Life & Culture

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV review: Hamishe dwarves …but what’s it all about?

Amazon's blockbuster production is as close as television gets to the cinematic but after two episodes, for all the superb special effects, acting, music and costumes, we are left wondering where this journey is taking us


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Amazon Prime | ★★★★✩

I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people” was JRR Tolkien’s heroic response to a German publisher’s antisemitic inquiries in 1938.

And so, nearly eight decades later, I’m going to repay the favour by automatically giving Rings of Power, based on the appendices of his Lord of the Rings books, …five stars! Wait, you want me to judge it on its own merit?

I know the books are supposedly masterpieces, but I’ve never been able to make it more than a few pages in, and while I have watched all the movies, including the Hobbit stuff, all they’ve ever left me with is an appreciation for impressive beards, and wonder that 20 hours of my life is gone.

For whatever reason, even as a fantasy fan, the whole Middle-earth mythology has just never really done it for me.

What if I tell you Tolkien also made his dwarves a stand-in for the Jewish people? Utilising his linguist background to model their language on Hebrew and inverting the negative stereotypes of Wagner’s dwarves? Come on, he portrayed us as a noble people forced into exile who sing songs about our homeland…five stars! Hang on, I suppose I’d better watch it. See you in a sec.

Right, I’m back. And now I’ve watched the first two episodes set thousands of years before Frodo et al, it’s exactly what I feared: I’m probably going to end up losing a further 40 hours in the name of spectacle.

Which, with Amazon’s eventual investment over five series expected to exceed a billion dollars, I’m sure they’ll be mighty relieved to hear.

They’ve already spent half a billion, twice BBC2’s annual budget, and it’s that every nickel’s up there on the small screen that keeps you watching. Special effects, acting, music, costumes ­— everything is well-crafted, everything classy, everything done to perfection.

Even though the few action sequences are a bit wonky, this is as close as television gets to the cinematic. What I’m not particularly sure is what the whole thing’s about.

You’ve got some elves tracking down evil, some hobbit-like harfoots who like blackberries and find a comet/nude guy, some elf/human forbidden love, and a cow that produces black ooze.

For anyone who did read all the book bumf I’m sure this all makes total sense.

Of course, things do start to come together when we, aka the dwarves, turn up to the party near the end of the second episode.

Perhaps that’s why Amazon have a 72-hour window in place before putting up audience reviews: they don’t want people quitting too soon?

More likely, the sadder truth is it’s to deter review bombing from those fans upset by the ethnically diverse casting.

But whereas other recent fantasy shows have made hamfisted efforts in the drive for diversity, The Rings of Power has really nailed how to do it successfully, without jarring you out of the world-building as a bunch of excellent actors just get on with nailing their roles.

With the journey now begun, I might as well see where it goes.

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