Be an Orc

THE RINGS OF POWER is Amazon’s new blockbuster show in the Lord of the Rings universe, based on Tolkien’s obscure prequel material. And no, not that obscure prequel material; the other one. We’re talking about the appendices, the little footnotes in the back of the books. Jeff Bezos read those footnotes and decided he wanted to pay $250 million for the rights to them.

Well, what is the Rings of Power about? Is it about a once-in-a-lifetime sweepstakes where an eccentric billionaire hides rare invitations in Amazon boxes, leading to the public frantically ordering as much as possible from Amazon? Is it like Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory, except instead of golden tickets Bezos has hidden 19 rings of power in Amazon boxes, and instead of winning a trip to a fanciful chocolate factory you win a trip to the land of Mordor, where the shadows lie?

No, my friends; in truth, it is even better. Amazon describes the extremely fertile narrative ground of this time and setting as “a period of relative peace,” which, I mean, obviously that’s a story that’s begging to be told. If you have the chance to tell that story for a cool $1 billion, you just can’t say no.

Well, I’ve watched the first few episodes, and so far there aren’t any rings, and very little power. The first episode focuses a lot on Galadriel, and I’ve just gotta say: I can listen to Elves say the name “Galadriel” all day. Which is good, because that’s basically what the episode is, and about how long. There was also this elaborate metaphor that mostly just reveals the Elves’ questionable understanding of basic physics, but we’re gonna pretend it makes sense because the music swelled a bunch.

The story starts with Galara Croft exploring ancient ruins on the lookout for signs of Sauron, such as a literal sign of Sauron, that’s on fire. Blackadriel Widow then has to contend with a terrifying CGI ice troll, which makes short work of several Elves and has but one weakness: other CGI characters. And unfortunately for the CGI ice troll, transforming into a CGI character during action scenes is one of Galadniss Everdeen’s most heroic powers. She whirls her broadsword around one-handed behind her back, like she’s in a lightsaber duel in a Star Wars prequel, and is able to easily dispatch the troll before transforming back into an actor. Rookie mistake, CGI ice troll!

But it’s not just the Imperator Gladriosa show. The show’s creators want to subtly layer the complexity of modern society onto Middle-Earth, and they use a host of varied characters and factions to do so.

For example, you have the immortal Elves, who are graceful, powerful, and racist. On the other hand, there are the industrious dwarves, who dwell in their breathtaking mountain kingdom, and are racist. Then there’s the humans of the Southlands, who are, of course, racist. But in the third episode we come across the storied kingdom of Numenor, home to the more noble lines of humans who are like if the Harvard rowing team became its own nation, and they’re ancient allies of the Elves–oh, oops, now they’re super racist. Well, don’t forget the Legally Prohibited From Being Hobbits, who keep to themselves, fear all outsiders, and… yeah, probably racist. And there’s the Orcs, who are – well, they’re pretty nondiscriminatory, actually. #BeAnOrc

THE RINGS OF POWER is a sweeping, gorgeous show, and frankly it shows some promise.

But only time will tell if it’s a worthy entry into Tolkien fandom, or just Jeff Bezos burning a billion dollars in the street over an obscure appendix.

If it ends up being the latter, though, I’ve got Bezos’ back; I’m more than willing to sell him, for the going rate of $250 million, my own appendix.

This article first appeared in the Duzett Gazette, the really official newsletter of Carl Duzett. Sign up here to get more content like this in your inbox, as well as some other content that isn’t quite like it, but is probably also good.

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