The Grumpy Gnome’s First Impressions of Amazon’s “Rings of Power”… Spoiler Free!

Mrs. GG and I watched the first two episodes this morning. I think I liked them more than she did but we both very much enjoyed them and were left wanting more. 

Were they perfect? No. But considerably better than I was expecting. Far better than the trailers led me to believe it would be. 

The writing was tight. The casting better than I expected. It is more subtle in its political tones than Game of Thrones but it has hints of a sharper edge of politics than Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Ambition, arrogance and bigotry look to be core plot points but not quite as exaggerated as in GoT nor as subdued as in Jackson’s LOTR. Quite the balancing act.

I am finding myself liking most of the characters more than I expected. There were a couple of plot points that I found annoying and the decision to compress so much history into such a short time is frustrating but they are doing a much better job of making “cliff notes” or “short hand” of Tolkien Middle Earth history than I expected. 

The cinematography, costuming, set dressing, camera work and fight choreography has been great. The world building demonstrated to an amazing level. The pacing and characterizations good. The music and sound effects were excellent.

We are only two hours in what we expect to be an eight hour journey but it has been off to a surprisingly brilliant start.

Grumpy Gnome Thumbs Up!

But what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!

EDIT: Discussion with spoilers can be found on this thread on Dakka Dakka…

https://www.dakkadakka.com/dakkaforum/posts/list/90/806050.page

35 comments

  1. You’ve beaten me to it but I hope to watch an episode or two this weekend and see what I think of it. I’ll report back here or on my site when I get around to it!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I finished the second episode today and I agree with your assessment, the show is better than expected thus far and I think it is more original while still feeling true to the source material than I expected too. A lot can change over the course of a season and I’ve been high on other shows like Marvel or Star Wars only to walk away feeling like it was just alright but I’m invested in the show now and really want to see it succeed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Invested in the show and really wan to see it succeed” is an excellent way of putting it and I feel the same. The show manages to successful suspend my disbelief, no easy feat that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The wife and I watched both episodes this past evening, it was better than I expected from an Amazon Prime series. I have to say I agree with 90% of your feeling GG, we my differ on pacing. Tolkien can be a difficult read because he put so much world building into his works and I think both this series and Jackson’s LotR movies are and did do aa good job of waling the line on that subject.
    One of my main problems with the Middle Earth movie making is how the portray the Dwarves. I think “The Hobbit” did a better job with that race, but the story telling was terrible. I guess I’m just looking for a complete series, one that doesn’t feel like the MCU or Star Wars serial writing/story-telling.
    Anyway, we’ll see where this goes or if it ends up like a live action version of “The Simarillian”. Off to find my copy of “Leaf by Niggle”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think I agree to a certain extent on the Dwarves but I think that depends on how much more we get of Dwarven culture being explored. (Edit: I did not like the camera work during the rock breaking contest as it further exaggerated a sense of boorishness from the Dwarves).

      The Hobbit movies were in my opinion terrible except for a few of specific scenes… one of them being the Dwarves singing in Bilbo’s house. My expectations were as high from the first of the Hobbit movies as they were again following the first season of Game of Thrones… both of which match my current expectations for Rings of Power. Now I just hope I am not as disappointed as I ended up being by the overall Hobbit and Game of Thrones shows.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Like you I was disappointed in The Hobbit, it should have been 2 movies at best and I think Jackson should have read the story – I left the movie theater after the second movie trying to understand where any of the story came from!
        Whaat I did like about The Hobbit movie was how the Dwarves where portrayed as agile and stout fighters, that’s how I see them in my mind, not a bunch of fat bumbling squats.
        I can’t compare this series with GoT, I never clicked with the books and the TV Series just felt as much of aa slog as trying to read the first 1/4 of the first book. I’m glad so many found it enjoyable, but Martin’s writing style is just not for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mrs. GG would tend to agree with you on the physical portrayal of the Dwarves. I was a bit surprised myself how Amazon chose to go but I think the positive public response to Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones may have had something to do with it. That and in general their choice to go with practical “creature” effects rather than CGI… which I am certainly glad about when it comes to the Orcs. However I would add, I got more of the short but stout and not bumbling squats once Prince Durin took off his overcoat and got into the rock breaking contest.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. Durin was a giant amongst his fellow Dwarves, but most of the others were pretty portly. And yes, yes, yes to less CGI or at least use it to complement the actor not do the work!

