I’ve been on the fence with my feelings on Amazon Prime’s “The Rings of Power” series. I’ve been straightforward that, skeptical as I am about how much the writers needs to make up plot-wise, I’d probably like the show if it kept to the spirit of Tolkien. After watching episode 5, however, I don’t know how optimistic I can continue to be about the show. This is definitely the worst episode so far (in my opinion, of course), from the illogical plot to poor dialogue and motivations for the characters.
I will admit 1) the show is still breathtaking and I love seeing Middle-earth on screen and 2) the show has its moments. There’s a reason I haven’t thrown up my hands and stopped watching entirely, and that’s because there are certainly characters and scenes that have been able to arrest my attention. Adar is a dark and compellingly complex villain, for instance, and I love the relationship between Elrond and Durin. And Elrond in general, to be honest. I wasn’t sure about his portrayal initially, but I do love the emphasis on his kindness, and he does seem wise where others sometimes are not. Episode 5 also made me laugh out loud a couple times, with the table scene and with Waldreg’s being utterly baffled that Adar is apparently not Sauron.
But I didn’t love the episode.
The big issues, as many other people have been complaining about, is the completely bizarre plot line about mithril supposedly containing the light of a Silmaril and the Elves needing mithril so they can “saturate” themselves in the light of the Valar before spring, lest they diminish and dwindle away to nothing. What? This obviously makes no sense in terms of what Tolkien actually wrote about the Silmarils, mithril, Elves, etc. And the scenes were made even odder by the fact that Gil-galad and Celebrimbor both apparently know that the Dwarves have found mithril but seem weirdly fixated on having Elrond admit it’s true. Someone on Twitter suggested to me that what they really want is for Elrond to find out details about mithril, which makes slightly more sense, but Gil-galad definitely had a weird fixation with trying to get Elrond to say, “Yes the Dwarves have mithril,” when he already knows they do regardless of what Elrond says. Also I don’t understand how the mechanics of this is supposed to work. How much mithril do the Elves need to “saturate” themselves?
The running theory, of course, is that this completely bonkers plot isn’t true. Perhaps Sauron is already in Eregion, off-screen, and he has put this idea into Celebrimbor’s head, and Celebrimbor has put it in Gil-galad’s head. So the Elves believe mithril contains the light of a Silmaril and they need mithril to stave off the evil that is decaying the tree in Lindon, but it’s all a falsehood and this will be nicely cleared up by the end of the series.
I honestly hope this is the case, but it wouldn’t completely save the show for me. I really dislike the idea that the show has been written in such a way that fans are left thinking for weeks that it has completely ignored Tolkien’s lore and being annoyed about it. That is, it’s not an enjoyable experience to see something that seems horrifyingly against canon in episode 5 and see everyone being upset about it and discussing to have it (possibly) all cleared up, three weeks later, in episode 8. I’d enjoy the show much more if I felt confident the entire time that it was trying to be faithful to Tolkien. Right now my confidence has been shaken.
Other than that, I was annoyed by some minor things in this episode. Galadriel still isn’t a standout character for me, and I wish she’d been given better dialogue and stronger characterization. For instance, Halbrand finally fully confronts her about what her deal is being obsessed with hunting down Sauron and when Galadriel really digs deep, when she says it’s not just about her brother and that there’s something more and greater at stake, her explanation for why she keeps fighting is . . . she just can’t stop. I don’t think I’ve ever heard something so underwhelming. Isn’t the whole question WHY she can’t stop?
I was also a bit baffled by the Harfoots here. Again, there were some nice moments. I liked seeing the Stranger talk with Nori and test out the idea of whether he’s a peril or whether he’s good. And I really like the walking song. I want to listen to it over and over. EXCEPT . . . the song makes no sense for the Harfoots. The line, “Not all who wonder or wander are lost,” is lovely and ties into The Lord of the Rings, of course, but how is this a song the Harfoots would sing? They have made it exceptionally clear that wondering is frowned upon and makes you a weirdo and that you are not allowed to do any wandering that is not approved by the group in the context of their official migrations. No one goes off path, you know.
So, unfortunately, I just think the show is badly written. Gorgeous visuals and strong scenes here and there keep me just hooked enough I keep watching to hope things get better, but the show as a whole is letting me down right now. I don’t know if the final three episodes can save it for me or not.