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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episodes 1-2 review: A spellbinding return to Middle-earth

The Amazon Prime original series is a prequel to The Lord of the Rings franchise and is an excellent expansion of the world created by J R R Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episodes 1-2 review: A spellbinding return to Middle-earth

Last Updated: 10.48 PM, Sep 01, 2022


Story: Set in the Second Age, thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit trilogy and The Lord of the Rings trilogy in the Third Age, the Elven warrior Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) believes the threat posed by the dark sorcerer Sauron and his army, have not been vanquished. Elsewhere, a young and curious Harfoot named Nori stumbles on a mystery that could have far-reaching consequences. While in the Southlands, an Elven soldier named Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) is asked to vacate the outpost and return home, but he is conflicted as he has fallen in love with a human healer named Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi). However, Arondir discovers that duty and not love may compel him to stay back after reports of mysterious incidents emerge.

Review: The fantasy genre has not shown any signs of slowing down, if anything there has been significant interest in the genre in recent years. And probably for the first time since the postmodern era, there is a noticeable increase in demand for escapist fiction. Iconic post-modern escapist fiction such as Dune by Frank Herbert and Foundation by Issac Asimov have been adapted into big-budget productions for film and television. It is one of the reasons why all the major studios have been attempting to find their own ‘Game of Thrones’. In fact, HBO has gone as far as to create a Game of Thrones prequel (House of the Dragon) which has even borrowed the opening credits music composed by Ramin Djawadi. Similarly, Netflix has invested significant funds in The Witcher TV series, based on the novels by Andrzej Sapkowski and popularised by CD Project Red’s video games. Whereas Prime Video already has a medieval fantasy TV series, The Wheel of Time based on the novels by Robert Jordan, but failed to create a dent in the market as the producers would have hoped. It is likely that Amazon put all of their eggs in The Lord of the Rings basket. Because if there is any franchise that can dethrone Game of Thrones or any adaptation from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, it is ‘the original fantasy story by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. A story that has inspired even Martin’s famous novels by his own admission.


Acquiring the rights to this mammoth franchise is only a part of the task, creating a compelling adaptation is another monumental task, if not the most vital, that comes with several risks. In other words, Amazon Studios and showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay had to shoulder a responsibility that was daunting and exciting in equal measure. Because in the era of social media it does not take much to irk any ‘fandom’, let alone the ardent fans of The Lord of the Rings. It remains to be seen how well this adaptation will be received by the audience considering the fact that there are a few liberties that the writers and showrunners have taken in order to bring the Second Age of Middle-earth to the screen. It should also be noted that Tolkien never wrote extensively about the Second Age in his novels. Therefore, these changes or additions are out of necessity rather than out of creative curiosity.

The new characters created for the show such as Nori, Arondir, and Bronwyn fit into the lore and universe of Lord of the Rings with ease. The opening episodes indicate that these characters will play significant parts in the overall narrative for the first season. The Harfoots, Nori and her friend Poppy, have a similar dynamic to that of Frodo and Sam from the original trilogy of films. However, Nori and Poppy aren’t Hobbits like their descendants Frodo and Sam. They are one among the three types of Hobbit; Harfoots, Stoors and Fallohides. The Harfoots are a nomadic kind, unlike their more refined descendants. Therefore, the first episode spends considerable time exploring the lore of the harfoots and they offer some of the lighter moments in the first two episodes. The primary antagonist is yet to be revealed, even though Sauron is teased as a possible villain. It is unlikely that Sauron, who succeeded Morgoth as the villain of the film trilogy, will be the main villain in the very first season.


The series positions Galadriel, an Elven warrior who is single-minded in her mission to avenge her brother and kill Sauron, as the protagonist of the TV series. Fans of the trilogy will know Galadriel as the character essayed by Cate Blanchett, who narrated the prologue. Galadriel is thousands of years younger in the series — a fierce warrior and looks set to become a fan-favourite. There is also a lot of intrigue surrounding the relationship between Bronwyn and Arondir as well their part in their battle against the Orcs. The other Elven characters such as Elrond (Robert Aramayo) is also a legacy character from the original trilogy that Hugo Weaving essayed. In many ways, the new series can also be viewed as origin stories for both Galadriel and Elrond. There are nods and references to the original trilogy, hinting at what the future has in store for Middle-earth. 

The story takes time to settle as the new characters and their arcs are established. But by the second episode, the series kicks into gear with great set pieces and gripping sequences. The spellbinding visuals and the mesmerising cinematography make the series a worthy sequel to Peter Jackson’s iconic trilogy. The series reportedly cost more than a billion dollars to create and the creators have asked it be viewed like an 8-hour feature film. The production value is clearly evident and it does give one the sense of a big-budget blockbuster rather than a television show. It remains to be seen if it can in fact dethrone Game of Thrones or the Game of Thrones sequel, House of the Dragon, in the ‘streaming wars’.


Verdict: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was always going to fight an uphill battle to match the multiple Academy award-winning original trilogy. However, fans of the legendary franchise can be rest assured that this expansion promises a riveting story with stunning visuals from the world created by J. R. R. Tolkien.



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