Prequels to much-loved fantasy adventures seem to be in trend currently. Hot on the heels of House of the Dragon, we have the much awaited and hugely mounted Lord of the Rings prequel, The Rings of Power. This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books, bringing to screens for the very first time the heroic legends of the Second Age of Middle Earth’s history.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a 50-hour television series, Amazon’s biggest investment yet with a budget of USD 1 billion. With relatively fresh faces headlining the show, it might seem like a risky bet, and predicting its fate based on two episodes that were made available for preview is probably not wise. But the tone seems to have been set just right, and it seems that a thrilling ride awaits the fans of Tolkien.
The series follows Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel, essayed so elegantly by Cate Blanchett in Peter Jackson’s movies. This Galadriel is a younger elf with a fire burning inside her to find the evil that killed her brother and free the world of it, once and for all. She believes her gut more than her friend’s advice, and Clark displays that quality on screen brilliantly. The series seems to lean heavily on her shoulders – kudos to the creators for putting a woman at the forefront this time.
Galadriel’s friend Elrond seems to be another key player in the scheme of things. A master politician who can also break large rocks, quite literally, the role of Elrond played by Robert Aramayo is one we should watch out for. The new series can also be viewed as origin stories for both Galadriel and Elrond.
Elrond’s journey to visit his old friend Durin IV (Owain Arthur) introduces us to the world of the dwarfs, who have built the beautiful, thriving city of Khazad-dûm inside of a mountain. The series lacks the usual light-hearted moments we have seen in Jackson’s movies, but the exchanges between Durin and Elrond lightens up the mood a little.
The first two episodes do a good job of introducing the different settings and characters without making it seem to overwhelming to keep track. You meet the Harfoots, the ancestors of the Hobbits, nomadic people who have yet to learn to build their peculiar houses. Markella Kavenagh plays Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot, a young Harfoot whose curiosity could lead her to potential danger.
The characters are relatable, and each brings an unique quality to the table which makes it easier for the viewer to just ride along. You form a bond with the characters from the get go – every face is relatable, every emotion strikes a chord.
The series’ biggest achievements are the spell-binding visuals which almost make you regret watching it on the small screen. The two episodes give a glimpse of most of the realms viewers will visit over the course of the eight-part series, including the Elven realms of Lindon and Eregion, the Dwarven realm Khazad-dûm, the Southlands, the Northernmost Wastes, the Sundering Seas, and the island kingdom of Númenór.
Right from the first visuals of the tree of light to the scenes of Galadriel fighting the waves in the Sundering Seas, every frame is breathtaking. The series also doesn’t have the constant sense of foreboding that we are so used to in Game of Thrones and the like, but maintains enough suspense for you to want to come back for more.
The show does have the usual tropes of a fantasy adventure. There is an evil to be fought, some are in denial, some are trying to run away from it and some are willing to face it head on. Tolkien never wrote extensively about the Second Age in his novels, so the writers and showrunners had to rely heavily on their own imagination and take creative liberties, which puts them up for criticism from the fandom. Here’s hoping that by the end of this season, we’d already be looking forward to season 2.