Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

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Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Fri Nov 11, 2022 2:30 pm

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As I embark upon my, jeez, fifth decade of LOTR fanhood, it's been a great satisfaction to watch J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved works take root and flourish in the broader culture. My younger self would never dream the stories he loves so much would one day not only be mainstream, but appreciated in the same way that he does. These days you don't need to be a bookish nerd to know who Legolas is, or to have opinions on Gollum, or to speculate on just how gay Frodo and Sam are for each other. These emotions are now available to normies as well as nerds. As a geeky unpopular kid, I longed for a world in which the things that brought me joy would be shared with others, and as an adult it has been almost literally magical to see this wish come true.

Anyway, Jeff Bezos spent a billion dollars on a TV show and I guess I'm gonna watch it.

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I'm coming into The Rings of Power almost all blind except for early promos, the pre-release controversy about black hobbits or whatever, and the post-release flood of "Why ROP sucks" YouTube videos. I know it takes place in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which is an era JRRT only ever described in broad strokes except for a few important events, mainly the forging of the rings (which presumably this show centers around), and much later, the destruction of Numenor and the War of the Last Alliance. From Tolkien's description, you'd be forgiven if you thought only three interesting events happened in the whole 3000 years. So there's plenty of open ground for new stories, and while some canon events are fixed (we know Galadriel won't be killed off) for the most part writers can do whatever they please. I think the Second Age is a solid choice.

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Now I may be unspoiled, but I haven't missed the backlash: I know a lot of people haven't been pleased with this show. Unlike my A:TLA watching, I can't go into this series with full confidence I'll enjoy it. But I want to find out for myself. After all, nobody has the exact same perspective as everyone else. So I'm going to try to be fair. I'll applaud the parts I think are good, and where I think it fails I'll provide thoughts on why. Worst-case scenario is an experience that's unpleasant, but still informative. Like a colonoscopy!

Back after I've watched some.


SPOILER POLICY: Since I'll be freely commenting on the episodes, please avert your gaze if you don't want to be spoiled for an episode you haven't seen yet. By the same token, please refrain from direct spoilers of episodes I haven't gotten to yet. There'll be time to discuss afterwards.
Last edited by Mechanical Ape on Fri Nov 11, 2022 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Madeline (?) » Fri Nov 11, 2022 4:38 pm

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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Fri Nov 11, 2022 8:31 pm

EPISODE 1: A Shadow of the Past
Series Premiere. Galadriel is disturbed by signs of an ancient evil’s return; Arondir makes an unsettling discovery; Elrond is presented with an intriguing new venture; Nori breaks the Harfoot community’s most deeply-held rule.
Oh dear, did a hobbit accept a present on their own birthday?!? :flutterdear:

Right from this description it sounds like we won't get a single POV character but instead hop between parallel storylines. That's fine but the focus on Galadriel and Elrond is a potential red flag -- it implies we'll be there for Annatar/Sauron and the making of the rings, and the thing is, we already know that story. That's the challenge of writing a prequel: the audience generally knows what happened in the backstory. If all the prequel does is let us watch it happen, without adding any new context or twists, then you get low-stake stories like the Star Wars prequels. Presumably they're not saving OMG ANNATAR IS SAURON!!!! as a shock reveal for the finale; presumably they know better than that. But we'll see.

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Elder Days flashback to young Galadriel, and I like this scene. The unfolding boat is a good illustration of how Elven "magic" works which is that they just do it, it's inherent. Galadriel doesn't pull out a spell book, she just makes a boat that does this thing which to us is miraculous, but which to Elves is nothing unusual, particularly her fellow younglings who do not give the tiniest shit. A conversation follows with bro Finrod about distinguishing good from evil, which is sure to be a major theme of the show, which is why our not getting to hear Finrod's whispered advice is kinda bullshit. If there's wisdom you want to share, then tell us; don't hide it in a mystery box.

Never thought I'd see the Two Trees on a screen! They're pretty swell. Shame we don't get an Ungoliant cameo but removing unnecessary details was probably the right move.

