The highly anticipated The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power is finally out, and three weeks in, we have reached the mid-point of the season. Now with over four hours (about the same length of Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King extended edition) of visually striking cinematography for fans to sink into, I thought it appropriate to give a rundown of my thoughts on the new series. For a quick summary of the season so far, see here.
││ PLEASE BE WARNED: THERE WILL BE SPOLIERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER SERIES IN THIS POST ││
- Four Episodes In
- Favourite Episode
- Least Favourite Episode
- My Review
- My Score
I want to preface this post by giving a little backstory on my relationship to the Tolkien legendarium, my philosophy on a successful adaptation of the works, and how I will base my judgements for the series.
My relationship with Tolkien’s legendarium
My first memory of being introduced to Tolkien’s world was when I was about six years old (my first year of primary school). Our teacher would sit us down on the rug and read The Hobbit. I don’t remember if she read the entire story, but I do have fond memories of listening to Bilbo’s interaction with the trolls, and it sparked a deep-rooted love for Tolkien’s world, that was only fuelled further by watching The Lord Of The Rings movies as a young child.
It wasn’t until much later, as The Hobbit trilogy was coming out, that I picked up a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring book and dove more into the lore. As someone who, when gets into something, really becomes obsessed with it, I soaked up every little bit of Tolkien information I could discover and soon became pretty well-versed in the lore. I devoured the whole trilogy and moved onto The Silmarillion, which I absolutely adored! That obsession with Tolkien’s lore in my formative teenage years kicked my creativity into over-drive and thus I discovered my deep love for writing.
After my teenage years, there was a time that I didn’t delve further into the works, but would occasionally watch the movies. During this time, I had forgotten some of the stories (particularly in The Silmarillion) and genealogies of characters, but once I refreshed my memory, it all came flooding back.
How to successfully adapt Tolkien’s works
In my opinion, it is not possible to successfully adapt Tolkien’s world from page to screen in a 100% lore accurate, entertaining way. There are always going to be changes in order to make the massive scope of his world palatable for the majority of viewers. Think of the various changes present in even The Lord of the Rings movies, from omitting Tom Bombadil to the Lothlorien elves coming to the aid at the battle of Helm’s Deep. It is, in my opinion, inevitable that changes will happen in screen adaptations. The point of the matter is, how many changes are there, and how lore-bending are these changes?
My philosophy lies in the direction and the necessity of the changes. Please be aware that this is entirely my opinion, and largely subjective, so not everyone will have the same viewpoints as I do, and what I find as a “no go” for changes in the lore may not be the same for everyone. I believe that sticking as closely to the source material as possible is optimal, and minor changes should only be used when necessary. In saying that, if there is a change that I believe has a good pay-off for the story and reveals the same themes present in Tolkien’s works, I would not be disappointed.
With all of that in mind, the Second Age has the least amount of information of all the ages to work with, so it is inevitable there will be changes and time compressions, but how they execute these will be instrumental in my judgements of the series as a whole.
How I will base my judgements for the series
My reviews for this series will be, obviously, subjective and my own opinion, but I will judge based on the following criteria:
- character development/arcs
- lore accuracy
- plot development
- world immersion
- acting performances
- visual effects
- how invested I feel in the plot and characters
~ Okay then, with that all in mind, let’s have a look at my review of the halfway point of Rings Of Power season 1! ~
Four Episodes In
With over four hours of content to digest, I think it is a good point in the season to give an accurate evaluation of the styles, the themes, and the direction the show seems to be going. It is safe to say that, so far, The Rings Of Power has been extremely divisive, with some fans in love with the plot and visually striking cinematography of the highest budget T.V series in history, some fans feel lukewarm and unimpressed, and others going so far as to say that it is an abomination and Tolkien would be rolling in his grave. With various expectations to appease, to say that the showrunners had their work cut out for them would certainly be generous.
With that in mind, what are my thoughts? Where do I fit on this highly varied spectrum?
Overall, considering all four episodes, I would fit somewhere in the middle. There were a couple of episodes that I was really not into and a couple that had some exceptional moments, but also some pretty average ones as well. I see the direction that the show is going, but the way they get there is clunky. I watched the first two episodes consecutively, and to be honest, was left feeling unsatisfied. I believe this was due to the expectation I had for the show, despite my attempt to despend any expectation leading up to the first viewing. I was also unpleased with some of the writing, more on that later.
