The first two episodes of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are now available on Prime streaming, and I have some thoughts. So, gather around the fire and let me spin you a tale. Forewarning, I feel like this review is going to be unsatisfying to everyone who reads it because my honest opinion won’t align with either side of this issue. Because the truth is, The Rings of Power‘s two-episode premiere was just kind of alright. It definitely wasn’t as bad as people (myself included) thought it would be, but at the same time it definitely did not make me say ‘Woah, I gotta tune in next week to see the next episode!’ either.
I feel like Amazon’s decision to release both episodes at the same time was a good one, because both episodes existed to essentially set up the entire cast. Which is actually one of my first big issues with the show. I am afraid that there are too many characters in the show so far and now they are trying to find room for each of the characters to breath. Had I not written down their names, I am afraid I may not have remembered them. Obviously, I would remember the good characters, but those who have not been fleshed out enough, I feel like I may forget them by next week.
That’s not to say that these characters are necessarily forgettable or bad, in fact I like most of the characters in the show so far, with the exception, and it’s a big exception, of one. So, let’s start with the characters who I liked. Elrond and Durin are the best two characters in the show so far. They are both charming, goofy comrades, who have a lot of the same energy that Legolas and Gimli had in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
There is even a powerful scene where Durin points out that, even though Elrond claims to be his friend, he hadn’t come to see Durin in 20 years. Durin asks, “How could we be friends, you didn’t come to my wedding, you weren’t there when my children were born, you missed out on my life”, and Elrond feels genuine remorse over this. If more characters in the show were written like this, I think we could be sitting on the next big fantasy TV series. For the most part, the characters are well written, which was a happy surprise for me.
All except for one: Galadriel. The character who I have the biggest issue with across the first two episodes was easily Galadriel, who I’m afraid is the primary protagonist. Over the course of my note taking, I could not find a single positive statement about her other than, ‘She appears to be driven’, that was it. That one positive statement was then counterbalanced with three different entries saying, “She seems to be unreasonable” or “She seems to be really selfish”.
Now, I’ll be honest, I am not particularly against the idea of the showrunners putting a female character as the main lead, nor am I against the idea of them appropriating a character from Tolkien’s works and making her into a stronger protagonist, what I am upset about is that Galadriel is just very unlikable. This is a trait that even Elrond points out to her, that she is far too eager to throw away the lives others to try and achieve her goal.
Her goal is the elimination of Sauron, but is more likely just her attempts to avenge her brother. When people question her, or tell her no, she pouts and gets angry with them, she barely tries to reason with them, and instead just tells everyone else that they have not suffered like she has so therefore, she has more of a right to be upset than they do. I feel like one of the main problems with Galadriel wasn’t even the character herself but rather the opening episode’s pace.
The first episode blew through a lot of exposition around Galadriel, but never gave us or the characters time to breath. Because Galadriel’s brother dies so quickly, we only ever see him speak once, telling Galadriel a nonsense moral that doesn’t make any sense. Because this is the only thing we know about the character, we can’t identify with Galadriel’s quest for revenge, meaning any decision she makes over the course of her journey is one that we much take at face value, and sometimes it’s just not enough.
What makes this even more confusing to me is that there are several female characters introduced in the first two episodes of The Rings of Power, and only Galadriel has this problem. Another character, Bronwyn, is a healer in a small human village and mother of a teenage son, whom she conceived with an elf by the name of Arondir.
Despite the fact that she is a woman in the same series as Galadriel, she never feels like she’s an unstoppable hero, rather she feels like a real person. Without giving too much away, there is a fight scene at the end of the second episode with Bronwyn and her son that felt like a proper struggle, a struggle that she won, but it wasn’t some unbelievable act of heroics; it was a scuffle, a brawl.
Arondir was also a surprisingly good character, despite the controversy that his casting created. Arondir is a driven protector of a small human village, he helps to main one of the elven watchtowers and seeks to protect the people, despite their mistrust of elves. At the same time, Arondir is secretly the father of a young boy in the village and is also playing his part of protecting his child and his lover, Bronwyn.
He feels cool, calm, and collected like a soldier should without feeling cold, making him an easy character to identify with and root for. As the show opens up, I feel like he will be our Strider for the time being, and I can’t wait to see his story evolve.
That’s all I can say about the story so far, we have many threads that are being laid out, but no concrete plot that ties all the characters together yet.
Let’s talk about the visuals, because I am more mixed on the visuals of The Rings of Power than anything else. The visuals are, unfortunately, heavily reliant on CGI and lack the impact that the original Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy had.
Some CGI is fine, but one of the things that made The Lords of Rings such a timeless viewing experience was the fact that Jackson still used many real-world locations to shoot and, when he could, opted to go with costumes and make up, rather than greenscreen CGI. Unfortunately, Jackson did end up going down that route himself with his adaptation of The Hobbit, which made the film feel flatter and more sterile, and took away a lot of the impact that fight scenes had.
The Rings of Power has this same problem but, at times, much worse. Specifically, whenever the sun is setting, the colors and visuals look terrible. Everything has a blur to its edges, and the colors are drowned out with yellows and whites. It looks like someone smeared grease over the lens and it really took me out of the moments. Most of the scenes out in the greenery of the world felt much better as there was less of a reason to use as much CGI and therefore everything looked better.
My issues with the visuals also do not extend to costume design and makeup. I feel like the costumes, with the exception of the Elven King, looked very good. The elves feel like elves, humans like humans, dwarves like dwarves, and harfoots (the progenitor of hobbits) like harfoots. I do not have an issue with how people look in the show, so far, all the casting has been very well done and the costumes and makeup have also been good too.
So far, the first two episodes of The Rings of Power have not really got me hooked just yet, I don’t feel like I NEED to watch next week’s episode, but I will. The show is not groundbreaking, it’s not amazing, but it is not offensive or bad either.
I feel like The Rings of Power has an uphill battle to fight to push back against the negative perception that it has had prior to its premiere and so far, I’m far more open to giving it a chance than I was before I watched the premiere. That being said, I feel like The Rings of Power is sitting at a crossroads right now, where it can either become very good or very bad, and I’m afraid that may end up being based on how much of Galadriel we see on screen.