‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’ Is Fantasy Fun At The Highest Level – Review
2022 has been an incredibly satisfying year for nerd-centric television. We’ve had more comic crowd-pleasers than ever and strange sci-fi horror that makes us holler. This September, a new challenger approaches from Prime Video that is worth your time.
Prime Video has made a clear investment in fandom with acclaimed series like The Boys and Invincible among the best-scripted content on any screen. They also dive in on the fringes of geek with shows like Paper Girls, The Wheel of Time, and Outer Range. Each show delivered solid freshmen seasons, but much like sports, the team is adding an undeniable superstar to the squad.
Within the first two episodes, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power looks like a series that will go the distance. Retaking its rightful place, a world based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations will soon be the most vibrant jewel in the pop culture crown again.
The Rings of Power just flat-out works. From its sweeping vistas to its pitch-perfect visual design and costumes, every frame oozes Tolkien. Prequels are a dangerous business for any intellectual property (IP). Still, the creators have wisely invested in an exciting period and spotlight a diverse set of characters we haven’t seen on screen.
Almost immediately, The Rings of Power establishes each character as instantly enjoyable. It’s a feat for any pilot episode but a far more challenging task with well-known characters and settings known to millions. To complement the creators and production crew again, it’s impressive to see Peter Jackson’s scale (with nothing sacrificed) play out in a weekly format. The biggest compliment we can pay the series is that each episode feels familiar yet new.
The Lord of the Rings is known for badass women characters that challenge the norms of fiction and Middle-earth, but even with that progress, Éowyn and Arwen are primarily supporting players. It’s refreshing to see diverse faces across each storyline at the center of the frame. The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was severely lacking in this regard, and this show’s deliberate decision to reflect more shapes, sizes, and types of people, is a refreshing embrace.
The Rings of Power opens its tale with a character many are familiar with, the future Lady of the Woods, Galadriel. While Cate Blanchett is irreplaceable, this new portrayal will be why many people return weekly. Holy expletives! Morfydd Clark kicks ass. Reviews won’t capture how successful and the speed at which Clark makes the series feel like The Lord of the Rings. The opening moments are built on her believability in this role.
Where Galadriel brings the Rings-level action, Nazanin Boniadi as Bronwyn and Ismael Cruz Córdova as Arondir make the series feel like home. There is a warmth and subtleness to their scenes that hit as hard as a dwarven hammer swing. Weirdly, Bronwyn and Arondir’s story has the most stakes. Their value to each other will peel back and grow across the series. A healthy mix of characters are motivated by duty, doing what’s right, or an unspoken love are the people I was to spend my time with, and it doesn’t hurt that they are both pretty fierce in their regard. This is an early “we’re rooting for them” alert; we ship it.
We cannot speak about Middle-earth and not talk about the dwarves! Seeing the Dwarven Kingdom at the peak of its power is an awe-inspiring moment. Once again, the creators are showing something familiar but new. Across The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, our dwarven pals spend most of the screen time on their heels. Robbed of homes, disbursed, and separated, to hear how they sing to the mountain and see lush greenery in their meticulously crafted caverns is the peak of fantasy.
The stand-out moment in those hallowed halls is a conversation centered around friendship through the lens of an elvish life span. How 20 years is the blink of an eye to an elf, but it is a life lived for someone else. The strength of these performers having a heartfelt back and forth was worth the viewing alone. One last thing to highlight…Hey Prime Video, who do I have to bribe to send me one of those full-faced beard armor helmets? I need it.
Rounding out the crew of creatures is the precursor to the hobbits we know and love. The hidden Harfoots fill the small slot on the team many years before the Shire is settled. In a very comedic way, the Harfoots come out of nowhere. Popping up like prairie dogs, or like a merry traveling thespian group. They are nomadic and migrate, establishing their own personal Shire around that evening’s campfire. Giving any more detail than that will just rob you of the jokes and joy the Harfoots bring to each scene. Trust that they are the good stuff.
What a relief. Prime Video’s new Rings of Power series is a powerhouse. It’s fantasy fun at the highest level. Watch it, because finally, Middle-earth has more characters that might look like you. In stark contrast to the depths of depravity seen in the rest of 2022’s top shows, The Rings of Power is the top of the fantasy mountain. It’s heroic, hopeful, and a worthy challenger to the throne.