Amazon’s epic “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” finished its first season this week, giving a conclusion to the new story’s first act and teasing the future of the series. For eight solid episodes, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay recreated the world of Middle Earth in a lavish, captivating way, building a big picture with multiple story arcs and memorable characters.
In “Alloyed,” Galadriel, who was the standout primary protagonist, finally realizes that her mortal enemy, Sauron, has been hiding in plain sight, while the Harfoots risk it all to save The Stranger from the Mystics. After the debut of the legendary Mordor in recent episodes, the long-awaited rings of power are finally formed in Lindon under the watchful eyes of Galadriel, Elrond, and Celebrimbor.
More than any other question, “Who Is Sauron?” has led to a who’s-who of subjects through the course of the eight episodes. A leading suspect, The Stranger, is even pronounced as the evil villain before he realizes his good, true nature, in part inspired by the selflessness of the Harfoots. However, it turns out Halbrand, who seemingly became a true friend to Galadriel and Queen Regent Miriel, is the evil one. Season one may deserve a second viewing if only to trace his steps in gaining trust and acquainting himself with his enemies.
Reeling from what seems like the ultimate betrayal and self-doubt, Galadriel is faced with Halbrand’s attempts to lure her to the darkness. He first appeals to her emotional need of seeing her brother alive again before she realizes it’s a charade. Then, he confuses her moral code, twisting her own words against her. “After our victory, you told me whatever I’d done I could be free of now,” he says, to which she tells him she was deceived.
Finally, as Satan did with Jesus Christ in the wilderness, Sauron offers Galadriel power for her allegiance to him. Similarly, that power is not his to give. “I would make you a queen,” he says. “Fair as the sea and the sun. Stronger than the foundations of the earth.” When she refuses, the deceiver quickly covers her with condemnation; “What will they do when you tell them you were my ally?”
In looking over season one, while the series was beautifully shot, it was the exploration of relationships that makes this stand apart even from other series. With Sauron, Adar and the Orcs, there’s darkness to explore, but the series’ most impressive moments were inspired by the good that can happen in community. Elrond and Durin’s reconciliation was warm and unforgettable, and Nori and The Stranger kept viewers guessing where they would ultimately land. The brave warrior Arondir ignoring orders to stay and protect the Southlands and the ones he loves led to the thrilling battles featured in episode six.
While viewers eagerly await season two, currently shooting in the United Kingdom, Amazon has launched an official “The Rings of Power” podcast where host Felicia Day speaks with the cast and crew, dissecting each episode of season one. The entire series is now available to view on Prime Video.
Listen to “Where the Shadows Lie” by Fiona Apple written by series compser Bear McCreary below.