The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 1 Recap, Theories, and Thoughts

We come to it, at last, the great show of our time. After years of waiting, Amazon finally unveiled the first two episodes of the streaming service’s much anticipated Lord of the Rings spinoff, The Rings of Power. Never has a series arrived with such baggage, mostly in regards to the billion-dollar price tag needed to produce the damned thing.

Couldn’t they have just made three new films? Do we really need more The Lord of the Rings? Peter Jackson’s magnificent trilogy remains one of the all-time great cinematic spectacles, a glorious feat unmatched by any other motion picture franchise. As it turns out, it may have been too much of a good thing as Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers and the astonishing Return of the King more or less gave audiences everything they really needed from Middle-earth.

RELATED: Spider-Man: No Way Home Rerelease Adds New Post-Credits Scene

Jackson learned as much when he tried to expand J.R.R. Tolkien’s story into three Hobbit films that were more meandering than exciting (but still made a helluva lot of cash), and now Amazon is attempting to squeeze the last drops from the well with this new series that has so far failed to justify its existence.

Do we really need adventures with a kick-ass young Galadriel, a character who was essentially a nonplayer in the previous series? (Cate Blanchett mostly just stood around looking pretty.) Do we need another prologue setting up the quest for the One Ring? All roads lead to Frodo sailing away to paradise — everything else pales by comparison.

In other words: is any of this necessary? We’re about to find out.

What Happened in The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 1

Episode 1, titled “A Shadow of the Past,” opens the only way it could: with a Galadriel voiceover. “Nothing is evil in the beginning,” she says. We see images of kids playing. A young Galadriel builds a boat, plops it in the water, and watches the river carry it away.

Naturally, a stupid boy bullies the noble girl and hits the boat with a rock. Galadriel tackles the kid and is about to go all Edward Norton-from-Fight Club on his ass when a man with a wicked haircut, and features that make him look like something plucked from the David Bowie family tree, stops the assault. This is Galadriel’s brother, Finrod. He gives her some poetic words of advice and then walks towards the glorious vista revealed in the first image for the series, except now we have Bear McCreary’s luscious score to accompany the wonder.

We get a shot of a beautiful tree bursting with light. Except, Galadriel tells us that something called Morgoth destroyed their home (and put out the light) leading to an all-out war. We get our first shot of one of those patented Tolkien maps as Galadriel continues: “We left Valinor, our home, and journeyed to a distant realm … a place known as Middle-earth.” (Chills.) Cue a kick-ass Peter Jackson-esque battle sequence featuring Eagles, Nazgûl, Elves, and Orcs. Finrod fights valiantly, but we’re told the battle was quick; the war left Middle-earth in ruin — even though Morgoth was eventually defeated.

Morgoth’s Orcs spread over Middle-earth, led by Sauron and this looks amazing. We see the big guy painted against a sunset surrounded by his monstrous goons as a male choir booms over the soundtrack.

Finrod died during the war, his body marked with a mysterious trident-looking symbol “whose meaning even our wisest could not discern.” An older Galadriel weeps over her fallen bro, but then takes up his vow and becomes a Sauron hunter. Years pass and everyone, including the Elves, moves on, leaving the memory of war far behind. Not Galadriel. Our She-Elf (dubbed Commander Galadriel) scales a frozen wall with nothing but a knife while her teammates lag behind. She’s determined to find the last stronghold. One of her men tells Galadriel to calm the f*ck downwe’ve got seven more episodes to fill, dammit! But her will is unbreakable.

Somehow, despite the obstacles, they unwittingly arrive at a nifty-looking fortress — the same location we saw Sauron and his Orcs partying a few minutes prior. Galadriel and Co. (but mostly Galadriel, since her teammates evidently possess all the intelligence of a doorknob) investigate and happen upon a dead Orc frozen in a wall. After holding his torch and, uh, looking around for about 30 seconds, Worthless He-Elf A (the same guy from the previous scene) concludes the enemy is gone. Galadriel knows better. She sees a speck and like Horton and recognizes its significance. Said speck leads to a symbol carved in the rocks other Orcs are meant to follow.

Worthless He-Elf A pleads for his Commander to turn around — because that’s what one does after they’ve journeyed for years on end — but she shuts down his request with a noble speech. She can’t return until she completes this mission.

