The Rings of Power Was Great, Except for These Moments

by J.R. Waugh
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Image: Amazon Studios

I have been a fan of The Lord of the Rings since the moment I watched The Fellowship of the Ring on the 2-tape VHS edition with my parents after it came out. I quickly gravitated to the books, lore, and games, and quickly fell in love with how J.R.R. Tolkien’s worlds of Middle-earth and Arda were brought to the stage and screen. When The Rings of Power, my hopes were high, although at moments I had my doubts. The series certainly wound up enticing to follow and satisfying to watch, but not without some choice gripes.

I Love The Lord of the Rings and The Rings of Power, But Not Everything About the Streaming Series Was a Hit

I’m no stranger to adaptations that don’t hit the mark for this beloved series and had the foolhardy confidence that I, a literal child, would do well if I were to have a hand in bringing the stories to life. I even went so far as to participate in a local production of stage play adaptations of the story. Don’t get too excited, I was very much a character actor (not handsome enough to be a lead) so I took small roles. But taking a step back, I can recognize that it was a fun but gloriously flawed experience. A massive production with the financial backing of a giant like Amazon though had greater expectations.

With The Rings of Power, the production values were higher, but it was also riskier at moments. The Second Age had not gotten previous adaptations, and it wasn’t ever fully fleshed out by Tolkien, so some parts were bound to not translate well when put to the screen. But what did work was exhilarating. We got a gorgeous cast and wonderful visuals, some pulse-pounding battles that were certainly more than memorable as a high fantasy series’ first outing. But then some parts made me slump into my seat.

Spoilers ahead for the first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

ICYMI: The Southlands is Mordor, and the Show Truly Doubted Our Ability to Clue in

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We knew pretty much immediately that the Southlands was Mordor thanks to the basis in lore. For fans not previously knowing this piece of LOTR trivia, it’s understandable that the reveal would come as a surprise. That reveal was made crystal clear in episode 6, Udûn. It couldn’t be more obvious, and it explained what Adar and his Orcs were after. But then the series doubled down, just in case people hadn’t understood with a completely unnecessary overlay text transition.

At this moment, in an episode that was otherwise perfect in my books, I felt a pain rivaling that of when I took a wooden sword to the groin in a rehearsal for our adaptation of Return of the King. Yes, I’ll continue to remind you that I did a stage production of LOTR similar to how fans will fire off that piece of Viggo Mortensen trivia they have loaded in their chamber. Did you know he broke his toe in that part where he kicks the Orc helmet in The Two Towers? That’s why his scream was so authentic. —That level of annoying. That’s what the Mordor text’s level of overtness was.

“I’M GOOD!”

There was a lot to chew on in the season finale, and this piece of trivia is still enough of a spoiler that I think you should still watch the series before knowing what happens here. It was one of the prime moments people can cite for awkward script writing, and not just for The Rings of Power. But it’s sufficient to say “if you know, you know” about this moment. If you caught Saruman shouting “I’M BAD!” when he cast down that fireball in the Return of the King extended edition, you’d heavily consider stepping out of the theatre, if at least for a moment.

The General Timeline Shenanigans and Galadriel’s Warp Ability

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This one is an issue I have with adapting the Second Age that’s pretty near impossible to avoid if Prime Video wants to make a concise story of its key characters. This is especially the case if they don’t want to spend years before fans see the forging of the Rings of Power, or the War of the Last Alliance. It also occasionally felt like the fast-travel option was enabled for this series, with Galadriel achieving warp speed. Since the show is made to adapt to the Second Age, it feels like an inevitable creative decision, but it still felt like it could be executed better.

“Give Me the Meat, and Give it to Me Raw”

This quote is an example of how The Rings of Power dialogue is great in some instances. This awkwardly-written piece of actual dialogue between Elrond and Durin is unintentional erotic humor at its finest. 10/10 would ship this bromance all over again, and I’m being genuine about that aspect, their friendship is so wholesome and engaging to watch. But if I were to do a stage production of The Rings of Power and had to perform this exchange, I’m unsure I’d be able to keep a straight face at the moment.

Through all of this, the constant social media unpleasantness associated with how the show is being run, I still enjoyed the show thoroughly. I also covered it aggressively for our site, and it was enormously worthwhile. I got to see my passion for the franchise more freely engaged than ever before and make it my actual professional work to analyze it for money.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power might have its unfortunate quirks and flaws at moments, but it’s a gorgeous show with great visuals, music, costumes, makeup, and source material. You can do a whole lot worse even on its bad days. But you can still do better than my stage production did. Elementary school was rough, folks.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premiered exclusively on Amazon Prime Video on September 1, 2022, with a 2-episode premiere. 

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