We are coming up on the season finale of The Rings of Power and unfortunately, the show’s story problem has not gotten better. In fact, after watching episode 7, I think there’s a chance it is intentionally tearing up the existing story (that it doesn’t have the rights to).
As I explained in my last piece The Rings of Power has a major problem that could alienate fans, which is that it does not actually have the rights to a lot of the story that should make up the bedrock of this show. This has caused Amazon to essentially make everything up, only borrowing the names of characters and major events that it can take from the Peter Jackson films, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books and its appendices.
In fact, according to a recent feature from The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab), the pitch was to create five seasons of TV from the Galadriel-narrated prologue (voiced by Cate Blanchett) from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. If you think that seems like a difficult task, you’re right, and it’s one that showrunners Patrick McCay and J.D. Payne are currently failing.
Real quick, if you have not seen the show yet turn back now. We get into spoilers quickly, so this is your final warning. Everything from Tolkien lore is on the table, and one does not simply walk into the depths of this article.
Through two episodes, this was largely a problem for fans of the Tolkien books, particularly those fans that had read supplementary texts such as The Silmarillion. Since then though, the story problem has grown in scope to the point where major aspects of the Tolkien canon are being thrown out the window. Episode 7 even seems to kill off multiple characters that we know are very much alive in later years, which is the final straw for me.
I now think that the show has devolved into what is essentially fan fiction, and is beyond repair for anyone who is even remotely a Tolkien fan. Unfortunately, the show’s poor pacing and mind-boggling obsession with the Harfoots are also probably ruining it for everyone else, even after a surprisingly good episode 6.
Rings of Power’s Galadriel problem
As bad as The Rings of Power may have been early on, a recent revelation in episode 7 just soured the whole story. Galadriel, it turns out, has been hiding a canon-breaking secret this whole time.
Let me be clear, the problem with this show isn’t that Galadriel (played by Morfydd Clark) is the lead. I was excited to see that Galadriel was billed as the lead of this show.
As one of the three bearers of the Elven rings of power (Elrond and Gandalf are the others, though Gandalf is given his by Círdan the Shipwright), she is in the pantheon of most important elves in the Second Age of Tolkien’s world.
But this version of Galadriel feels completely at odds with that idea. In the first episode, she is essentially cast out by her grand nephew Gil-Galad, who inexplicably looks decades older than her despite both being thousands of years old at this point. This felt odd at the time, since she notably is married to Celeborn at the time, and it was shocking that she abandoned him without any thought.
It turns out she didn’t abandon him, because as she tells young Theo in episode 7, Celeborn has been dead for some time. This was a step too far for me because it was a canon-breaking moment that doesn’t align with the character Prime Video has been building.
Could Galadriel, who doesn’t canonically have any major issues with Gil-Galad be at odds with her relative due to the natural tensions that exist between powerful entities? Sure. That breaks canon but doesn’t necessarily violate the spirit of the character. But, would one of the most powerful elves to ever exist, who in this very show is on an all-consuming mission to destroy Sauron because he killed her brother Finrod, simply go “Well, I guess my husband is dead” and move on? No. It makes no logical sense for her to have this attitude.
That means we need to completely forget about her husband’s existence for the show to work. After all, why else would she agree to go to the Undying Lands? If Celeborn is still around, then there’s no impetus for her to leave Middle Earth, run into Halbrand, take Halbrand to Numenor and now take him to the elves of Lindon so he can be healed.
This is all happening because Halbrand is probably Sauron, which is also a break from canon but less consequential depending on how the plotline is executed. At any rate, Celeborn’s existence would throw a wrench in the plot of The Rings of Power, so they brushed him aside because it serves their purposes.
Celeborn will almost certainly come back, given we have literally seen him played by Marton Csokas in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The movies are one of the few things Amazon does have the rights to so it makes no sense for them to kill him off permanently and damage the cinematic The Lord of the Rings storyline. But my guess is we don’t see him come back until Sauron is revealed; in fact, he could even be the one to point out who is the Dark Lord in disguise.
The Rings of Power’s timeline makes no sense
Along with Galadriel, the other thing McCay and Payne are wrecking is the timeline of events. This seems a bit odd, given that the appendices give them the rights to use every character they need to make this show work. However, I think they are doing this for two reasons.
First, there is the question of what makes good television. This story focuses on the forging of the Rings of Power, and (presumably) the fall of Numenor and the defeat of Sauron by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. That is a story that takes place over the course of thousands of years, which means that your favorite human and Harfoot characters, even the dwarves Durin III and IV would potentially die during the course of the show. Only the elves would be guaranteed to survive.
This likely presented a problem to showrunners because they may have felt — with some justification — that people need to connect with characters to enjoy a show and cannot do that if the characters are constantly dying. Not everyone has the fortitude to kill their darlings. Given that McCay and Payne are such fans, you would hope that they’d stay true to the source material, but given that this entire story looks set to take place within the course of mere years, clearly, they aren’t.
But the other reason that the show may be messing with the timeline could be due to what it has the rights to. Specifically, it does not have rights to the Akallabeth from The Silmarillion, despite showing a great wave crushing the island nation in one of the episodes from this season, something they may have only had the rights to because Faramir dreams of the wave in the The Lord of the Rings books.
Because Amazon doesn’t have those rights, I think the show will ultimately do something different. Numenor will still fall, but maybe we don’t see the actual wave. Maybe Elendil will already be in Middle Earth when this occurs rather than frantically escaping on ships with his sons Isildur (who is currently presumed dead) and Anarion (who we haven’t met). Sauron will certainly be involved with the creation of the Rings and the fall of Numenor in ways that differ from the established canon of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, as this is something that the show has already changed. There’s no reason to assume they’ll stop now.
The Rings of Power is destroying canon to make a TV show, and I want no part of it
The reality of The Rings of Power is that aside from names and places, nothing is accurate. Yes, eventually Sauron will forge the one Ring (centuries late) but this story is, in essence, completely made up, and we need to just accept that.
What we do not need to do, is watch it. If you are a Tolkien fan, this story is not for you and we should have guessed as much once we figured out what Amazon actually has the rights to.
If you’re someone who just wants to watch a good TV show, you do not have to accept the poor pacing. It’s truly shocking that a show that has condensed millennia into hours feels so slow at times. You also don’t need to accept your intelligence insulted by the inclusion of Harfoots (because why would you watch without Hobbits?) or the show’s unwillingness to tell a complete story in the interest of making sure you connect with the characters.
Finally, none of us need to accept the way certain characters are treated by The Rings of Power. This should have been the tale of Galadriel, powerful Elven ruler who commands a ring of power. Instead, it’s the tale of an immature, undeveloped leader who has simultaneously killed many in pursuit of vengeance while also forgetting her partner’s existence barring a throwaway comment. That’s not fair to us, or to Galadriel, and I want no part of it anymore.