        Liked by 1 person

    • As for the pacing… I was thinking of this bit from the wiki…

      The biggest deviation made from Tolkien’s works, which was approved by the estate and lore experts, was to condense the Second Age from thousands of years to a short period of time. This avoided human characters frequently dying due to their relatively short lifespans, and allowed major characters from later in the timeline to be introduced earlier in the series.[2] The showrunners considered using non-linear storytelling instead, but felt this would prevent the audience from emotionally investing in the series. They said many real-life historical dramas also condense events like this, and felt they were still respecting the “spirit and feeling” of Tolkien’s writings.[57]

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lord_of_the_Rings:_The_Rings_of_Power

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, if you see that as dead time rather than wonderful world building time to joyously immerse yourself in then I can see how that would be a problem.

        Like

  3. Well, I’ve now watched both episodes and think it’s good so far! 🙂 A few strands to the story unravelling! Been so long since I either read Lord of The Rings or watched any of the movies that I’m a bit out of touch with the lore, but I’ll definitely keep watching!

    Liked by 2 people

    • The show has the potential to get better as the actors really find their feet with their characters or to get worse by having increasingly bigger plot holes and/or canon cracking scenes. I am at this stage optimistic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not a diehard LotR fan, so I was able to enjoy it quite a bit. Im sure there are people who have a lot of issues with it, but that’s not me. I read the main 4 books when I was younger, but so long ago now that I don’t remember everything. I like how the characters have changed a bit, being younger versions of themselves. The bit about the Elves traveling from their land (Valenor?) to Middle Earth was interesting. I always pictured their land as essentially Heaven where they go to die, but now it makes more sense to me. Cinematography, story, music, and costumes were all aces in my book!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Far better than the trailers led me to believe it would be.” I agree, the trailers just seemed to fuel the trolls more than promote the show. Just watched with it my wife and she is agreeing to watch the rest so that says something 😁 Several minor things bothered me but overall I enjoyed it. Glad I was able to put the app on my TV to enjoy the picture and sound the way it should be considering the money Amazon put into it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is rather mind numbing to try to conceive just how expensive it has been. But between the visuals, the writing and the acting I was fully immersed, completely losing track of time while watching it. That is something wonderful to me. So few fantasy or sci-fi shows so thoroughly suspend my sense of disbelief.

      And it is fun for me to read when other people also enjoyed it. It makes me a bit sad when I read other folks being so angry and disappointed by it or who have find it boringly slow.

      To me and Mrs. GG it has the pacing of the world building character and setting exposition of the first of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies….which we really liked more than the later action for action’s sake scenes in the latter parts of those movies (ie many of the Legolas combat scenes, the combat scenes with the Army of the Dead, all of the Goblin Town scenes, and the barrel riding scene).

      At the same time we hope that they do not cut out or change to much. Jackson leaving out Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings was a mistake in our opinion for example.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree that the whole thing looks fantastic, the flocks of birds flying around the elven ship heading toward Valinor was my favourite visual. I like the Harfoots, the Gandalf moment was the best scene, well directed and hinting of great power.
    Dislikes…pretty much everything else. The silly dialogue, particularly the Galadriel scouting party bit.
    Was her brother Finrod? If so they missed a great opportunity as he was supposed to die in a bizarre karaoke sing off with Sauron.
    The Orc was plain daft,a man in a rubber mask,again, the tunneling did not make any sense, that scene was particularly bad and lacked any real suspense. It was soooo predictable.
    The Durin/Elrond business was really silly too.
    It seems to be pitched at the ten to thirteen year old audience, my nephew’s will love it.
    I think if you watch it without thinking Tolkien has any relevance to it then it’s ok.
    I will probably watch the next episode, maybe have it on while I am painting, who knows it might improve.

    Like

    • Hey Mike, great to see you posting on here. As always I like to hear your thoughts. I respectfully disagree with a number of your points but friends do not need to always agree.

