So, Rings of Power closed out its first season this weekend. I could get into writing a whole big thing about it but 1) I want to rewatch the whole season first to see if the various big moments and/or shocking twists go over any differently with the benefit of hindsight and 2) honestly, most of what I’d be writing would just be a long, angry screed about how Fandom ruins everything — because, honestly, the Internet has a lot of things to say about Rings of Power and most of those things are completely asinine.
So, I’ll be brief.
I liked it.
At this point, I’d probably rate the season overall an 8.2-something/10. But, again, I want to rewatch before calling it. At least every other episode was Great and no episode was worse than Pretty Good. Admittedly, there were some fumbles with the writing and/or dialogue and the one thing I didn’t want to happen in terms of the season’s plot arc ended up happening.
On the other hand there were some phenomenal set-pieces that make it very apparent Amazon is spending a billions dollars on this show.
I’ll leave it there so we don’t risk getting into spoiler territory.
The production values are amazing. The art direction and creature design is fantastic (the Orcs look better than they did in the movie trilogy).
Moria is probably one of the stand-out sets, especially because we’ve only ever seen it as a desolate, long-abandoned ruin overrun by Orcs. Which of course creates a wonderful sense of dread and dramatic irony, since we know that the mightiest kingdom of the Dwarves in Middle-earth is destined to end up as a a desolate, long-abandoned ruin overrun by Orcs.
The costumes are great, too and I think their greatest strength is that they look less grounded in reality and more suitably Fantasy-y and generally impressive than anything we got in the movies, though there is a certain degree of continuity with the movies in things like the wings of the Númenorian helmets.
Of course, the production should be great; this is the most expensive TV show in history.
The music is awesome. They get Howard Shore back to do main theme, with the rest of the soundtrack done by Bear McCreary and he’s knocking it out of the park so far.
The Khazad-Dûm is an early favourite, sounding as it does like a booming Soviet patriotic anthem:
Númenor’s themes have Mediterranean/Byzantine influeces and the Elf and Orc themes make excellent use of Elvish and Black Speech. It’s not for nothing that “Nampat” has become a meme among fans of the show. FYI, it was eventually explained that “nampat” means ‘death’ in Black Speech.
Again, the biggest complaint is “But it’s not like the books!” And, again, Amazon only has the rights to the three Lord of the Rings books (not immediately relevant to the story of the Second Age), The Hobbit (even less immediately relevant), and the Appendices.
Like I said the first time around, there’s barely even books for the show not to be like.
I got curious and actually leafed from the Appendices at the back of Return of the King. Fundamentally, there’s no story there. It’s not a narrative, it’s either a summary or a timeline with one or two line description of what happened in a given year.
For example, Beren and Lúthien get an entire paragraph. These are two of the most important characters in Tolkien’s entire mythology and probably the two most important thematically to Tolkien’s whole project (to the point that the graves of Tolkien and his wife are literally engraved with “Beren” and “Lúthien”).
Similarly, the entire history of Númenor is about three pages and all we get in terms of Sauron deceiving the Elves and forging the Rings is basically “Sauron deceived the Elves and forged the Rings.”
And, honestly, even The Silmarillion account (which Amazon doesn’t have the rights to) doesn’t actually add that much of substance. Really, the only thing that’s in The Silmarillion that’s not in the Appendices the name “Annatar” for Sauron’s disguised identity.
Amazon’s error here isn’t making up details completely out of left field, it’s agreeing to an adaptation in the first place that requires being fleshed out with details completely out of left field.
And, of course, the movies aren’t much like the books, either. But they still managed to be one of the best Fantasy movies of all time (admittedly, not a high bar…) and probably were more or less the best filmic adaptation of the books possible.
For what it’s worth, Tolkien’s own conditions for adaptations of his work was essentially “Total creative control, or drive a dump truck full of money to my front door.”
And, Amazon clearly fulfilled the latter of those conditions…
Maybe I’ll go into a deeper diver once I’ve rewatched the whole season and the risk of spoilers is less pressing, but for now I don’t there’s that much to add.
For now, let me leave you with this:
Rings of Power isn’t perfect, but don’t let the futile shriekings of nerds ruin things for you.
Honestly, that’s just a good life lesson. Write that down.