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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power


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All right, I think I see the general shape of things.

Adar isn't pretty, so he's clearly not Sauron in disguise. Even when he was just an Eye, after all, he never chose to appear disfigured. He appears to have been a prisoner of Morgoth in Angband, and now has gone a bit mad.

This war for the Southlands, therefore, stands in as the time-efficient substitute for centuries of increasingly colonial Númenorean adventurism, and Pharazôn will win fame for distinguished command not against uppity natives but against orcs, which nevertheless he can leverage into the kingship (whether or not it involves marrying Miriel).

Sauron will happily pick up the pieces of Adar's little scheme when the time comes to raise up Barad-dûr, but for now his attention will be on Eregion and Lindon, which he hopes to win by guile, not force. How many episodes are we getting this year, again? I betcha Annatar showing up in Lindon to teach Celebrimbor ring-lore comes close to the end of the season.

Intrigued by the bit of Sauron-worshipper lore we got at the end. I'm looking forward to seeing that developed further.

The thing that seems to be getting the most stuck in the purists' craw is that Galadriel is a bit more flawed a character than they'd want, and while I don't agree, I do see where they're coming from. Halbrand pretty much stated the premise of her character outright: she treats everything she does like she's still fighting the footsoldiers of the Shadow. But having him give her a remedial education in courtly intrigue isn't a good look for someone who's supposed to be wise and insightful. I suppose they're trying to make sure that there's character growth that's explicit enough that general audiences will be aware that it's happening, but surely there was a way to write that scene that wouldn't have been quite so unflattering to her. A misstep, I think, but it's no hardship to me to stick around to see if this is a pattern or a fluke.


Post Reader
Only an eight episode season. Show's expensive!

Galadriel is very different from how she seemed in LotR but that's okay because she has thousands of years to change.
I continue to feel ambivalent about this show, but I'm withholding judgement until the last episode is out. Because the season is apparently structured around a reveal in the last episode of the season, how I feel about it as both an adaptation of the source material and as a show on its own merits will hinge pretty dramatically on how that reveal is handled handled (or further dragged out) in that final episode, because I think it's likely to recontextualize a significant portion of what came before.

Until then, I wanted to pass along a good collection of threads on the show's relationship with the source material, with episode by episode analysis. A lot of discourse about this show as an adaptation (positive and negative) relies on incredibly bad faith or tenuous readings of the source material, and here's a rare example of a fairly even handed and thorough assessment, if you've never read it before or if you read it a long time ago. The link is to an index thread, containing links to analysis of individual episodes (through episode 6 so far). Not saying I agree with every judgement, but the author is thoughtful, not engaging in knee-jerk criticism or knee-jerk defenses , well researched, and responsive to criticism when presented with information that complicates or contradicts their analysis.

Here are examples (that I pulled together from threads from various episode analysis threads) of the various assessments that I don't think would be considered spoilers for either the show so far or potential future developments:

