (Nori and Poppy in Rings of Power, Frodo, and Sam in LOTR). 

Only after all that have been laid out do we see any significant advancement within the story. The ending of the first episode finally gets things going, and things start to really roll by the second episode.  

Uncharted

Once you’ve felt at home being on Middle Earth once more, you will be introduced to characters and events that you aren’t familiar with. There’s the mysterious fireball in the sky that comes crashing down to Middle Earth and looks to be human. There’s the mysterious stranger who Galadriel meets while lost at sea. We also see Sauron’s sigil on an artifact found within the village of Morgoth sympathizers.

These are all brilliant strokes by the showrunners of Rings of Power. We all know that Sauron eventually tricks the elves into forging the rings of power. We all know that the dwarves of Khazad-dûm (which we see in its glory days here) will eventually dig too far into the mines to unleash a Balrog. It is the introduction of the mystery elements mentioned above that will keep us guessing how the whole tale will weave itself. And for a premise pieced together entirely reliant only on the appendices of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Amazon has successfully taken the audience to a thrilling new adventure. And that is no small feat.

Of course, it’s early yet. But for those who have seen Peter Jackson’s masterpiece a hundred times, The Rings of Power will serve as a worthy second breakfast to their insatiable, Hobbit-sized appetites.

The Rings of Power is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.