Another worthless He-Elf bumbles about the dark passages and happens upon a Snow Troll. He retreats to his fellow Elf-Bros, who are immediately thwarted by the monster. Luckily, Galadriel shows up and, without much effort, takes down the big bad with a few swipes of her sword. She then urges her company to continue the journey, but Worthless He-Elf A lays down his sword and basically gives up. The other Worthless He-Elves follow suit.

Cue the opening titles. Not too shabby.

We then cut to two old men carrying enormous elf horns on their back. Nearby footsteps cause a startle and we see a bunch of Harfoots (a breed of Hobbits) appear out of nowhere. Some are hidden in the grass, others in the trees. Indeed, an entire civilization appears before our eyes and we immediately wonder if they have to do this every time someone passes by. I guess not, since Sadoc Burrows (the presumed leader) immediately questions why two hunters are wondering about this neck of the woods at this time of year.

RELATED: Citadel Becomes Second-Most Expensive Show Ever Amid Creative Overhaul

We’re then introduced to Nori and Poppi, our de facto Frodo and Sam stand-ins, at least from what I’ve read. The pair of Harfoots stumble upon berries, frolic in the brush (with some other kids) and then call off the party when one of them discovers a monstrous footprint in the mud.

Cut to a very young Herald Elrond residing in Lindon, the Capital of the High Elves — I assume that’s a title and not a drug reference. Hey, these guys love their weed. He meets with his pal Galadriel in front of a painting depicting a very familiar ship sailing towards a wall of light. Foreshadowing.

Galadriel tells Elrond that Sauron is still alive, but he deflects and tries to keep the conversation light. She deflects his deflect and steers the conversation back to the important stuff. “I wish to speak to the High King directly,” she states. Elrond tells Galadriel that her company didn’t defy her, she defied the High King. But, in an act of magnanimity, the King has decided to honor her accomplishments despite said defiance.

“Are you going to arrange an audience or not,” she says, defiantly. 

“Ugh, sure,” he replies.

Back with the Harfoots, Nori Brandyfoot speaks with her mother. She wants more than this provincial life, but her mom is like, “Nah, just do what I do.” Riveting.

We cut back to the Elves. The High King awards Galadriel’s company for its efforts. You can practically see her scoff when Worthless He-Elf A gets a crown. High King recites words written by Elrond. Politicians are phony, you see? He then approaches Galadriel. “Our days of peace begin,” he states. It’s more of an order than anything. “Congrats, y’all! You get to go to the Grey Havens,” High King continues as the crowd cheers.

Everyone is happy, but not Galadriel, who wants more than this provincial life.

Elrond tells Galadriel to lighten up, but she feels her journey is not complete. Luckily, she’s seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy and knows that her mission is really important. No one else will listen, however. Even Elrond is like, “Stop.”

“You have not seen what I have seen,” Galadriel says. Evil doesn’t ever die.

Elrond implores her to go to the Grey Havens where she can relax for all eternity. “Put up your sword,” he says.

“Without it, what am I to be,” she asks.

“What you have always been — my friend,” he replies.

Galadriel looks like she wants to slug him.

A nifty Indiana Jones-esque map/scenic montage brings us to the Southlands — the Land of Men where some mysterious cloaked figures arrive at a pub. This is Arondir, a warrior Elf who’s so badass he can win a game of fantasy chess just by eyeballing the board from 10 feet away. All the men in the pub look a tad uneasy at Arondir’s appearance and grow unruly when he begins poking into some business regarding poison. Things get testy when a gangly man stands and asks Arondir: “When are you people gonna let the past go?” (Apparently, the Elves are in charge of the men because of a past conflict … I think. This situation isn’t sitting well with the Southlands.)

“The past is with us all, whether you like it or not,” Arondir says calmly.

“One day, our true king will return,” the gangly man continues. “And pry us right out from under your pointy boots.”

Everyone recoils as though the gangly man skipped past “double dog dare” and went straight for the “pointy boots” insult. Despite the remark, Arondir protects the man from an attack, then steps outside to meet with a woman named Bronwyn. She gives him a vial containing alfirin seeds. He hasn’t seen these since he was a kid and appears quite excited.

The pair’s not-so-subtle courtship is interrupted by the pub owner. Arondir and Bronwyn are different species, you see? In this world, they can’t be together. Arondir’s fellow soldier, Medhor, chastises him for his actions and notes that in terms of tragic endings, Elf + human romances are 2-for-2 since time began.

Their conversation is interrupted by a messenger who rushes out to reveal the war is over.