The final two episodes were better, in my opinion, as it was more focused and didn’t jump around to various plotlines as often, so we were able to get more time in one location and with the characters. I genuinely felt excited seeing Númenor, have loved the relationship between Durin and Elrond, and LOVED the orcs and Adar (they looked so terrifying and I loved the designs of their costumes and even their camp). And can we talk about Adar? His and Lloyd Owen, who plays Elendil, and Sophia Nomvete’s, who plays Disa, performance has been fantastic. In saying that, the writing for Galadriel’s character has been unforgivable. She feels like a one dimensional, delusional character, instead of the wise, experienced Noldorian. I get that they are going with one of Tolkien’s versions in which he describes her as prideful, and the fact that they are trying to build her character arc to get her to the point that we will see her in the Third Age, but this IS NOT IT. More on that later.
Another thing, that was mentioned by Tim at the YouTube channel Hello Future (which you should definitely check out), four episodes in and we still don’t have a clear inciting incident. There was the set-up of the meteor being seen all across Middle Earth, but the only “people” that it has affected at the moment are the harfoots. Perhaps the threat of Sauron could be the inciting incident, but up until the end of the last episode (where Miriel agrees to help Galadriel in her quest), nobody but Galadriel was taking the threat seriously. It really just feels like stuff is happening, but nothing that is propelling the plot in a meaningful way.
I feel I can go on and on, but for the sake of cohesion and organisation, I will go into these points further in the following sections.
While the third and fourth episode were close in the running for the top place in this season, when I really think about my excitement levels throughout the episodes, it had to be episode 3. While episode four felt like the plot was actually moving forward, and there were some truly beautiful moments, episode three made me the most excited. Finally seeing Númenor in all of its splendour, as well as the amazing design of the orcs and their encampment, was a real highlight for me.
Least Favourite Episode
While both episode 1 and 2 were close in the running for worst place, episode 1 takes the cake. Not only did it feel like one clunky scene after another, but there were some serious lore-bending changes that were not only unnecessary, but didn’t make any sense. For example, Gil-Galad being able to grant the elves leave into Valinor WAS NOT OKAY! It is only the Valar that can grant access to the Undying Lands, which, in the Second Age, the elves had a right to go home to Valinor whenever they pleased. They were not permitted to return to Middle Earth again unless given specific permission for the Valar, but they could leave for Valinor whenever they wished. Giving Gil-Galad this authority is not only lore-breaking, but just a weird choice.
There are also a lot of inconsistencies, particularly in this episode. For example, the company that join Galadriel to the Forodwaith were First Age, Noldorian elves, yet only Galadriel (who single-handedly) could take down the ice troll? And after they committed mutiny, they were still “granted” leave into Valinor by Gil-Galad. It doesn’t make any sense.
These were just some of the examples of how this episode failed to compel me.
I do not expect, after four episodes, there to be much pay-off for character development/arcs as it is far too early in the seasons. However, what I’m looking for at this point in the story are clear character set-ups. By episode four, we should have a sort of “hook” for each character. Now this will vary from character to character, but a great way to do this is to show their complexities. For example, show a character behaving in a certain way to one character (for example, their tenderness around their loved one) and differently towards another (their contriving, manipulative ways with their father). This not only gives the character depth but also implants a lot of subtext, which ultimately makes a story feel more alive and realistic. I have just started re-watching Game Of Thrones, and they really nail this. There is so much depth to their characters and a lot of subtext that doesn’t need explaining to the audience.
Rings Of Power, on the other hand, does not give me the same sense of character set-up. Even my favourite character relationships, such as between Elrond and Durin, when really analysed, do not seem multi-faceted. We have seen Elrond show diplomacy and compassion for his friendship, but not a lot else, yet. Yet is the key word here as there has been a nice little set-up with his oath to Durin in the fourth episode. If he breaks it, or keeps it, will show a great arc for his character.
The worst character set-up in this series, hands-down, is Galadriel. I understand that the writers of this show are playing a long game with her character, giving her an arc that will result in the Galadriel that we know in the Third Age. I also understand that Tolkien, in one version of his writings, wrote that she was prideful and wished to own a land of her own dominion in Middle Earth, but she was not as spiteful and vengeful as the show depicts. So far, the way they have set up Galadriel’s character has been incredibly disappointing. She has no complexity, is not dynamic, and comes across as immature. By this time in the Second Age, she is one of the greatest beings still in Middle Earth. She is older than Gil-Galad, a Noldorian princess born in the years of the trees, she was part of Fëanor’s company that fled Valinor, she did not part-take in the Kinslaying, she lived with the Miaia, Melian, married Celeborn, had a desire to rule over her own land.
