Now that the season finale of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has arrived, it’s time to take a look back at not only the finale but the season as a whole. Be warned as there are some spoilers in this review.
After the two episode season premiere hit in September, it started to set up the various stories and conflicts for not only this season but the series as a whole. We knew that eventually we would have to get to the battle that we see in the beginning of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. So how does season one set up this road map?
An Unexpected Journey
In the season premiere, Galadriel tells the story of how Middle-Earth came under attack from the Dark Lord Morgoth. Morgoth and his second in command, Sauron, are responsible for mass destruction and countless deaths. After Morgoth is defeated, Galadriel starts to track down Sauron in order to bring him to justice not just for all of his actions but for killing her brother. This quest takes her all over Middle-Earth and eventually brings her back to the Elven kingdom of Lindon where she has been summoned by the High King Gil-Galad. Due to his fear that Galadriel’s quest for vengeance will only bring about more destruction for everyone Gil-Galad attempts to send her back to the elves original home of Valinor, located across the Simmering Sea, where the elves can truly live forever. However, Galadriel escapes the ship and makes her way back to Middle-Earth to try and find allies who will help her take Sauron down.
Meanwhile, the Elves who are tasked with patrolling and keeping the peace in the Southlands are also being called back to Lindon. It’s here that we meet the elven warrior Arondir, his love interest Bronwyn (a human woman) and her son Theo: who is in possession of a mysterious artifact. The various settlements of the Southlands are being attacked and the people are being kidnapped. It turns out that the Orcs are involved in these attacks and abductions and their leader, Adar, is planning something big.
From there, we meet the Harfoots (the precursors to the Hobbits) and Nori Brandyfoot. Nori and her friend Poppy witness an object fall out of the sky and crash near their camp. This object is no object but a being known only as The Stranger. Nori takes it upon herself to help The Stranger discover who he is but also teach him about the Harfoot lifestyle.
Lastly, and perhaps the most crucial for the series overall, there is Elrond and Celebrimbor’s construction of a massive Elven forge that can be used to help the Elves prolong their lives and also defend themselves. This story introduces us to the Dwarves of Khazad-dum, as Elrond tries to forge an alliance with Prince Durin. Yes, there is a lot to juggle here and I will do my best to provide a review of each story.
…if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
Let’s start with Galadriel’s story. After she escapes the Elven ship, she encounters a survivor of a shipwreck named Halbrand and the two are eventually picked up by Captain Elendil and taken to the island Kingdom of Numenor. Galadriel and Halbrand are brought before Queen Regent Miriel and Galadriel begs Miriel for a ship and army to go back to Middle-Earth so she can continue her quest. The dynamics between these four and Miriel’s cousin and chief adviser Al-Pharazon are fascinating. The history of the elves and men, particularly those of Numenor and the Southlands, are highly complicated and we begin to see how much the Elves’ disconnect from the other races due to their longevity has affected how they are viewed: with distrust and, in the case of the Southlands, outright hatred, but we’ll get into that below. Miriel, regal, beautiful and burdened with the gift of prophecy, wants to help Galadriel but Galadriel at this point in her life is more of a warrior than a diplomat or future queen and fumbles the bag so badly that, were it not for Elendil and Halbrand, let’s just say she’d be imprisoned for life, at best. Watching this all play out, the power dynamics, the deft way the show comments on Colonialism, and how all of this drama affects the people on the ground is one of the show’s strongest points.
In the Southlands. Arondir’s entire life gets upended when he’s captured by Adar and the Orcs. While Adar is not nearly as evil as we’ve been led to believe his plans for the Southlands aren’t exactly conducive to the continued existence of those who are already living there. This forces Arondir and the Southlanders into an impossible position: stay and be enslaved (or worse), leave and hope they can rebuild somewhere else (with no guarantee that Adar and the Orcs won’t just keep coming) or stand and fight. In the end they choose the last option and, initially, it seems like the best one, especially when they receive an unexpected assist from Galadriel, Halbrand, Miriel, Elendil and the armies of Numenor. However, everything rapidly goes straight to hell with the eruption of what will come to be known as Mt. Doom and the creation of Mordor. The survivors, some of whom are scared mentally and physically for life, are forced to retreat and regroup when it seems like all hope is lost.
