The Rings of Power’s first season loved secrets more than stories

George Lucas, a saucy minx, decided to make the smallest changes to his hit film in April 1981 Star WarsHe accidentally lit a fire that would ignite a culture war that would continue to this day. Adding the subtitle Episode IV – A New Hope immediately recontextualized everything that had come and would come in the future, suggesting a grand plan that even a cursory skim of the original trilogy’s production history would reveal to be largely bluster. But, 18 years later, Lucas Would A plan he followed to a T: The prequel trilogy, whose existence was defined by its failures to live up its predecessor, had a plan he followed to a T. This is a lesson. Great art doesn’t pretend to have a plan. Too many plans can lead often to lousy art.

The creators of these shows are like a lot of big, high-stakes shows. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power The plan was to assure the audience that it was in place. So far, so good: It is sometimes beneficial for good art not to claim that it has a plan and for poor art to insist that its plan will work.

The Rings of Power showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay will be the showrunners very vocal about their plan: What are they adapting from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium and how long it would take to do it. As of this moment, the plan is roughly to show the lead-up to the prologue of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the RingTo end their new opus exactly where it began. Unfortunately, the execution of this plan is becoming less exciting.

The Rings of Power It has been built around mysteries that neither Tolkien nor his most famous adaptors ever tried to solve. The writers’ identities are the driving force behind the first season, and not the deep desires of the characters. So the show’s most important questions are the ones it asks the audience: Who Is the Stranger? What about Sauron? Or Adar?

Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

The Lord of the Rings The mystery of mysteries was never the focus of the works or its companions. Most characters were as they appeared and had little to hide. Some were not what they seemed Other Characters expected them to be, but the audience is always clued in — Aragorn, for example, is not who many in the story expect him to be, but from the moment the audience finds out about his broken sword, the implication is clear: He is Isildur’s heir, the king of Gondor who does the titular returning in The Return of the King.

This is the strength of Tolkien’s brand of high fantasy, and ironically the same reason it is rejected by more modern takes on the genre. It’s why Rings of Power Both can coexist comfortably together House of the Dragon and still feel like an entirely different experience — because it is. It’s a world where archetypal characters wrestle with abstractions that represent good and evil in the purest of terms, where the darkness is abyssal and the light that burns to beat it back is faint but burns hot. It’s never really a question if people like the elven king Gil-galad or renowned genius Celebrimbor are good or evil, it’s just whether or not they’re misguided in their noble ideals. Middle-earth’s characters embark on journeys that will take them to one side or the other.

Because of this, so much of Tolkien’s work is about incredible journeys, of great distances crossed and struggles endured to an impossible destination. The biggest reason is perhaps The Rings of Power falls short in its first season is also the simplest: It’s not headed anywhere.

Arondir and Bronwyn looking very intently at each other very closely in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Image: Prime Video

A boat headed towards a sunburst on the tranquil horizon with elves gathered on the deck watching birds fly into the sunburst in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Image: Prime Video

Yes, people do travel. Bronwyn and other Southlands residents flee for their safety from the threat of Adar-led orcs. Galadriel, who starts her story on her journey to Valinor’s elf heaven, decides at the end to abandon paradise to continue her search for Sauron in Middle-earth. Elrond goes back and forth to Khazad-dûm. The island kingdom of Númenor, long isolated under a policy of noninterventionism, finally sends soldiers out into Middle-earth proper, an act that will be the beginning of its downfall.

These trips are however not included in the above list. journeyNot in the Campbellian sense of s. This, I would argue, is a big reason. The Rings of Power It can feel so empty because so few of its characters mature. This is a shame as there are many relationships worth seeing. The best moments of the series are those when those relationships are allowed to flourish, such as Durin the dwarven Prince and his wife, father and Elrond. This is why it’s so deflating that most other characters are reduced to simply learning the hidden roles dealt out in the secret game of Werewolf the writers have been playing. Galadriel’s history with her husband, Bronwyn’s plight in the Southlands with her son Theo, absolutely everything about the harfoots — all of it reduced to parlor room debate over who might be holding the card that says they’re the Dark Lord.

Galadriel is the ostensible protagonist in the series. The only difference that season finale makes is one that she shares with most big players. The Rings of Power: A bunch a characters that were supposed to be competent now look like big dopes. The finale’s revelation of Sauron’s identity is depicted in a way that mostly unfolds for the viewer’s benefit, as those who learn the truth are fooled because they are made to be less observant, less active, and more trusting of a character that is essentially dropped into their story at a climactic moment without good reason to be there.

Galadriel, adrift on flotsam in a terrible storm, reaches out to Halbrand as they try to survive on the open sea.

Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Preamble is always more important than character The Rings of Power. The distance between where characters must be in the showrunners’ endgame plans and where they are now serves as justification for their present decisions, not character development. Why are Bronwyn and Arondir attracted to one another, and pulled into each other’s orbit? Why do Elendil and Queen Regent Míriel suddenly have a connection? Why do the elves, after learning of Sauron’s identity, You can still use his ideas?

There’s an easy answer for this: It’s all part of the plan, and it’ll make sense if we stick along. Good television and plans are not meant to be reliant on the outcome. The present should matter infinitely more as a worthwhile trip is what ultimately guarantees that we reach our destination.

Ironically, The Rings of Power We have so many things to see. Dwarven halls, human navies, elven woods. All of it beautiful. The series has a virtually unlimited budget and has never failed to impress in terms of texture and sights. This is a Middle-earth where people live, and that viewers would love to visit. It would be a tragedy if it were to fall apart. However, it’s constructed with the architecture of a video game, with prominent sightlines that draw attention to what lies on the horizon, dramatic establishing shots so the viewer does not forget the majesty of the fantasy cities they visit, and thoughtful costuming that tells you where every person is from. Perhaps it is no mistake that it is more interesting to imagine oneself in this version of Middle-earth’s Second Age than it is to conjure the inner lives of any of the characters The Rings of Power It is then filled with.

Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) standing and holding mithril, with Elrond (Robert Aramayo) looking over his shoulder

Image: Prime Video

Galadriel and Theo walking through a post-erruption Southlands. They are mid-distance, and everything is filtered orange and there’s ash everywhere

Image: Prime Video

A vista overlooking the Elven paradise of Valinor, a fantasy city rimmed by a river and lit by the brilliant light of two radiant trees.

Image: Prime Video

The Rings of Power Mapmakers create maps, not storytellers. Maps are, in fact, hubris works: You can’t make one if the world is known. The most memorable moments in the epic story of Middle-earth are in what is. Not shown in the map that precedes Tolkien’s work. The things that Happen Mirkwood, the haunted halls in Moria, and the fields of Rohan. How stories differ or end there, and what happens to them afterwards. Something is Moving These characters are driven to travel, whether it’s for adventure or treasure, or simply because they feel the need to.

Perhaps the best thing that could ever happen to you? The Rings of Power It could stop mapping the world in such meticulous detail and instead travel it with us.

Season 1 The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Amazon Prime Video now streams it.

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