THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
Bad lines badly delivered
Episode seven of The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, “The Ring”, opens with Hellish scenes, and beautiful, evocative and compelling visuals reminiscent of the Fassbender version of Macbeth. Absolute carnage, apart from Galdriel who is somehow still standing. Effective, shocking and wonderful imagery. But seriously, how is she still alive?
The problem as ever is that all the flabby dialogue and acting ruins anything remotely good. “He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone” and “Soldiers, soldiers, the roof’s about to fall down” and “what cannot be known hollows the mind, fill it not with guesswork” inspiring stuff that was surely homaged (a.k.a. nicked) straight from the pages of Macbeth or Henry V. Indeed, I sensed the tongue of Lawrence Olivier on the brain of some of these players and screenwrights, or so the showrunners and the showrunners alone clearly think. Bad lines badly delivered: this is a case where two negatives don’t make a positive. The way they almost got crushed by a tree was so bad, the acting so comical, that it completely ruined the beautiful visuals. So terribly discordant, once again.
An emotional moment between Gimli 2 and Legolas 2 was probably the best moment of the season so far. This is probably the most interesting relationship along with that between Gimli 2 and his Dad. Indeed, the best acting comes from Gimli 2’s Dad played by Peter Mullin. But they still managed to ruin this mini-success in the show by Gimli 2’s wife being more of a man than him in almost every single way. Gimli 2’s wife indeed has suddenly become Lady Macbeth in this episode, although I’m not sure where the character arc was that led to this. Although that surely would have been a good character arc had they actually bothered to do it.
Fundamentally, the problem remains that we’re just not that invested in the characters, and the odd good moments only serve to highlight how truly awful everything else is. Probably-Gandalf is handed an apple by Female Frodo, swell of music, but we just don’t care no matter how loud they lay that score on.
When this series began, I was determined to not compare it to Tolkien’s original work, but to evaluate it on its own terms. Tolkien is a high bar to meet, and I feel that would be a handicap for any show. Indeed, that’s why I esteem the Jackson-Boyens-Walsh trilogy so much, as their work was not only excellent on its own terms but also on the terms laid down by Tolkien. Yet even by my looser desire to merely see a great show, rather than a great show which does true justice to the beloved late Professor Tolkien’s works, and despite being someone who desperately wants this show to succeed, I just cannot give any episode more than a three out of five, and even then the threes are being scraped; indeed, I wonder how much my misplaced loyalty to the world of Middle-Earth is colouring my views and pushing me towards lenience to this show.
This series has some good moments and some bad moments. But the overall vibe is an amateurish fanfic, but a fanfic not even set in Tolkien’s universe but set in a universe designed to nod to Tolkien’s. I’m not sure why or how a great company like Amazon with a great IP like this has managed to produce this substandard piece of work.
And why does Galadriel love doing stuff “at first light”? It’s really getting silly now. Oh wait, hang on, it’s gets sillier still: the way the name reveal of Mordor was handled has to be one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely stupid.
Oh, and actually, how did everyone survive a volcano going off in their face? The writers didn’t even go with the cop outs of a deus ex machina or the “it was all a dream” tosh. The characters just… survived. That’s all.
The episode makes no sense. The characters are not characters and they have no arc. The series doesn’t hang together.
© 2022 Bryan A. J. Parry