By John Hanlon
“Nothing is evil in the beginning.” So states Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) in the opening moments of the new Lord of the Rings series, The Rings of Power. Previously played by Cate Blanchett (in the cinematic LOTR series), Galadriel here is a young warrior searching for Sauron, an evil master many assume to be deceased.
The opening episodes of the series (two were available for review) reveal how the world has only recently settled down after a great war. Galadriel has suffered much. She notes that when she was growing up, there were no words for death in her community. After the war and its casualties, she's now all too familiar with death and the words that describe it.
Since the war is over though, others are settled in their complacency while Galadriel longs and searches across the globe for evidence that Sauron, a monstrous leader in the war, remains a threat despite having seemingly been vanquished.
The new series is reportedly the most expensive program in history and it shows with Galadriel’s search highlighting one thing that the LOTR films did best. There’s a scale and a scope of the enterprise here that’s hard to fully appreciate. From a brief battle sequence in the beginning to scenes showing Galadriel’s journey through a frozen landscape, the series shows the characters across a diverse landscape.
While Galadriel is the main character (and the most compelling one), the first two episodes feature a variety of characters whose storylines aren’t as clear-cut. The series introduces Elrond (Robert Aramayo) a fellow elf, who begins studying under the scholarly but mysterious Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards). Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) also comes into play as a soldier who realizes the growing threats around him while hobbit Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) comes into close proximity with a stranger (Daniel Weyman) who seems to have arrived from another world.
These characters don’t stand out as much as their world does and it’s oftentimes more exciting to see the next location than it is to follow each character. However, there’s plenty of room for them to grow (the first season is set to be nine episodes) and even Galadriel grows exponentially from the first episode to the second.
In terms of the episodes themselves, the second episode marks a big improvement over the first as the series moves forward in this second episode and better hints at the longer journeys to come. It helps that the second episode features a reintroduction of the dwarves with Elrond entering into their visually stunning domicile and reacquainting himself with his sarcastic former friend, Prince Durin IV (Owaun Arthur).
Lord of the Rings fans might be disappointed than the characters introduced here don’t seem — at first — to be as compelling or memorable as beloved characters like Gandalf, Frodo and Sam from the cinematic series (who were introduced early on in The Fellowship of the Rings) but there’s plenty to like in this new series. From the stunning visuals to intriguing new story beats to its focus on the growing threat of evil surrounding these characters, The Rings of Power marks a commendable and solid return to this unique and unforgettable world of dwarves, elves and hobbits.