Welp…you knew it was coming. The next episode of the Rings of Power debuts tomorrow, and I thought it only fair to write up my thoughts on the series so far. I’ve seen a lot of reviews online from a bevy of people, so I thought I’d just throw my two cents in for posterity.
For those who didn’t know, Amazon just spent over a billion dollars to create a new Lord of the Rings TV show set in the Second Age. This has been in production for quite some time, and a lot of people were sitting on pins and needles to watch the show. I was pretty excited for it, that’s for sure.
However, as with all modern entertainment, there was the concern that the show would be woke and preachy, containing bad writing or characters, or just flat-out boring. These are valid complaints, especially with the recent failures of Lightyear and She-Hulk. Amazon is treading sacred ground for Tolkien fans: some are people who had been LOTR fans since before the movies. In other words, Amazon cannot be possibly allowed to flub this series up. That’s unthinkable.
According to popular opinion right now, however, Amazon has already botched the show. If you were to ask 60% of the people who watched the show, they’d tell you all manner of harrowing things about it, about how it’s everything we feared it would be, about how woke it is, about how boring it is.
Before I actually highlight what was done right and what was done wrong with the first two episodes, I’ll begin by saying that the show was actually entertaining. Of course, that’s not the end-all be-all of good entertainment, but being a fun show to watch is the core of what entertainment is. I was entertained, and inasmuch as that is the case, the show has fulfilled its purpose.
But of course, I can’t watch something without taking a look at the writing, the depth of character, the cast, how well they communicated the story, the lines, and so on. A review is not what I liked and didn’t like; it’s whether or not what you’re going to watch is actually a good story.
First of all, I think the show is by far underrated. It gets way more hate than it actually deserves. Let me clear up a bit of that hate: no, the show is not woke. “But it has warrior women in it!” Well, so does the Hobbit trilogy. For heaven’s sakes, there’s Eowyn from the original book series!
Handled correctly, a warrior woman doesn’t have to be a fussy, man-hating Karen (although often this is the case). Galadriel is shown to fail and to be taught and saved by men (Halbrand saves her bacon when she falls off the boat, and her brother corrects her at the beginning of the movie). She may be reckless and impulsive, but she’s not perfect (a trademark of feminazis), she does make mistakes, and becoming the Galadriel as we know her is going to be part of her character arc, which will involve her recognizing that she doesn’t need to be an in-the-thick-of-it warrior anymore.
With stunning visuals and a far-reaching story with a good bit of intrigue, I don’t see how the story could be boring. There were a few talking scenes in the first episode that were a little subpar when it came to capture my attention, but nothing outright boring.
Alrighty. Let’s talk plot first. Right now, the story is really ambitious: staying true to the LOTR movie model, the story has a lot of seemingly unrelated plot lines going on at once. While this is not bad (in fact, it will be really good if they pull it off right) it will be difficult to tie all of the plot lines off in a satisfying way.
That being said, the story is in its first stages right now. It’s nearly impossible to critique what little narrative we have because it’s vastly incomplete. The story’s off to a slow start, which promises fast-paced action to come. Maybe sometime around the fourth or fifth episode we’ll have something to work with, but the narrative is too underdeveloped for me to judge just yet.
However, we’ve had a bit more insight into the story’s characters thus far. Let’s start with Galadriel. I was glad to see that they came up with a compelling reason for her to actually become a warrior. (Her brother died trying to kill Sauron, and so Galadriel takes up his vow) And since no one else really believes that Sauron even exists anymore, it makes sense that she is the only one committed to staying in the fight (not necessarily the hunt for Sauron, but for the vow of her brother).
Finrod’s analogy in the beginning was actually a good description of Galadriel. Finrod says that the stone sinks because its gaze is always on the darkness, and the boat floats because it looks upwards. The stone represents Galadriel: she’s stubborn and can see nothing but darkness. And as the stone fades into the deep, Galadriel will eventuall y be doomed by her stubbornness, just as Elrond implies that more elves will die in her quest for vengeance.
So yeah, Galadriel is simple but not bad. My favorite character overall would be Elrond, and even though his cast looks nothing like Hugo Weaving, he’s got the role down pat. Right now, Elrond seems unassuming and humble, wanting the best for his friends while being soft-spoken and kind.
However, as the story progresses, we see a darker part to his character: he’s obviously a capable warrior by the way he equals Prince Durin in strength, and his nature as a politician invokes questions of whether he’s trying to manipulate his old friend and whether or not he’s sincere. Right now, I think they’re doing a beautiful job of portraying Elrond as Jordan Peterson’s “meek” man:
Elrond knows how to fight, to manipulate, to otherwise harm people. This is plainly demonstrated. But he’s got the know-how to use it in good ways, to help his friends, to help his people. I can’t wait to see what happens when Elrond gets to harmfully manipulate someone or actually hit someone with a hammer. The duality of his character is very interesting and well-written.
Disa and Durin are a great couple. Their dynamic was a hearkening back to the old days of storytelling, when not every long-standing romance was a bark-fest between a fat, incompetent husband and a whiney feminist wife. It was cheering to see such a relationship in a movie deemed by a lot of people to be “woke”.
Durin is a typical dwarf: strong, holds grudges, and bearded. The relationship between he and Elrond feels a bit like Legolas and Gimli, but with a bit more flavor. Durin’s a notch down from Elrond, but still a good multifaceted character. He makes me want to like the dwarves as a race. Disa is Durin’s other half, and I think she balances out his quick, long-grudging temper with a vibrant personality and friendliness very well.
Arondir hinted at a lot, but there’s isn’t that much to him other than his relationship with Bronwyn. I sense that he’s going to be the “competency overload” character and is going to make up for depth of character with an extreme competency in fighting and tracking. He’s not a character study like Elrond is, but then again, they can’t all be.
Everyone else is either a minor character or pretty underdeveloped. The Stranger, Halbrand, Theo, and Celebrimbor strongly hint at juicy, interesting character development to come. Since the story is on a crash course for identifying these characters further, I think that it won’t be too big of a concern going forward.
We haven’t even encountered the big players Elendil and Isildur yet, and they’re going to be pretty big bangers if handled right. I’m really excited to see them enter the show, and I think that The Rings of Power is off to a good start with no truly debilitating problems.
To be honest, I truly do not see what people hate about this show. I really don’t. I like the show, and if it improves from here, it will be a fine treat for Tolkien fans and non-Tolkien fans alike. I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode’s launch tomorrow, and stay tuned for a review of that one.
Good luck, and happy writing!
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