A Shadow of the Past
Episode 1 of Rings of Power starts with narration from Galadriel, telling us that the world was so young there’s been no sunrise, but even then were was light. Get ready for this sort of cryptic half-riddled chatter, as we’ll be seeing a lot of it. Anyway, the opening scene shows a young Galadriel making a paper boat and watching it sail down the water. Don’t worry, here’s no killer clowns here, as the other kids throw stones at it. Galadriel’s brother, Finrod, shows up and eventually takes her back home.
This tiny prologue essentially paves way for a much larger expansive history, in which Galadriel informs us of the events leading up to right now, including travelling across to Middle Earth. A war lasted centuries and left Middle Earth ravaged. The evil Morgoth was eventually defeated but his Orcs had spread across Middle-Earth. In his wake, Sauron stepped up. Unfortunately, Sauron killed Galadriel’s brother, leaving his mark on her. Galadriel took up his knife and decided to hunt the evil foe, but his trail ran cold.
At the Northernmost Wastes, the company Galadriel runs with have their doubts. It’s been years since they’ve seen an orc and they aren’t even sure if they’re there anymore. Galadriel ignores the concerned elf, deciding to press ahead. In fact, at one point she’s prepared to let her own people die in the search for Sauron. Thankfully though they actually stop right in front of Sauron’s stronghold.
“This place is so evil, our torches give off no warmth.” Galadriel says, pressing on. With her company, they find evidence of dark sorcery and Sauron’s mark carved in the stone. Galadriel sees this as a sign of Sauron’s presence but Thondir is far more level-headed, pointing out that they should feed this back to the High King at once. Besides, the mark looks to be years old.
Galadriel refuses though, deciding to root out all evil before returning home, even if that means sacrificing her group. She finds a snow-troll hiding in the depths and thankfully the power of anti-gravity sees Galadriel single-handedly takes out the snow troll, effortlessly after launching herself about 4 meters in the air.
Although the others are worried, believing they should never have gone on, Galadriel demands they continue and march at first light. Thondir draws his sword and refuses to follow her (which is fair enough, isn’t it?) and the others agree.
We then get our first look at the not-Hobbits, their ancestors the Harfoots. They’re a resourceful group, and our protagonist in this rabble of halflings is Nori, who rebels from the others and decides to go off exploring. However, she finds an ominous footprint that seems to belong to an orc.
Anyway, Nori’s mother is quick to point out that they’re set in their ways and shouldn’t go off exploring, it’s not in their nature. They’re safe and keep to themselves, which is how they’ve survived so long.
It’s a brief moment we spend with them though, as we cut across to Elrond at Lindon. He’s not allowed to attend the latest meeting but certainly perks up when he notices Galadriel has returned. She’s only just arrived but she’s there to ask the King for fresh supplies in order to head off again on her search for Sauron. Elrond wants her to stick around but he refuses.
Dressed in her armour, Galadriel is not happy to receive a crown as High King Gil-Galad informs the company that evil has gone. For their heroic deeds, the group have also been granted passage across the Undying Lands of Valinor.
Everyone breaks into applause but of course Galadriel is not happy. She rejects the gift and decides to destroy Sauron instead. She even decides to go alone if need be. Elrond tries to remind her that she’s going based on a hunch and could be leading elves to their death.
Galadriel doesn’t care though and even Elrond’s plea of putting up her sword so she can be his friend doesn’t deter her. At least to begin with anyway. Eventually she succumbs and heads across on the ship all the same. The other elves begin singing beautiful ethereal lyrics but for Galadriel, she refuses. Turning back toward her knife, which happens to be on the floor.
Over in the South Lands, we get our first look at the forbidden romance between human and elf. That comes in the form of Arondir and Bronwyn. The pair share some nice moments, before Medhor is quick to show and remind Arondir there’s only been a few pairings in history of men and elf.
When orders come in that the High King has declared an end to the watch. With nowhere else to go, Arondir decides to head back to the village and see Bronwyn. Heever, there are problem with her cow, which seems to be oozing out disgusting black sludge from its udders. Bronwyn and Arondir decide to travel together East to the village of Hordern, determined to find out what’s going on.
Meanwhile, back with the Harfoots, Sadoc is convinced that there’s something strange going on and he proves to be right. An asteroid flies across the sky, which all of our main characters see. As for Galadriel, she decides to swim back across the Sea alone. Who knows how many miles this sea actually is but she’s on her own now.
As the episode closes out, Nori is the first to the scene, where it’s revealed that the asteroid is not just a rock, it appears to hold an elderly guy. And who ese is betting this is actually Gandalf?
The Episode Review
Amazon have been incredibly selective over who receives Rings of Power early and it now becomes clear why. From the beginning, the most expensive TV show ever produced has been an example of how not to market your product. And now that it’s here, Rings of Power does not make a good first impression.
Galadriel is unlikable from the very beginning. Despite being driven by her mission, she’s so blinded by it that she doesn’t care who dies along the way. That company, where she’s prepared to let her own elves die, doesn’t exactly strike the right chord for a noble leader. But as per the cause, Galadriel can singlehandedly take out a snow troll, acting as both a Karen and a Mary Sue rolled into one.
But when you break it down to the core mission, there is absolutely no stakes or tension. Skipping over Morgoth and the rise of Sauron, we instead get Galadriel hunting down the dark lord. But we know Sauron survives through the ring and Galadriel survives into Lord of the Rings, not to mention the characters not in Tolkein’s books will obviously not survive. So where’s the tension?
Even beyond that though, some of the dialogue here is so poor. It’s essentially nonsensical gibberish masked as riddles to try and sound clever. If you thought Batwoman on the CW had cheesy lines, wait till you get a load of the dialogue here!
Pretty visuals and high production values can only get you so far, and it’s the reason why the original Star Trek, Babylon 5, Dad’s Army, Blackadder etc. are still popular today. They’re well written and have good characters. So far, Rings of Power has neither. There’s still time for that to change of course, but right now this gets off to a pretty poor start.