Warning: major spoilers ahead for the first two episodes of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power are ahead.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has finally arrived, nearly five years after it was first announced as developing for Amazon Prime. While the streamer plans on weekly releases like the schedule for The Boys, the first two episodes were released together on the first night at a special time. After watching, I feel comfortable saying that this special release was the smartest way to give The Rings of Power its strongest possible start.
There were some elements of The Rings of Power that were pretty easy to predict: lots of lore, gorgeous cinematography (for which Amazon reportedly paid a huge amount of money), and many different races sharing Middle-earth. In fact, for most of the first episode, I found myself thinking that the show was exactly what I expected, complete with a lot of the shots from trailers. (Although I’ll admit that I was wildly wrong in my guess that the people wielding swords around a fire were Men who would be corrupted by their rings into becoming Nazgúl. They were in fact Elves.)
Getting exactly what I expected and not much more didn’t make the story of the first episode really stand out to me, especially compared to HBO's House of the Dragon, a rival fantasy series that has already surprised me several times despite knowing the source material. The first episode simply wasn’t too strong from a story perspective, even if it was visually stunning. The second episode, however, raised the stakes, exceeded my expectations from Episode 1, and ventured into some unexplored territory that left me wishing I could start Episode 3 right away. (Other critics largely agreed about appreciating the first two episodes as a pair.)
By releasing the first two episodes instead of just the more predictable first, Amazon gave The Rings of Power a strong start. The trailers told me that Galadriel would end up in the water, many characters would see the meteor falling, and there would be a man in that meteor. They didn’t tell me that orcs would be burrowing through the ground to sack villages, or that Elrond would have such specific ties to the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, or that the Meteor Man could speak to fireflies, among just three of the developments.
I definitely didn’t know that I’d be rooting for more scenes of Galadriel and Halbrand after their shared near-death experience, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next for them even though they’ve seemingly been saved. The first episode seemed to rely on characters who fans of the LOTR books and/or films may recognize, and exposition via lore-heavy narration. There was more showing than telling in Episode 2, and the whole hour made me glad that I decided to binge-watch both.
And I was able to watch the second right after the first at a decent hour thanks to Amazon debuting these first two earlier in the night than is usual for a streaming service. As a resident of the Eastern Standard Time zone, my options for new streaming releases generally are 1) stay up until 3 a.m. to watch, 2) get up early and watch, or 3) delay viewing and risk being spoiled by all the people in more convenient time zones. The rest of the episodes will also go live earlier than the Netflix model of 3 a.m. EST/12 a.m. PST, as each one from Episode 3 to the finale in October will release at 12 a.m. EST/9 p.m. PST. So the timing was a hit for me personally!
Amazon veered away from how streaming services typically release new episodes and new shows, and that gave Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power a strong launch that has me more likely to stay up until midnight to watch next week. That likely wouldn’t have been the case right off the bat if I’d only seen Episode 1 at a less convenient time. Amazon’s flexibility to go against the streaming norm worked well for at least me, and I’ll be curious to see if the company releases any numbers to reveal how many people tuned in ASAP.
For now, you can look forward to new episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (opens in new tab) on Fridays at 12 a.m. EST with an Amazon Prime subscription in the 2022 TV schedule. Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel, previewed what she knows about future seasons, so it seems that there will be a lot to tune in for as Season 1 continues.
Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.
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