REVIEW: The Rings of Power – Episodes 1 & 2

Last Updated on September 3, 2022

Over twenty years have passed since The Lord of the Rings smashed records and swept up pretty much every award possible – proving that fantasy on the big screen, when done well, can be as successful as anything else. Now, Amazon have spent more than a dragon’s hoard on the rights and the making of a series for the small screen, a series based on Tolkien’s history of Middle-earth and tales before Bilbo, Fordo, Sam, Aragorn and friends. The landscape has change in the decades since Peter Jackson’s masterpiece with Game of Thrones, The Witcher, House of the Dragon, and The Wheel of Time all attempting to clutch at the fantasy crown. So, with the first two episodes out, how does The Rings of Power stack up? Will fans appreciate the return of the king or is something that should have been cast into the fire?

The Rings of PowerWhat do you get when you spend billions on a TV show based on a beloved work? High expectations. A bar that is almost impossible to hit. The Rings of Power E1 & 2 show the ambition and love that has gone into adapting Tolkien’s work. It is a slow burn, opening up the world and reminding the audience of why they fell in love with Middle-earth whilst informing them that this is a different world to the one they are used to. Visually, it surpasses anything else on the small screen and deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. A Galadriel scarred by the horrors of the war with Morgoth and his commander, Sauron, seeks vengeance. She is battle-hardened and stubborn – ignoring the lax attitude of her kin as they relax and settle in the belief that the war is over. Galadriel is the heart of the first episode, fighting to be heard when none will listen. The show quickens its pace whenever she is on screen as we are introduced to the ruling elves, downtrodden men, and hobbit-like Harfoots. It is not until the second episode that the series begins to hit its stride. The dwarves are as brilliant as ever and the magnificence of Khazad-Dum is a treat for the eyes as Elrond travels there on a mission for the master smith – Lord Celebrimbor. Part of the joy in watching the show is heading back into a beloved world and seeing the changes over time – similar to House of the Dragon. The stunning Khazad-Dum, thriving Elven realms, and new lands not touched on previously are all incredible enough to make The Rings of Power worth the watch but fans of The Lord of the Rings will be glad to know that there is an interesting story at play alongside all of the beauty as a threat in the East grows and threatens the free people of Middle-earth…

The beauty in The Lord of the Rings has always been in its simplicity. It is a good versus evil story with not many shades of grey and that may not be too the taste of the modern fantasy fan who has devoured Game of Thrones and The Witcher. There is darkness but it isn’t as grim as many fantasy series currently vying for attention on streaming platforms. It feels almost like a palette cleanser, something to be watched alongside House of the Dragon with a confidence that the two don’t share a mood to overwhelm but instead show the scope and potential of the fantasy genre on the small screen. Some of the lines are a little cheesy and it doesn’t hit the heights of Peter Jackson’s masterpiece but is that what we expected? The Rings of Power E1 & 2 sets up an intriguing tale in a beautifully realized world that millions of fans already love. There will be some bumps on the way but on the evidence of the first couple of episodes, it is a journey worth taking.

Ambitious, stunning to look at, but slightly flawed; The Rings of Power E1 & 2 display the potential of great fantasy series that’s biggest downfall may be the huge burden of expectation that weighs heavier than the One Ring near Mordor. It may not have yet met the expectations placed on it, but The Rings of Power has the potential to be the best example of high fantasy on the small screen yet.

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Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

Aaron S. Jones is the author of Memories of Blood and Shadow, and The Broken Gods trilogy. He is Head of School at a school in Kent, UK and when he is not tearing his hair out at students struggling with their, they're and there, he is tearing his hair out as he dies for the thousandth time on Elden Ring. You can find him on Twitter @HereticASjones where he is most likely procrastinating for hours at a time instead of focusing on his Orc murder mystery.