      The dialogue is stilted and awkward at times but it does generally avoid contemporary slang at least. It seems on par to me as Jackson’s LOTR at the very least.

      I am not sure that the Stranger is Gandalf but he could be. The showrunners seem to want to put some mystery into a show many folks will think they already know all the background because of the extended Tolkien lore. It may be a bad idea, I am undecided. I thought it was Gandalf but now I am not so sure.

      The Orc in episode 2 was pretty good in my opinion. Certainly better than Jackson’s CGI Orcs in the Hobbit. And the Orcs get even better in episode 3 with some interesting characterization that may not be as good as pure written Tolkien was at least on par with Shagrat and Gorbag in Jackson’s LOTR.

      The tunneling makes more sense once there is some plot revelations in episode 3.

      I did not find the Durin/Elrond sense silly. I was not all that keen on the camerawork that exaggerated the boisterous Dwarves to the point of boorishness. But I liked the challenge, it struck me as an appropriate bit of Dwarven culture. And the fallout between Durin and Elrond rang a note of authenticity with me given exchanges I have had with long lost friends over the years.

      The writing did not seem pitched to young teens to me. As I said before it was awkward at times and some of the cinematography felt like the showrunners were indulging an enthusiastic film school student (Galadriel’s horse ride comes to mind as well as the Dwarves in the challenge scene). I went on at length on DakkaDakka about how poorly I felt Galadriel and her scouting part scenes were done and how to improve them. However, I am willing to give a show a few missteps as it tries to find its feet.

      I do not see this show undermining Tolkien. Quite the opposite. It does not always rise up to the challenge but it comes across to me as genuinely trying.

      Can you cite an example of how the show contradicts Tolkien?

      Like

      • Hi Rick, I do enjoy reading your blog! So does it contradict Tolkien? That is a really clever question. No, it doesn’t, not as such, I would say rather that it ignores him. Apart from the names there is little relation between Rings of Power and anything write by the prof. As I understand things, Amazon only have the rights to the Appendices from Lord of the Rings, not to the Silmarillion or Unpublished Tales, so they have to pretty much invent any story lines and character profiles.
        I don’t think I suggested that RoP undermines Tolkien, I am not precious about the Profs works nor do I claim to be an authority, I have no problem with a new spin on things. The gaps in Tolkien’s world are begging to be filled, that’s what we gamers and role plyers do with most of our Middle Earth games.
        My issues are that it has not been done well, at least so far, and if we disagree with each other here then I guess that is a matter of taste. Yes, it looks fantastic but so far, every scene is predictable, somewhat corny and feels like it has been done a million times before. It’s almost a cliché of a cliché. Anymore so and it would be satire. How I should love to see Tolkien done by Terry Gilliam or Del Toro or anyone with a slightly original, interesting take on the genre.
        You mention the PJ films, I really liked the LotR trilogy although I deplored the small but significant plot changes, Frodo siding with Gollum against Sam revealed an ignorance of the core principles of the story. The Hobbit films were an abomination, with the exception of the Dwarven singing and plate washing scenes, what Jackson should have done there is to have given the orcs Uzis and mount them on quad bikes and cast Dwaine the Rock Johnson or Vin Diesel as Bilbo it would have been a better film and no further away from the plot of the dear little book that we all recall so fondly from our childhood.
        Back to RoP. Details are a problem. The Orc. My issue with using a human to dress up as an Orc, whether it’s in a Jackson film or in RoP, is that they are patently obviously Human. No Crooked legs, no long arms, reaching almost to the ground, ALWAYS too big! What Tolkien describes resembles more an ape than a man and the heads of the tallest of them should barely reach the average man’s shoulder.
        The Elrond/Durin thing would have benefitted from the injection of a little humour and I think that’s another issue overall that everyone seem to take everything so seriously which results in rather stilted speech and somewhat wooden performances.
        What’s with the Irish accents for Harfoots and Scottish for Dwarves? Will the Orcs have Welsh accents? It’s a not a problem for me, I just don’t understand the reasoning
        Well, they have five series to try and please me so I am now sitting down to episode three to see if they can!

