It’s been a month since the final episode of Season 1 aired. staff have had time to reflect, to go back and binge-watch the whole thing, and to process thoughts.

As we begin the journey to Season 2 (which could be a long one!), here are some of TORn staffers’ reactions to the first season of Prime Video‘s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. As you’ll see, we’re an independent bunch with a wide variety of opinions!

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Staffer Calisuri writes:

There are a lot of dissenting opinions amongst our staff, but one thing we seem to all agree upon is our excitement to return to Milddle-earth. Regardless of the specific plot lines and changes to the canon, there is a pretty significant consensus that The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power feels a lot like the Middle-earth we discovered in our first reading of the literature, and then again with the visual execution of Peter Jackson’s films.

And there ends the consensus. 🤔

For my part, I went into the series with low expectations that it would ‘stick to the book.’ And as a result, I was absolutely thrilled by the show. The wonderful part of changing things up… one literally has no clue what will happen next. It wasn’t too long into the series that significant questions were being discussed amongst the fandom, and no one really had an excellent answer for any of them. Even the most obvious queries like, ‘Who is Sauron,’ ended up being a bit harder to predict than expected. Right until the end, our panelists at NYCC were still hotly debating the topics. Check that as a win for the show.

By far, my favorite aspect of this particular Season was the introduction of the amazing cast; with highlight performances coming from Durin, Disa, Galadriel, and Elrond.

In a world of non-stop quality content (*cough* Andor – you should be watching it), Rings of Power Season 1 sits proudly amongst my favs of 2022. Without the stats to prove it, I’m willing to guess Rings of Power was well-received among the general pop culture audience. Was it amazing for Tolkien fandom as a whole? That seems to be more of a split.

It might be a while until Season 2, but I, for one, can’t wait.

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Staffer Mithril writes:

Although there are aspects of the show I enjoyed, I felt there were substantial flaws. The filming was cinematic, with gorgeous photography, yet at times the sets felt like sets – the city scenes in Númenor, the insubstantial feeling of Lindon. The pacing of the first season moved in fits and starts. It relied heavily and unnecessarily on mystery boxes. The show is called “The Rings of Power,” yet the making of the Rings was relegated to fifteen minutes of the last episode of the season. We did not get to see all the rings forged, just the three Elven rings. Halbrand/Annatar was only in Eregion for a very short time, most of it unconscious. There is so much that could have been explored about Annatar’s infiltration and influence over the Gwaith-i-Mírdain Jewel-smiths and Celebrimbor. Where was the suspicion? The shock and fear when the Elves figured out what Sauron was doing? This was a huge letdown for me.

There were also quite a few moments where I found myself saying, “Wait, what?!?” For instance, Númenor is over 2,000 miles away from the coast that is closest to Mordor, yet in the show, it appears the Númenórean ships sail that distance in about two days. When they arrive, the army gallops at speed to exactly where Adar is, exactly where the villagers are fighting the orcs, at exactly the right moment to save the day. And yet, they only had a generalized idea of where in the Southlands to go. That’s a pretty big coincidence to swallow. There were several other instances in the show that suspended my belief as well.

My favorite characters are Elrond, Durin IV, and Disa. These characters have heart, and I care about them. Their storyline is also one that comes close to canon, and I think you can feel how it rings true. I was surprised how much I liked Robert Aramayo as Elrond; and Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete rock. I also really liked Adar. Joseph Mawle’s acting is outstanding, and he made me care about the plight of the Orcs. I was pulling for him, even though he was supposed to be a bad guy. Between him and Galadriel in the barn scene, I was totally on his side.

Overall, I was happy to be back in Middle-earth and am looking forward to seeing what unfolds next season.

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Staffer Elessar shares his thoughts:

I thought the finale was absolutely fantastic, and as a whole, I thought Season 1 was as well. I would like to see some tweaks to the writing and a little less reliance on lines that were spoken in the LOTR films; but overall, I thought the writing was solid enough. Visually I think this show is absolutely outstanding, as are the costumes and armor. I wasn’t sure about the actors going in, but I ended up being quite happy with everyone. I get that some viewers wanted more, and some feel this show is just ok. I just don’t feel that way at all. This show feels, looks, and smells like Middle-earth to me. There are some obvious changes to Jackson’s films, but I think, without a doubt, is in that sandbox.

I wanted to hit on some things a bit more:

Galadriel, commander of the Northern Armies. Matt Grace/Amazon Studios.

Galadriel – I think Morfydd Clark was just absolutely fantastic. I think she is taking the baton from Cate Blanchett and doing some great things. Her character arc in this season was, I think, well done. I think we got a good look at some of the ways Galadriel was described in the 2nd Age and obviously expanded upon. By the end of the season, we’re well on our way to seeing the Galadriel we saw during the Third Age.

