Heavy SPOILERS for the Rings of Power finale and the series as a whole. You have been warned.
Okay, I think that was pretty well done – if you accept this as the abridged fan fiction version of the Lord of the Rings backstory that it is. In hindsight, I realize that The Rings of Power was secretly set up as a who is secretly Sauron show that was headed for a big twist. And there he was, in episode 8 – with an opening feint, of course, as the sinister, pyromaniac pursuers salute the stranger as Sauron.
And then it’s Halbrand who turns out to be the Dark Lord. You should have known after the authors not only drew him as a human camouflage pattern without any formative character traits apart from his competence and apart from his penchant for forging only let him do deliberately inconspicuous things. For example, constantly rescuing Galadriel, not wanting to go back to Middle-earth under any circumstances and getting seriously injured in the end (which in turn was also a means to an end in order to end up meeting Celebrimbor). It wasn’t entirely fair how they stuffed this particular wolf into an all-too-fitting sheepskin. Then again: we know from Tolkien that Sauron deceived the Elves in a pretty disguise. In this respect, this corresponds at least to the spirit of the texts.
After all: Halbrand actor Charlie Vickers does it quite well in the end, when he gives the freshly caught Sauron a pinch of texture and gray shades. One has the feeling that not everything was planned well in advance and with deceptive intentions. Reading about the character’s origins, her predominant trait is actually a subtly unhealthy passion for order, which was then instrumental in Morgoth being able to corrupt him. After all the movies, it’s easy to forget that Sauron doesn’t see himself as evil, and that reflects Halbrand and Galadriel’s extended dialogue sequence quite nicely. It is quite possible that Sauron’s real evil will only surface again in season two.
And another Origin story came to an end. The stranger will then probably be Gandalf, because basically we only know of three Istari. One is just Ian McKellen’s legendary screen wizard, the other is Saruman and the third hasn’t been discussed in the films yet, making him essentially uninteresting for the series. Gandalf probably makes the most sense because of his bond with the hobbits. I like Daniel Weyman in the role and the relationship between him and Nori is probably the beating heart of the series along with Elrond and Durin’s friendship. In fact, the ending of the Harfoot storyline wrested most of the few emotions the series provoked in me. Sadoc’s end was sensitively staged and farewell scenes between parents, friends and children always bring tears to my eyes in my old age. Since The Rings of Power had left me emotionally cold so far, it was a bit of a surprise at the end.
By the way, I don’t find it completely believable that the elves decide to follow the plan despite the realization that Sauron gave them the decisive ideas with the rings, the way it’s staged. As does the fact that Galadriel keeps Halbrand’s true nature to himself. I know the Elven Rings aren’t ultimately under Sauron’s control, but this shows once again that the rules of this world aren’t exactly Dungeons & Dragons. We’re talking about “power” in the magical sense, which in Lord of the Rings means many things but little concrete. It’ll be interesting to see how the series interprets this further when we don’t even know how the power of the three elven rings works in the first place.
What do you say at the end of this controversial work? Would a more faithful implementation have been better? Has the compression and densification of various passages now harmed or helped? You can’t say that in general. I have fewer problems with the tightening itself. In any case, the diversification of the line-up wasn’t a bad move and it worked well. Also, to me, the show doesn’t need to skip hundreds or thousands of years from episode to episode. A coherent cast is more important to me.
But whether it had to exist, this series, is a legitimate question that I cannot unequivocally answer in the affirmative. I really enjoyed watching them, and I was also amazed at the beautiful panoramas and wonderful effects. But passion for the story did not arise in the calculated and all too clean and self-contained-looking style. In short: This will not be a new Lord of the Rings, as the books and films were for me. But today you have to be satisfied that they didn’t mess it up completely.
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