I just want to say this show looks really good, with some amazing shots; the effort and expense absolutely paid off. One fun thing about the Second Age is that it was bigger and more high-fantasy than the Third Age, in the same way that the Third Age is that compared to our real world. And the First Age is that compared to the Second Age. So scenes you set in those times can be BIG and EPIC, with as many dragons as you want, and that's fun.

I will say though that I've been spoiled by historian Bret Deveraux's blog that I can't take seriously any battle scenes where the combatants are mobbed together in a mess of single duels, because real battles didn't look like that. Where are the tightly disciplined formations? But that's a quibble.

Galadriel, stop using your dagger to climb that mountain! You packed actual climbing gear!

"This place is so evil, our torches give off no warmth." I'm deducting a point for deploying the word "evil" in this flavorless way, which Tolkien rarely did; not that he never used the word, but he preferred specific descriptors like "malice" or "watchfulness" when talking about evil presences or feelings. Just saying "this thing is evil" doesn't tell us anything; in what way is it evil? You're leaving potential descriptive power on the table. Yeah I'm being pedantic here, I've goddamn earned the right.

I realize Elves are consummate warriors, but I refuse to believe "you run on my sword and I springboard you up" is a move they actually train.

Giant moose antlers are visually striking; not great for hunting though. Honestly you don't even need to conceal your village with dolts like these walking around. I do like the portrayal of hobbits as semi-mythical creatures to humans, which is accurate to most of their history actually; IIRC Tolkien cites hobbits as the source of modern tales of brownies and such. Overall it's very cool to see hobbits in an earlier and, for lack of a better word, primitive society compared to the Shire we'll know later. It's a nice glimpse of all the traits we associate with hobbits but in the context of a different culture. And I like Nori.

It's weird, seeing their chemistry, to know Galadriel will become Elrond's mother-in-law one day. Elrond's got a weird face but that actually fits somehow. IMO Elves should look slightly uncanny, in a way that sometimes crosses into beautiful but not always. I like how in some ways, these two characters speak as equals and comrades, but at the same time, one is millennia older and has seen indescribable things, and the other is basically a very smart kid lecturing about stuff he has no clue about; and in the usual dichotomy that is Elves, sometimes this gulf is palpable in their interactions and sometimes not.

Love Gil-galad declaring "Today our days of peace begin" while giving Galadriel a look that says: and that's an order. And Galadriel immediately takes the hint. It's all so very Elvish. But does Gil-galad have the authority to permit or deny travel to Valinor? I guess I always imagined they could go as they pleased.

You know, early on I thought Galadriel's actor was playing too emotionless for someone with that much grief and anger, but as I watch it's become clear that it's there, she's just keeping it tightly bottled and the actor's doing a great job of showing that. When Elrond says she's "conflicted" and she gives this facial twitch that speaks volumes, it's a great moment.

Ah, the old reliable "casually solving the chess match" trope.

The Elves visiting the human village conveys a lot. There's a real "Vulcans lording it over humans" class distinction vibe going on and the visual difference between Arondir and his top-quality gear vs. the sweaty half-dressed humans is great. I gather that these are the distant descendants of those humans who sided with the bad guys, and needless to say, Elves don't grasp how short humans' cultural memory is and that these folks are an entirely different culture. (EDIT: confirmed later.) The Elves aren't explicitly an occupying force but they sure behave, and are treated, exactly like one. Arondir stepping into the tavern gives a strong "Nazi officer entering the casino" vibe and I'm certain that's intentional.

Meanwhile there's a romance between a male Elf and a human female, a pairing Tolkien didn't provide many (if any) examples of so it's welcome to see here.

Black, oily milk :vomitpony: It's almost enough to make a fella go vegan.

Okay, they shoulda seen the smoke from that burning LONG ago.

I dunno how I feel about these featureless Elven breastplates, they're so ... featureless.

More imagery about how sailing into the West is, symbolically, equivalent to death. Like Frodo's farewell (which is in all relevant aspects a death scene), this ship too has a funereal feel to it, not joyous and optimistic, but a sense of loss, of letting go of earthly things before one is necessarily ready to -- and Galadriel sure as hell isn't ready.

Okay, we get to hear Finrod's advice before the end of the episode; that's fine then. All is forgiven.