Over in Lindon, Elrond is tasked by the great Elven Lord Celebrimbor to help him create a massive Elven forge in hopes of solving the problems plaguing the Elves immortality and also to help them defend themselves against the evil that is rising. Elrond and Celebrimbor come to the realization that they cannot complete this task alone, so Elrond visits the Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dum to enlist the help of Prince Durin IV and his father King Durin III. What seems to be a simple mission of peace for Elrond leads to a discovery that will change the fate of the Elves and everyone else on Middle-Earth forever: the Dwarves have discovered Mithril. This story and the next one are important but kind of take a backseat to the main story for the moment.
As for Nori and the Stranger, well… After Nori, tries to help the Stranger decipher some star charts and the constellations in the hopes of figuring out who he is and where he comes from, the Stranger is discovered and it almost causes the Brandyfoot’s to be banished from the Harfoot convoy. They are spared but they are told to go to the back of the line and to keep up or they will be left behind. Getting to see this side of proto-Hobbit culture as well as learning more about the Stranger was deeply engaging as it shows a side to them we’ve never seen before onscreen. The Hobbits reputation for being honest, yet sneaky, clever and far more dangerous than the jolly halflings they’ve been portrayed as up until this point is well deserved and watching how, initially just the Brandyfoots, but then all of the Harfoots welcome, and defend the Stranger is one of the loveliest parts in the entire show.
Pay heed to the tales of old wives…
So, how is season one? It is truly the most epic show and story on television and it brought a huge smile to my face. There is just something amazing about this world that was created almost a century ago and whenever I get to go back to it, I am happy. If you asked me if I could rank these storylines, I wouldn’t be able to because they are just so good. For me it comes down to the actors and their portrayals of these iconic characters. Every single actor does an amazing job to not only bring you into the story but keep you there. Even if it is a story that doesn’t have big stakes, you still feel the impact of what is going on. However, the acting isn’t the only thing that is keeping me invested, it’s also the visuals. This show is absolutely gorgeous. The decision to film in New Zealand as well as on soundstages works, even if there are times when the CGI can be a little rough, for the most part the visuals absolutely deliver! Every single character and every single location looks like it has been taken straight out of Tolkein’s mind and as I stated earlier, it makes me so happy!
I know a lot of people have been enjoying House of the Dragon and I have mixed feelings about the show but The Rings of Power is truly everything I have wanted in a fantasy show. Not only are the stories they are telling truly compelling but all of the actors bring their A-Game and deliver compelling performances worthy of award nominations. Let’s face it, Tolkein’s stories aren’t always the easiest to digest but these writers and actors have found a way to deliver a story that is truly worthy of the creator of Middle-Earth. First time showrunners Patrick McKay and John D. Payne definitely have their hands full with this world and story but they do such an amazing job of blending the look and feel of the movies with the diversity of Tolkein’s characters. From Morfydd Clark‘s moving performances as Galadriel to the brotherhood between Elrond and Durin portrayed by Robert Aramayo and Owain Arthur, these actors have definitely come to play while honoring the actors that have come before them as the characters. I could go on and on praising this show but I do have to talk about the one big negative of the series.
The Rings of Power is not a perfect show. While I love the writing, my biggest issue is that there’s a lot going on and you definitely have to pay attention to everything. I do not suggest taking a look at Facebook or tweeting when you watch this show because almost every scene is important. There may be times when you have to go back and rewatch episodes to catch everything, and, unfortunately, this makes it harder for casual viewers to get into. I talked to some friends who tried to watch the show and they just couldn’t get into the story and everything that was going on. That’s fine, not everything is going to be accessible to new viewers, just keep that in mind if you decide to watch this series.
Overall this really is one of the best series on television. Not only is it a fresh take on the world that Tolkein created all those years ago, it also delivers a fresh story told in an absolutely epic fashion.
I give The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season one 4.5 burning Orcs out of 5!
Have you watched The Rings of Power yet? Let us know in the comments below and stayed tuned to our YouTube Channel where Belle and I do a deep dive into season one!