Lately, the world of the fantasy genre has been very dark and violent with shows like Game of Thrones and its current spin-off/prequel House of the Dragon being successful and very popular, Amazon has decided to roll the dice on a brand new streaming series based on The Lord of the Rings book trilogy and the appendices that are at the end of Return of the King. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a prequel set roughly 3,000-4,000 years before The War of the Ring depicted in the books and the film trilogy from Peter Jackson. Novice showrunners Patrick McKay and John D. Payne are facing a tremendous task to not only deliver a show for the seasoned fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and his works, but also bring in new fans.
So what is the story surrounding The Rings of Power? Well, during the First Age of Middle-Earth, the world was at war. The forces of the evil Lord Morogoth have swept the land, causing kingdoms to fall and many countless deaths. What stands in Morogoth’s way? The Elves of Valinor. Here, we are introduced to Galadriel and her quest to avenge her brother’s death after he is killed by Sauron. Eventually the Elves prevail and Morogoth is defeated and that sends Sauron on the run. Flash Forward to the Second Age (Where The RIngs of Power tells it’s tale) where we see Galadriel leading a garrison of Elven troops in search of Sauron. After multiple attempts to track down Sauron and bring him to justice, Galadriel and her company are called home to the Elven capital of Lindon. In Lindon, Galadriel has a meeting with the Elf Elrond who is the Herald of the Elven King. While that is going on, we are taken to another part of Middle-Earth where we meet the Harfoots (these people are the precursors to the Hobbits) and we meet Nori Brandyfoot. Nori and her clan of Harfoots are scavengers and nomads that live off the land and share everything they find with each other. From there, we go to another part of the world and we see the realm of men and their uneasy alliance with the Elves of Lindon. It is here that we meet the warrior Arondir and we are introduced to his love interest a human woman named Bronwyn. Arondir and his company of Elven warriors are being called back to Lindon after the King declares that the war is over and it is a time of peace. There is a lot going on in these first two episodes but the stories they are setting up are very interesting. I also don’t want to say anything else about the plot as it could spoil things for viewers.
How is the show? The Rings of Power is not only a visually stunning show (Amazon is spending over $1 Billion to produce this show over its five planned seasons) but it is well written and well acted. The series writers of Gennifer Hutchinson, Justin Doble, Jason Cahill, Patrick McKay and John D. Payne truly have their pulse on not only what the fans want but they do this incredible world created by Tolkien justice. Yes, the first episode is filled with a lot of exposition and character introductions but it is needed in order to bring the fans into the world and the story unfolding before them. The second episode is definitely where the writing hits its stride and really starts to set up the characters and the adventures they will go on. In fact, the second episode has some great moments of levity and each character also gets the chance to shine in their own ways. I also want to note real quick that the Dwarves do not show up until episode two and that sets up an interesting story that I am curious to see where it goes. There are a lot of different plots and stories being juggled by the writers in these first two episodes but I have to say that they do a fantastic job of keeping track of everything going on.
Let’s talk about the visuals of the show real quick. I stated earlier that Amazon is spending over $1 Billion on this show over it’s planned five seasons and I have to say that it looks like they have spent every penny they set out to spend. This show is absolutely gorgeous and it not only captures the world of the books but it also feels like it is set in the world of the six films Peter Jackson did. They even filmed the series in New Zealand just like Jackson and his crew did over 20 years ago. The use of practical and CGI effects is well done and the visual effects team does a fantastic job at combining both aspects. The physical sets look great and this feels like a living and breathing world, one that you could reach out your hand and touch. While we are talking about the visual aspects of the show, we should also talk about the make up and costuming. Every single costume looks fantastic and like it walked right out of the books and films. Also, the make up for the orcs and other creatures is spot on. Every orc, we see in the two episode premiere looks frightening and menacing. They are truly scary and they are worthy of being one of the groups of villains in this series. Visually, there is a lot to digest here and it will take multiple viewings to see all of the details but I will tell you that they are there and they are fantastic.
All of this leads us to the acting. The performances in the first two episodes of this series are strong and they are compelling. Each actor is casted perfectly and they bring their A-game throughout. The stand outs in the first two episodes are Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, Robert Aramayo as Elrond, Markella Kavenagh as Nori Brandyfoot and Ismael Cruz Cordova as Arondir. Those are jus a few of the stand outs here. Like I said, every actor brings it in this show and you can tell that not only are they having a good time but they feel honored to bring this incredible world to life. Every actor brings a reverence and sense of respect of what they are doing and what came before. I also have to say that Morfydd Clark rivals Cate Blanchet as Galadriel and brings it in every performance. Markella Kavenagh is absolutely fantastic as Nori and you can see bits of Bilbo and Frodo in her approach to what is going on around her. Ismael Cruz Cordova’s Arondir feels like a cross between Legolas and Aragorn and its great to see his character develop over the first two episodes. It just goes to show you that the showrunners and casting directors trust these incredible actors with these characters.
Now, this show isn’t perfect, no show really is. There are a few flaws here and one of the major ones can be the use of green screen in certain scenes. There is one scene with Arondir and another elf on a watch tower and you could clearly tell that is was a green screen behind them. I understand that not everything is going to look perfect and I get that but it could have been polished a bit more. Another thing I noticed was that some members of the audience could get lost with everything going especially with the history lesson at the beginning of the first episode. This is a huge world with a long history and some casual fans may be a little timid about diving into the story. There is a lot of inside baseball here but if Halo can do it on Paramount Plus then so can Amazon with The Rings of Power.
All and all I really enjoyed the first two episodes of The Rings of Power. It’s fun, exciting and more important, it feels like the Middle-Earth we all know and love. Yes there is a lot to digest but believe me, it is totally worth it.
4.5 Elven Rings out of 5