Halbrand/Sauron – I think it was decently obvious from the jump this was Sauron. There were too many hints that were on the nose for them to not have him be Sauron; so I wasn’t shocked when the big reveal happened. I think the guy can play the role going forward just fine. I wouldn’t also mind it if the real Halbrand is dead and this is Sauron just looking like him; and we see another person playing the Annatar character – playing a bit upon the fact Sauron could shapeshift.

Elendil – I didn’t know anything about the man cast to play him when the show started, but I have to say he was a great choice. Elendil feels like the great man we know him to be; he already has a lot of depth and I just simply love it. I can’t wait to see more of his arc and growth as we get into Season 2.

Arondir – This might be the character I was the most shocked by that I ended up liking. I really figured he was just gonna be this show’s Legolas: he’d do some cool stuff, but they would hold back some depth/growth. He turned out to be much more than just the action guy, and I really liked that. I know we didn’t see him in the last episode, but I look forward to catching up with him when S2 launches.

Numenor – This is the place in the show I was the most excited to see, and it did not disappoint me in the slightest. It was as beautiful and detailed as I had imagined it to be. I loved the nods to it being like Gondor; for me, that really means a lot. I love that we see the beauty before the fall – and that alone will make the fall that much more tragic. I think the way they set up Pharazon and Miriel really ended up working; especially with the vibes that she was one of the King’s Men at the start of the season. You can clearly see now she is of the Faithful and that Pharazon will be solely the one to take Numenor down the dark path, as he uses her eyesight issue as a way to grab power. Again, it is all going to make the fall of Numenor that much more tragic, and the rise of Gondor even more beautiful.

Dwarves/Khazad-dum – This one may be the second thing I was most looking forward to when the visuals started rolling out and for me, it – like Numenor – did not disappoint. You get to see the beauty that the Dwarves possessed here, and it makes the fall we see when the Fellowship makes its way through Moria that much more tragic. (These versions of Khazad-dum and Numenor are two places I would love to see Weta Workshop make environments of.) I can’t wait to see more of Khazad-dum in season two; and how they will eventually dig too deep only leading to their doom. It’s going to be so beautiful and tragic.

Durin and Disa – These two were amazing. The way they play off each other is just fantastic to watch, and I loved every scene they were in. They give yet more great Dwarven characters on the screen to add to the list we have coming out of Peter Jackson’s LOTR and Hobbit Trilogies. I loved seeing Durin’s desire to prove to his Dad he isn’t just some prince sitting by waiting. He really went all out to show his Dad there is more out there to do and that he wants to be a great Dwarf in his own right. I also liked that he is the one who will start the looking for Mithril and lead to the Balrog, causing some real havoc. There’s a great tragedy in that his wanting to do more for his people will bring about the great doom. I think you see that a lot in our real world. Disa is a great other half for Durin; her support but her willingness to check him just work for me. She’s a great strong female character.

In closing: I think this show, as I said, is doing a really awesome job. I look forward to seeing more information about Season 2 at SDCC in 2023, and all the fun things that will leak out as we get closer to the next season. I went into Season 1 cautiously optimistic, and came out so dang pleased and happy. I’m glad I was wrong in my concerns, at least with Season 1. I’m glad to be back in Middle-earth in this way with this show. It’s going to make be a fun ride to see where they take us; and how that leads, as I think, fairly seamlessly into Peter Jackson’s films.

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Staffer WeeTanya shares:

I quite enjoyed many, many parts of the Rings of Power series, including its interesting central premise: that the good and evil morality that seems so clear cut by The Lord of the Rings arose from a much murkier history.

I’ve always loved the (several) backstories of Galadriel. The moment that sticks in my head the most from the Unfinished Tales is a recounting of her decision to leave Valinor. Galadriel didn’t leave it for love of her cousin-once-removed Feanor and his quest to regain the Silmarils; in fact she disliked him intensely. But she left Valinor along with the other Noldor because she was excited to see and (in some versions of the story) rule in Middle-earth. 

Galadriel had great creative power, and wanted to be in a realm where she could enact change and foster growth. The most interesting scenes in Rings of Power were the ones in which Galadriel felt kinship with another creative spirit, the scion of Aule, Annatar. When they spoke together after a battle about feeling drawn to one another’s spirits — the show runners of Rings of Power were clever enough to know that some would interpret this as romantic attraction, while others who’d immediately pegged Halbrand as Annatar knew that it was a powerful case of like calling to like.

