The Rings of Power Spoiler Review
The first 2 episodes of The Rings of Power have been released during public screenings and premiere’s over the last weeks and has captivated audiences with its grand scale which shines on the big screen especially when we see the many kingdoms of Middle-earth for the first time. With a billion dollar price tag often associated, this is no surprise and it certainly does live up to that expectation and the amount invested… which is why it’s important to also look at other aspects of the show such as the acting, writing, plot etc.
One of the strongest aspects of this show is the performances from the soon to be stars of the Rings of Power cast. When mentioning the cast, the first name that comes to mind is the ‘lead’ Morfydd Clark who successfully portrays and gives off the aura and prestige of a high elf who as specifically mentioned in a scene including Elrond in episode 1 has seen a lot. But there is still an element of youth and relentless determination woven within the performance, particularly in the dark stronghold scene at the very beginning, where Galadriel’s strong will pushed her to continue the search.
Another elf that also impressed was ‘Arondir’ played by Ismael Cruz Cordova because through his character we can see the consequences of the agelessness of elves and how this effects their lives- for good or ill. This is displayed through a heartfelt scene with Bronwyn where he states that despite his long lifespan he has never felt as he does now during his time with her. Ismael’s performance excellently portrays the beginning of a personal struggle that the character will have to go through if he does end up sticking with a human (Bronwyn) as opposed to his kin. Which is a prevalent theme in this show where the Southlanders have a deep hatred towards the elves, evoked by the watch placed upon them by the king (Gil-galad) but at some points seems a bit too extreme and forced.
To wrap up the elven characters we have the prospering politician Elrond played by Robert Aramayo who grasped the youthful mentee role terrifically, mixed in with a sense of naivety which allows the audience to find a character to attach to and even root for. However, some of the portrayals by side elven characters during the show and especially in the first episode, (not by the main “23” actors) take away the elegance and splendour that are associated with elves almost as if they were humans which noticeably occurred with some of the elves in TirHarad (not Arondir).
The most impressive performance thus far goes to Daniel Weyman who plays ‘The Stranger’ aka Meteor Man, solely due to the instinctive and raw physical performance he gave for a character who cannot communicate through words which was outstanding.
A final stand out performance by the talented Rings of Power cast comes from Markella Kavenagh who plays Nori Brandyfoot a proactive and excitable young Harfoot… looking for an adventure! Her performance is interwoven with the writing which allows the audience to spend vital time with the character (regrettably not others such as Celebrimbor) to truly understand her excitable personality and perseverance and Markella makes the most of every moment. Despite not seeing much of him, Halbrand played by Charlie Vickers excellently portrays the mysterious aspect surrounding the role of Halbrand, even from his very first line which might be a hint as to what is to come between him and Galadriel.
Noticeably, no Dwarves were mentioned as of yet… but there is a particular reason why.
The strongest introduction to any race or kingdom so far goes to the Dwarves who are situated in the awe inspiring and magnificent realm of Khazad-dum with the splendour encapsulated through the moment Elrond first walks into the cave ripe with wealth and dwarves at work. A nice touch that we see in the visual portrayal of Khazad- dum is that despite being locked away underground and surrounded by rocks, boulders and mines- there is still greenery and nature embedded within the underground kingdom highlighting that in this show the dwarves are at their peak… but for how long?
An imperative reason towards the greatness of the dwarves in the show comes from the performances of Owain Arthur and Sophia Nomvete who’s irresistible dynamic crucially allows the audience to be transported for a moment away from the grand nature of the show such as the magnificent shots and constant talk of evil and Galadriel’s mission. Noticeably, the romance and love angle which seems to be important to the Arondir and Bronwyn storyline actually comes off better and clearer with Durin and Disa as the show really hasn’t made it crystal clear as of yet what the true status is between the first pair, time will tell.
Whilst on relationships, the partnership of Durin IV and Elrond promises to be one of the most captivating and strong plot points for the show and we will see the progression of their relationship, which has actually started 20 years beforehand when mentioned in a scene when Elrond has dinner with Durin again shows the timelessness of elves as opposed to other races which is a pivotal theme of the Second age which is almost removed with the feature of time- compression so it seems like the showrunners are manufacturing ways to still hit these important thematic moments. But of course the execution of displaying that theme would have been better without time compression, but a compromise is trying to been met.
Episode one has a lot of heavy lifting to do in regards to the different locations and we often hit a standstill with some of the plots as we need to be introduced onto the next faction of characters, but this was inevitable given the vast amount of places the show has to explore… and is yet to explore with that hint at the end of episode 2. For this reason episode one in nature is quite slow but finds it’s feet right at the end, just like Galadriel did when she jumped off the ship to not sail to the west which on screen was absolutely incredible to watch and one of the best sequences in the 2 episodes. In regards to the lore, having Galadriel sail west was an interesting choice to put it simply as it removes the grand moment in the Lord of the Rings where she is finally able to sail West due to her past such as participating in the Kinslaying (in some accounts) and having to finally earn her reward.