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Valinor is, er, significantly more vaginal than I would have expected.

If you wanted to overanalyze, and I might as well, you could call this image somewhat reminiscent of the Eye of Sauron. Symbolizing perhaps that even though Valinor is paradise, for Galadriel to go that way would only further the plans of Sauron. I love all the energy in this ship scene and the way it makes going to heaven feel so sinister. Because in a way it is: it would be bad for everyone if Galadriel were to exit the story of Middle-earth now, and we know this. Here's a good thing about prequels -- you can use the audience's foreknowledge for dramatic irony, infusing things or events with meaning that the audience knows but the characters do not.

But seriously, G, you gonna doggy-paddle all the way back to Lindon?

And here, by the end, we have the perfect setup for a pilot. We understand the status quo of the world, we have our main cast all of whom have well-established reasons for abandoning the safety of the familiar and going their own way, and we have an inciting incident -- the meteor -- as a means of bringing them together.

As for the person who is the meteor, well, there's our mystery box. This would be the polar bear on the tropical island. My speculation? Well, we're clearly meant to believe this is Sauron, because obviously he's gotta show up at some point and we know he's in disguise. So maybe this is how he makes his debut as Annatar with a wacky backstory to go with it. If so, that could lead to some fun -- a character we know to be Sauron himself tagging along with a hobbit = hilarity ensues. Or they could do nothing and fizzle out with "What a surprise, Sauron is secretly the character everyone guessed is Sauron!" And hey, maybe this guy isn't Annatar at all. He's got facial hair which is generally code for "not an Elf". If we wanted to get wacky, he's one of the wizards; that doesn't fit canon at all, but if I wanted to always keep inside the lines I'd just read the books again.

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I thought they might go blunt and have the flames take the shape of Sauron's sigil. But they didn't! :party:

I was very surprised for Numenor to not make an appearance at all -- maybe that's a rights issue. I feel it's OK because the themes of colonialism, racial snobbery and creeping corruption, which is what I'd want Numenor to be about, have been adequately picked up by the Elves.

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I think my commentary has managed to communicate: I liked this episode a lot! :good: I like the characters, the setting is exactly the right mix of familiar and new that such a story should be, there are themes, and there's a plot to drive everything forward. Wherever this thread goes from here, let me say for the record that we're off to a very strong start. 9/10
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Adiwan (?) » Sat Nov 12, 2022 5:48 am

Remembering the impact of the first episode on me is not easy. The episode was A LOT. I mean it tries to establish so many things and so many characters. I watched the Peter Jackson films and read The Hobbit and half of LOTR, so the heavy lifting on my part was eased a little bit. Nonetheless the exposition dump was decent.

Galadriel as a Orc and Sauron hunter was definitely odd seeing it for the first time. I'm fine with it but definitely contrasts immensely to what we see in LOTR. As a basic LOTR enjoyer I didn't think there was anything offensively bad in that so I kept watching the whole series (during work :ponynet: ).

I really like the production value put into the costumes, props and the visual effects, as well as the music. So that was always a treat.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Mon Nov 14, 2022 5:53 am

Mechanical Ape wrote:
Fri Nov 11, 2022 2:30 pm

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I remember someone once theorizing that the spread of the internet and shrinking of printed media contributed to film criticism coming through blogs and articles made by people who are less than skilled at their job, leading to a lot of mediocre things getting high scores from critics and low from audiences.
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;) ❤️ :twasnothin: ❤️ :fancyhat:

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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by DaikatunaRevengeance (?) » Mon Nov 14, 2022 6:00 am

disclaimer: i haven't seen the rings of power, but I know from my star trek experience that this is something of a pattern (STD and PIC are loved by critics, but hated by audiences; lower decks is hated by critics and loved by audiences, ditto for the orville)
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;) ❤️ :twasnothin: ❤️ :fancyhat:

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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Mon Dec 05, 2022 12:12 am

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EPISODE 2: Adrift
Galadriel finds a new ally; Elrond faces a cold reception from an old friend; Nori endeavors to help a Stranger; Arondir searches for answers while Bronwyn warns her people of a threat.
We get a proper credits sequence! It's neat and not bombastic, with sand or something flowing around and music by Bear McCreary.

