THe Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power (Prime video) is probably divisive, at least depending on whether you watch it on a big TV or stare at its awesomeness on your phone or laptop. It’s so rich and wonderful that it’s easy to spend the first episode contemplating the landscape, flipping and swinging between the lands of elves, dwarves, humans, and artisans. This is a TV meant for the big screens, although it’s definitely meant to be seen on smaller screens. It’s so cinematic and gorgeous that it makes Dragon House They look as if they were put together on Minecraft.
This makes it difficult to judge The Rings of Power as a regular series, because so much about it is unusual. He is Tolkien, which means that this world is indeed revered and loved by many, whether in the form of books, Peter Jackson films, or both. There is an unusual weight of expectation before any viewer presses play. Add to that the fact that this is the most expensive TV series ever made — $465 million for eight episodes — and it’s hard to look at it as just another show. It’s an event, a spectacle, but if it’s not quite perfect, does that make it a failure?
The first ten minutes of the opening episode set a powerful, fantastically engaged rhythm and tone. It begins quietly and beautifully, as a young Galadriel sails a paper ship in the “undying lands” of Valinor. Then it retreated sharply, racing through centuries of history and war, and decisively, overthrowing the dark leader Morgoth. I’m usually wary of having to read the introductory writing before embarking on a new series – it should be standalone – but maybe it helps here to do a small amount of homework.
By the time I settled, in the twilight of the Second Age, Galadriel (Morvid Clark) was the leader of the Northern armies, a wasteland warrior, still hunting Morgoth’s lieutenant, Sauron, on a hunch, centuries after most elves believed he had been defeated.
I love Galadriel the fighter. It is brave, flawed and arrogant, as blood-minded as it is brilliant, terrifying from the horrors of war. If that doesn’t sound fun, wait until you see what you do with snow fishing.
If the elves bring intensity, there’s plenty of earthy light and joy in the hole, Tolkien’s ancestors of the hobbits, who are preparing for their seasonal migration. The little ones feast on berries and frolic in the mud, and the older ones (including Lenny Henry) are on hand to explain how it all fits together, with an unpopular show about who dwells and where to protect her. The opening episode also introduces us to the Southlands, where elves and humans coexist uneasily amid decades of post-war resentment.
It takes until Episode Two, and the arrival of the dwarves, for an immersive feeling to blossom – that feeling that this is a fully realized world worth jumping into wholeheartedly. The dwarves fix it and temper some of your most outlandish show instincts. It is not a spoiler to say that the primal poetess quickly broke up. The elves’ insistence that “the days of our war are over” is more a dream than a cold political analysis. There are hints from the start that decay is in the air and it won’t take long for those hints to turn into sirens, sounding warnings in droves. When it gets scary, it’s really scary. Towards the end of Episode Two, the atmosphere was breathlessly tense and much more gruesome than I expected.
I have some small reservations. Sometimes there’s a whiff of the “fart sniffing” representation, which is perhaps hard to avoid when every last line is a poker-faced aphorism like, “A dog may bark at the moon, but he can’t bring it down.” The pace, too, is all or nothing. She’s either racing through stunning action scenes, or slowing down in one conversation or purposeful look. But these are quirks, and in the end, the scene wins. It’s a very fun TV, cinematic feast. Now, I just need to find someone who has a huge TV to let me watch with them.
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