The two were not so different, after all. Sauron initially also wanted to help ease the wounds of Middle-earth after the great battle that ended the First Age, but due to pride, couldn’t bring himself to grovel before the Valar to beg forgiveness and be fully reinstated as part of the blessed Maiar. In Rings of Power, Galadriel was also given an opportunity to return to Valinor, but found she couldn’t. 

The book explanation is that Galadriel wanted to stay out of love for the place she’d made into her home, where she had power and agency. The show explanation was about avenging her brother’s death at the jaws of Wolf-Sauron. I felt that here, too, the show runners were clever — Galadriel is not a reliable narrator, and whatever she states as her reason for continuing in Middle-earth might not be the full story. After all, surely she cares more about Celeborn than to just say “he left and I never found him.” And we can see how little introspection she currently has — it might be another season before she finds out for herself why she wanted to stay.

I believe that both Galadriel and Annatar were drawn to each other because of their mutual creative joy and passion to rule Middle-earth; it jives with both the book explanation and the show explanation. I believe that the show runners were subtle enough to not spoon-feed it to us, but will let us see Galadriel grow and be more introspective as time moves on. 

Galadriel went ahead with the creation of the three rings, after all — instead of immediately fearing anything that resulted from Sauron’s work with Celebrimbor. Why would she do so? Because (in both book and show) she knew that the Rings were her one means to sustain resistance against the wages of time in Middle-earth. (Was the dying tree necessary for me to understand this idea? No, but maybe for some it was necessary, and provided an interesting parallel to the other dying trees across the rest of the show’s plot — in Numenor, in the path of the Harfoots, in the tunnels of the orcs, etc.)

Will we see morality become less grey as we go forward? Maybe, but maybe not. We already had a glimpse into Galadriel’s terrible, eugenicist attitude toward the orcs — especially after we’d been shown that the orcs had a father that they loved, and that loved them. This is a beautiful modern day reading of the dynamic between elf and orc that Tolkien would not have had, and I found that it broke open some VERY dark and troubling — and deeply interesting — dynamics in Middle-earth. Thanks, Rings of Power show, you revealed to me something new.

Also, aren’t Harfoots kind of jerks? In this Rings of Power culture, if you are disabled in any way, they kick you out and let you die. I think we’re shown that small-mindedness comes from every race, and that the choice to be (or act) good comes from the individual and not what race they are. And isn’t this true for Hobbits as well? We run into our fair share of small-minded ones who call Bilbo and Frodo “queer” for feeling the need to explore beyond their small community, after all.

This premise is probably a metaphor for something larger and I could bring up color-blind casting at this point (I thought it was excellent) but I won’t, because I don’t think it’s relevant to how I felt about the larger plot.

Also, Numenor is gorgeous. I always thought I’d want to go to Rivendell after death instead of heaven, but maybe I’ll add Numenor to my list of places to visit after I die.

In short, it worked for me. The Rings of Power show took some rather large bites out of some very interesting, confusingly defined, and slippery bits of Tolkien lore, and showed the world to me in a way that made me learn. Because of that alone, I’m along for the ride.

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Staffer Alyse writes:

My thoughts on Rings of Power are quite conflicted. While I did really enjoy aspects of the show, I was left far too often very puzzled and shaking my head – not in a good way. In the end, for me, it sadly felt like such a waste.

The good: the scenery and set design were amazing eye candy. The effects and music were top notch. The cast was all around fantastic with Robert Aramayo, Lloyd Owen, Owain Arthur, Markella Kavenagh and Sophia Nomvete as just a few of the many stand-outs.

The bad: the various plotlines, story choices, and some key characterizations… SIGH. There were too many characters where I didn’t care about most, too many storylines they were trying to pull off that never quite came together or made any sense, and some really bizarre choices made for me (the Mithril explanation, how quickly the 3 rings were made, the impossible traveling speed of Númenor’s army, and pretty much everything to do with Galadriel).

I will add, for me, this was far more enjoyable than the Hobbit movies, which I think are some of the worst movies ever made, and I did tear up in the final episode. Rings of Power certainly made me feel; just not always in a positive way.

I so wish Amazon had managed to get the Silmarillion rights, as I could see how truly epic the show could have been. But alas, the show runners and writers had a difficult task with the limited source material they had to work with. All that said, I’m willing to give season 2 a chance, and hoping it will improve on the first season.

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And finally for now, Staffer Saystine shares:

I really enjoyed the series. Is it perfect? No, but they don’t have as much to work with as many people people seem to believe they do, and I think they are doing a good job.  I am excited to see where they go with what they have set-up.  I think the actors are performing well and the costumes and sets are great.  This first season felt like its main purpose was reestablishing the world of Middle-earth and placing all the players on the board. There will be is so much more to come;  and I for one, look forward to the surprises that could be in store.