This week’s episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (We Promise There Will Be Rings At Some Point) introduced us to the goth elf Adar, showed us the origins of the precious (but not preeeciousss) metal Mithril, and showed us a vision of the destruction of Numenor, thanks to the Middle Earth equivalent of a Magic 8 ball. 

But we have to admit that The Rings of Power, for all its high-priced grandeur, likable cast, and intriguing characters, is … boring as hell. Even for a show that is a prequel to a story that consists mostly of people walking, it is staggeringly slow.

There are only eight episodes this season, meaning that we’re already halfway through the first story chunk – but weirdly, despite the dense world-building and wide cast of characters, it feels as though very little has actually happened. The reason for this could be that the show isn’t doing the thing that made Tolkien’s stories so engaging in the first place: giving a handful of characters a quest.

Like, both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit similarly have long stretches where nothing happens (often with singing), but it never truly feels dull or aimless because the stories are ultimately constructed on a very clear narrative track; Frodo has to take the ring to Mordor, while Bilbo has to journey with a cadre of dwarves to a Dragon’s den (but not the kind where you pitch terrible products to soulless rich guys). It’s simple, mythic, and, by design, always has a sense of forward momentum.

The Rings of Power, on the other hand, follows a more prestige TV-friendly format, cutting between an array of various characters, each with individual storylines, who are mostly relegated to one setting. It’s Lord of the Rings by way of The Wire – which, perhaps not coincidentally, is also how Game of Thrones was structured. The closest we get to any kind of a quest is with Galadriel; but the problem is, her quest – to find and kill Sauron – is derailed in the very first episode, leaving her adrift and eventually holed up in Numenor until the end of episode four. And even once her quest gets back on track, we know from the events of The Lord of the Rings that she will ultimately be unsuccessful. 

Obviously, there’s still time for the show to build towards something that’s … not so boring. But in retrospect, it’s kind of shocking that anyone would spend a billion dollars adapting Tolkien’s work while ignoring the most basic storytelling principles that made those books so successful – that’s like buying up the rights to the works of Agatha Christie, then ditching the whole “investigating a murder” angle. 

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