The Rings of Power: a cure for insomnia
Rings of Power Episode 4, “The Great Wave”, involves more Númenor-based Elven hijinks, the big reveal of the mysterious Orc man-God “Arda”, and a Dwarven secret.
The episode also involved a lot of sleeping. My sleeping. I fell asleep twice while trying to watch this. A cure for insomnia is probably not what Amazon was hoping for when they ploughed a billion dollars into this series.
This blog is all about short form reviews. But for this episode, there was no way to fulfil that in this case. There is simply too much to say.
So what was wrong with the weakest episode of Rings of Power to date? Far quicker to say what was right.
Gimli 2 shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character
The visuals continue to be pretty. The non-CGI goblins/orcs are a welcome return to aesthetic of The Lord of the Rings film series, undoing the awful CGI overdrive of The Hobbit. And Gimli 2, as I am calling him, shows signs of being a genuinely interesting character. There was no sign of Probably-Gandalf, or there was but I was asleep, which is a good thing, and the role of the Zummerzet-by-way-of-Kingston-Jamaica-cum-Dublin sort-of hobbits was mercifully minimised.
Everything else about this episode really is off.
Lack of immersion / Comedy resemblances
Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions.
First of all, I can’t stop thinking about how Galadriel sounds exactly like Kate/Bob from classic British sitcom Blackadder II. And speaking of comedians, I talked in my Episode 1/2 review about how Fat Hobbit looks exactly like Dawn French, thereby reminding me of the wonderful French and Saunders Lord of the Rings spoof, and how Celebrimbor, the greatest Elven smith of all, bears an uncanny resemblance to Monty Python‘s Michael Palin. Constantly being reminded of British comedians probably isn’t what Amazon was hoping for with its casting decisions. To make it worse, Isildur — who is going to be a big donny in this show if they follow Tolkien’s mythos — looks just like James Callis who played Gaius Baltar in Battle Star: Galactica (2004). This might be ironic as the mythos suggests Isildur may follow Baltar’s plot path, in a manner.
Anyway, that I’m constantly finding myself dropping out of the hoped-for immersion and thinking about such things really shows that this show is not holding my attention. But if I doubted as much myself, falling asleep definitely proved the point.
Characters without any character
the writers … fulfil the age-old writing adage of “tell not show”…
Speaking of Gaius Baltar, I mean Isildur. He has a weird kind of bromance with his two BFFs. But in this episode they fall out, bigly. It’s supposed to be a huge dramatic moment in the episode. But I didn’t care. Why? Because I forgot the other two guys existed. I can’t even remember what their names are, who they are, what they even do, and the who I do remember, Isildur himself, just seems like a moody little twonk. Good job the writers were there to fulfil the age-old writing adage of “Tell not show” with some phenomenal exposition: “You got me kicked out of the navy. All I ever wanted was to be in the navy”*. Rule of writing for the “writers” of this show: big dramatic moment for Character A isn’t big dramatic moment if Character A isn’t a character. Even with a swell of music.
*(This is a paraphrasing. This episode was truly too awful to go back and catch the actual line. Suffice it to say, it was even more moronic than what I have written)
‘Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power S1E4 Review “The Great Wave”‘. Wow, that’s a blog post title almost as long as the cast list of the aforesaid show. “Let’s have a whole bunch of characters / NPCs and make this show EPIC!” was surely what went on in the writers’ room. Apparently, according to showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay you can never have too much of a good thing. Nor of a bad thing. Speaking of which…
There’s a weird Monty Pythonesque vibe to Bloke-whose-name-we-don’t-know-nor-care-to-know who fancies Girl-who-I-think-is-the-daughter-of-the-guy, the one with the brother who’s on the boat. That one. Her. Weird, almost sitcom-ish stuff.
When Legolas 2 (as I’m calling him) copies Gimli 2’s (as I’m calling him) kids’ knocking game and opens up a secret chamber containing a priceless ore, my jaw-dropped — at the absurdity of it all. This segues nicely into…
…two thousand year old teenager Galadriel
Reviews slating Episodes 1 and 2 bemoaned strange and inappropriate tonal shifts between high drama and low comedy, a shifting of genres. I didn’t see that myself. But with this episode, I finally agree. Strange comedy moments that don’t gel with the overall vibe abound. Another major culprit is defiant two thousand year old teenager Galadriel. Nothing about her makes sense, and she seems to be in an alternate teen version of this show from a different universe.
Galadriel’s behaviour with the Queen Regent of Númenor, in particular, was totally unbelievable, and this show has got Goblins in it. More sitcommery interspliced into what is presumably intended to be a weighty epic. The parallels to Game of Thrones, given the GoT spin-off is going head-to-head with RoP, cannot be avoided. So imagine, if you may, the Red Wedding, followed by Galdariel’s hilaaaaaaaaaarious petulant attitude that winds her up in prison, comedy directoral cut included. Inappropriate tonal shifts.
… Legolas 2 … Gimli 2 … Aragorn 2 … Probably-Gandalf …
Asides from being a kind-of woke rip-off of The Lord of the Rings — complete with Legolas 2, Gimli 2, troll fight, the Dark Lord’s comin’ ta getcha, Big Statue, Aragorn 2, Frodo-Sam-Merri-Pippin Hobbit mash-up characters, Probably-Gandalf — the show is also guilty of other gimmicks. My favourite is directorial.
The directorial trick of stuff spraying against the camera lens is being overdone. Remember that shot from Children of Men, that crazy long shot, where half way through the lens got sprayed? They had no choice but to carry on, as the shot was so long and complicated that they would have lost everything if they’d tried to go back. But that bit of splatter made the scene all the more graphic and disturbing. In LOTR:ROP their overuse of this trick — once per episode — is drawing attention to itself in a rather uncouth way.
No tension. Simple as.
showing us Sauron so soon…. giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub.
They show Adar’s face, the man who we presume is Sauron. Isn’t that a no-no? The fact that he was unseen in The Lord of the Rings made him scary all the way through. In the original Alien, you hardly see the alien, just snatches, and it makes it all the more horrific. And we all remember seeing Mr Blonde cutting off Marvin’s ear in Reservoir Dogs. Oh wait, no we don’t, it happened off-screen, yet that made it all the more graphic — indeed, many people, in a straight Mandela Effect twist, “remember” seeing it happen, such was the effectiveness of that non-show. So why have they blown it by showing us (probably) Sauron so soon? Giving us the money shot from a flaccid chub. Even if Adar isn’t Sauron, just as Probably-Gandalf may not actually be Gandalf, why is a main baddy being robbed of his shadowy nature this early?
The biggest problem with the show so far, and it was particularly highlighted in this episode, is we just don’t care. Sure, we know we have to stop Sauron because he’s evil, he won’t stop so we’ve got to stop him, or whatever. But there’s just not enough to care about. Galadriel, who could have gone to the western lands where she’ll never die, who is an elf and lives thousands of years, is talking to the leader of an a realm of humans that is an island kingdom way over the seas and totally isolated and safe, that these men and the elves need to join forces again to fight Sauron to stop the people of the Southlands, which is a human realm very, very far away, who I think joined with Morgoth — Sauron’s own lord — to fight against good, from being conquered… I mean, read that sentence back. Who cares? Where is the drama? What is the point? I’m enjoying the beautiful visuals, but whatever. In LOTR, Sauron was coming, he was coming for you, and it felt immediate, it affected everyone. But here, his coming is so distant, so far-off, so irrelevant to everyone else, that it’s hard to be bothered.
Bored of the Rings? Yes.