My household watched the first episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power tonight. Spoiler-free picoreview: I liked it!
Fair warning to my fellow Tolkien nerds, particularly if you know anything about The Silmarillion: yes, it is absolutely taking liberties with the way events played out from the First Age leading into the Second, particularly in regards to Galadriel.
However, it’s taking liberties in ways that so far I don’t actually mind. It’s helped that I very deliberately set my expectations here to “very pretty, very expensive Tolkien fanfic”, to give myself permission to not be bugged by any discrepancies between this story and what Tolkien actually wrote.
It also helps a lot for me to keep in mind the quote out of Tolkien’s own letters, about how his vision for Middle-Earth was as a mythic milieu with room for stories by other creators. The key word here being myth.
If you know anything about Greek mythology, you’ll know that that entire mythos contradicts itself all over the place. And with that in the back of my brain to establish precedent, I’m pretty at peace with the idea of other Middle-Earth stories contradicting Tolkien’s canon… as long as they hold true to the spirit of what Tolkien wrote, and do not actively break the world.
So far, as of episode 1, they do not appear to have done so. So far, so good. We’ll see how this holds up as we proceed through season 1!
Some spoilers behind the fold!
First thing we see in episode one is a flashback with young Galadriel and other elven children in Valinor. And one of these children deliberately throws rocks at the boat she tries to construct for sailing upon a stream.
The boy who throws the rock, and incites the other children to follow his example, is not named that I noticed. I also looked in the credits on IMDB, and all the children are just listed as “Elf child” in the full cast list.
That said? My headcanon is that rotten little rock-throwing boy is totally Fëanor. Establishing a tradition of pissing off Galadriel that lasts across millennia, leading her to tell him to fuck off when he asks her for a strand of her hair. :D
Because even as a wee little puppy of an elf boy, Fëanor was, undoubtedly, an absolute prick.
Which leads me right into the driving force of this episode: namely, Galadriel.
Y’know what I said above about mythology contradicting itself? Hell, Tolkien’s own draft notes contradict each other when it comes to Galadriel. She does not have a definitive, rock-solid backstory. But certain themes prevail no matter what version of her story you read. She’s tall and athletic–and yes, a warrior. She is driven and ambitious. She wants a kingdom of her own to rule. She is not content to stay in Valinor.
And all of this resonates with the Galadriel this episode presents us with, even as it does its own take on why Galadriel stays in Middle-Earth. I was surprised by where the plot took that–surprised specifically that she actually did get on the ship to go into the West.
But as soon as I saw her on that boat, I knew she was going to bail. I did not, however, expect her to literally jump overboard!
Uh, hon, I do not doubt your bravery and fortitude. But I kind of doubt your ability to swim all the way back to Middle-Earth?
And here’s another question: so far, this Galadriel is showing only her warrior side. Are we going to also get to see Galadriel the sorceress? If we’re into the Second Age now, we should be past the point where Galadriel spent a lot of time hanging out with Melian, the mother of Lúthien–from whom, it’s said, Galadriel learned much of her arts.
I am here for Galadriel the warrior, we haven’t gotten to see that before on screen. But I do hope we get to see Galadriel wield magic as well as a blade.
Meanwhile: also pondering what I think of this iteration of Elrond. This much, much younger iteration of Elrond. It’s not clear to me exactly how far into the Second Age we’re supposed to be here? But the vibe I get off this Elrond is that surely he can’t be more than a few hundred years old.
Real interesting question though: where’s his brother Elros? Is Númenor a thing yet?
Paul’s opinion of this Elrond was that he and Captain Pike clearly go to the same hairstylist. :D
We only get a brief look at Celebrimbor in this episode. But I think I actually like the look of him. There’s a lot of character in his face.
I don’t think the king we see on screen in this episode got called out by name that I heard? So I wasn’t entirely sure who he was supposed to be until I looked it up to confirm: yes, he’s Gil-Galad. The same Gil-Galad who is destined to go out in a blaze of desperate glory as he leads the Last Alliance of Elves and Men against Sauron at the end of the same Second Age we’re seeing the start of now.
Re: the Arondir/Bronwyn plot: this, for the record, is totally OC territory for those of you who aren’t Tolkien nerds. This episode doesn’t give us too much yet on these characters to really get a sense of who they are. But as someone who’s a sucker for the human/elf romances in Tolkien’s legendarium, I am amenable to this plotline’s intentions. It’s also interesting to me that unlike the human/elf romances from the First Age, they’re flipping genders here and making the human be the female, the elf the male.
I’m a sucker for healer characters as well, so Bronwyn naturally has my sympathies.
It doesn’t suck that Arondir really has Big Rayek Energy, either. ;)
hobbits er, uh, harfoots, mostly, yeah, I was all “yep, these sure are proto-hobbits!”
They’re honestly kind of the least interesting thing about the episode to me, and a little on the twee side…. though yes, fine, hobbits by definition are kind of on the twee side, so that’s okay. Our young harfoot heroine Nori really got a little too Disney Princess for me when she started gushing about wanting to see the world, though. Half expected her to start singing “I want to be where the Big Folk are!”
And ultimately, Nori’s main function in this episode appeared to be witnessing the arrival of the first Great Big Plot Complication, with the meteor that crashes down out of the sky.
With a man in it.
GOSH I WONDER WHO THAT MIGHT BE.
The final shot couldn’t have screamed SAURON any louder if they’d had a marching band of orcs on oliphaunts, with the orcs all banging drums and the oliphaunts all trumpeting SAURON IS HERE!
In fact, it screamed it so loudly that I’m kind of hoping it’s actually a red herring. But on the other hand, I don’t know who it could be if not Sauron. The wizards don’t show up in Middle-Earth until the Third Age.
And on the other other hand, as long as they play it well, I’d kind of be okay with it being Sauron and us knowing about it right out of the gate as viewers… while the characters all slowly come to realize it as the plot unfolds. I could work with that. Hell, after watching all of Columbo I’m totally down with knowing right at the start whodunit. So if we know right at the start of this plot that “this guy is totally Sauron”, the plot therefore needs to make the interesting part be how all the characters find out.
But yeah. So far I’m intrigued. It’s official. Bring on episode 2.
EDITING TO ADD:
It was pointed out to me on Facebook that it would not be possible for that rock-throwing boy to be Fëanor, who is Galadriel’s uncle, and who on the official timeline was born nearly two hundred years before Galadriel was. My answer to this: see above commentary that this show is already clearly playing fast and loose with the timeline, and that I’d already decided to treat it as fanfic (and by extension, an AU, and if it’s an AU it could totally be Fëanor). Let me also emphasize, again, that the show didn’t actually identify the boy. This is entirely me making up a headcanon here.
My info for when Fëanor and Galadriel were born is the Lord of the Rings wiki, and their Timeline of Arda page. If you click over off that timeline page to their Fëanor page, you can see that the date of his birth actually comes out of the History of Middle-Earth. It’s not called out in either the Lord of the Rings appendices or The Silmarillion.
Which means by definition that the show really kind of can’t actually explicitly use any info about when Fëanor was born. They only have rights to stuff that’s explicitly in the LotR appendices. This suggests to me that they explicitly couldn’t actually identify that rock-throwing boy.
That said: it’s still totally my headcanon that it was Fëanor. ;)
Meanwhile, I forgot to mention that I really did love the visuals in this episode. The garden of statues carved in memory of the fallen, where Galadriel and Elrond converse, was beautiful. And I adored the fireworks shot off in honor of Galadriel and the other warriors.