Last we spoke, or last I posted, and you read, I perhaps delved deeper into the first episode of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power than intended. Not that I mind being detailed and long-winded, but I had planned to cover more ground than I managed to.
So far, you’ve heard about the pilot episode. Now, you shall revel in my pearls of wisdom regarding the second and third season installments. I hope you indulge in a read-through anyway–even if we don’t completely see eye-to-eye on this latest addition to the TU (Tolkien Universe).
Once again: THUS FOLLOWS MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW. Don’t read on if you’re not caught up through episode three. But, if you’re not watching and merely feeling voyeuristic, by all means, sally forth.
Episode Two – “Adrift”
Episode one left us with Galadriel, literally and figuratively, jumping ship; Elrond meeting Celebrimbor, elven prince and master metalsmith; Nori following a shooting star and finding a “giant” stranger; and Arondir exploring a mysterious underground network of cobweb-ridden tunnels.
In “Adrift,” Galadriel strives to survive on the open sea with a secretive wanderer; Elrond receives a lackluster welcome from an old dwarven friend; Nori’s new friend is incapable of communicating but bears striking similarities to a member of the Istari, and enemies overpower Arondir during his subterranean exploration.
The second episode felt like a bridging episode, moving us from the first to the third. This is neither good nor bad; it just is. All shows possess episodes whose purpose is to get from point A to point B. With it being so early in the season, we’re still in the set-up/explanation phase, which is why my rule of thumb for casting judgment on a show is to watch three episodes first. And on that note, let’s examine this bridging episode beyond its synopsis.
Mirroring the OG Trilogy
Once again, I was drawn to dialogue parallels. Toward the episode’s beginning, young Elrond is amazed by Fëanor’s hammer that forged the Silmarils. His reaction to the relic is very similar to Boromir’s response to pulling the One Ring from the snow in the Misty Mountains after poor Frodo takes a tumble.
Elrond: “Strange, isn’t it? How one object could be responsible for creating so much beauty and so much pain.”
Boromir: “Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing.”
I’ll allow you to judge the closeness of quote.
Then, a bit later, Elrond mimics another line from The Fellowship of the Ring. Outside the doors of Moria, he is explaining what the kingdom under the mountains–Durin’s realm–is like to Celebrimbor, and he describes their feasts as including “tables filled with salted pork and enough malt beer to fill the Anduin.” Ring any bells?
Indeed, if you’re as nerdy as I am, it must.
In FotR, Gandalf manages to recall the Elvish word for friend, thus opening the hidden entrance into Moria. The fellowship enters while Gimli regales them with his description of his cousin’s home: “Soon Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the dwarves. Roaring fires, malt beer, red meat off the bone.”
A line-lift? Not precisely. Similar in intent and topic, along with location–yes, spot on, in that regard.
And, Galadriel’s current companion, Halbrand, echoes, once again, a line of Boromir’s from FotR.
Halbrand: “My people have no king.”
Boromir: “Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king.”
Sure, Halbrand is referring to the Southlands, aka pre-Mordor, and Boromir is speaking of his homeland, but the lines’ sentiments are the same–there are peoples without rulers.
Now, I am unsure whether the writers lifted lines and paraphrased Boromir as much as they have (see previous post) because:
- they want to make fans giddy with recognition and connection;
- they are lazy like a lot of writers I’ve come across in recent years;
- or they just felt Boromir had some badass lines they wanted to tweak and repurpose.
Without any insight or being a fly on the wall, I’m going to assume the first or second item was the reason–giddiness or laziness. And, I suppose it all depends on how cynical one feels during the viewing. I prefer the latter option because I love Boromir, but I’m no scriptwriter determining dialogue.
The friendship between Elrond and Durin–whom you may recall from The Hobbit as Thorin’s ancestor–is reminiscent of Legolas and Gimli’s. Elves and dwarves have a tumultuous history, and those who attempt friendship deal with highs and lows and the prejudice of their people. Theirs is a back-and-forth, bantering type of friendship, and we first see them engage in a match-up that is a bit less friendly than Legolas and Gimli’s headcount competition at Helm’s Deep. All friendships are unique, right?
Then, the silent stranger Nori is looking out for happens to do something very Gandalf-esque. At one point, he whispers to fireflies as Mithrandir whispered to moths in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films. Nothing definitive has been conveyed about the character, but I have my suspicions.
If you disliked the hobbits in the original film trilogy, then, in my opinion, you won’t like the harfoots. They are over-the-top innocent and naive, and their attempts at comic relief don’t do it for me. Moreover, their ignorance creates narrow minds within their fear-motivated migrational community, which is sometimes burdensome to witness.
And again, I find it strange how much Arondir is like Grey Worm. It’s just odd. But, maybe no one else sees it.
