I had intended to write something about The Rings of Power series when I was halfway through the series and then again at the end. Thanks to an unusually buys weekend, I didn’t manage to watch episode 4 until this Saturday. At that point, it just made sense to watch both episode 4 and 5 together. So, this post is coming at just beyond the halfway point but never mind. I was never going to be one of those people who dissects every single episode in great detail. There are plenty of people out there if you want that. Instead, I just want to ramble about my thoughts and feelings. This is probably going to be a messy post, which is probably quite apt.
When it comes to Tolkien, I’d class myself as somewhere between a die-hard fan and someone who has never read the books. I read the trilogy when I was younger and became obsessed with Tolkien’s whole world. Although, saying that, I left The Unfinished Tales unfinished and I couldn’t get beyond the first few pages of The Silmarillion. I’m also not convinced that I ever made it all the way through the numerous appendices. Instead, I just looked everything up on the internet. So, I’m by no means an expert but I know a bit more than someone who has only watched Peter Jackson’s films. Not that I think it matters either way. Knowing everything about Tolkien or knowing nothing about Tolkien doesn’t determine your right to enjoy the films or the TV series.
Apparently, it also doesn’t limit your desire to criticise a whole TV show before it’s really got going. And I’m not talking about the racists who believe that Black people don’t belong in Middle Earth. I don’t even want to waste time responding to that idea. No, I mean the “fans” who have been posting critical takedowns of the show from the moment it first aired. At the moment, the Rotten Tomatoes scores for The Rings of Power has an 84% score from critics and a 39% audience score. Is this another case of people just trying to bomb a series without even watching it or is the show genuinely that bad?
In my opinion, the show is really enjoyable. Is it perfect? Not in the slightest but it’s by no means the trash that many people are claiming it to be. With regards to the criticism, as far as I can tell, a lot of it comes from the fact that the show isn’t the Peter Jackson trilogy. I’m getting memories of the Star Wars fandom again. There are some people who would never accept the new show no matter how good it was. There will be plenty of people out there who never even gave it a chance. Of course, that’s not everybody. There are some Tolkien fans who know so much about the world he created that the show could never live up to their expectations.
After all, the show only has rights to describe the events of the Second Age according to references made in the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This includes mentions in the story itself, in the many songs, or in the appendices. This means it’s already limited to what it can discuss and how it can tell the story. It’s not ideal and it’s clear to see how the writers are tying themselves in knots over it. Tolkien’s works are messy and complicated. He changed so many things and added so many new stories. He was forever changing the history of Middle Earth. It’s fantastic but not an easy thing to adapt. I would be lying if I said that aspects of the show weren’t messy. The opening races through the history of the elves in Middle Earth with intense speed. It doesn’t give us any time to really get to know anyone.
It’s also evidence for how awkward the pacing can be. The show speeds though some important moments and slows down in others. I’ve read so many moaning comments about how slow it is, which strikes me as odd. After all, Tolkien loved taking his time telling a story. He could spend absolutely ages describing a landscape only to leave a few paragraphs later. Anyone complaining that the story is taking too long either didn’t read the book or didn’t enjoy it. Tolkien probably would have loved the time it’s taking to get anywhere. Although, I do admit that Tolkien would have been doing it for world-building purposes but the show is clearly just stretching everything out for as long as possible.
Another key criticism that I’ve seen if the poor characterisation and I can sort of see that. However, I also have to call bullshit as we’re only 5 episodes into the first season. And anyone complaining about Galadriel being a badass bitch can sit down. Tolkien loved Galadriel and continually added to and amended her story. I know she didn’t show any warrior abilities in the film but it’s also not entirely impossible based on Tolkien’s work. I get why the show is focused on her. She’s a recognisable figure that film fans will recognise. The fact that she’s not exactly the same shouldn’t be an issue. We’re dealing with a completely different age. She’s a much younger elf at this point.
Now, I know I’m getting away from myself a little here but it’s a complicated issue. Fans of the books are saying that they hate it and fans of the films are also saying they hate it. I don’t get why people can’t be a bit more open-minded. Tolkien is a difficult writer to adapt. We already know this based on how long it took us to get to the Peter Jackson trilogy. And, let’s be honest, those films take plenty of liberties with the text. I don’t understand why people are viewing them through such rose-tinted glasses. They’re great and I still really love them. However, I can admit that they’re flawed. If you want to complain about the CGI in the new show that’s fine but let’s not pretend that that practical effects of the films has stood the test of time. Some of it is really cringe now.
And for people complaining about the script of the show, do they not remember some of the cringe lines of the trilogy? Cringe moments in fact. Peter Jackson did something great when he adapted the books. He filmed the unfilmable and they were good. They deviated a lot from the book but in a way that made enough sense. So, it’s ridiculous to me that suddenly everyone thinks they’re such masterpieces. Masterpieces that risk being torn to shreds because someone else made a show about the same world. Will The Rings of Power replace the Peter Jackson films? No. Is it fair to trash it when we have no idea what’s going to happen? Also no.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend this is a show that is perfectly in-line with Tolkien’s vision. It’s clearly a cash-grab and one that has been rushed. However, I won’t write it off completely yet. For me, the big problem here isn’t the show itself. Yes, it could be better but there are so many worse shows out there. The problem is the fans. We’ve seen it in Star Wars and Marvel. People get an idea of what they want the show to be and they get mad when it doesn’t do that. People feel so entitled that they believe their vision is superior to everyone else’s.
Let’s be honest, this is the first season. There is so much to introduce audiences to and so many new characters. They could have handled it a bit better but it’s still a lot of fun. I think there is a lot of potential with this show. In fact, my main criticism with the show is that everyone is so beautiful. Is it so wrong to want an average looking person in Middle Earth?