The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is fantasy on a scale never truly seen before on TV. Comparisons to HBO’s Game of Thrones, or Netflix’s Stranger Things are superfluous and unnecessary, because if we’re being honest, The Lord of the Things: The Rings of Power isn’t even operating on the same level. It’s created an entirely new one, and it stands alone in it, revealing the possibilities it has inaugurated.
But the scale and the budget that allows the show to be all it can be aren’t the thing that sets The Rings of Power apart. Instead, the show distinguishes itself via the strength of the world as created by Tolkien. The Rings of Powers draws you in with varied, beautiful locations and different kinds of people, but keeps you interested with the strengths of the connections between them – and the ones you form with the characters.
Sure, we’ve met some of these characters before. Galadriel, Elrond, even Sauron, are familiar names to Lord of the Rings enthusiasts and casual fans alike. But knowing the names, knowing where their stories end, doesn’t mean there isn’t enough going on in The Rings of Power to hold our attention. In fact, filling in the blanks of their lives will probably be one of the biggest joys in a series that doesn’t actually rely on the familiar names to shine.
Not that the action-hero Galadriel doesn’t get to both make us cheer and cry, because she absolutely does. But as much as this is her story, The Rings of Power also allows new faces, new romances, and yes, new dynamics to enchant us. From the friendship between Elrond and Durin, to Disa’s general existence, to Nori and Poppy’s exuberance, to Arondir’s swagger, there’s something to be celebrated about a world that is just what Tolkien described, and in many ways, also what the source material should have always been.
The Rings of Power goes out of its way to make the fabric of Middle Earth inherently more diverse than it’s ever been in a way that feels entirely natural. This is fantasy, and if we can believe in orcs, and in one mysterious ring that, somehow, controls a bunch of other mysterious rings (and therefore basically all of Middle Earth), then we should easily believe POC have a place in this world. If that’s a stretch, the show has no time for handholding. It has got a story to tell.
And though not much can be said yet about what the story is or even what it will end up being given time to grow, one thing is for certain: If it could make someone like me, a casual fan, emotional, it’s probably going to make hardcore Tolkien fans weep in a good way.
Middle Earth was always a beautiful place, filled with wonder and adventure, and how that manifests might be different for everyone, but the messages are always the same. How do we escape death? Can we? Just as Sauron plots, Tolkien has, ironically, provided us with an answer. Legacy is the only thing that can guarantee immortality, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a worthy addition to J.R.R. Tolkien’s already impressive one. Now all that’s left is for us to enjoy it.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres on Prime Video with the first two episodes on Friday, September 2. New episodes will then be released weekly on Fridays, starting September 9.