Why then, does she seem so inexperienced and so immature in this series? Every character that she comes into contact with, treats her like a child. She is supposed to be one of the wisest and most far-sighted beings in Middle Earth, yet her character in the show has no emotional intelligence. It’s very upsetting to see her portrayed as a blind-sighted, revenge lustful idiot who can not read a room, let alone compel anyone to join her in her quest against Sauron. Even as I write this, I feel so torn because I don’t want to write so negatively about this character. However, from what I’ve seen of this show so far, I’m very disappointed. Now could my opinions change if they deliver her character arc in the remaining seasons in a very nuanced, fulfilling way? Absolutely. But as it stands, Galadriel has been done dirty by the writing in this show.
Now this part of the review is, to some degree, difficult as the Second Age of Tolkien’s history was considered “the dark ages”. Therefore, Tolkien purposely left a lot of gaps in information on this time period, and chose not to expand in great depth, as done in the other Ages. This is both an advantage and a hindrance for the writers of The Rings Of Power. While they are able to have a sense of creative freedom in a lot of aspects, it also means that there is a need for time compressions, and re-arranging of events to make a more cohesive storyline. As well as more opportunities for un-Tolkienian plotlines/themes to arise. Now I believe that any screen adaptation will need to make some changes in order to translate from page to screen, but how it’s executed is essential. For more of my thoughts on screen adaptations of Tolkien’s works, go back here.
With that in mind, my judgement towards the lore-accuracy is at a lower bar because of the lack of information on this Age, rather my judgement lies in the necessity and execution of these lore changes. Basically put, the majority of lore changes in this series so far have been unrewarding, and at times have broken Tolkien’s original themes. Gil-Galad granting leave into Valinor, Galadriel jumping off the boat and thinking she could swim back to Middle Earth (like girl, why didn’t you make your decision before you got on the boat?), why are there multiple Durins? (now I have heard that there is a reason/pay-off for this by the season end, so let’s hope so), Galadriel happens to come across Halbrand at sea and gets picked up by a Numenorian ship (could it be contrived by Halbrand’s power? Witch-king? Sauron? (I hope he’s not Sauron!)), and the cruel depiction of Harfoots who will absolutely leave you behind if you fall.
Not to mention, where is Celeborn??? lol
Some changes in the story have been rewarding. I really like the plotline of the Southlands, I LOVE the depiction of the orcs and their fear of the sun, Durin and Elrond’s relationship, and the introduction of Adar.
At the halfway point of season one, we should have a clear indicator of an inciting incident. Something that happens to the main characters that changes the whole course of the story. We should see “the status quo”, or the everyday life of the main character/s before something happens that changes everything. In The Lord Of The Rings, it’s Bilbo leaving the ring with Frodo. In The Hobbit, it is when Gandalf tells Bilbo that they’re going on an adventure.
In this series, our inciting incident should be the death of Finrod, that is if the inciting incident is infact in the prologue. But it doesn’t seem as though the character has changed from the incident (perhaps she was already hell-bent against Sauron beforehand) because we didn’t get to understand the character and their internal, external beliefs beforehand. We merely saw her as a child. Perhaps then, is it Galadriel jumping off the ship, the ‘changing of her fate’ if you will? Perhaps, but still it is not a clear inciting incident because we don’t see her change as a character after. The story has switched directions, but it doesn’t change the character in any way. Perhaps then it is the introduction of the meteor, flying across the sky. So many of the characters see it, and at least a couple predict its meaning, but it’s not something that affects anyone at this point but the Harfoots.
It is clear that most of the individual storylines have an inciting incident, but as a whole, there has not been one yet. But perhaps it has not yet happened in the over-aching storyline because something still needs to happen that affects all of them and therefore intertwines them into the main plotline. Essentially, it is not clear that there is an inciting incident, but rather, things just happening without real stakes.
Perhaps, though, I am missing something. If so, feel free to leave a comment and let me know. Remember, though, to keep your comments respectful.
