Rings of Power: My Season 1 Review

Season 1 of Amazon’s Rings of Power is officially in the books, and what a finish it was! Before I go any further, I must warn you that there will be spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen Episode 8 yet and you still want to, don’t read ahead.

Alright, on to the review!

To start, I want to say that the show itself is gorgeous. The sets are wonderful, very evocative of Middle-Earth, and the costumes are great. Some people tried to tell me, before the series aired, that the costumes looked cheap and terrible. I admit that some of the still images I saw showed bits of costumes that weren’t great. But this is a show, not a series of pictures. As I watched, I never noticed anything in what the actors wore that took me out of the story.

I also want to congratulate them on making the best orcs since Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy! Whereas The Hobbit made heavy use of CGI for its orcs and goblins, Rings of Power returns to actual actors in costume and make-up portraying the servants of Sauron. And they are truly terrifying depictions. They may even be better orcs than the original trilogy.

As for casting, I have few complaints. For some reason, some people are really down on Morfydd Clark as Galadriel, but I think she’s been wonderful. Easily my favorite character of the series thus far. Adar, an antagonist not in Tolkien’s works but created for the series, has really stolen the show. Almost every line he utters is quotable. I don’t typically like ‘morally grey’ villains, but I’m a fan of his portrayal and how his story interweaves with Sauron’s.

***MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD***

Speaking of Sauron, I knew it! At the end of episode 8, the identity of Sauron was finally revealed and it was the character I expected it to be shortly into the episode: Halbrand, supposed King of the Southlands.

I spent 7 episodes wondering who Sauron would be, first believing it was a prominent politician in Numenor, Pharazon, until realizing I’d erred in my remembrance of Middle-Earth lore (he was an actual politician in Numenor). I never suspected Halbrand until the end of Episode 6, when Mount Doom was induced to erupt and Mordor thus created; I had suspected Halbrand would be a key character in fighting against Sauron for rule of the Southlands, but once Mordor came into being he suddenly seemed like a wildly superfluous character.

That’s when I had my suspicion. Why give this king-in-exile so much screentime with the major players just to rip away any plotline he might have had? Then, in episode 8, he was transported to Celebrimbor, who just so happened to be in the process of creating rings of power. Then I remembered how Halbrand had suddenly become a master smith in his short stay at Numenor, which reminded me that Sauron was a master smith.

That was when I was fairly certain about Halbrand’s true identity, just as Galadriel began to suspect him as well.

***ANOTHER SPOILER AHEAD***

The Stranger was also revealed to be Gandalf. Or, well, a wizard. But I’m 100% certain it’s Gandalf. This one was easier to deduce and I guessed it in the first episode. He came to Middle-Earth and landed amongst the Harfoots, ancestors of Hobbits whom Gandalf adored, and showed an ability to wield fire, which Gandalf also had.

In episode 8, Gandalf defeats three cultists who believed he was Sauron and were practicing dark magic. Gandalf defeats them by telling them to “go back to the shadows”, which is what he told the Balrog in The Fellowship of the Ring. When he blasted them with light, they faded into nothingness and moths came from their bodies, moths being another creature tied to Gandalf when he used one to summon the Eagles in the trilogy.

Finally, as he and a young Harfoot lass embark on a new journey together, he tells her, “When in doubt, always follow your nose.” Which is almost verbatim what Gandalf told Meriadoc in The Fellowship of the Ring.

If he’s not Gandalf, I’ll admit that I’ll be upset. The clues that he is the grey wizard are so obvious and overt that, if he’s not, I’ll feel tricked and not in a good or clever way.

Anyway, this review has run terribly long. If you’re still here, thank you for reading! My final remarks are that Rings of Power is thus far a resounding success! I already cannot wait to see what’s in store for the next season. I highly recommend watching it!

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Rings of Power: A Spoiler-Free Review

Long-time readers of this blog know that I am a complete nerd for The Lord of the Rings. I’ve read the trilogy numerous times, including The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and many of the histories of Middle-Earth written by Tolkien.

So when it was announced years ago that Amazon would be producing a show based on Tolkien’s world, I was immediately hyped. And last night, I finally got to return to Middle-Earth! It was a long expected return, and definitely worth the wait.

As the title says, you won’t find any spoilers here. This is a show you need to experience for yourself, and fast because I’m sure that by Monday morning it will be impossible to miss spoilers online. All you’ll get here for now are my impressions of the show.

Reports have said that Amazon has spent over $1 billion on this show. Yes, billion with a ‘b’. And so far that money appears to be well spent. I’ve heard complaints online about cheap sets, horrible CGI, and bad costumes, but I didn’t see any of that. The sets looked great, the CGI was barely noticeable, and the costumes? They were amazing, especially the orcs.

Holy cow, the orcs! The last time we saw orcs was in The Hobbit, when many of the creatures were pure CGI. In Rings of Power, the orcs are once again played by actors in costume and make-up, and they are terrifying. Stunning. They look like monsters created in darkness by a power of pure hatred and spite, exactly as they’re supposed to be.

The music was wonderful, just as always in a movie based on Tolkien’s work. Howard Shore, the composer for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit returned again, only for the show’s theme song, but you can absolutely hear his influence on the rest of the soundtrack. Gorgeous, haunting, intense, it’s everything.

Thus far the casting decisions seem to have been done well. I read a review that cast aspersions on the casting of Morfydd Clark as Galadriel and Robert Aramayo as Elrond, calling them ‘miscast’. I don’t get that feeling at all. Clark plays a majestic yet fierce Galadriel, merely a younger, more emotional version of Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel. And Aramayo’s Elrond is thoughtful, wise, and always calculating. Again, a faithful homage to Hugo Weaving’s Elrond but with a younger twist (Rings of Power takes place approximately 7,000 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings after all, a long time even for Elves and they can and do change after the passing of ages).

The fighting scenes were good, not over-the-top or silly as in The Hobbit. The dialogue is fantastic, and changes tonally between the races: when the Harfoots (distant ancestors of hobbits) speak, it’s a very plain, country-bumpkin kind of talking, dwarves speak with a Highland accent, speaking loudly and boastfully, while the Elves speak softly, thoughtfully, using old-fashioned words and sentence structures with a royal British accent when speaking English, though they also speak their native tongue Quenya, as well.

Last night was the premiere of the first two episodes, both an hour long. By the end of the second one, I was not quite as engaged as I had been when I started, and I’ve seen some people say that the first two episodes can get a bit heavy with exposition (I kind of agree), but I owe that more to the fact it was 11:15pm and I’d been awake since 5 that morning.

Either way, I’m looking forward to Episode 3! If you have an Amazon Prime account or someone who will let you borrow it, I highly highly recommend watching Rings of Power, whether you’re a bona fide Tolkien nerd or not! Don’t miss out!