Later, Arondir looks out from a tall tower — something he’s done for 79 years. Another Elf named Revion, a Watchwarden, appears and they have one of those patented Lord of the Rings conversations filled with important exposition the characters already know. We learn that Arondir was a grower before the war — Revion never once asked this question in almost 80 years? — and will return to a much nicer life than the one he left. (Am I the only one distracted by the goofy faces on the Elves’ armor?)

Arondir heads to Bronwyn’s home and declares his love. Her son looks less than enthused at Arondir’s appearance, as does a local farmer who stops by with his sick cow. Arondir squeezes an udder and black goo pours out. Yeah, this cow went too far East. “How far East,” Arondir asks as the music revs up.

“As far as Hordern,” the farmer replies.

Arondir and Bronwyn take up arms and head out, which gives Bronwyn’s son, Theo, the opportunity to explore a barn with his dickhead pal. Apparently, he’s discovered Sauron’s broken sword, which is inscribed with the same symbol Galadriel saw.

Speaking of which, Galadriel stands aboard a ship decked in armor, sword in hand. Is she headed to the Grey Havens? “She has passed beyond my sight,” Elrond says, standing atop a gorgeous locale. Do you think the Elves know how amazing their home is? Or do you think they come home and are like, “F— these leaves.”

Elrond speaks with the High King, who apparently knows everything Galadriel said is true. He assures Elrond that his actions were right because her nosiness might have sparked more evil … or something. High King sweetens the deal and gives Elrond a promotion — he will work alongside Celebrimbor (played by Charles Edwards, who somehow looks just like Robert Aramayo) on a special project. “Galadriel who,” Elrond asks.

Back with Sadoc, he’s still puzzled by some of the signs he’s seeing in the sky. Nori pokes her nose in his business, literally. She wants to know what’s going on. “The skies are strange,” he says.

We then jump back to Arondir and Bronwyn who wander through some green hills without much urgency. He takes another stab at revealing his feelings, but mostly recites stale Hobbit-speak. Their conversation is interrupted by smoke from the distance. Hardem is on fire.

No matter. We’re back with Galadriel. The last steps are underway for their entrance to the Grey Havens. Almost there … Galadriel can’t relinquish her sword … birds fly by … a choir radiates over the soundtrack … grows louder … almost there … Galadriel looks uncertain … the clouds part … the sun calls … we see distant lands … Galadriel’s brother’s voice echoes in her head and she eyes her sword. We then see a meteor that passes over our lead characters. Galadriel steps back … the meteor continues … passing over Ents … Galadriel can’t give up her quest. As the others are engulfed by light, our heroine dives off the boat.

High King spots a leaf fall from a tree. Turns it over and sees that its covered in black goo. The Engineers are here!

The meteor crashes near Nori’s home. She runs to investigate and finds … a naked man inside a burning crater. Nobody should ever find a naked man anywhere, but hopefully, this moment doesn’t tarnish our young Harfoot’s view of the opposite sex forever.

Cue credits.

Final Thoughts on The Rings of Power Season 1 Episode 1

First episodes are tough to judge. They have to hook the audience, set the stage for the rest of the series, introduce a bunch of new characters, and make said characters compelling — all without revealing too much. It’s a tricky path to traverse, but I actually enjoyed the first episode of The Rings of Power quite a bit. The show looks great, characters are just interesting enough to hold our attention, and the whole Sauron thing is a fascinating aspect I’m eager to explore. Morfydd Clark looks great as Galadriel, but I’m hoping the writers give her character a little more nuance moving forward, while Markella Kavenagh stood out the most as Nori, a plucky, adventure-seeking youth. I’m excited to see more of Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Arondir, who looks like a badass but wasn’t given much to do here, while other supporting players like Robert Aramayo and Nazanin Boniadi will likely get better opportunities to display their acting chops once we get deeper into the season.

Shout out to composer Bear McCreary, who does wonders with the score!

At best, The Rings of Power looks like a direct descendant of Peter Jackson’s trilogy (why was he not involved?), replete with lovely imagery, intense action, and a whole lotta whimsical fantasy. At worst, the first episode was a little bland compared to the political intrigue of House of the Dragon. Apples and oranges.

Still, you can’t fault Amazon’s ambition. Rings of Power is shaping up to be a sprawling epic that, if done right, could lead to something truly special. I’ll check out Episode 2 later this week to get a better gauge on where all of this is going, but, in all honesty, I’m pleasantly surprised.

Okay Amazon, you have my attention. Please don’t screw this up.


Marvel and DC