Hopefully, you have already watched the first episodes of Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. If you haven’t, bookmark this article and go watch The Rings of Power. Need help deciphering things? Our guide breaks down what you need to know before you watch.
There are spoilers ahead, so I do not want to accidentally ruin the experience for you.
Assuming you have watched the first two episodes, you may have noticed that there are some differences between the source material Tolkien wrote and the story you’re seeing unfold on your TV. Or maybe you are not a huge Tolkien fan, and you have no idea what I'm talking about. The camp you fall into may have a serious impact on what you think of Prime Video's The Rings of Power.
For those new to Middle-earth, or even those that only watched the Peter Jackson movies, The Rings of Power could actually be pretty enjoyable. The show looks visually great despite some mixed reviews for the first trailer (opens in new tab), the story is intriguing and there are some enjoyable characters. There are also some characters that fall flat, and you may find yourself questioning the need for some storylines, but at its core, The Rings of Power is an enjoyable fantasy epic that can go at least a couple of rounds with House of the Dragon.
Unless you are a Tolkien fan. If you are a Tolkien fan, you may find yourself constantly reaching for your dog-eared copy of The Silmarillion or The Unfinished Tales wondering where Amazon pulled out some of these storylines. Well, I have news for you: you’re not crazy. But, in the interests of preventing any accidental spoilers for those who have read this far and still haven’t watched, I am going to hold off getting into that for just a moment longer.
So without further ado, here are the big problems that I, as a Tolkien fan, have with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power through the first two episodes.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Spoilers for the first two episodes of Prime Video's Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power beyond this point.
Problem #1: Amazon had to make up a lot of their story
So this is the elephant in the room for a lot of hardcore Tolkien fans, Technically, Amazon had to make all of the stories up for The Rings of Power, because they do not actually have the rights to the existing content for when the story takes place.
The Rings of Power mostly takes place in the Second Age. This age starts after the war between the Valar and Morgoth and then ends with the defeat of Sauron by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. For those who have watched Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, that moment is depicted in the opening battle scene of that movie.
The problem for Amazon is that they do not have the rights to much of the story that Tolkien wrote for the Second Age. They only have access to the Lord of the Rings books and appendices, The Hobbit and all six Peter Jackson movies. That’s it — no Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales. Therefore, Amazon had to create a — largely — original story that only uses the material they have access to, which is why the story in The Rings of Power probably feels unfamiliar to a lot of Tolkien fans.
For the record, this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you had to stick to only established content, you’d eventually run out of storylines. But the key is to make sure the new stories fit with the existing canon so they do not feel out of place. Unfortunately, Amazon fails at that in a big way, which brings us to the biggest problem.
Problem #2: Galadriel
Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Galadriel is one of my favorite things from the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings trilogy. She nails the essence of the character: regal, powerful, not always the face of the elves in Middle-earth but always respected if not outright feared.
This is why it is borderline painful how Amazon uses and portrays the character. At times, Galadriel comes off as a petulant teenager that rebels against her metaphorical “parent” Gil-galad, the High King of the Elves.
And this is an odd choice given that Galadriel is canonically Gil-galad’s great aunt. At the time of The Rings of Power, Galadriel would be ruling a fiefdom under Gil-galad’s overlordship rather than merely serving as one of his lieutenants as she is portrayed in the first two episodes. While still not Gil-galad’s equal, she would demand a certain level of respect that her character is not shown.
Unfortunately, that is not the only place where Galadriel’s character is tampered with to ill effect. Her relationship with Elrond is weird, almost romantic at times, though I am willing to give Amazon the benefit of the doubt that they are portraying them as simply very close friends.
It would be odd for Elrond and Galadriel to have any romantic tensions for a multitude of reasons, least of all being that Galadriel is already married. Yes, I’m skipping over the fact that she also later becomes Elrond’s mother-in-law.
Not that you would know any of that from watching The Rings of Power. The show shockingly leaves out the existence of Galadriel’s partner, which is very intentional. After all, how could Galadriel leave for the Undying Lands in episode one if she would have to leave her husband of several centuries to do so? Having Galadriel choose to go to the Undying Lands is also completely counter to the existing canon and feels like a choice that the character would not make given she was the only Noldor exile to not return at the end of the first age, despite having the option.
For the record, I really like how Morfydd Clark handles the role. I would definitely watch her lead this show as Galadriel. I just don’t know how much more I can handle of this version that is so far from the truth.
Outlook: I could go on — but I hope The Rings of Power gets better
Those aren't the only times The Rings of Power stays ambiguous to hide plot holes. The show portrays Galadriel’s brother Finrod in the first episode, though does not name him until the credits.
Finrod is shown as being killed and marked by Sauron in the Second Age after Sauron replaces Morgoth as the greatest evil in the world. Which canonically is impossible, given that Finrod died in the First Age 465, over 100 years before the fall of Morgoth.
Look, I could go on. The Rings of Power isn't exactly staying true to what some of us know. And that's not exactly making it an easy watch. I am going to continue watching for what works. The visuals are great and the characters, despite their serious flaws, are compelling to watch, particularly the elves of Lindon and Eregion.
But I'm wary that the rest of The Rings of Power will continue to suffer from these same issues, and I’ll be watching with a suspicious eye for changes that read as false.