By Janie Walenda
One of the most common complaints about this show is that it’s boring. While there is truth in these complaints, “Rings of Power” impressed me the most in its willingness to take its time. Not every storyline needs to be featured every week; we don’t need to rush to introduce every character. I hope that this is a sign of a show that knows exactly where it’s going and how it’s getting there.
This week’s episode “The Great Wave” might be the strongest so far; it certainly featured the strongest storylines. My favorite was the return to the Dwarven mines and Elrond, Durin, and Disa. Robert Aramayo’s Elrond is my favorite character so far. His warmth and care for his friends remind me of the best of Tolkien’s protagonists. His conversation with Durin about his father was a fantastic moment of connection to the Silmarilion and a beautifully poignant moment between friends.
Durin and Disa, and everything about the Dwarves, remain the highlights of the show. Disa’s song to the rocks, which her actress Sophia Nomvete helped to write, was stunning. While this plot line might not have felt important in the overarching story, it delivered some of the best moments of dialogue and character building in the show. And while Celebrimor has done very little so far, his conversation with Elrond reminded me how excited I am to see this storyline progress.
My other favorite character in the show is Arondir, who continues to have the coolest action scenes in the show. The reveal of Adar and his conversation with Arondir initially seemed a little anticlimactic for something that got so much buildup last week. However, Adar’s look is extremely cool, and after hearing about his possible connection to the Elves, I’m excited to see him pop up again.
While I’m excited to see how the story in the Southlands will play out, neither Bronwyn nor Theo has really won me over as characters. I’m still invested in their stories, but I’m never excited to see them on my screen. I’m fascinated that the show seems to switch genres every time we visit the Southlands and embraces the horror genre. Theo’s one-shot of sneaking through the Orc-infested villages was incredibly well done. It was even more fun since the actor playing the Orc who caught him, Jed Brophy has been in every live-action Tolkien project except “Return of the King.”
Perhaps the most breathtaking moment of this week’s episode was Arondir and Theo’s flight from the Orcs. From the heartbreaking parallels to Boromir’s death in “Fellowship of the Ring” to the salvation of the sunrise, it was a gorgeously shot moment that had me on the edge of my seat. While I am glad that all our protagonists made it out, the fact that I was so convinced one of them would die has led me to wonder if “Rings of Power” will be willing to go that far.
“Fellowship of the Rings” does an excellent job of raising the stakes by killing off two main characters, and that elevation of stakes serves the story well, even when Gandalf comes back. Even with the heightened violence, “Rings of Power” has played it safe so far when it comes to the well-being of our protagonists, and this was the first episode in which I felt like any of them were in danger.
Finally, after the Númenor’s introduction last week, we got a glimpse into the city’s mindset and the perilous tightrope the Queen Consort is walking. Her story, knowing that her city is on the path toward destruction but knowing that her citizens would never accept the path to salvation, was compelling, especially thanks to Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s grounded performance.
I also loved the look at Isildur’s character in this episode. His actions show clearly the character traits that will eventually lead to his fateful decision to keep the Ring, and I can’t wait to see both his rise to power and fall to the Ring.
One of the greatest delights of this show so far has been talking about it with my brother every week. For the year leading up to this show, I got to hear every detail about how disappointing this show would be. But now that the show has started, I get to hear him talk about how much he loves the way “Rings of Power” portrays the Dwarves and the Orcs and how happy the reference to Elrond’s father made him. And along the way, I’ve also learned quite a lot about the likely future of the show. And for the most part, it’s made me more excited. I can clearly see the direction the show is taking, and I like that story.
But it also made me nervous because the last time I spent this much time on a show, theorizing and anticipating who might show up next week, was “Wandavision.” And while “Wandavision” remains one of the best Disney+ shows, its ending got crushed by the expectations of the fanbase. And as exciting as all the theories are surrounding Sauron, Halbrand, the Stranger, Adar, Númenor, Celebrimbor, and so on, it reminds me of the time when we thought Mephisto would be the villain or Magneto would show up.
My main concern for “Rings of Power” right now is that it will spend the entire first season setting up its subsequent seasons, and therefore making the first season an unsatisfying watch. However, given how much I’ve enjoyed the show so far, I am very hopeful that the remainder of this season, and the ones to follow, will be a gratifying journey.
“Rings of Power is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video”
Janie Walenda is a sophomore Global Business major and the A&E editor for Cedars. She is passionate about musicals, animation, and cold brew.
Images courtesy of Prime Video