The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – the millennial Amazon prequel that draws on the appendices to JRR Tolkien’s three-volume novel – was, in some ways, doomed from the start. Years before the cameras started rolling, it earned the notorious reputation of being the most expensive television series in the world. Amazon had made a $1 billion commitment over five seasons, shelling out more than $250 million (roughly Rs 2,057 crore) for the rights alone. By the time the cameras finished rolling on The Rings of Power season 1, it had spent another $465 million (about Rs. 3,826 crore) on “the infrastructure that will support the entire series”. Its inexperienced creators, showrunners and editors, JD Payne and Patrick McKay, plotted out the five seasons. They even know their final move.
But it seems that they have forgotten what precedes the destination: the journey. While The Rings of Power season 1 finale was impressive and emotional at times, the season as a whole got off to a bad start, with episodes that were all over the place and struggled to properly set up its ensemble cast. . In an age of anti-heroes and morally gray characters, it’s harder than ever to write about black-and-white individuals who dominated Tolkien’s Middle-earth. And The Rings of Power never displayed those layers or credentials. On top of that, none of the storylines were engaging from the start. All it gave us was a glimpse of the big bad – mimicking the montage-like prologue structure of the first movie, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – before settling in for what looks like to a 50 hour slog.
Not much happens most of the time. I must admit that I have already deleted many episodes, even though I watched The Rings of Power Season 1 on a weekly basis, rather than binge-watching it. Most of the episodes – with the exception of Friday’s finale and Episode 6 – were simply listless. By comparison, and I agree it’s a very different show, the Game of Thrones prequel spin-off House of the Dragon has a few memorable episodes; those who can be defined by what they represent. There’s little dynamism or momentum toward a goal in The Rings of Power. In The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, we witnessed the Battle of Helm’s Deep five hours later. Five hours after Rings of Power debuted, we saw the series surge out of the water.
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The shadow of Peter Jackson’s magnificent, award-winning trilogy – considered one of the most influential films ever made – certainly hangs over The Rings of Power. Although Amazon said this series would be its own thing as it was set thousands of years ago, and the Tolkien Estate deal specified that it couldn’t be directly related to the book or movies, it there are several characters here that we have already known. Except younger.
There’s the elven warrior Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), who is more or less the protagonist of the Rings of Power. She then becomes the Lady of Lothlórien, played by Cate Blanchett in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Half-elven politician Elrond (Robert Aramayo) anchors another storyline. He continues to be the Lord of Rivendell, portrayed by Hugo Weaving in the films. And then we have the Númenórean sailor Isildur (Maxim Baldry), who becomes king of Arnor and Gondor, played by Harry Sinclair for a few minutes in The Fellowship of the Ring. Who knows how many more might appear in future seasons.
But nothing says you’re trying to cash in on the success of the Lord of the Rings movies than the ultimate villain in The Rings of Power. They literally have the same antagonist: Sauron. After a brief tease at the start, as with the film trilogy, he mysteriously disappears. There’s no symbolic Fiery All-Knowing Eye here – it’s just gone. This void is intentional, as The Rings of Power season 1 clings to the suspense of Sauron’s true identity. Take a look around the internet and you’ll notice that the majority of talk about the first season over its six-week run revolved around “Who is Sauron?”
Could it be Adar (Joseph Mawle)? The tortured and twisted Elf—labeled Moriondor (son of darkness) by Galadriel, but who prefers to call himself Urûk—is certainly the only visible leader of the Orcs in The Rings of Power season 1. It’s thanks to his traffic of humans and slaves. manpower efforts that Mount Doom is awakened and the Southlands are transformed into Mordor. But in Episode 6 of The Rings of Power, he confesses to Galadriel that he “killed” Sauron, which more or less ruled him out.