Also, I think Theo is a bringer of evil. And I don’t like to pass judgment or appear prejudiced, but to paraphrase an early-on and intolerant Gimli: “Never trust a half-elf!” In all honesty, there’s something about this kid that I don’t like, and it truly has nothing to do with him being half-elf or otherwise.
Positive notes are numerous: seeing different realms of Middle-earth, i.e., a functional and thriving Moria; witnessing other sides of beloved characters from a developmental perspective; seeing female dwarves, aside from skeletal remains and brief glimpses from The Hobbit trilogy; and whether you agree or not with this portrayal of Galadriel, it is pretty cool experiencing her powerful badassness in action before her more serene and reserved days of the Third Age.
Again, referencing The Hobbit trilogy, we did have the opportunity to see Galadriel wield her magic alongside Elrond and Saurman while facing the Necromancer and his minions. Still, the RoP Galadriel’s style is more physical and less about her powers.
I also immensely love the line: “Where there is love, it is never truly dark,” courtesy of our future high elven lord Elrond. It is a line fitting for their times in Middle-earth, as it fits our current times on Earth.
Episode Three – “Adar”
We’re now in the final stretch of making an educated judgment call on The Rings of Power.
In episode three, Arondir is an orc captive; Galadriel is rescued at sea by none other than Elendil, a man of Númenor and the future king of Gondor; and Nori’s secret stranger makes himself known to the harfoot community.
Mirroring the OG Trilogy
Keeping with tradition, more dialogue has been all but copied and pasted from The Fellowship of the Ring.
When we meet Isildur, he’s helping crew a ship off the coast of Númenor, and a mate cries out his name, much like Elrond yelling “Isildur!” when the freshly made king refuses to destroy the One Ring. An attempt at foreshadowing? Perhaps.
Then, instead of paraphrasing Boromir, we’ve got some orc action.
While a prisoner, Arondir witnesses an orc taskmaster say: “Rip the whole stinking tree down!” That is very close to what Saurman orders his orcs to do in FotR, but he says, “Rip them all down,” in that regal Christopher Lee way.
Just two things of note:
- Harfoots, and how they leave their own behind–truly survival of the fittest; and
- The violence experienced and doled out by Halbrand and the slitting of elven throats–both felt like tame George R.R. Martin, not elegant J.R.R. Tolkien.
The practical effects and makeup of the orcs are well done and serve to remind the world that Weta Workshop is the best of the best. In episodes two and three, the creatures of darkness are thoroughly believable without the use of CGI, and that has always impressed me.
Rings got the orcs right, from look to sound to behavior and movement.
Another kudos is the casting of Elendil. I’m sure Gen Z would call him a zaddy, and I’d agree, even if thinking that word in my head makes me feel less intelligent. Although an imperfect and mortal man (there are some father-son issues afoot between him and Isildur), Elendil is ancestral proof of Aragorn’s rugged refinement, the rough exterior of a warrior who loves deeply with their large heart.
Overall Assessment of The Rings of Power
Per my usual approach to trying and assessing new shows, I have viewed my minimum requirement of three episodes to make a judgment call on the worth and validity of committing to the season or show duration.
Cutting to the chase–The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is watchable, but it is not in the same league as the early 2000’s cinematic trilogy.
I know people who were psyched to watch this show, others who were devotedly abstaining, and those who went into the act of viewing accompanied with a grain of salt and an open mind. I belong to the latter group. But, as a super nerd, I’m willing to give anything Tolkien-related a try. Middle-earth is a fantastic world with a rich history and characters worth believing in–things I regularly wish our earth showcased more instead of the bleak, dark, and superficial.
A dear friend of mine, and regular commenter, DM’d me after I posted the first RoP blog review to say that she read the post, but didn’t comment because she knows nothing about LotR/RoP. I love that kind of support–even though the topic isn’t in her wheelhouse, she still finds time to read something I crafted.
She and others I know have no intention of partaking in this show; one of my brothers is vehemently against viewing, and some family members and friends are trying it. So here’s how I’m approaching this Tolkien-inspired venture:
On Friday nights, after five days of working, with countless freelance projects percolating and possible weekend shifts ahead of me, I’m mentally and physically checked out. So, some less-than-perfect fantasy viewing does the trick for me. A trip to Middle-earth whilst lying on the couch is just what the wizard ordered.
All that to say, yes, I’ll continue my viewing of The Rings of Power. Amazon has committed to a five-season run, but only time will tell if future seasons are up to a decent snuff level for my nerdy need. I will, however, make no vow to which I must hold.
One of the best things to come out of my viewing experience is that the show has inspired me to re-read The Silmarillion after roughly 20 years. As a tween, I most likely didn’t grasp everything between the book’s covers; however, I read it entirely, which is more than many adults can say.
So, view or don’t view–that’s your decision. Our time is precious–be sure you don’t needlessly cast yours into the fire 😉
Coming up next:
Monday, September 26
Local Literary Life–Lire & Livres