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Rings of Power Review.

(Sorry, Robb. I couldn’t help myself.)

So, was it as bad as everyone predicted? Well, if you have hung out in the YouTube space in the past 24 hours, the channels I like the most, the most knowledgeable about Tolkien, are like me both intrigued and delightfully surprised. The rest are a bunch of foaming at the mouth sexists, racists and, er, dwarvists.

Gil-Galad airlocks Galadriel, his best commander, and sends her off to Valinor because that whole war thing is over.

Yeah, don’t hang out with those people.

Let’s get the important impression out of the way. Yes, it looks very much like the Middle Earth in my head. It’s a bit fresher and newer than Peter Jackson’s LOTR Middle Earth and that shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Rings of Power is supposed to take place about 4000 years before the events in the LOTR. The kings of Gondor hadn’t been invented yet. There were no gargantuan sentinels at the Falls of Rauros. What would become Mordor is a green pastorale. Khazad-Dum looks like a cool, refreshing underground city instead of the house of horrors that later became Moria.

Valinor is beautiful and full of light and getting there will definitely give you negative after image.

What really surprised me was the writing. I’ll bet no one expected that. It’s too clever by half and I think it goes over the heads of the high level Tolkien fans who are just in it for the D&D.

For example, Gil-Galad runs his kingdom like he’s the CEO of a major corporation. Elrond isn’t high enough on the ladder to attend the meetings in the corner office. So he’s tasked with writing Gil-Galad’s flowery speeches. Good thing he’s good with words because he’s got to practice diplomacy later with a very hurt and offended dwarve that he’s been ghosting for 20 years.

Galadriel clearly has a serious case of PTSD and Gil-Galad, tired of her Captain Ahab on the lookout for the white whale shtick, has decided to pension her off to Valinor. She doesn’t take it well.

Celebrimbor, the architect, artist and celebrity craftsman, has an ego the size of his unbuilt tower forge. Flattery will get you anywhere with him.

Durin the dwarve prince and his wife Disa are delightful. They’re the kind of wholesome humor that Tolkien would appreciate.

Arondir is one of the elven “Roman Legion” posted to keep an eye on Morgoth’s former authoritarian human followers. They’ve been re-educated and docile for a thousand years but, hey, you never know when they’ll get the itch to go all MAGA (that’s Make Arda Great Again). Arondir finds himself drawn to Bronwyn the human healer. These characters have genuine chemistry together but we already know what’s in store for the elf-human pairing. Some choices are impossible.

The hobbit ancestors are like wandering gypsies. Nori, the main hobbit character we are following, must have been an ancestor of the Tooks. She’s curious, too bold for her own good, eats snails and is utterly charming.

Meanwhile, Galadriel is rescued from drowning by a man who is a selfish survivor. Does he see himself as Galadriel’s new elf-friend who can call on her to open doors for him? And what is he running from?

The orcs are scary, there’s more magic, the battle scenes are terrifying.

It’s good. We’ll have to see how it develops. The first two episodes were more like orientation. There were a lot of images of maps with a “you are here” quality to them. I’m still a little disappointed that the elves are not more drop dead gorgeous. But the thing they have that was missing from the LOTR is their personalities. These people are deep, conflicted, and in the case of Gil-Galad, a bit of a Neville Chamberlain.

It’s anything but boring.

The Rings of Power is on Amazon Prime.