Review: ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ Premiere

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After what has felt like such an excruciatingly long wait, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has finally premiered on Prime Video. It’s been almost five years since Amazon purchased the television rights of J.R.R. Tolkien’s expansive world of Middle-earth, which feels like forever in such a dedicated fandom. Finally, the first two episodes of this epic fantasy series landed on the streaming service, with new episodes dropping every Friday.

Amazon spared no expense in bringing Middle-earth to screen once more, with a five-season commitment with a minimum price tag of a billion dollars for the entire series. Developed by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, The Rings of Power is based on a collection of Tolkien’s work and is set to explore a time long before The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books and films. The Second Age of Middle-earth is a time with such a rich history, however, also has plenty of wiggle room for a compelling story.

So how did this new journey there and back again begin in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power two-episode premiere? It started by showing us a new side to a familiar character.

[Warning: Spoilers from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power episodes one and two are below!]

Galadriel’s rise in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

While this series has a huge ensemble cast, the first two episodes paint The Rings of Power as Galadriel’s story. The first episode begins as Galadriel’s (Morfydd Clark) voice tells the story of The First Age of Middle-Earth, called the Years of Trees. During these flashbacks, audiences are shown periods of beauty and peace, which become eclipsed by darkness and wars. These wars brought the Elven forces into conflict with Sauron, a conflict that resulted in Finrod’s (Will Fletcher) death. Galadriel, believing that Sauron isn’t truly gone from Middle-Earth picks up her brother’s knife and decides to continue the fight in his honor.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Premiere Galadriel
Galadriel (Morfydd Clark). The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Prime Video).

This journey is one of the major motivations in the two-episode premiere, which sees Galadriel going to the ends of Middle-earth to find clues about Sauron and his army. The first time we see this battle-ready Galadriel on her mission to find Sauron is in the snowy mountains of Forodwaith, where she finds the symbol of the dark lord and also a large mountain troll. This scene alone sets the tone for this series, which sees Galadriel rush into battle with the creature many times her size. It showcases how different Clark’s Galadriel is from Blanchett’s from the original LotR trilogy.

It seems that many of the inhabitants of Middle-earth are ready to put Sauron behind them, however, Galadriel seems unable to. This desire to follow all leads seems to put her at odds with Elrond (Robert Aramayo) who worries about Galadriel going against High King Gil-galad’s (Benjamin Walker) wishes. Promised the greatest honor of passage to Valinor, Galadriel rejects it at the last possible moment, believing in her soul that there is trouble brewing in Middle-Earth.

The Harfoots of Middle-Earth and “The Stranger”

One of the many stories woven between the main story of Galadriel is that of the Harfoots, an ancestral predecessor to the Hobbits we already know and love. This group seems so sweet and peaceful, as they attempt to survive in a scary world. Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) is the main Harfoot that The Rings of Power follows – especially once she notices something bright orange streaking across the dark sky and decides to follow it.

While the rest of her kind seems nervous and timid about many things in life, there is an adventurous air that Nori uses to navigate the world. As she approaches the huge crater in which a strange mysterious man is laying, her friend pleads with her to stop. However, the twinkle in Nori’s eye reveals her desire for adventure and quest for more knowledge. I’d expect Nori to become a much bigger player as this show continues to develop. If the books’ history with important Hobbit characters (Frodo and Bilbo) is continued in this series, Nori could play a very big important part, indeed.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of the first two episodes is the strange and confused man at the center of the crater. Not much is known about The Stranger (Daniel Weyman) with the exception that he exhibits significant powers. This is definitely a mystery that will unfold, though hopefully, we discover who he is sooner rather than later. My theory is that he’s Gandalf, which I know my Editor-In-Chief Lizzie Hill agrees that is the most likely candidate. This would once again connect well to the books’ history with Gandalf and Hobbits. But if he isn’t, it’s likely he’s still some powerful wizard that is going to turn the tides for The Second Age of Middle-earth.

An Elven warrior and a kingdom of Dwarves

One of the other main characters we spend quite a bit of time with is Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), an Elven guard who seems to travel around Middle-earth. He is both noble and kind, and totally in love with Bronwyn (Nazanin Bonialdi), a human woman. These two individuals’ love story is reminiscent of Aragorn and Arwen’s forbidden love in LotR. Arondir and Bronwyn may not be allowed to be together just yet, but I can see how this relationship with continue to blossom as the series continues.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Aradonir
Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova). The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Their story also feels mildly disjointed from the rest in the first two episodes, in a similar way that Daenerys Targaryen’s was in Game of Thrones. While their story isn’t connected yet, there are hints that a bigger story is coming soon, and their discovery of the Orc tunnels underground is the key. 

The second episode “Adrift” also gave audiences an interesting perspective as Elrond visited the underground kingdom of the dwarves, Khazad-dûm. Sent there to ask for help erecting eleven towers throughout the land, Elrond has to come to terms with a betrayal of his own. Durin (Owain Arthur), the prince of Khazad-dûm, is hurt by Elrond’s neglect of their friendship for the past 20 years. There’s a scene between the two that gave me a line about the passing of time and the impact on life that stuck with me long after the episode was done.

Elrond, being the clever Elf that he is, asks to apologize to Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete) as well, which helps to cut the tension between Elrond and Durin. After all, Durin doesn’t seem capable of saying no to his charming wife. Durin promises to speak to his father about helping the Elves, though as King Durin III (Peter Mullan) points out to his son, he wonders if Elrond and the Elves know what the dwarves are hiding in the mountains. Cue the shining glow from a box from an object we can’t see but definitely seems important.

The good and the bad of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

I am not exaggerating when I say this might be the most beautiful show I have ever seen. Every shot in the first two episodes was just full of color and beautiful scenery, which felt like a feast for my eyes. It matched the style of the Peter Jackson film series, however, the colors were even more saturated and hyperrealistic and the scope of the show feels even bigger.

There is not a moment in the first two episodes that feels wasted, with the show moving incredibly quickly to cover a lot of ground of this vast show. The entire cast of this show was perfectly selected and each individual owns the part they are in.

First still from The Rings of Power
Promotional still from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. (Prime Video).

I enjoyed every moment in these first two episodes and felt pulled instantaneously into the mystery of the show. Even though I know how this story ends, which usually decreases the stakes for me, I am sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what is to come. There were quite a few moments of holding my breath and large gasps at certain points of what I’ve seen so far.

Those looking for direct connections to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings film series might find themselves slightly disappointed. There are some great connections with characters such as Galadriel and Elrond, but this story is truly something that should and will stand on its own. If you’re hoping to see Frodo or Sam again, this isn’t the story for you. However, if you are a fan of high fantasy adventure, you won’t be disappointed.

Final Thoughts

I think it’s safe to say at this point, that it’s widely known that I’m a huge nerd. That being said, The Lord of the Rings has never been one of my go-to fandoms. I enjoyed the movies and saw each one in theaters growing up, I even own the extended editions on disc, but they weren’t my reason to be a nerd.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power definitely changed my mind about the franchise. I never felt the pressure to pick up the books, but now I find myself with a strong desire to pick them up and discover Middle-Earth in a new medium. For those on the fence about checking out The Rings of Power, I suggest giving the first two a watch, because it may just win you over rather quickly.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s first two episodes are currently on Amazon Prime Video, with new episodes dropping every Friday. Have you watched it yet? What are your thoughts on this new epic series? Let us know over on social media! And if you haven’t already, check out our breakdown of The Second Age of Middle-Earth, highlighting all the important beats we just might see in The Rings of Power!

Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Sets a Return to Middle Earth

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