As the co-owner of this website, having been here from the very beginning, I’ve seen my share of online Tolkien community related collective anxiety. Our massive community is not dissimilar to that of Star Wars – we have our whacko fringe segment and we have the numbers to attract a matrix style army of Russian bots.
Weeding through all … of … that … noise (if that sounds exhaustive, that’s intentional) is so hard to accomplish in 2022. Apparently with age, comes wisdom, and apparently with wisdom comes the ability to dissect myself from most of the drama in the lead up to ‘The Rings of Power.’
Sure, did I occasionally get caught up in the tasty morsels of ‘Tolkien with nudity’ or the ‘Gam(of Thrones)ification’ of Tolkien? I admit – it caught me every few months. But all in all, through most of this journey to September 2nd, I found myself more concerned about aggressively protecting the ‘good’ in our community. Protecting those of us who don’t tell you how to enjoy your Tolkien. Aggressively pursuing the bad actors, trolls and goblins of the online space. Yup, I’m looking squarely at you Twitter. Your cesspool of existence had me pretty close to closing down our official account a few times!
Just a Casual Fan…
All that said, I decided to write my thoughts on ‘The Rings of Power’ today because I feel I may represent a segment of our community that simply is Tolkien adjacent these days. Sure, we were avid fans and very active 20 years ago, but work, families, and simply time have calmed that passion down…just a tad.
I should also mention, for the umpteenth time, that I am a ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ reader. I tried to read the Silmarillion ages ago…not again. Nope, I didn’t read the Histories of Middle-earth or the new books that mystically appear every few years. I’m just a fan of Tolkien’s most popular works – judge me if you will.
With the multiple premiere’s happening around the globe, TORn staff were attending and reporting through the generosity of Amazon. Last week, I had actually scored a pass to the NYC Premiere, but after an enjoyable vacation I came back with a cold worthy of Sauron’s envy. I had even bought a sweet outfit for the occasion, but alas, it was not to be. (Nope, it wasn’t COVID, oddly enough.)
So like everyone else, I waited patiently until the show premiered last night on my Amazon Prime account. I should also note, that I’m such a casual fan these days, that I ended up watching the first half of the Penn State vs. Purdue American football game (PS – Penn State is where this website found its genesis), before deciding to check to see if ‘The Rings of Power’ was out a bit early. And yay…it was!
So it begins. Lights off, Apple AirPods Pro Max activated, and let’s do this!
I’m going to share a minor-spoiler stream of thoughts. I’m doing this for those of you who are like me – casual, Tolkien adjacent fans. Folks who may not be the most educated Tolkien scholars of the bunch – nor – *gasp* – really want to be. Folks who don’t want to participate in the drama of the community and just want to watch a good show and celebrate with the community.
So my quick review: this show nails it.
I wanted – no, needed – a thread – a connection to the films I so loved 20 years ago. ‘The Rings of Power’ delivers big time.
Just a few clear reasons why…
- We get Galadriel, one of the best characters in all of Tolkien’s works, as the lead, the main focus of the series. I’m pretty sure I had not seen Morfydd Clark in any other show/movie before this show, and she is simply a gem. The strength she exudes with just a stare is mesmerizing, and her acting prowess is top notch. This series is in great hands with her in the lead role. The decision to focus on Galadriel from the very start is genius. I truly want to know her story, and I can’t wait to learn more.
- We get breathtaking action and visuals. How cool is it to see battle sequences of Middle-earth in such gigantic scale. Did I really just watch a Fell Beast take out a giant eagle?!
- We get amazing music from the talents of Bear McCreary. Throughout both episodes, it is clear Bear understands the musical ethos that is required for this world. So amazing. (Yes – already listening on loop while working!)
- We get a taste of the innocence and simplicity of Hobbits with the whole Eleanor Brandyfoot plot. Markella Kavenagh is wonderfully cast in this role as a bright eyed mischievous Hobbit…err…Harfoot. In fact, when I look at her, I think of those quick takeaway shots of those cute Hobbits watching fireworks. (Pretty sure those were PJs kids?) And I’m pretty sure, by the end of this series, we are going to get the clear implication that Bilbo and Frodo are descendants of Eleanor. (Oh wait, my lack of Tolkien knowledge might be coming through…is that already spelled out in a genealogical chart somewhere?)
- We get an Elf military that is stationed throughout areas of Middle-earth to protect her ungrateful residents? Noice! Wait – a Legolas 2.0 with Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir? YES. If you aren’t excited to see him kick some major arse in this series, check your pulse. BTW – he’s okay right? I mean…we did get a bit of a cliffhanger with him in Episode 2. (Obviously we do)
- We get to see a whole thriving Dwarven culture. Am I really under the mountain and watching the genesis of semi-familiar names and their eventual (spoiler!) downfall? After all, I did see that Balrog in the trailer…you all are going to delve too deep…aren’t you…?
- We get some REALLY impressively designed baddies. That orc/goblin that shows up in Bronwyn and Theo’s house…nightmare fuel. The ‘worm’ of the ocean – can I can get a fine art print of that in someway? That brief look right before taking out the raft…yikes!
- Who the heck is this Meteor Man? How cool would that be if that’s Gandalf? Probably won’t be – but I’m game for having no clue, and finding out as the show unfolds. I do get a baddie vibe, but obviously they are trying to lead the viewer in that direction.
- Hold up. I was worried this show might not be something I could watch with the family. Sure, the baddies are a bit scary, but as of right now, this is a family (10+) show. Well done, Amazon!
Two episodes in, and there is so much to love about this series.
You know you got it right when…
The biggest compliments I can give this series are twofold:
- I did not look at my phone the entire time. This is pretty impressive, considering the Penn State game was very close at halftime and I had relatives and friends dinging my phone and watch. The ‘tap’ of the watch was going mad at some points during the show, but I was so engaged in the show, I didn’t bother. And also…I ALWAYS look at my phone during shows.
- I usually will make myself some popcorn during shows. I’ll get up, walk away from the TV with my headphones on and watch from the kitchen. Nope – not in this case. Popcorn was only made when the first episode ended.
In summary, I’m fully in. Well done to the entire team involved in this production. Sure, it was insanely expensive, but for this Tolkien adjacent fan, you’re nailing it.
If you are a casual fan of Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, you are going to absolutely love ‘Rings of Power.’