Oh thank goodness meteor man is wearing a loincloth. We wouldn't want him to get cold. Anyway, Harfoots saying "giants" to refer to Big People is a neat touch.

"I know it sounds strange, but somehow I just know he's important." I think his arrival BY METEOR was your clue there. Yeah, I know what Nori meant was "important to me personally", but still, funny.

They're going to feed him beetles like Kehaar and he'll help the hobbits fight General Woundwort.

Wait, we're cutting from Arondir jumping into the Mystery Tunnel to a completely different scene in another part of the world? Why? Why is it so ding-danged important to know what's going on in Eregion this instant? And why does Celebrimbor need his tower completed by spring? What's the rush? And he doesn't even have a workforce yet?! Did you know the Tower of Pisa took two centuries to build? And it still leaned? Celebrimbor is the worst land developer ever and no contractor is going to want to work with him.

What would an elf know about caring for aged parents? :ponder:

It would be funny if Elrond just came up to the doors and said "Mellon" and walked in. And the guard would be like, this kingdom needs better password protection. Anyway, seeing Khazad-dum in its glory days is very cool -- especially how full of plants and water and light it is. And ooh, farming terraces, very neat.

Once again, as in all fantasy since time immemorial, Dwarves are Scottish. I mean they might as well have a caber toss instead of this rock-breaking business. Just once I'd like to see dwarves be Germanic or Nordic, that's where the legend came from after all.

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Wanted to highlight this shot 'cuz I like it. As far as I know, our Stranger is regular human size. But the framing of this shot emphasizes his relative giant-ness to Nori. Nori, our viewpoint character, is centered vertically while Stranger's head is nearly scraping the top of the screen. Also, look at the difference in head sizes! He looks massive. Imagine being a hobbit and seeing the whole world that way.

Man, every time hobbits throw a party something happens. I winced when I saw that guy with the broke foot (Brokefeet!).

"And to you, Galadriel, I bestow the Ring of Water because you're such a good swimmer."

Then she meets up with the cast of Waterworld, and none of them seem alarmed to encounter a woman swimming up to them in the middle of the ocean. Maybe it happens a lot. Then a sea monster eats everyone but the handsome guy and this scene is so weird.

They're smashing all these rocks and nobody has eye protection! Have workplace safety videos not been invented yet?

This whole business with Elrond and Durin -- why is it here? Why the rock breaking contest? Why are Durin's feelings so easily bruised? Also, 20 years may be nothing to an Elf but it's not much to a Dwarf either. He's not even that old yet. I dunno, if they wanted to establish some kind of estranged friendship between the two then this is a bizarre way to go about it. I feel like there are two conflicts going on here -- Durin's distrust of Elrond's intentions and Durin's offense over being ghosted for 20 years -- and they either need to integrate them better or else choose one or the other.

That little garden with the mallorn-tree is beautiful though. Again, I love how not dark Khazad-dum is.

So what, after 200 years of hunting for Orcs and never finding a single one, Galadriel just meets a guy whose house was burned down by them?

"I have pursued this foe since before the first sunrise bloodied the sky. It would take longer than your lifetime even to speak the names of those they have taken from me." Legit badass.

"The Southlands" doesn't really narrow it down, stud.

What's up with that kid going ham on the floorboards? He did more damage just now than the mice ever did. I suppose this could be the influence of Evil Artifact, but it's hard to tell because we don't know him all that well.

And now, finally, three weeks later, we come back to Arondir in the tunnel. Monster in the narrow rat-infested tunnel is creepy, though, so well done, show.

Assuming it was an Orc that Bronwyn and her kid killed, I really like how they portrayed a single Orc, something out of legend to these folks, as a terrifying monster. We're so used to seeing Orcs as Imperial Stormtroopers, cannon fodder to be cut down by the dozen. But I'm legit scared of whatever this thing was.

But Galadriel and Dude I absolutely do not care about.

Talking to fireflies? Is this dude Radagast?

Finding stars? What does that even mean? Do you just go to the constellation shop and pick out the one you're looking for? The sky's right there, Nori, the stars are either there or they're not.

Then Durin and his dad open a literal mystery box.