  • Numenoreans form a special bond with their horses - ✅Accurate
If you cut out the “riding into battle” bit this fits with the text. Numenor revered horses, using them as their primary mode of transport and “housing them nobly”. Where there was great love between a person and a horse the person could summon the horse “by thought alone”. (Unfinished Tales)
  • Sauron devoted himself to healing Middle-Earth - 👍Justified
Beleriand was “ruined” after the War of Wrath. Sauron was invited to repent and “Sauron's repentance before Eönwë was genuine, if out of fear” (Morgoth’s Ring). Tolkien has written some conflicting things on this, but there is a general thread of Sauron not entirely faking repentance at the end of the First Age, even if that repentance quickly returned to dark deeds. In Morgoth’s Ring he writes that Sauron had good roots initially and that his efforts were for the “good of all inhabitants of Arda”.
  • “We had no word for death” - ⚖️Debatable
Someone more into the linguistics side of things can probably assess this better than I. But from what I can tell there was no independent Quenya word for death - their word was derivative of the Sindarin gurth, which they learned in Middle-Earth. Moreover it ties in with the story we eventually hear of Finrod befriending Beor and the grief and shock of the Eldar on seeing Beor die of old age (Silmarillion chapter 17). Edit: Changed to Debatable as this is contradicted in Laws and Customs among the Eldar.
  • Numenor has no colonies in middle-Earth - ❌Contradiction
In this episode it’s revealed through context that Numenor has no significant presence in Middle-Earth. I’m not sure what the Sea Guard actually do, but it doesn’t seem to involve much sailing to the continent. This goes beyond just a feature of timeline compression - it’s a change to the character of Numenor itself, which by this stage had fallen in ways beyond just hating elves. By the time of Tar-Palantir Numenor had been conquering lands and extracting wealth from Middle-Earth for around 1200 years. (Line of Elros, UT)
  • The state of Numenor in SA 1000 - 🔥Kinslaying
This is our first exposure to time kompression in the show. We’ve been told the elves have been watching the Southlands for 1000 years, and this lines up with the Tale of Years saying Sauron sets up in Mordor around this time. But Miriel is not born until SA 3117, and a lot happens before then! We’re seeing 2,000 years of events happening simultaneously, and that inevitably causes a host of changes that goes beyond mere contradiction.
  • Orcs deserve life - 🪱Can of worms
A new category here, as this is perhaps the messiest element of everything Tolkien wrote. I’ve seen lots of hyperbole about Tolkien “spinning in his grave” at this show, but I have to think he’d be positively squirming to see it shine a light on the big problem he could never fix. Tolkien wrote that orcs were “naturally bad” but not “irredeemable” (letter 153) because they were at least creations of Iluvatar. But in his stories they are clearly presented as wholly corrupted foot soldiers who are used as blood sport by Legolas and Gimli and treated genocidally by everyone else. And yet they also have humanised moments in their dialogue, even if they end up always falling into in-fighting and evil deeds. He changed their backstory multiple times, trying to find ways to make them work with the story and with his theology. In letter 269 he dodged the question of whether his presentation of them is in fact “heretical”. That the show gives some sympathy to their plight manages to be both true and false to the lore at the same time, and is a problem Tolkien could never reconcile.
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excused from moderation duty
Staff member
I had fallen behind on this show, but I caught myself up tonight.

Tolkien never settled on an answer to the Orc Question that satisfied him. However, an adaptation can be revisionist in ways that the author never could. I've long felt that the simplest answer to the dilemma was to suppose that the implied narrator of the story represented variously Elvish and Elf-Friendly perspectives which did not know, could not bear to contemplate, or found it politically inconvenient to acknowledge, that their ancient enemy were free-willed beings who served the Shadow due only to circumstance. Then you have a convenient excuse for why it doesn't contradict the source material to include an element of Orcs who aren't committed to evil. (Hint: any time you read about the Eagles showing up and carrying someone out of danger, imagine instead that this was a censored reference to the heroes receiving aid from renegade Orcs. Can't have that in the official history!) Tolkien himself opened the door to this interpretation when he changed how Bilbo got the Ring, so it's no wonder that so many have chosen to walk through it.

But, of course, to Tolkien, it wasn't so simple. In his mind, Orcs were not just a people. Orcishness, rather, was a spiritual condition, one that was evident in the real world anywhere people were overtaken by brutishness, cruelty, scorn, and hate. Nazis, for example, were Orcs. That's what made it problematic for him. Nobody's born a fascist, and nobody can become one against their will (though there are some sadly effective recruitment tactics). It's not a problem for the hordes of a fascist aggressor to be a guilt-free enemy, but it is a problem if you need to come up with an explanation for where they keep coming from that is also compatible with the metaphysics of the setting.

Incidentally, this turns out to be a challenging question in real life as well, at least from certain perspectives. All roads lead to theodicy.

But, again, adaptations can be revisionist. In The Rings of Power, Orcishness is not an allegory for a state of depravity and Elvishness is not an allegory for a state of grace, with human souls moving in the space between these two moral poles; rather, Elves are a people and Uruks are a people, and Elves can simply be mega-racist against Uruks. That makes for a different story, which is fine, because it, y'know, is a different story.

