Review: The Rings of Power Episodes 1-5
While enjoying aspects of Amazon’s take on Middle Earth, Jess Cadogan finds that it doesn’t fully satisfy the most hardcore of Tolkien fans
I was raised on the Lord of the Rings films. I read and re-read The Hobbit obsessively, and I played Lego Lord of the Rings like my life depended on it- it’s fair to say I was excited about the arrival of a new Tolkien-based endeavour. Online discussion surrounding the Rings of Power series had been controversial from the very first trailer and it’s clear that it remains a love or hate show but what did Amazon get right, and- perhaps more importantly- what did they get wrong?
Most viewers agree that the show looks wonderful. The realm of Númenor stands out as particularly visually astounding- but some questions have been raised over Peter Jackson’s involvement (or lack thereof) and his supposed ‘ownership’ over visual representations of middle earth. Many of us have strong attachments to how certain places or people are depicted in the films that Jackson made, meaning I was slightly worried about him not even seeing a script for the entire show. However, I was pleasantly surprised and feel as though the sets find themselves reminiscent enough of the films to feel grounded within that particular reality. Unfortunately, this is where many struggle to continue their praise of the show.
One main issue was trying to keep up with all the different characters and storylines – within the first episode we are presented with three different storylines that encompass an abundance of new characters and settings and an unfamiliar race, compounded through the second episode, which builds to four separate stories. Some of these stories interlink as characters travel to different places, but some of them are confusingly separate – like Nori and the Stranger. The sheer amount of content in each episode also means the writing can sometimes feel messy and certain character choices come across as less well thought through: Galadriel being a confident warrior, yes, but being painted by her peers as some kind of child just because she refuses to let her mission go? Not my Galadriel.
Galadriel being a confident warrior, yes, but being painted by her peers as some kind of child just because she refuses to let her mission go? Not my Galadriel
Another key issue with the series is that it becomes too complex in the lore and mythology for casual viewers (which is sometimes okay – its Tolkien, what can you say!), but without staying close enough to any kind of source material for the super fans. Rather than finding a comfortable mid-point for all audiences to enjoy they instead found a vague grey area, opting to use complex names to try and hide their sins. While some aspects of the storylines were drawn from Tolkien’s writings, the show poses itself as a completely new story which just seems like a weird choice.
Rather than finding a comfortable mid-point for all audiences to enjoy they instead found a vague grey area
It would be wrong of me not to credit the brilliant casting of all the characters, as even established personalities like Elrond and Galadriel felt natural in their setting. There were some standout performances from Sophia Nomvete as Princess Disa and Joseph Mawle as Adar – two of my favourite newly created characters- as well as Megan Richards as Poppy whose endearing song at the beginning of episode 5 takes us through a beautiful montage that felt very Peter Jackson-esque. I think the key stories are engaging – if a bit confusing – and despite its many issues, on top of Amazon conveniently avoiding any themes of nature that are usually so key in Tolkien’s writings (I see you Bezos), I have been able to enjoy the show so far and can only recommend not having particularly high expectations.