THE RINGS OF POWER is fine, specifically 1×1 “A Shadow of the Past” and 1×2 “Adrift”, are fine. This is something that I feel is both damning as well as an argument against all the criticism the show has unfairly received before it has even begun. The show is breathtakingly beautiful, the soundtrack is extremely enchanting, and the characters are entertaining as well as competently acted. However, for those hoping to be transported back to JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, the show basically feels like about a faithful an adaptation as a Middle Earth themed MMORPG.
Part of this was inevitable as the adaptation of the Second Age of Middle Earth is going to be primarily new material. We’ve already got the fantastic Lord of the Rings movies and the not-so fantastic The Hobbit movies. However, here, this is just creating original stories based around the rough outline of events that J.R.R Tolkien sketched as backstory. The Silmarillion is a fantastic book, but I’ve never quite believed it could be faithfully adapted.
Even in the first five minutes, the lore violations start piling up. Galadriel talks about how the light of Valinor was taken by Morgoth (so far so good), only for her to then say that she went to fight the Great Enemy on Middle Earth. Which, no she didn’t. We skip over Feanor, the Kinslaying, and a huge chunk of the backstory between. Beren and Luthien is also not given a mention, which seems another egregious time-skip since we have another human/elf love match in the show.
We also basically skip the entirety of the fact that Galadriel didn’t believe Morgoth could be defeated by force of arms (which he couldn’t) and depict her and the elves defeating him. Which, of course, is nonsense because Morgoth is defeated by the Valar and no mention of the literal archangels is made in the series. It’s a rather conspicuous absence given they utterly wreck Middle Earth defeating Tolkien’s version of Sauron.
Instead, the show is primarily focused on Galadriel attempting to avenge her brother that was slain by Sauron and her Knight Templar-esque dedication to tracking the Dark Lord down to kill him. This isn’t entirely inaccurate, three of Galadriel’s brothers did in fact die during the battle against Morgoth’s forces. However, none of the other elves believe Sauron is still a threat and the show is about how, surprise, Galadriel is right, and the monster is coming back.
Much has been made of Galadriel being depicted as a warrior woman as well as the show having a more ethnically diverse collection of elves, hobbits, and dwarves. The latter doesn’t bother me at all and I’m not going to waste wind on it. The former is only annoying because Galadriel is a SORCERESS, and it feels like she’s taking a major power downgrade in stabbing things versus blasting them with her evil destroying light.
Indeed, the more the show tries to act like this is JRR Tolkien’s work versus something that they’ve wholly invented, the more the show stumbles. They could have based this show around Isildur, they could have based this show around Beren and Luthien, and they could have done a series of Silmarillion movies. Instead, this is a wholly original as well as competently done fantasy series that is pretending it was by the master.
I feel it’s less faithful than Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and I like those games, but they are really inaccurate. Oh, and Sauron returns to Middle Earth via a comet. There, he’s adopted by a bunch of rural Hobbit farmers. No, I don’t know why Sauron is Superman now. Maybe it’s not Sauron, maybe it’s Gandalf, but that would be a millennium early.
There’s some genuinely good parts like any part involving dwarves. The dwarves in this show are the most animated, entertaining, and energetic characters. Also, whenever the show interrupts its ponderous narration to do some actual action scenes. Mind you, a Tolkien adaptation should never be defined by its action, but it says something that this works best when it is.
The original characters are fine, the plotting is fine, and the show is fine. However, it’s also something that doesn’t feel like an authentically Tolkien work. It feels like very well-done Middle Earth fanfiction and I feel like that’s probably all it ever could be with the Second Age premise. I’ll probably keep watching it but it’s not must-see TV like certain other fantasy shows I’m watching.