The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 review – a stunning return to Middle Earth

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: August 31, 2022 (Last updated: January 24, 2023)
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Tolkien fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a remarkable achievement. It pays homage to and builds on the source material while creating its own distinctive identity. Brilliant television.

This review of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 does not contain spoilers.

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It’s the summer of big-budget fantasy prequels. Just a couple of weeks after HBO debuted their much-hyped Game of Thrones epic comes Prime Video’s equally ambitious, and dare I say riskier, entry into the Lord of the Rings canon.

The Prime Video-produced, 8-part series is expected to be the most expensive TV show in history, with a reported $1bn spent on its production. For that sort of investment and with a property that for many is a keystone text of the fantasy genre, meeting expectations was always going to be a tall order. I am delighted to report that they have, somehow, delivered. 

The story introduces us to the heroes of the Second Age, which includes several familiar, elven, and evil faces and a host of new characters to get to know. Set before the events of The Hobbit and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, in a time of relative peace, evil is stirring once again across Middle Earth, and to repel a legendary villain, an unlikely group must form and fight together. 

One of the most common challenges when approaching a prequel is adding depth to a rich and seemingly already fully realized world without undermining or indeed taking away from the original. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power succeeds in being its own thing, whilst adding to the depth of the existing canon. 

Even on the occasions where we are meeting characters for the first time, the familiarity we already have with this world, and the complete comfort with which they seem to inhabit it immediately sets the viewer at ease, knowing that this all belongs, this makes sense and is adding to the existing lore. The show is heavy on story and light on fan service, which is exactly what a story like this deserves. Take note, Disney.  

The dialogue, in particular, seems to run like honey and, in the moments where characters are permitted to have an extended exchange, it feels as though the words are flowing directly from Tolkein’s pen. 

As you might expect, given the budget and talent involved, this looks magnificent, with Middle Earth seemingly bursting to life on screen. Each of the locations has a distinctive personality and the characters that reside in each inhabit them convincingly. You understand why the Elves are the way they are when we see how stunningly released Valinor is for example, and this is contrasted when we meet the grimy humans, living in a run-down village in Middle Earth. 

The performances are well judged. Robert Aranmayo’s young Elrond references Hugo Heaving without being an impression of him. It is Morfydd Clark as Galadriel however, that jumps off the screen. She brings a thinly repressed sense of rage masquerading as heroism to the character and makes the Elven warrior easily the most compelling presence on screen. 

If I had any grumbles it would be simply that watching something of this ambition and scale that is so well executed would ideally be done with others, on the largest screen you can find and with the best sound system available. That being said, if you have to watch something on your TV, you’ll struggle to do much better than this. 

What did you think of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1? Comment below.

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