FINAL THOUGHTS. At the risk of sounding like a too-clever film reviewer, "Adrift" is aptly titled: a lot of stuff happens but without much forward propulsion. The strong promise of the premiere hasn't been followed up well. After setting everything in motion, Episode 2 is mainly about the characters farting around not understanding stuff. There are scenes that seem to waste time without moving plot or establishing character. I had been expecting storylines to be converging by now -- wasn't that the point of the meteor, to provide a means for the characters to get together? That's what I'd assumed. Instead everyone's moving even further apart, we're meeting even more characters and we have even more unconnected plotlines to follow.

Of the plotlines, my favorite is Nori and Poppy and Stranger hands down: there are character moments combined with just enough mystery. Galadriel's scenes are a total waste, you could remove every one and lose nothing. Khazad-dum is visually wonderful but the Dwarves themselves are too silly and, well, Scottish (by which I mean, stereotypical dwarf) for me to enjoy. That includes Disa even though she seems nice. We don't even get a bit where Elrond actually asks for the thing he came there to ask for, which you'd think that would at least happen in the same episode. I like the Orc (I assume) horror movie bit but that's all I can say about Bronwyn and Arondir. 6/10, needs work.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Madeline (?) » Mon Dec 05, 2022 2:05 am

“Scenes that seem to waste time without moving plot or establishing character” is p much the Prestige Streaming Show Experience at this point. The Netflix binge model did a number on serial storytelling, and it’s reflected even in shows like this, which IIRC (may be wrong) were/are weekly drops like other Amazon shows.

also, I wouldn’t trust those audience scores because a lot of the “rotten” votes on RT these days are for “this show has a woman/POC/LGBTIQA+ character in it” :bluh: and are just as worthless as modern critic scores for determining quality. we as a society should agree to throw RT/metacritic/etc in the bin

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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Adiwan (?) » Mon Dec 05, 2022 2:29 am

Mechanical Ape wrote:
Mon Dec 05, 2022 12:12 am
We get a proper credits sequence! It's neat and not bombastic, with sand or something flowing around and music by Bear McCreary.
And by Howard Shore!
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Mon Dec 05, 2022 1:38 pm

Madeline wrote:
Mon Dec 05, 2022 2:05 am
“Scenes that seem to waste time without moving plot or establishing character” is p much the Prestige Streaming Show Experience at this point. The Netflix binge model did a number on serial storytelling, and it’s reflected even in shows like this, which IIRC (may be wrong) were/are weekly drops like other Amazon shows.
I think what annoys me is 1) the five plotlines weren’t equally interesting or eventful and 2) the cutting between them didn’t make sense in terms of timing or impact. Like, why we had to wait several in-universe days to get back to Arondir in the tunnel I have no idea. It also made it harder for me to follow the flow. For instance when Nori goes to Stranger and says “I can’t look after you anymore, leave” I was puzzled by her change in attitude. Then I was like “oh yeah, her dad broke his foot and she was guilty about not being there for him”. But that scene was from 20 minutes ago and I simply wasn’t thinking about that thread when it came up later.

Maybe I’ll watch the whole thing again and it’ll seem more cohesive when I know where it’s headed.
also, I wouldn’t trust those audience scores because a lot of the “rotten” votes on RT these days are for “this show has a woman/POC/LGBTIQA+ character in it” :bluh: and are just as worthless as modern critic scores for determining quality. we as a society should agree to throw RT/metacritic/etc in the bin
I do find it useful in the specific sense that when critics like a thing but audiences don’t, that signals to me that there’s something interesting in the work. Maybe something I’ll like, maybe I won’t; it’s the disagreement itself that makes me curious to see which side I’ll land on. But yeah, pissy chuds skew the equation. If I end up disliking Disa (and for all I know this was her only appearance) it’s not because I give a shit about black dwarves or beards or whatever, it’ll be because she wasn’t used interestingly.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Adiwan (?) » Mon Dec 05, 2022 3:32 pm

