Season 1 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power received mixed reviews from fans, but there are five issues that need to be fixed before Amazon's most expensive series debuts Season 2 on Prime Video.
Amazon spent $250 million in 2017 to acquire the rights to The Lord of the Rings from the Tolkien Estate, and shortly after, the company announced that a TV show named The Rings of Power was on the way.
Season 1 of the show, which had a massive $450 million budget, premiered on September 1, 2022, and ended a little over a month later on October 14, 2022. Seeing as Amazon is already planning a Season 2 (as well as some other projects), there are a few problems that need to be addressed before it comes out.
When Amazon bought the rights and pitched the idea of The Rings of Power to the Tolkien Estate, it promised to deliver five total seasons, or at least 50 hours of content.
Reports stated that Season 2 of the Prime Video series already completed production prior to the beginning of the actors' strike, so here are the five main issues that the upcoming installment will hopefully fix from Season 1.
If a Rings of Power viewer were to list out all of the major events that happened in Season 1 of the show to a fan of Tolkien's works, the latter would be utterly shocked at just how much was portrayed within eight episodes.
From that statement, one would assume that Season 1 of The Rings of Power moved at breakneck speed, but in actuality, the opposite occurred - much of the season dragged on.
Yes, a lot happened in Season 1 - Mount Doom erupted, Sauron was revealed, and Galadriel traveled to all sorts of different major locations such as Forodwaith, Lindon, Numenor, and the Southlands, just to name a few.
However, the issue is that these major moments left as quickly as they came. It took multiple episodes for certain major moments to be paid off only for that payoff to only last a few moments.
In Season 2, The Rings of Power could benefit from making the pacing a bit more balanced. Most Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings fans understand that the stories of Middle-earth are more on the slow-burn side, but The Rings of Power Season 2 needs to move just a bit more quickly.
Poor Writing, Particularly the Dialogue
All of Tolkien's Middle-earth works were known to be some of the best-written fictional stories of all time, and when Peter Jackson released his The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films, many thought they continued the trend of superb writing.
Unfortunately, The Rings of Power's writing doesn't hold up to its predecessors. Oftentimes the dialogue, in particular, sounds extremely generic and even emotionless. In other words, it just isn't believable.
Tolkien always wrote his books in a verbose way, but he made it work because the dialogue, worldbuilding, and character interactions were extremely captivating. The Rings of Power Season 1, on the other hand, features dialogue that can leave viewers scratching their heads and wondering why a character said what they did.
A good example comes in the opening moments of the first episode when Finrod is talking to his sister, Galadriel, about a ship and a stone:
"Do you know why a ship floats and a stone cannot? Because the stone sees only downward. The darkness of the water is vast and irresistible. The ship feels the darkness as well, striving moment by moment to master her and pull her under. But the ship has a secret. For unlike the stone, her gaze is not downward but up. Fixed upon the light that guides her, whispering of grander things than darkness ever knew."
In this quote, Finrod uses the stone and the ship as metaphors, and while the viewer can see what the writers were going for, the execution just falls flat. This is only one of many instances of the subpar writing in Season 1.
However, it would only have to be tidied up just a little bit in Season 2 to make it compelling and push the story forward with every word, and hopefully, that will happen when the upcoming installment is released.
Not Utilizing the Source Material
Another issue that The Rings of Power Season 1 had that can hopefully be fixed in Season 2 is how much the show draws from Tolkien's source material.
Before diving into this issue, it is important to remember that Amazon only acquired the rights to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, and the appendices. That means the showrunners and writers absolutely cannot pull stories and events that are exclusively referenced in titles such as The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth, and other works.
This fact is quite important considering most of the Second Age, which is what The Rings of Power covers, is explored in The Silmarillion.
Therefore, The Rings of Power Season 1 really can't be criticized for not using material from that book seeing as how the show literally can't, but there is material in the appendices (which they do have the rights to) that could be used more.
Showrunner Patrick McKay said in the past that there are certain elements of the works they have the rights to that can be used to "tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with:"
"There’s a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to. As long as we’re painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don’t have the rights to, there’s a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with."
The only problem with McKay's statement is that The Rings of Power Season 1 really doesn't feature anything from "some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with" instead of the characters, and beyond that, even the characters, their motivations, and their personalities are radically different in some instances.
Tolkien is considered one of the greatest authors and storytellers of all time for a reason. The Silmarillion and other works that talk about the Second Age are off the table for the future of The Rings of Power, but the showrunners and writers should at least utilize what they do have in Season 2, especially since Amazon paid so much money to have the rights in the first place.
Character Arcs (Or Lack Thereof)
Another major issue that Season 1 of The Rings of Power dealt with was the lack of character arcs. Despite witnessing a lot of conflicts and personal events throughout the season, none of the main characters in particular really changed at all.
A lot of the characters in the show live for thousands of years, and some of them, such as Galadriel and Elrond, are even alive during the Third Age when the main trilogy takes place.
A lot of fans want to see how certain experiences change these characters from the people they were when the show first started to where they are in the flagship trilogy, but Season 1 didn't really show any major growth for any characters.
For example, Galadriel started the season by searching for Sauron since she blamed him for the death of her brother. During Episode 1, Galadriel had a hatred for Sauron and was willing to do whatever it took to find him.
However, by the end of the season, when she learned that Halbrand was actually the dark lord in disguise, it really didn't affect her at all.
It is also important to point out how the eruption of Mount Doom and other major events really didn't change her perspective on anything as well, but when Season 2 rolls around, hopefully, she and some other characters such as Isuldur and Elrond will begin morphing into the people that are seen later on in the timeline.
Making Big Moments Feel Small
Season 1 of The Rings of Power contained a lot of major moments throughout its eight episodes, but unfortunately, the show had an issue with making a lot of them feel unimportant or even small.
For example, Isildur is obviously an extremely important character in the overall story of the One Ring. He was the one to defeat Sauron in the flesh and was given the opportunity to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom, but he elected to keep it, which allowed the dark forces to rise back into power.
Knowing this, many fans would expect Isildur's introduction in The Rings of Power to be a major event, but it downplayed his importance and just featured him as any other character. This turned out to be a huge missed opportunity. If the series had played his on-screen debut up as a major event, viewers would have been more excited to see his character and would have been even more invested in him.
Another big moment that didn't get the justice it deserved was the reveal of the Stranger, who was all but confirmed to be Gandalf. Gandalf is obviously a fan-favorite in The Lord of the Rings, and Season 1 of The Rings of Power spent a lot of time making the audience guess who the Stranger really was.
At the end of the season, his true identity was seemingly revealed, but the moment didn't feel as epic as it should have been. Yes, it was cool for a lot of fans to identify him because he used one of his famous quotes, but the entire reveal could have been handled differently to make it feel more important.
On the contrary, The Rings of Power did do a really good job with the revelation that the Southlands was actually the same geographical location as Mordor, and using the eruption of Mount Doom to prove that worked extremely well.
After a major battle made it seem as though the heroes had won, the volcano was activated, which led to its eruption, and most viewers watched the chaos unfold with their jaws on the ground.
The way Mount Doom was handled is a great example of how to make big moments feel important, and if Season 2 can use the same formula for the big moments that are to come, the show will only be better as a whole.