        Liked by 1 person

      • You make some fine points. We both disliked Jackson’s Hobbit but enjoyed Jackson’s LOTR and we agree Jackson deviated from as well as omitted some of Tolkien’s work. That I can enjoy Rings of Power and the LOTR movies while disliking the Jackson Hobbit movies (I liked the Rankin Bass animated version) tells me it is not simply changes/omissions in general that bother me but the specific changes/omissions.

        I agree that Orcs would be better as described by Tolkien and you but I am more satisfied with prosthetics at this point because Jackson’s CGI Orcs were disappointing.

        While I love much of the work of Gilliam and Del Toro I do not think their work is on target and I still wonder how much of the problems with Jackson’s Hobbit were inherited from Del Toro.

        An attempt to recreate an old classic may come across as a cliche. I have read one person describing the Elves in Rings of Power as copies of Vulcans. Sigh.

        Mrs. GG and I have enjoyed the more subtle humor of RoP over the comedy of Jackson’s Hobbit. Again, a matter of individual preferences I suppose.

        It’s funny you mentioned the Welsh accent. Despite being of Welsh heritage and living in North Wales for over 10 years I can only speak a few words of Cymraig and I just can not seem to do either a North or South Wales accent. Which is frustrating as I wanted to do a Welsh accent for a LARP character. I can do a passing generic Irish accent according to Irish mates of mine. My attempts at a generic Scottish accent are better than my Welsh but still quite poor.

        As for the accents in RoP, I suppose it is to help immerse viewers in cultural differences between the races. To many American viewers English, Irish and Scottish accents evoke a sense of a “Ye Olde Medieval Worlde”. It is like a form of costuming. To many American ears an Irish accent sounds folksy, homey and rustic with a touch of internet good natured humor, while an Oxford English accent comes as educated, civilized, powerful. At the same time a Cockney English accent as brutish, cruel, ignorant… hence for the Orcs. It is not fair to some of my London mates. And of course Scottish accents to many Americans come across as fiercely independent, belligerent, industrious and again a bit less civilized compared to those fancy Oxford type Elves. It is stereotyping n my opinion. Prejudices used to facilitate costuming. A form of acoustic shorthand to help create an image for the viewers.

        In the Eagle the director chose American accents for the Romans and various British accents for the “Celts/Britons/Picts” because of contemporary views of imperialism if I remember correctly.

        I remember being a bit confused Jackson used so many different accents for his Dwarves given they had all come from the same clan. But I suppose it helped the audience see each Dwarf as an individual.

        And Scottish accents for Dwarves is a World of Warcraft convention I believe as well. So there are certain cultural expectations with contemporary tv audiences.

        What is the agenda of the showrunners of Rings of Power when it comes to accents? Well I can only guess as I have above.

        I will be curious to hear what you think of episode three.