Well... One could argue that the Lord of the Rings books have the same problem of being lengthy with not much plot.
I too have problems with the pacing of the episodes you watched so far. The scenes end where anything noteworthy happens and jump to the next. The editors put a little too much trust in the viewer to hold the little suspense they create to hold over the next relevant scene.
Maybe in the case of Nori and her decision I think they wanted to give a little bit more time for her decision?
I for one don't like when characters making an outright drastic decision moments after something big happens that somewhat explain their behaviour. Feels a little bit too sudden. Balancing this is definitely not easy for any creator of fiction, especially when there is no inner monologue as an additional source of information to the viewer.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Wed Dec 21, 2022 10:59 pm

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PREVIOUSLY, I THINK, ON THE RINGS OF POWER: Orcs are back, though menu status re: meat remains unclear. The stranger who fell from the sky in a flaming meteor might be dangerous. It's always the ones you least expect. Bronwyn's kid is being corrupted, one might almost say groomed, by an evil artifact. Elrond ate dinner and Galadriel's on a boat.

EPISODE 3: Adar
Arondir finds himself a captive; Galadriel and Halbrand explore a legendary kingdom; Elendil is given a new assignment; Nori faces the consequences.
I assume they meant to write "Elrond" and screwed up, drawing the rage of petty nerds everywhere. Of course I'm a better man than that. :liarjack: EDIT: We do meet an actual Elendil in the episode, but presumably not the Elendil of centuries later. EDIT 2: Actually he is, they're compressing the timeline.

Adar, we are led to assume, is Sauron, and for now I'll assume this is the case. Someone whom orcs follow and whose name Stranger is agitated about; that sounds like our boy.

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Despite the presentation last time of even a single Orc being dangerous (which I liked), I feel this is not a well-run slave camp. You've got a large number of laborers, some chained, some not, many with picks or other weapons. They don't appear to be closely overseen by their Orc captors (since Arondir and a few others are just standing around) and the trench they're digging is a gentle slope away from freedom in broad daylight. Unless the whole area is enclosed by a fortress, I should think people could slip away easily and, if they're missed at all, get a nice head start before sundown. Moreover the captives now include trained Elven soldiers, fairly dangerous folks to keep in general population. There'll be a slave revolt by second breakfast, mark my words.

Oh hey, Numenor finally shows up! It is of course appropriately gorgeous, I mean god damn. Dialogue reveals that Numenor's centuries-long slide into assholery is underway. Except oh shit, Pharazon is here? Are they making the forging of the Rings and the fall of Numenor contemporaneous? Then I guess they're well into assholery. Jeepers, guys, save something for Season 2 at least.

Even if you don't know who Pharazon is, you already guess he's evil because he's a chancellor. Those guys are always bad news.

Galadriel's being inappropriately hostile to the Numenoreans. Threatening bloodshed is no way to ask for a boat, G! If this is how Elves negotiate then it's no puzzle why Numenor broke off contact. Numenor ought to be glad to spare a boat just to be rid of her. I think what this scene was meant to convey is that Galadriel is strong-willed and fiercely motivated to continue her quest, which is fine, but 1) we already knew that and 2) this bizarre hostility is not how you convey that. I never imagined Halbrand would be the mature, diplomatic half of the duo. He's also huggier than I'd expected.

And there's young Isildur! My goodness, we're just skipping straight to the end of the Second Age here.

"The sea is always right! And it demands to speak to the manager!"

I get that Elves are forbidden on Numenor (though it's hard to care about because they haven't established why), but calling what Elendil did treason seems a bit much. Seriously, the resolution of this plotline should simply be that they take a spare boat (they have billions), see Galadriel and Halbrand off, and everyone gets back to their day. This shouldn't even be a debate! Keeping a VIP like Galadriel imprisoned is only going to worsen relations if the Elves ever find out. Conflict is important in a story, but both Numenor and Galadriel are being antagonistic for no good reason, and that's sucky writing.

Wait, and now Miriel wants Elendil to murder Galadriel? What the hell is going on? This is absurd.

