The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a bold gamble, and whether or not it pays off for Amazon Prime can only be predicted by the end of the first season. Created by J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, the series is based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.
The first two episodes merely set the stage for what is to follow in Middle Earth. The series dives into the familiar landscape for a new adventure and inevitably evokes nostalgia. The story splits itself into many plotlines — the adventures of two women from the migratory Harfoot community, Poppy and Nori (Markella Kavenagh and Megan Richards) to Galadriel’s (Morfydd Clark) quest to find Sauron (Ansoon Boon), who Galadriel feels is still lurking, and the forbidden love between an elf and a human. The visuals are stunning and an immersive experience in themselves.
For hardcore Tolkien and Lord of the Rings fans, the setting of the story might test their patience, but it is rather helpful for new entrants with little idea about what makes Middle Earth and Tolkien so fascinating.
Women at front
Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power brings both passion and vulnerability in a wonderful mix. This one is a much younger Galadriel than one essayed by Cate Blanchett for the films, and one who is a warrior on a mission even as she is awarded and disbanded for her contribution. She has a fire to find Sauron who killed her brother and free the world of it, once and for all. The series seems to lean heavily on her shoulders, and it is indeed wonderfully refreshing to witness a female character drive a show.
Much like the bond between Sam and Frodo, there is the friendship between the ‘troublemaker’ Nori and the ‘pacifier’ Poppy. The end of the second episode harkens to the fact that this friendship will drive a major plot point in the series.
But Galadriel isn’t the only one taking the show forward. The Dwarven princess Disa, played by Sophia Nomvete, Harfoots Nori and Poppy, the human healer and single mother Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) — all are powerful female characters. In fact, there are as many men as there are women, which makes the premise of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power intriguing.
There is also a rich diversity of characters, a fact ostensibly absent from the films. There is elf soldier Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), the Harfoot seer Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry), and Marigold Brandyfoot (Sara Zwangobani), mother to Nori. The faces show how the creators have decided to experiment with Tolkien facial characteristics and universe.
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Making political statements
What has fascinated Tolkien fans through the decades is his political engagement through his books. In an interview, Charles Edwards, who plays Celebrimbor in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, says, “I think in my character, ambition is shown to be bad.” There’s a whole spectrum of ambition shown in the show — Elrond, Celebrimbor’s protege, played by Rob Aramyo, is at the other end of ambition. He travels to meet his friend Durin IV (Owain Arthur) in the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm built inside a mountain.
It is an origin story of sorts for not just Elrond but also thematically. Elrond is a politician, a master of words, and placed opposite Galadriel’s quest for defeating evil. There is truth versus diplomacy, and the proposed five seasons will probably look more closely at the worlds of these strong-willed elves.
The Harfoot community is also a political statement in itself as it lies at the lowest social rung, lives on the edge, and hides from the more powerful elves and humans. It would be interesting to see the role it plays in the history of Middle Earth.
J.D. Payne says, “The show isn’t allegorical. Everyone should be able to see some versions of themselves in both the good and bad guys.”
What stalls the show is the pace. It is definitely taking its own sweet time to arrive at the point, and fans waiting to trash any potential ‘desecration’ of the Tolkien masterpiece might get further infuriated by it. But it’s a gamble that can definitely go either way. One has to wait and watch.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)