Anyway I think that this is still good and I like it a lot.


excused from moderation duty
Staff member
I watched the season finale. As a matter of pragmatic adaptation, dropping the character - well, persona really - of Annatar makes sense, since of course everybody familiar with the source material would immediately know what's up.

I liked that.
I watched the season finale. As a matter of pragmatic adaptation, dropping the character - well, persona really - of Annatar makes sense, since of course everybody familiar with the source material would immediately know what's up.

I liked that.

You're definitely right that it was their intention, and the marketing, interviews with the show runners, and accounts of their on set behavior confirm as much. I don't think it works in execution as misdirection though, because their replacement character was immediately defined by being suspiciously evil and talking about how much he loved to forge.

I wish they would have just gone for good old fashioned dramatic irony, emphasizing the gap between the viewers' and the characters' knowledge, rather than treating either of the ostensible reveals in the last episode as reveals. I think in practice this is how it actually works because they failed completely at achieving their stated intention, but the show suffers as a result and could have been much stronger with less pretense that it's a mystery.

I've see a lot of criticisms that the reveals were disappointing because they were too predictable, and I think that's exactly wrong. If anything, the show should have been more predictable. The last episode was probably the strongest in the season, I think the show would have been better if they had given that more time (both screen time and in-world time) rather most everything else that happened between episodes 2-7 with the characters involved in the forging.

I think it is pretty wild that Galadriel found out who Sauron is and didn't tell anyone.

For me, this worked because they did a good enough job with the portrayal of the psychic warfare segment that I could buy whatever irrational decisions happened after. (It was also very funny after all the discourse about how Galadriel was portrayed as too perfect and never doing anything wrong!)


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Anyway, I said I'd have nitpicks after the season was over, and I was right.
What it comes down to is imagery versus dialogue.

The script was simplified for mass audiences (as is the manner of mass-market television), but the imagery was complex and symbolic. They had an unlimited amount of money and nobody to tell them to tone it down, so they went hard as fuck in the visuals department. Because of that, and because it's easy to change dialogue but hard to change animation and costuming, it wasn't uncommon for there to be minor discontinuities between what's spoken and what's shown.

It was as though the script was scrambling to provide a simplified, digestible explanation for pictures that were meant to be reflective of a very emotionally complex story. Any time they diverged, audiences who focused on what they were hearing got the worse version of the show, and audiences who focused on what they were seeing got the better version. But really, the problem is that the visual and the verbal weren't in agreement in the first place. I think that there were unforced errors here.

This is unusual for fantasy and sci-fi television, where they have tremendous imagination to write their ideas and no money to photograph it. Usually it's pithy and passionate dialog that's trying to cover for a deficient, compromised, or absent-because-infeasible image, not the other way around. So I think that a lot of the divisive opinions expressed about this show are reflective of different expectations of the medium itself.

Anyway, Robert Aramayo made a better Elrond than Hugo Weaving and I'm looking forward to season 2.
I am the simple masses for which you speak Bongo and I thought the show worked on pretty much all levels, but that's just me haha.

I'm not a big fan of overly verbose prose and don't read a lot of literature. But the kinds of writing I am deeply intertwined with and have much practice reading is nonfiction where there is dignity, elegance, and unrivaled honor in conveying complicated ideas in as simple a form as possible. (Ironic when I'm fucking awful at it lol.) I've read more than a few opinions on the internet that the simple scripts/dialog of this show was a failing and a pale imitation of Tolkien's books, but I thought it mostly worked at getting what it wanted said, and conveying what it wanted to through a combination of visuals and precise dialog.

Anyways, great show. Great time. Would highly recommend. I really hope they make more. The only flaw in the finale was needed more dwarves


Article does say it’s been shooting since October, only has 19 days of shooting left, and they planned their activities around the potential of a strike. I’d say they’re good.