Way-Too-Early Reactions to THE RINGS OF POWER

Another week, another multi-hundred million dollar budgeted TV show based on an iconic fantasy author’s universe.

The Rings of Power is the primary show I have been awaiting all year. Of all the MCU, Star Wars, and other mega-IP content to debut this year, I have had the highest hopes and most weighty expectations for Amazon’s foray into Tolkien’s universe.

Part of that is due to history. The massive narrative history of Middle Earth, and the surrounding historiography of it, is an obvious choice for “spin-offs”. Christopher Tolkien himself published stories based on unfinished drafts in his father’s notes.

Another part of my weighty expectations for this show come from a much more recent benchmark. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is epic filmmaking at its finest, a wondrous cinematic adaptation that is just as affecting twenty years later as it was when I sat in the theater at thirteen for Fellowship.

The showrunners for The Rings of Power made a pretty big gamble when they decided to set their series in the Second Age of Middle Earth, thousands of years before most of the characters whom casual fans would know were alive. Middle Earth itself is quite different at this time.

Through two episodes (which is all I’ve seen so far) I’m already getting nostalgia-driven chills when I watch this show. The costumes, the music, the dialog, the settings all feel like Tolkien, and crucially, like the Tolkien we were introduced to in Jackson’s trilogy.

The Rings of Power, wisely, is speaking the same visual and emotional language as it’s cinematic predecessor. When I see characters in thematic clothes, I don’t just see generic fantasy brings. I know them as Noldor Elves, dwarfs of the line of Durin, and yes, even Harfoots, who feel just enough like their descendant hobbits to be recognizable, without feeling copied.

So, this show has already fixed itself squarely within the look and feel of Middle Earth.

I also find the beginning of the story and the characters driving it to be quite compelling.

As usual, I will not get into an episode recap, so I’ll just say that I already feel attached to and invested in Galadriel, Nori, and Arondir as they traverse differing plot lines that seem to be pointing in the same direction: the rise of the shadow after centuries of relative peace.

I don’t know how much more I can say without getting too deep into the details and ending up with 5,000 words for this post.

The showrunners took a big gamble with this show, especially with Amazon beating down their necks looking for a smash hit. Two episodes in, I feel like it’s already paying off.

I’m so excited to continue watching.

Steve D

My Ever-Evolving To Be Read or Watched List

I don’t think I’ve ever done a real TBR on this site before, except as art of summaries of what I have been reading or watching and what I might do next. So, why not do one now?

The glut of content nowadays is often overwhelming (I say as I think about future novel ideas), so honestly I feel like I need to set an intention, so to speak, of what things I’d like to focus my attention on for the next several months.

I’m definitely not going to outline every single thing I plan to read or watch this year. We’ll just cover the highlights.

To Be Read

  1. The Wheel of Time I’ve talked about this a lot recently, because it’s been very front-and-center in my brain. I will definitely finish reading this series this year, without a doubt. I’m on book 13 of 14 currently and plan to continue through until the end.
  2. The Saxon Stories, or The Last Kingdom series – This series seems to have many names, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve only read the first book — both abridged and unabridged versions, because I didn’t pay attention to the Audible cover — and I love it. I have book 2 ready and waiting, and I’ll likely be unable to resist it as my next audiobook listen. I definitely won’t finish the series this year, but I like the idea of having an entertaining staple to fall back on when I need it.
  3. An Encyclopedia of Tolkienwhich my wife got me for Christmas last year and keeps tempting me from the shelf. One fantasy series at a time, damn it! Having recently read through The Lord of the Rings, and with the new series set to debut on Prime in September, this seems like the right time to pore over this tome and absorb everything Tolkien-related I can.
  4. Brandon Sanderson – I haven’t even decided which of his series I will start with, but I know I need to dive into his work after I finish The Wheel of Time.
  5. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and MusicDave Grohl’s memoir, which my wife got me for Christmas this past year. The Foo Fighters are one of my favorite bands, and Grohl is awesome. He’s one of the few celebrities I legitimately want to meet and hang out with. Maybe he’ll read this blog and message me!!
  6. A few good social science-y type books – I try to pepper my reading list with history, anthropology, global issues, or other books that blend academic with nonfiction topics. Audible makes it much easier to churn through a few of these at a more reasonable pace. Otherwise, I get bogged down in the details on the page, rather than the overall concepts and ideas. Fun fact: these types of books can be great idea fodder for world-building.

Honestly, that probably about covers my reading list for the year, unless specific titles catch my eye. To the watch list!

To Be Watched

  1. MCU – Particularly the new Doctor Strange. I also still haven’t seen the second and third Spider-Man films. At this point I might just buy them on BluRay since Disney+ inexplicably does not carry them.
  2. Star Wars – Especially the Kenobi series and The Mandalorian season 3, but I know there are a ton of other things coming that I will definitely check out.

Now that those are out of the way…

  1. The Rings of PowerThis is probably a no-brainer, but it deserves mention since I don’t think I’ve written about this show before today, or maybe only in passing. Based on the trailers Prime has released, I have high hopes that this will be enjoyable and well-made.
  2. The Witcher, season 2 – I really enjoyed the first season and was eagerly awaiting the second. For some reason, Netflix had to release this exactly when every other series/franchise was releasing a new season.
  3. Jurassic World movies 2 and 3 – Guilty pleasure pick. I love Jurassic Park (the book and the movie), and even though the most recent franchise is light on the substance and heavy on the spectacle, they’re solid action flicks. And they have. Freakin’. Dinosaurs. Yes, I’m an adult.
  4. The Last Dance – Another one that’s been on my list for ages, this docuseries about Michael Jordan and the Bulls got rave reviews by people I listen to/read who love basketball, so I’ll probably enjoy it, too.
  5. The 15+ other documentaries on my list in Netflix – Aside from the above, there are just too many for me to name. Animal documentaries, six of which, it seems, were all somehow narrated by David Attenborough in the same year, a mushroom documentary, a documentary about drummers, Netflix’s super over-produced historical docuseries. Not Tiger King, though. I missed that train and do not regret it.

That’s a solid watch list for now. Much like my reading habits, I tend to fixate on specific series, franchises, or types of shows/films for a time. At the moment I’m more interested in delving into the back-catalogs on the big streaming services to see movies or shows I may have missed, so if you have any recommendations, let me know.

Is there anything I’m definitely missing out on by not reading or watching right this second?

Steve D