(Is the show perfect? Absolutely not. Is the dialogue frequently cheesy and the pacing a little weird? Yes. Have they taken liberties with the timeline? Also yes. Should Galadriel be much older and wiser at this point, even if still impetuous enough to be Gil-galad’s crazy aunt? Another yes. Still, here’s why I’m enjoying it so far. Minor spoilers.)
10) Orcs. So many orcs. If you think there weren’t that many orcs in the legendarium and they weren’t that gross, go back and read LOTR again.
9) Sailing to Valinor. Yes, Galadriel leaping off the boat in the Sundering Seas was dumb, but the three minutes before that were gorgeous.
8) A seemingly doomed elf-human romance where people spend a lot of time staring longingly at each other. (For more on how this is rooted in stuff they don’t have the rights to, here you go…)
7) The Harfoots. I expected to hate them, especially since their fake Irish accents lean into leprechaun territory. Instead, they seem exactly like the sort of folks who, when given a settled place to be, will become set-in-their-ways hobbits with an occasional adventurous soul among them. (Can we just lose the accents, though?)
6) Elves are indeed basically the good guys, but not all the reasons others distrust the Fae are silly. (Someone commented on a blog post I was reading that these characters reminded him of the Silmarillion’s take on Elves as not always having their you-know-what together. Remember, the showrunners can’t talk much about what Fëanor did, though they have the rights to mention his existence. I am more and more convinced they are projecting some of Fëanor’s general crazy onto his eventual successor as King of the Noldor and onto his grandson. P.S. Fëanor could have been leading the much-criticized-by-Tolkien-nerds-children-throwing-rocks-at-Galadriel’s-boat bit in the first episode’s teaser. He is, after all, the major evidence against the whole “Valinor was endless bliss” argument.)
5) An entire storyline breaking open that famous line from Return of the King about the fallen Southron soldier and showing us who the Southrons were: “It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would rather have stayed there in peace.”
4) Elendil. The original template for all those noble Third Age folks of Númenórean descent. I completely believe it and him and his Dad Energy. While we’re at it, ROP’s Númenor has the tasteful, ornate, and Byzantine look I always pictured while reading Unfinished Tales.
3) “About their origins, at any rate, I know more than hobbits do themselves.”
2) Khazad-dûm. I want to cry every time I look at it. And the dwarves in general. A much better balance of comedy and heroism than the movies, and what is more Tolkienesque than freaking singing to rocks? In addition, we get an elf-dwarf friendship completely in keeping with the one between Gimil and Legolas in the Third Age, but also very much its own thing.
1) A sense of impending doom even at the most beautiful of moments. As Tom Shippey once said, in Tolkien’s secondary creation “good is attained only at vast expense while evil recuperates almost at will.” (If you read Tolkien’s letters, Tolkien seemed to think this about the primary creation as well.) From the beginning, I think the show asks us to believe and remember that everything we see is going to fall and everything that is tried is going to fail. I hope it goes there, sticks the landing, and shows us what gets built out of the ruins.