The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: September 2, 2022
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A dizzying first entry into the new season, “A Shadow of the Past” introduces us to some key characters we will be following and sketching out the backstory. There is action and exposition in good measure. 

This recap of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1, episode 1, “Shadow of the Past,” contains spoilers.

ACCESS: the archive of recaps, news and reviews for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

The much-awaited season premiere has arrived. “Shadow of the Past” introduces us to the main cast of characters, the world they inhabit, and hints at the perils they face ahead.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

The opening scene features a young Galadriel making a paper boat, that is capable of sailing down the river (much like a real ship would do), but sees it destroyed by the young boy playing by the river bank. Her older brother pulls her to one side to console her and tells her an important lesson. Poetically he explains the power and importance of always following the light. 

Galadriel narrates the voiceover that explains how, when the tyrant Morgoth tried to destroy the home of the elves, they resisted and went to war, with devastating consequences. Leaving their homes to wage war on Middle Earth, the Elves clashed violently and suffered many losses. The war would leave Middle Earth in ruins and the effects would last for centuries. Now an adult, Galadriel tells us how emboldened from the war, the Orcs grew in power and fell under the influence of Sauron. Determined to face Sauron, Galadriel’s brother vows to face the evil but ultimately loses his life in the quest. In death, his body bears a scar that appears with a strange symbol that no one seems to understand. Galadriel tells us that she claimed her Brother’s quest as her own and vowed to fight Sauron, hunting him to the ends of the earth for years and, eventually, centuries. Over time, many Elves come to believe that the threat that Sauron poses has passed, Galadriel is not one of them. 

A group of elves are scaling a frost-covered mountain under the command of Galadriel. One of her soldiers beseeches her to call off the search, but she refuses, onward they press into the night. It seems as though, at last, they have found the mythical Mount Doom, home of the legendary Sauron and the orcs, a place that is so devoid of warmth that even the Elves’ torches give off no heat. 

Exploring the cave, they come across the bodies of long-dead Orcs. Sensing some supernatural power, Galadriel discovers the mark of Sauron in the cave. She resolves to follow the mark forwards to continue the hunt, this is a sign that they are on the right track. 

Our band of Elves must face a Snow Troll in the caves; this is one big ugly beast and it handily takes out two or three Elves before Galadriel steps in and fells it with her sword. However, having suffered casualties, Galadriel faces mutiny from her loyal soldiers, they refuse to press on with her. She is now alone. 

We find ourselves in a hustling and bustling Hobbit village. A couple of passing travelers make their way through, which as you know, suggests a bad omen. A group of young hobbits is up to mischief, picking berries from the trees and having fun. They discover the footprint of a large animal, a wolf. It’s time for the hobbit children to get back and quickly. Young Nori is catching up on the gossip in the village and learns about the travelers. She has the wanderlust of other Hobbits we know and love, and she yearns to see the world beyond the shire, despite the warnings of her family.

Sadoc is consulting his book of omens when Nori pops up and learns that something is happening, something she doesn’t understand yet. The skies are strange. 

A young Elrond is whiling away the time, in Lindon, the capital of the high elves, writing his diary when he is informed that Galadriel has arrived to see him. They are warmly reunited and Galadriel reports her discoveries to Elrond. She is keen to get back and wishes to speak to the King, Elrond informs her that she is on thin ice with the king, and she has defied his orders too many times. Unmoved, Galadriel still wishes to have her audience with the King. 

The King is performing a ceremony, distributing honors to his loyal heroes, Galadriel among them. His speech declares peace, to Galadriel’s immense sadness, and what’s more, the King is to grant the warrior Elves passage to Valinor, the home of the Elves, presumably to make sure that Galadriel cannot continue to defy the king and pursue her vowed quest. Uncowed, Galadriel confides in Elrond her intention to fight on, regardless of the King’s wishes. In a high point of writing, Elrond persuades her to surrender her quest and take up the King’s call to return to Valinor. 

A mysterious figure, we learn is an Elf called Arondir, walks into a tavern where he catches up on some local gossip. One of the locals rears up at the Elf and for a moment it looks like trouble. 

Upon leaving the tavern, Arondir speaks to a woman, Bronwyn, who hands him a small bottle full of the petals of a rare flower with healing properties. After exchanging a few lingering words, they part, with Arondir on with his journey. He regroups with a fellow Elven soldier who attempt to warn him about his fraternizing with human women. They receive a dispatch that informs them that the war is over and it is time to go home and leave Middle Earth at last. 

Arondir has mixed feelings about the news. The Watch Warden attempts to console him but leaves him with a warning about the flaws of Men. Nevertheless, Arondir makes his way back to Bronwyn to bid her a personal goodbye. They are disturbed by a man with a sick cow. On inspection, Arondir finds that the Cow has a strange liquid coming from her udders, instead of milk. She had been grazing towards the East, has eaten something perhaps. Arondir and Bronwyn set off together to find out what it is that has caused the sickness. The village they are heading for has been burned down. There is much danger brewing. 

Left unattended, Bronwyn’s son and his friend break into a barn where they have stashed what appears to be the handle for an Orcish sword. In his hands, the sword calls to the boy, and the sign of Sauron flashes. 

Back in Lindon, the King and Elrond are discussing Galadriel. They agree that the danger has not passed, but that as hard as it was, it was necessary to remove her from Middle Earth, her search was likely to, in fact, provoke danger, rather than quell it. The King also has news for Elrond, he is to have a new assignment. 

On the ship to Valinor, the warrior Elves are stripped of their armor and weapons, and Galadriel grudgingly gives them up. As they get closer to home, music swells, and the Elves all experience a profound sense of contentment and well-being. The skies part and their home is at last revealed. Galadriel backs away and, instead of accepting her return home, chooses to stay in Middle Earth. 

The ending

Back in middle earth, a meteor streaks across the sky, passing over the heads of the King and Elrond, Arondier and Bronwyn, and finally, Nori, landing not far from the shire. 

A leaf falls to the ground, in front of the King. He picks it up gently as it turns black and crumbles into ash in his hands. 

Nori goes to explore the landing site of the meteor, and sees in the middle of the crater, not a meteor but a naked man. 

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

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