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Could it be The Stranger (Daniel Weyman)? After all, there is no apparent significance to the Harfoots story beyond the mystery of “Who is that man who fell from the sky in a meteor?” And it wasn’t just the public that thought he might be Sauron. The mysterious white-robed trio – identified off-screen as The Ascetic (Kali Kopae), The Nomad (Edith Poor) and their armed leader The Dweller (Bridie Sisson) – believe The Stranger is also Sauron. Ultimately, this was misdirection on the part of The Rings of Power. It’s not Sauron, it’s Istar. The sage or sorcerer, as The Stranger would later say. If that clue isn’t enough for you, it’s young Gandalf, played by Ian McKellen in the movies.
Or would it be Halbrand (Charlie Vickers)? Galadriel encounters the Southland Deserter at the start of The Rings of Power Season 1, before it is hinted that he may be the lost King of the Southlands. Wait, isn’t this the very land that serves as the future home of Sauron and his Orcs? It was also curious that Halbrand was created specifically for this series. He had no place in the Lord of the Rings books. In the Season 1 finale, after Galadriel overhears the great elven blacksmith Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) use words previously used by Adar, she discovers that the Southlands line ended a thousand years ago. Halbrand isn’t who he claims to be, he’s Sauron.
The best TV shows of all time, from The Wire with its sociopolitical examination of Baltimore, to the aforementioned fantasy epic Game of Thrones, and from the anti-hero tragedy Breaking Bad to the gangster-in-therapy masterpiece The Sopranos, have shown that it is the interplay between deeply layered characters that is at the heart of a long series. Instead, The Rings of Power season 1 took a more puzzle-like approach – reminiscent of Lost (mysterious island), Westworld (human or android?) and Severance (what is this office?). The creators of The Rings of Power encouraged theories about who Sauron might be, and even Amazon promoted to the final as the great “revelation of Sauron”.
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That’s not to say this kind of thing can’t work – Lost and Westworld have had their highs, and Severance has been brilliant in its only season so far – but this feels like such an unnecessary, backwards approach to getting people talking about a mega-budget fantasy series with multiple characters and characters. parallel scenarios. As I said before, we should have travelled. Game of Thrones got it, with some of its best storylines taking place while traveling. But on The Rings of Power season 1, nothing worthwhile happens in the middle. The Harfoots migrate; Galadriel, Halbrand and Isildur go from Númenor to Southlands; and Elrond and the dwarf prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) make multiple journeys between Lindon and Khazad-dûm. Everything is from point A to point B – from origin to destination.
The backstory of the season for the colors of Sauron in the lines, but nobody asked for it. Sauron is inherently interesting because he is pure evil. It didn’t matter who he was. But The Rings of Power was meant to “build a relationship between Sauron and Galadriel”, as Payne put it. And given the final shot of “Halbrand” season 1 overlooking Mordor and Mount Doom, The Rings of Power looks set to give us even more backstory in season 2, with executive producer Lindsey Weber more or less noting that Sauron will be “open about the move and the implementation of his plans.
Maybe we should have expected that. After all, the Lord of the Rings prequel spin-off is called The Rings of Power. The Elves may be the first to create their three rings – as happened at the very end of the Season 1 finale – but it’s Halbrand/Sauron who gives Celebrimbor the idea to master mithril by combining it. And in their hubris to retain their near-immortality, the Elves played a part in starting something sinister. As we know from The Fellowship of the Ring prologue, and as the song that plays over The Rings of Power Season 1 end credits indicates, more rings will be crafted for dwarves and men. And eventually, Sauron will secretly forge the One Ring to rule them all.
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Heck, this isn’t even the first time Sauron’s backstory has been explored or other characters brought back. Jackson did it himself with the utter boredom that was The Hobbit movie trilogy, a prequel expansion no one asked for. Thanks to its association with The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit films have made almost as much at the box office – nearly $3 billion (about Rs. 24,713 crore). But nowhere are they remembered with so much fondness.
The Rings of Power must beware of falling into the same trap. Spending a billion dollars, having “The Lord of the Rings” in the title and 25 million people tuning in for the premiere doesn’t make the show any better. Amazon might be happy to be able to add and retain several million Prime members during The Rings of Power’s multi-year run. But if this show doesn’t run smoothly, The Rings of Power will be relegated to the appendices it came from.
All eight episodes of Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are streaming on Prime Video worldwide. In India, The Rings of Power is available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.