Warning: this article contains spoilers
For Irish viewers, the conversation around Amazon’s $1 billion Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power has been dominated by the bizarre decision to give the hobbit-like Harfoots Irish accents while depicting as primitives who have just emerged from a bog. As linguist and writer Conrad Brusnstrom said: “There is an accent that is globally identified as ‘Irish’ which always means ‘primitive’.”
This debate looks set to rage on the internet. So let’s put aside the gruesome Harfoots and focus on other aspects of the series as it now reaches its finale on Amazon Prime Video and zooms in on the question “Where is Sauron?”
Where is Sauron? is Where’s Wally’s version of The Rings of Power? JRR Tolkien may not have appreciated his life’s work being distilled into a TV Cluedo game
This is The Rings of Power’s version of Where’s Wally? Apparently, the embodiment of evil in Middle-earth has gone underground and taken on a new guise. The fun with The Rings of Power would have been figuring out which of the actors is Ole Big Eye.
That tutorial from above may be JRR Tolkien, who may not have appreciated having his life’s work distilled into a game of TV Cluedo. The power rings don’t even quite manage to reveal the shock. Because, as everyone had already figured out, the big bad guy is Brother Halbrand (Charlie Vickers). The real surprise would have been the show unveiling someone else as the ruler of Mordor (which we saw created earlier in the series).
So Halbrand is Sauron, though he’s not irreducibly evil, just a bit aloof and romantically distorted. Why are her feelings in a heap? Because he was rejected by Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), whom he insists on seducing and making his queen. There you have it: Sauron is not Morgoth’s successor and the source of all that is terrible in Middle-earth. He’s the original incel, taking it out when his dream girlfriend rejects him.
The tragedy of The Rings of Power is not that Amazon wants to tell new stories in this old country, but that it went about it in a hurry.
As a Tolkien fan, my nerd antenna went haywire when The Rings of Power debuted. The pilot – Harfoots aside – conveyed much of the mystery and beautiful menace of Middle-earth. Of the two types of Tolkien fan – those who revere his writing as a sacred text and those who regard The Lord of the Rings as nothing more or less than a great fantasy novel – I was in the second category, and the idea to use Middle-earth as a sandpit was thrilling.
It wouldn’t have been the first time someone got stuck in lore. Since the Peter Jackson movie, the best takes on Middle-earth have been the video games Shadow of Mordor and the tabletop game One Ring. So it’s not like Middle-earth should be considered a holy place where no one but Tolkien can tell tales. Good to bring a new perspective to this land of bored elves and drums in the deep. (His domain agrees, which is why he allowed Middle-earth in the first place.)
So the tragedy of The Rings of Power isn’t that Amazon wants to tell new stories in this old country. It is that he took it in a hurry. In particular, the attempts at suspense fell flat. In the finale, the revelation that the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) is Gandalf lands with a thud. And, as stated, it was clear to everyone that Halbrand was Sauron all along. So much for Game of Thrones level shocks.
The rhythm is also shifted. Galadriel and Halbrand’s adventures on the island kingdom of Númenor have dragged on. And then, in that dreary yet rushed finale, Halbrand somehow convinces Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and the other elves to forge rings of power – and Galadriel agrees, though he revealed the secret identity of his admirer. What confusion Amazon has made of Middle-earth.