First, I should clarify that I have had a bit more time to formulate my thoughts than most, as I was fortunate enough to attend a special screening of the first two episodes of The Rings of Power about a week and a half before they were available through Amazon Prime. I delayed this post until others had a chance to watch the show, because I am not really interested in ‘breaking’ or ‘revealing’ anything, but rather reflecting.
Overall, I think that Amazon has created a good tv show. It has drama, action, some light humor, and characters that I am interested to see develop. The production of the show is breathtaking. The sets, the costumes, the practical and visual effects are all very well done. I would recommend this show to other people, but I do have some personal nits to pick, so I thought I would discuss them here.
Overall, the show is beautiful. Personally, though, I get an odd sensation of uncanniness when watching it. I love the aesthetic, and it is very reminiscent of Jackson’s films but slightly different. In a way, the similarities make my mind want to fit the characters into PJ’s mold, but they don’t. This is not to say that there is a shortcoming with the show itself here. I think the creators have done a wise thing in echoing a lot of the Jackson look while striving for something unique as well. But personally, I will need to adjust as the show continues.
As with many early episodes, I feel like these two episodes suffer from over-exposition and trying to establish too much too quickly. I really hope that the story slows down considerably in future episodes, or it will risk feeling like the audience is intended to understand character development through conflict instead of through relationships. That is not my preference when it comes to tv shows. I still have a lot of hope that it will, given the writers who were in the room for the show. They know how to do this.
My least favorite story line so far has been Galadriel/Gil-Galad. I don’t understand some of the decisions that were made here. I think they wanted a way to get Galadriel to Númenor with a man and as an outcast from Lindon. At the same time, I think they wanted to show elves sailing to the West and point to some of the metaphysical things going on in Middle-earth. All of these things could have been achieved by other means. Personally, I think they could have shown Galadriel’s soldiers sailing to the West after being wearied by their travails and then come back and shows Galadriel standing on the shore. They didn’t need to reframe this as a ‘gift’ or ‘reward’ from Gil-Galad, that is very awkward.
There is also some problematic use of dialects in the show so far, with the Harfoots having an Irish accent and the dwarves having Scottish accents (or, accents similar to these in the real world). I understand the need to make dialects reflect something in the real world, but the choice and use of them matters a great deal. As it is so far, the dialects map a little too closely onto prejudices that exist in the UK. They should work to better diversify these dialects in future shows.
There are some other elements that I am watching warily, but these are some of my main hang-ups about the show so far. As I said at the beginning, I think it is a good show, and I think there is a whole lot of potential here. They have some nice nods to Tolkien’s writings about the second age without being so slavishly beholden to them that the show is predictable. It is clearly inspired by and an homage to Tolkien’s work, and I hope it gets even better!