What a turkey that turned out to be.
This is going to be a very half-assed review for many reasons, not the least of which is that the show itself is half-assed. I must admit I could not bring myself to watch the entire thing. Others have heaped eloquent scorn on the show and I don't feel like competing with them.
This was not my original plan; my plan was to review two episodes or so at a time. Then COVID finally caught me and I didn't feel like doing much of anything for a while. But if I had to choose between catching COVID and watching Rings of Power, COVID looks preferable.
I might as well start with the good, because there's less of it to cover. Every now and then, the writing approaches something resembling Lord of the Rings; there are a few good lines here and there...right before it dips back into mediocrity at best. The actors mostly do pretty good, despite the dreck they had to work with; I reckon it will make some of the characters' tragic ends all the more tragic. And that's about it.
On to the bad. Oh boy. A lot of ink has been spilled pointing out the many, many shortcomings of the writing and directing. The general reaction before the show aired was "Oh, it's going to be fan fiction," but in retrospect even this seems naïve: Fan fiction involves writers who are fans of the original work. I do not think that is the case with the writers of Rings of Power.
If beautiful scenery is what makes for good TV, it would have been a lot less expensive for Amazon to tell people to go to their nearest big box store and stand in front of the wall of TV displays for an hour a week.
For a mercy, the woke stuff in the show is extremely hamfisted. It sticks out like a sore thumb, almost as if there was one writer whose job it was to woke-ify the screenplay once it had already been written, who spent no time at all with the other writers. Case in point, the goofy "the elves took our jobs" scene which is completely nonsensical but the writers evidently felt compelled to shoehorn in their idea of some modern analogue.
At least they botched it.
The book complaints the Numenoreans had about the Elves were much more interesting! Such is also the case with Suddenly Kinda Individualist Harfoot Lass who randomly spouts anachronistic platitudes.
On that note: All the characters are brain damaged. Everyone makes incredibly stupid decisions that make no sense in light of any coherent story, much less Lord of the Rings. Poor Gandalf is probably due for even more brain damage by the end of the series to make him forget all of this by the time the War of the Ring rolls around, and if I were in his shoes, I'd also be hoping for something to make me forget it all.
What is the point of trying to make all the characters relatable to the kind of audience members that Amazon evidently wants to reach? In Lord of the Rings, how does one relate to Gandalf? You don't. He's different, and calls the reader to something higher and more noble. Same for Elrond, or Galadriel, or even Aragorn. You really don't relate to Tom Bombadil. No, we relate to a Frodo or a Bilbo or a Sam, who faces temptation, suffering, and failure. The Gandalf types help us to look beyond that. Rings of Power has absolutely no such character...yet. But I am not especially hopeful that it will.
It's also boring.
This brings me to a final hypothetical. Let's say that Rings of Power was written competently, and that the crazy woke stuff was not in fact wielded like a cudgel. We would then have a very different and much more interesting problem. It's one thing to say "Well, the writers are clearly idiots who don't know what they're doing, woke stuff or no," but it's quite another to say "Hey, this is a good story but there is a lot of danger lurking right underneath all the beauty." It is possible for bad ideas, even damnable ideas, to be presented in great beauty. Take something good, twist it just a little here and there, little by little, until it's not little, and watch it all come crashing down upon itself, and rise out of the ashes knowing your mission is accomplished. Sauron in Numenor? Or Amazon's treatment of the Lord of the Rings? There is an uncomfortable parallel.
Final score: 2/10.
What a waste. Every episode should have ended with the Curb Your Enthusiasm theme. Replace the writers and directors, and the story might have a chance.