When The Rings of Power (Prime Video) opened to its notoriously mixed reviews, it only seemed right to give it some time. As the zero and one-star notices flooded in like dwarves at a breakfast buffet, matched by an equal number of "stop bullying our wickle programme" five-star defences, reasonable critics didn’t rush to conclusions. Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge The Most Expensive TV Show Ever by its first four hours.
By now we are past the halfway point in the first series, however, tapping our hairy feet like tipsy harfoots when a marching song comes on. The probationary period is over. Rings needs to be doling out the TV mithril week by week.
Is it? Not really. Despite the rising darkness in Middle-earth, The Rings of Power remains frustratingly static. In Númenor, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) gave a sword-fighting demo straight out of Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood, before a refreshingly intense scene with Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) when she admitted she was out to avenge her brother. Clark can really act, so it’s a pity the script obliges her to spend so much time doing the petulant teenager routine.
Speaking of which, it is funny that Isildur (Maxim Baldry) is being set up for his ultimate importance in the stories as a useless student who can’t do anything right. This week he got rejected by his dad, punched in the face by his best mate, and then accidentally torched his own invasion fleet before finally making it onto the boat. Bad day at the office, and a foreshadowing of the worst day at the office that anyone in Middle-earth will have.
Meanwhile, Elrond (Robert Aramayo) finally clocked that High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) and elven Thomas Heatherwick Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) had sent him to Prince Durin (Owain Arthur) on false pretences. It turns out the elves were actually interested in the dwarves’ mountain full of priceless treasure. Again, Elrond showing he can be pretty thick for a smart bloke. The harfoots kept walking, and the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) got to show off some impressive magic against some deeply unimpressive CGI hyena-boars.
I kept finding myself siding with the apparent villains, which is not ideal in a world where good and bad are meant to be clear cut. Even the orcs seem to have quite a good time. You could see why the villainous southlands bloke - Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), sounds and looks like Baldrick - wanted to join them. More fun than learning archery with the tedious Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova). And who are the mysterious white-clad figures who have cottoned on to the human meteorite? In Númenor, the ambitious chancellor Pharazon (Trystan Gravelle, the only cast member whose name is more fantasy than his character’s) seems to be the only one with any administrative chops. Wonder how that will turn out.
Other frustrations endure. Given all the Amazon money, why is everything in Númenor filmed in that one tiny town square set? Why is the CGI so uneven? Why do all the crowd scenes feel so sparse? After last week’s motivational recruitment speech in Númenor, we were treated to a motivational recruitment speech in the Southlands, and the crowd reacted with the same “rhubarb rhubarb” school-play murmur they did last time. I realise this sounds like nit-picking, but it jars you out of the fantasy. There’s no point to such expansive escapism if you can constantly see the joins.
At least the Númenoreans are finally on the boat, despite Isildur’s incompetence and king Tar-Palantir’s (Ken Blackburn) warnings.
“Don’t go to Middle Earth,” urged the old man
“What awaits me there?,” replied Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson).
Let’s hope so.