The highly anticipated series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is finally upon us. While I’ve only seen the first two episodes of the new show, I can say it is visually stunning and wonderfully acted.
I was unsure what to expect from the series. Although the trailers were terrific, I found myself hesitant. How often have we seen epic clips and sneak peeks into a film or show but are ultimately disappointed with the final product? I can assure you this was not the case (at least not for me) while watching The Rings of Power. From the first episode, I was hooked and quickly captivated by the world we see in the series. Of course, it differs from the much-beloved film trilogies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but it’s no less stunning.
As The Rings of Power is set in Middle-earth’s Second Age, which is mostly uncharted territory, the writers of the series could take many liberties to create characters and make the show something new and different. The first two episodes largely follow Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), Elrond (Robert Aramayo), Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) in separate but interesting journeys which will likely have them crossing paths at some point in the series. Galadriel wishes to avenge her brother’s death, and Elrond tries to convince her to cease her quest while venturing on his own to speak with Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur). Elsewhere, Bronwyn and Arondir are meant to be at odds–at least, that’s what her human town keeps trying to tell her. Arondir looks after the town, part of a guard unit held over from a time that most of the humans no longer remember nor were a part of. It all leaves some mystery in its wake, including Arondir’s true lineage.
The visuals in the premiere episodes are some of the best I’ve seen in television and film. Everything from the costuming to the set design to the visual effects was crafted with the utmost care to give viewers another breathtaking look at Middle-earth. Every part of Middle-earth is a fan’s dream, from icy mountaintops to the deepest caverns that are home to the dwarves and the green hills that reveal the Harfoots. To be frank, I could have watched footage of just the locations, sets and costumes and been extremely happy with that. The Lord of the Rings films set a high bar for all of these elements, and I was pleased to see that The Rings of Power matched them in every way.
Of course, part of what truly makes Middle-earth are the people and creatures that live within it. The Rings of Power is top-notch, with every actor bringing his all to their respective roles. It can be challenging to step foot into a role inhabited beforehand, such as Galadriel and Elrond (previously played by Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving, respectively). Still, Morfydd Clark and Robert Aramayo are up to the task. The first two episodes mostly focus on their adventures, and not only do the pair have lovely chemistry as the two elves, but they bring a breath of fresh air to characters that I missed seeing on the screen. As the series leans on Galadriel’s importance to the lore and story unfolding, Clark is a force to be reckoned with as the elvish warrior and future Lady of the Woods.
In addition to Clark and Aramayo, Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir and Nazanin Boniadi’s Bronwyn take centre stage. The pair’s original characters bring a grounded relatability to the series. However, the forbidden love trope has been explored many times. I do hope there’s a way they can do something different with it–especially since it’s a trope that can get old quickly. It is also a detail that can trap the characters and prevent their story from going beyond the trope. Lastly, a huge shoutout goes to Sophia Nomvete, who plays one of my favourites, Disa Durin, the first woman dwarf ever to be seen on-screen. Disa is delightful, and I cannot see what else Nomvete brings to the character.
The series works like a well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders–for the most part. Some story choices are likely to displease Tolkien purists who don’t want to see deviations from the source material. At times, the pacing isn’t great–particularly in the first episode, as there is a lot of exposition and setting the stage. But it’s not terrible, though some tropes could have been left behind. They ultimately add nothing to the respective story, and thus far, they’re mainly attached to the original characters created for the series. Perhaps it is a minor nitpick, but it makes it seem like these characters aren’t as cared about as the staples like Galadriel and Elrond. Maybe this is why there were no problems allowing them to fall victim to the same banality witnessed in the fantasy genre already. Hopefully, this will change as other show episodes are released, and the writing can delve deeper into the new characters. Also, the horror elements that stick out to me in the first two episodes are exceptionally well done, and I would like more of that, please and thank you.
Unfortunately, with only two episodes made available for critics to review, it’s impossible to share what the entire series has in store. However, I am excited to see where The Rings of Power goes. Although the premiere episodes are filled with a lot of exposition and setting the stage, there’s enough action to keep audiences entertained. While the first two episodes are not without their flaws, I still feel invested in certain characters and want to see their journeys; I want to see how Sauron’s tale is expanded upon, and I want to see Númenor in all of its gilded glory shown on-screen. Ultimately, the first two episodes left me wanting to see more and succeeded in pulling me back to Middle-earth, leaving me intrigued about what lies ahead.