The Harfoot plot was surprisingly pretty captivating and the aspect of their nomad like existence adds a sense of wonder and secrecy to their race and the show, especially due to their innovative hiding mechanisms as seen in their first scene with them. In nature, the Harfoots are quite tribal and there are many hints towards superstitions, repetitively mentioned by Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) which adds to their overall narrative inclusion of trying to survive in this vast, yet dangerous world such as the wolves that are on their trail. To put it simply, the dilemma around the Harfoots is that in the show interestingly their scenes are one of the main parts which makes it feel most like Middle-earth whether that be the books or Peter Jackson’s universe. This could be due to the nostalgia aspect of Hobbits in the later stories in Tolkien’s works or even the fact that they provide us a moment away from the sweeping shots of Lindon, rich halls of Khazad-dum and so on. But, is this feeling of Middle- earth which is associated with the Harfoots thematically linked or important to the Second Age where the focus should be on the splendour of the Gwaith-I-Mirdain or the island kingdom of Numenor? Either way, at this moment in time the Harfoots have been a surprisingly solid addition to the show despite some more thematic issues which are also valid.
Episode 2 is much faster paced and the story progresses from the standstills we hit in the first episode due to the heavy (yet important) world building and most crucially allows us to connect with the characters. This season is 8 episodes in number and it is important to start understanding the motives and characteristics of these characters and episode 2 does exactly that. We understand the motive of revenge truly pulling through for Galadriel when she is determined to make her way back to Middle- earth on the Sundering Seas and with Nori through the kindness of her little Harfoot heart (which is bigger than her feet) when she wants to look after Meteor Man (Daniel Weyman). The Meteor Man storyline is keeping us on our toes, with clues hidden all around, firstly from his initial landing and the almost eye of Sauron like shape below him and the fact the fire was cool (like the one ring was) but then we have the moment in episode 2 where he communicated to the fireflies, similar to Gandalf when trying to communicate to the eagles in The Lord of the Rings.
Finally, the plot involving Gil-galad deciding to end the watch for evil after Galadriel’s failed expedition in Forodwaith is the central plot line for the first episodes. It is interesting however that the moment the watch for evil has ended, orcs coincidentally hours or even days later appear in tunnels under Bronwyn’s house. This is most likely the television moment of the narrative driving the story as opposed to the writing but is somewhat understandable due to how packed the first episode is as something has to happen at some point, but admittedly feels a little strange.
The prologue for casual audiences competently summarises the First age in away that supports the story the show is trying to tell whereby the elves fought Morgoth and he eventually lost in battle. Of course the FA wasn’t just one battle it is more complex than that and a Tolkien fan could even pick apart at some of the things revolving Finrod. Still, the inclusion of young Galadriel played by the excellent Amelie Child Villiers who similarly to the performance by Morfydd Clark portrayed the elegance of the young Lady Galadriel and her days in Valinor. Visually, the prologue was a spectacle unlike any other on television and through moments such as the beauty of the Two Trees.
Dialogue, Action & Score
The dialogue on the whole has been solid. The elves speak in a more heightened tone, the dwarves are more direct and humorous- though hopefully not too humorous which during the dinner scene we could slightly see with Durin’s unsolicited burp. Episode 2 which was written by Breaking Bad alumni Gennifer Huthchison is terrific and allows the show to stride forward and it’s looking like it will continue to do so.
The action from a television perspective is superb. Even though somehow the elven character played by Kip Chapman didn’t realise or hear that an ice troll was moving right above him… the whole sequence was smooth and coordinated in a way which showed off the elegance of elves in combat with commander Galadriel stealing the show with a quite gruesome stab to the troll’s head. The second main piece of action includes the attack by the Worm in the Sundering Seas which obliterates a raft of human survivors and the subsequent moments of Galadriel and Halbrand surviving out at sea with the crashing waves was intense.
The score was terrific. Bear McCreary’s score played for nearly 2 hours straight in pure magnificence with multiple renditions of the splendid Galadriel theme being played throughout the episodes. The Khazad- dum score was really catchy and triumphant matching the character of the dwarves as seen through the rock breaking contest. One of the strongest aspects of the show is the music by Bear McCreary and the work of Howard Shore with the intro as well, but a little less memorable as opposed to his incredible and Oscar winning scores.
The Rings of Power is a cinematic blockbuster within a television show with its grand interpretation of Middle- earth highlighting the massive scope and scale of Tolkien’s world just as it should be when shown on screen. Middle- earth deserves nothing less. Admittedly, for some Tolkien fans there are things that you will instinctively pick and point at because when you love a work such as Tolkien’s it is inevitable- and it is not wrong to do that. In nature, it is an adaptation which is exciting because it introduces us to new questions and mysteries whilst building on the already set frame work, for example the building of a great forge in Eregion. The Rings of Power is full of little hints and easter eggs which will get please the nerdy hearts of many. As a television and fantasy show it is a strong start and despite the initial continuous world building the show finds it’s footing and strides forward with compelling characters and a terrific cast but most importantly brings us back to Middle- earth.
The Rings of Power premieres September 2nd on Prime Video