This category will overlap with some of my points about visual effects, so I will keep it brief. Essentially what world immersion means to me is the way in which a fantasy world is able to look, and feel like a realistic place. Successful world immersion would give the viewer a sense of the depth in culture and history, the political landscape, how trade is conducted, how magic is used, the hierarchies, and all the intricacies that make that world its own. Tolkien did this unequivocally well with his worldbuilding. He mastered the art of creating cultures, languages, landscapes, and histories.
So, how then did the Rings Of Power deliver on creating a realistic, living, breathing world full of mysteries and context? I have to say, in some ways, fantastic, in others, not wholly believable. Again, I will leave aesthetics out of this, and talk about that more in the visual effects run down of this review. The ways in which the shows did really well for this was certainly in their depiction of Númenor (though there were some aspects, such as the depiction of the men of this island not being as impressive as they should be), the culture surrounding the orcs, their relationship to Adar, and the effects of the sun, as well as the representation of the dwarven culture. Really cool stuff!
Areas that weren’t so great were the hierarchies between the elves (like Elrond being told that he was not lordly enough to join Gil-Galad’s council), and the contradiction between what the Harfoots say and what they do.
One thing that COMPLETELY took me out of the world was the lack of cohesion with time throughout the show. More often than not, characters would seemingly teleport from one place to another. Yep, I’m looking at you, Elrond and Celebrimbor. How long did it take you to get to the Misty Mountains? Where were your horses? Did Celebrimbor just walk back? Yikes.
Overall, world immersion is pretty good for this series so far, but the aesthetics of the show is a big gripe for me. That being said, let’s get into the visual effects of this show.
In this section of the review, I will consider the special effects, CGI, the use of colours, filters, textures, and details, as well as the aesthetics as a whole (from someone who has no prior knowledge about such effects in film). I really like that they didn’t go down the route of adding as many special effects and CGI as the Hobbit movies, as I believe they were atrocious, but personally, I like the use of practical sets far better. One of the reasons why I love The Lord Of The Rings and the early seasons of Game Of Thrones was because of the use of natural environments and practical sets. Yes, of course, they also used CGI and effects in those movies and shows but it was far less often (and less obvious when they did use it).
The directors and screenwriters did say that they would be using a lot of New Zealand’s landscape, as well as practical effects, but my issue is that even if they were using them, how could we tell? Everything looked like it had been rendered (I don’t know if that is the right word lol) and looked artificial anyway. I get that the Second Age could be showcased in an almost ethereal, extra-ordinary way, but I didn’t really enjoy it. I know, it’s a very hot take, but I just prefer when it doesn’t look like it was entirely made by a computer (if that makes sense?). Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it is really beautiful, and visually striking, but when compared to the likes of Peter Jackson’s movies, it just doesn’t appeal to me as much.
I did find a lot of Númenor and Khazad-dûm to be wonderful and I had fewer issues with their visuals.Compare that to a lot of the scenes with the elves, and I just felt ‘meh’. There were instances of the way they used colours and filters that worked really well for me (especially for the orc camp, holy heck), but I found some to be a little too bright, like Númenor and the elven cities.
Overall, my review for the aesthetics is that it was pretty average. By biggest gripe being that it didn’t feel real or grounding because of all of the post-production effects and filters, and whatever other stuff they did that I have no clue about. It felt almost too beautiful, in a sense, and it didn’t feel believable and ground me in the world. Compare that to the early seasons of GOT and LOTR, for me personally, and it has no leg to stand on.
(by the way, this example below (the scene with the Harfoots in the forest dancing for their festival), was one example of visuals done well)
The acting in this series has been great. Despite my thoughts on some of the characters and their lack of dimension, I think all of the actors have delivered great performances. There is not much that you can do about bad writing except give your best, and all of the actors have done this. Some of the more memorable performances would include: Owen Lloyd as Elendil, Sophia Nomvete as Disa, and Robert Aramayo as Elrond, and Joseph Mawle as Adar.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the acting.
Okay, I would say a lot of the dialogue in this series is either average or just clunky and awkward, and in some cases, far too modern. I’m going to give a few examples of some good, Tolkien sounding quotes from the series, and some that are either downright bad, or just sound uneloquent.
SOME OF THE BAD:
In an instance like this, you’d do well to identify what it is that your opponent most fears. Give them a means of mastering it. So that you can master them – Halbrand in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 4
The watery part of this world has a way of healing even the deepest of wounds. – Elendil in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 3
Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward. The darkness of the water is vast and irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret. For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward but up. Fixed upon the light that guides her, whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew. -Finrod Felagund in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1
Galadriel: “But sometimes the lights shine just as brightly reflected in the water as they do in the sky. How am I to know which lights to follow?
