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The Rings of Power: Beyond the Hype, a Deserving Exploration of Middle-earth

Even in our current so-called golden age of television, it is almost impossible to think of another series that could match The Rings Of Power in its pure visual extravagance.

The Rings of Power: Beyond the Hype, a Deserving Exploration of Middle-earth
Still from The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, via Amazon Prime Video
  • Harsh Pareek

Last Updated: 10.39 AM, Sep 02, 2022

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So, what does the most expensive piece of television ever made look like? Well, rather spectacular. And it doesn't sound too bad, either. Who would have guessed?

Based on JRR Tolkien's immensely influential novel The Lord of the Rings (and other works), and set during the Second Age — thousands of years before the events depicted in the even more popular film adaptation by Peter Jackson — Amazon Studios' The Rings of Power comes across as a technical masterclass. An experience to be had, even if for nothing but just the sake of it.

While the show tells an original story and introduces a few new characters, it very much feels a part of the Tolkien universe many are familiar with; populated by the younger selves of well-known characters and unfolding on the well-tread grounds of Middle-earth. That said, the show is well-designed not to isolate casual fans or anyone not swept up in the expansive world of Tolkien.

The first two episodes ('Shadow of the Past' and 'Adrift') work mostly at introducing the high-fantasy world and our ensemble cast of characters, of which there are many. Galadriel, a royal Elf (and our heroine), roams the lands in search of the evil Sauron (against the wishes of her king, of course), responsible for the death of her brother. She believes that although once defeated, Sauron still lies in wait, gathering the power to strike again. Elrond, her fellow elf and friend, is tasked by his king to assist Celebrimbor, an elven-smith, in creating Middle-earth’s greatest forge (sounds like a pretty good idea, right?). For the same, he travels to Khazad-dûm, and the kingdom of the dwarves, where he meets with Prince Durin, who has secrets of his own (à la Pulp Fiction suitcase glow).

Meanwhile, we meet Nori Brandyfoot, a rather curious Harfoot (precursors to the Hobbit race with a hard-to-pin-down accent), who stumble into an other-wordly (perhaps quite literary) mystery as she tries to navigate living within the bounds of her community, while also seeking the adventures beyond. In the Southlands, there is Arondir, an elven warrior who is in love with Bronwyn, a human. But things escalate fairly quickly here, when a cow gets sick (yes), a nearby settlement is found burnt to the ground, and a broken sword emblazoned with Sauron’s symbol turns up, among other things (let's not spoil too much, shall we?).

Still from The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, via Amazon Prime Video
Still from The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power, via Amazon Prime Video

Over everything else, it is impossible to exaggerate how gorgeous the show looks. From the set designs to the costumes, to the jaw-dropping landscapes and the equally impressive VFX (most of it, anyway). Even in our current so-called golden age of television, it is almost impossible to think of another series that could match it in its pure visual extravagance. The score by Bear McCreary, as mentioned before, matches the sights toe to toe.

As for the most contentious of all elements, especially for this series (with the heavy baggage it carries along) — the storyline? Two episodes in, (which, as previously mentioned, act mostly as exposition) it's promising. The show has barely scratched the surface of Tolkien's world so far and with the sheer amount to build on and the resources at its disposal, one can even see it push the envelope in a long run. One can sense the show already relax a bit in the second half as it gets the ball rolling.

So far, most of the creative decisions seem to have landed on safe ground. The casting is good, and the various plots intriguing enough. The show wobbles a bit at times in pacing, and the acting/dialogues in a few bits doesn't quite gel, but nothing to remotely set off alarm bells.

It is worth remembering that the show comes on the heels of Warner Bros Discovery's well-received House of the Dragon (a spin-off to the mighty Game of Thrones). In a manner, it also embodies the conflict of old studios against the streaming services. Not to mention the rabid, self-appointed gatekeepers of Tolkien's works already up in arms against the show. Add to that the rumoured $465m price tag for eight episodes. The expectations, scrutiny, and competition couldn't be higher, and the room for error minimal.

One wouldn't go so far as the few characters on the show who constantly like to remind others how they should be grateful for what they are receiving, to be blinded by the bright light or all that glitters. No, but I would suggest that you perhaps ignore all the noise (or what the kids call hype) around the show, and explore Middle-earth for yourself (preferably on the biggest and the sharpest screen you can find). I tell you, the sights are worth it.

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