        Like

      • Hey Rick,
        You make some great points, I like your explanation for the accents and I agree that they help differentiate different cultures and create a feel. I think this has been done better though when a new accent has been invented such as in Galaxyquest or Dr Who.
        Well, I watched 3 I can’t say it changed my mind very much. I liked the Orcs in this episode more, although the skull masks looked a bit silly and impractical, the actual Orc faces were good. I particularly enjoyed the Warg, nice to see someone in production is not taking themselves too seriously and I like the Elves getting taken out as it was unexpected. More of this please. The hole (sic) business of the ditch raises some questions though. Why are they digging in daylight, why not make the Elves work at night? They can see as well as Orcs in the dark! Why did they not simply aim the trench to the left or right of that tree?
        The Harfoots continue to intrigue and this story feels very RPG generated, quite cosy occasionally touching on twee, but carried by humour and cultivating a sense of culture. I now suspect the Starman may be Saruman but my money is still on Gandalf as he had a long connection with Hobbits whereas Saruman understood them not.
        The business in Numenor seems very out of kilter with this happy state of affairs, a protracted plot explained in exposition is never an interesting watch and this is dull stuff indeed. The result of the fight with Halbrand was so predictable as to be boring. How many times have we seen that? It was Clint Eastwood all over again but less stylish and with no tension, no sense of risk and lacking a Morricone score.
        Galadriel seems to be a very unpleasant character; I will say no more on that at present, she does not endear herself to anyone, including the viewer.
        Numenor looked fantastic, just as you would imagine it. However, I have to be able to suspend disbelief and there is a lack of attention to detail that stops this happening for me. I maybe being picky but it is details that bring realism for me. So, for example, to my mind objects and people have to obey the rules of gravity, inertia and trajectory. THAT Jackson scene with an elf jumping along the falling masonry is a prime example. As an aside, Jackson admitted that he removed nearly everything del Toro did here https://gizmodo.com/peter-jackson-tells-us-how-much-of-guillermo-del-toros-5937177
        Jackson digression over, for me little details count, what a horrendous audience I make! This week’s issue was the ship sailing up river, a very windy, bendy positively serpentine river, a tidal river to boot. Ok, all well and good if they are sailing with the incoming tide and a favourable wind but then they had to negotiate an arched bridge only a little wider than the ships main yard. This is a single masted square-rigged vessel that can therefore only sail directly before the wind. The rules of physics, the mechanics of sailing mean that ship mis going to get through once in a thousand times and most times it come to Numenor its going to require rowing or towing into port. If this is a typical Numenorean ship then why build that arched bridge right at the entrance to the port? Or am I missing something, does it sail by magic?
        I realise most viewers don’t think this way, I am a tough gig, I blame Patrick O’Brian!
        So what constitutes great TV/Film for you? Game of Thornes I thought was wicked. Great plots, with twists that you didn’t see coming. Brilliantly directed, witty, dark, realistic violence, excellent CGI. My favourite fantasy film is still the original Conan the Barbarian for its direction and the fact that every prop was designed for the movie, unheard of in those days. The opening scene with the attack on the village still stands as one of the best ever. Outside of the genre Breaking Bad was excellent because of its sharp writing and believable characters as was Better Call Saul. A little bit of grit goes along way to creating realism.
        Will I stay with RoP? I honestly don’t know, I doubt I would have watched this far to be honest if it wasn’t for enjoying this lively discussion so much!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that the Orc skull masks/helmets seem impractical and are not my favorite look for them. Mrs. GG puts it down to sun protection.

        On the trench my thought was that they were under time pressure and were working both day and night… we just have not been shown it. I think they are looking for the Morgul blade and are following the path of the one who lost it.

        Gandalf the Grey died and become Gandalf the White. Maybe this will be another Gandalf who will die and come back as Gandalf the Grey?

        Mrs. GG and I like Galadriel well enough but she still does not quite feel right for Galadriel at this stage in her life for us. It is as if she is stuck in First Age Galadriel mode. I know Amazon is compressing the story and messing with the timeline but it is confusing. We think it would have worked better with a fresh new character, like Arondil.

        Thanks for the link on Del Toro.

        Great point on the sailing, I should have picked up on that. I must have been too busy trying to figure out how those split sails work and gawking at the architecture.

        As for great TV. Game of Thrones was great until the last couple of seasons. Rome was pretty good. Firefly, Farscape, Babylon 5, Star Trek: TOS/TNG/DS9, Band of Brothers, The Rookie (First 3 seasons, the 4th season is not so good), the Mandalorian, Stranger Things (not sure about the last season though, only part way through ), the Expanse. Each show is not perfect but I am prepared to defend the quality of each of required.

        Conan is a decent movie. Not exactly as I pictured Conan reading the books as a kid but still pretty good. Excellent props, music and good actors. Would have made a much better “generic fantasy movie” than trying to tie into the Conan IP. Still much better than the modern remake.

        Never got into Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. Not a huge fan of glamorizing criminality. But what bits I have seen demonstrated decent writing, acting and production values.

        Master and Commander is a good film.

        Rings of Power is flawed but Mrs. GG and I still find it quite watchable. However, it is still very early days. Five seasons is a long time to carry this show at the pace it is going so far.

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  7. Yeh….I am not sure that I am going to watch anymore. Looks great, but it’s full of inconsistencies. I like the Harfoots but even there the writing is patchy. I don’t think there is one character in the whole show that feels believable or likeable. If they all died I really couldn’t care less. It’s a great opportunity lost.

    Liked by 1 person

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