“Finrod: “Sometimes we cannot know until we have touched the darkness.
“Galadriel: “But that seems so simple.
“Finrod: “The most important truths often are.” -Finrod Felagund in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1
It was the sea that put her in my path. And the sea is always right. -Elendil in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 3
Find the light and the shadow will not find you. -The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1
Haven’t you ever wondered what else is out there? There’s wonders in this world beyond our wandering… I can feel it. -Nori Brandyfoot The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1
Elrond: “Lindon receives you with grace.”
Galadriel: “With grace, I am received.” -The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1
Galadriel: “I am grateful you have not known evil as I have. But you have not seen what I have seen.”
Elrond: “I’ve seen my share.”
Galadriel: “You have not seen what I have seen.” – The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, Season 1, Episode 1
SOME OF THE GOOD
We stay true to each other, with our hearts even bigger than our feet. -Largo Brandyfoot The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1
You have been told many lies. Some run so deep, even the rocks and roots now believe them. To untangle it all would all but require the creation of a new world. But that is something only the gods can do. And I am no god. At least… not yet. -Adar in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 4
Twenty years might be the blink of an eye to an Elf. But I’ve lived an entire life in that time. A life you missed. – Durin IV in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 2
Miss Brandyfoot is young. With as much hair still to grow on her toes as sense between her ears. -Sadoc Burrows in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 3
I have a daughter who runs fast, and a son who runs blind. Your eyes bear a striking resemblance to both. -Elendil in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 3
A dog may bark at the moon. But he cannot bring it down. -Durin IV in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 2
It is said the wine of victory is sweetest for those in whose bitter trials it has fermented. -Elrond in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1
For the same wind that seeks to blow out a fire may also cause its spread. -Gil-galad in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1
Evil does not sleep, Elrond. It waits. -Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Episode 1
How Invested I feel In The Characters & Plot
Honestly, despite my issues that I have with this show (and I have a few lol), I can’t deny the fact that I get excited every time that Friday rolls around. I spend my whole day at work thinking about how I can’t wait to go home and watch the next episode. And then when I get home, I eat, shower, get comfy, and the amount of nervous excitement that I feel in my stomach actually makes me hesitate to even start the show. And this happens EVERY SINGLE EPISODE thus far. Now, is that because the show is so utterly amazing? Absolutely not. Is it because I am going into Middle Earth again each week, and with Amazon’s creative license and original plotlines, I don’t know exactly what is going to happen next? Absolutely, yes. But I can’t deny that I am invested in what happens in this story, and I want it to do well.
Perhaps if I wasn’t such a die-hard fan, I wouldn’t be as invested, but as it stands I am. But, if we are talking purely about character and purely plot (and not because of the hype), I would say that only in the last episode (episode 4), are we finally seeing the plot kick into gear. So simply put, yes I am becoming more and more invested as each episode passes.
For those who don’t know, I love soundtrack music. The best live concert that I have ever been to is when I saw Hans Zimmer, and it was one of the highlights of my life. Howard Shore is one of my favourite composers, so when I saw all but the main theme was conducted by Bear McCreary, I was very nervous. However, after a couple of listens, I can safely say that it is amazing! I love so many of the themes and the way that they are weaved together, and so often in the last few weeks I have the music stuck in my head.
I highly recommend everyone check him out on Spotify
My favourite songs are: Durin IV and Nori Brandyfoot ♫
With all the above considerations, I have settled a score for my Season 1 Lord Of The Ring: The Rings Of Power mid-point review:
I think this is a fair score. The last couple of episodes have propelled the story forward, so I’m beginning to feel invested in the characters and plot, and can’t wait to see more of what becomes of Adar! Let me know what you think (respectfully) in the comments. Do you agree with my judgement? What are you looking forward to in the second half of this season? Who is Sauron? What about the Witch-King? Would you like to see a detailed review like this for the end of the season? Let me know!
Big thank you for reading this very long post, apparently I have a few thoughts about The Rings Of Power! If you would like to support my dream of owning a derelict cottage in the countryside, do it up, and live sustainably off the land, you can make a donation via Ko-Fi . Thank you all so much for your support! ♡
To know more about the history of the Second Age, and my original hopes and fears for the show, check out this post.