You know, Star Trek often employs the setup of "two races who hate each other". They may in fact overuse it. But they always point out the reason these two races hate each other. Sometimes it's a good reason, more often it's irrational prejudice. The important thing, though, is the audience is given context for the hatred. When we see characters from the opposing races we understand their perspective, why the dislike is there, how strong it is, and what the emotional cost is that keeps these two characters from reconciling. And we're missing that here. Elrond isn't welcome in Khazad-dum, but Durin doesn't try to assassinate him. Why is it so different in Numenor? We don't know yet. You know, "you missed my wedding" is a lame reason for Durin to be unfriendly, but at least it's a reason and we are told what it is.

Okay, judging from the map "The Southlands" is Gondor, or rather what will later become Gondor.

I feel bad for the Elf who got executed, but not for the fuckup who caused it to happen. Don't sass your murderous captors, genius! It's not worth it! :facehoof: Just stay quiet and escape later, like you'd already decided to. Or if you are going to commit suicide by Orc, at least do it for a reason, like to cover your comrades' escape.

The Orcs have clear-cut the whole area, so why on earth was this big tree still around?

I like Elendil! There, I said it. I like Elendil as a character. He's cool and smart and level-headed. Don't go on to fuck him up, show.

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Another facet of Galadriel's rich character is revealed to us, which is that she likes horsies.

Halbrand's getting the full migrant treatment here, and while I appreciate the attempt at showing Numenor's imperialist colonizer streak, this ain't too subtle.

Where'd he get the money to buy drinks for everyone? Oh who cares, it's just nice to see someone act charming for a change -- particularly in a scene that seems tailor-made for a bar fight. And just like that, I like Halbrand.

Oh wait, there's a fight anyway and Halbrand was just trying to steal a thing and is an idiot for antagonizing the country he's a guest/prisoner in. Ignore everything I said in the last paragraph. HOLY FUCK HE BROKE THAT GUY'S ARM, why did we need to see that.

Do we even need Sauron? These characters can do themselves in with their own stupidity. Hey, maybe "Adar" is Elvish for stupidity.

Galadriel asks whether a Numenorean king was friendly to the Elves, except her line is "loyal to the Elves", and that could be an interesting reveal of her character -- that she sees humans as unequal to Elves and that humans aren't really friends of Elves but rather folks who are or aren't loyal to Elves. And then Elendil could correct her on her choice of words. Except that doesn't happen; Elendil just responds normally, as if that's a completely normal way to talk about the (former) head of a sovereign state.

And once again, why is Numenor so hostile toward Elves now? They're mystery-boxing this for no reason. I know the reasons why in the source material but that's irrelevant.

Ohhhhh, the Sauron-sigil is a representation of Mordor. That's cool I guess. This scene is given a very end-of-episode framing, with portentious dialogue and music and a meaningful shot of the Middle-earth map -- and while it's not the end of the episode, it's a good way of signaling the end of the Galadriel portion of the episode, so I appreciate that, well done. That is way better than the last episode cutting randomly between 5 plotlines.

When we get back to the hobbits, it's immediately a much better episode. They're just the best, the most human and interesting. Moreover, with the Harfoots we get to see a really original culture that I can tell a lot of work went into imagining. It's a degree of novelty that fantasy ought to have more of. For as gorgeously rendered as Numenor and Eregion and Khazad-dum are, they are basically just kingdoms with all the standard kingdom stuff. With the Harfoots we get this society built around nomadism (a nice counterpoint to the extremely settled Shire) with methods and expressions very specific to this group. It's great, it's really interesting to watch the Harfoots. It doesn't hurt that these scenes are lighthearted and warmly lit as well.

"Daffodil Burrows. Wolves." :fluttersmith:

Halbrand is an incognito king in exile? Does Middle-earth really need another one of those?

I called the slave revolt! But chain tug-of-war ... that, I was not expecting. Generally, I think the fight scenes on this show are too cartoony to love. Even when the stunts are done by Elves, which, I get it, these guys are peerless warriors with reflexes beyond mortal men -- it's still silly to watch though. I would much rather have believable fights with the Elves simply really good at it.

"Release the WAAAGH! Wait, wrong franchise, I meant WARG!"

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The show can say whatever it wants, but I know what I know: this is a fuzzy boy and I love him.

And then they bring Arondir to Adar and I will still follow the show's lead -- for now -- that this is Sauron, but we'll see. He may just be a regular evil dude who becomes a Nazgul later. That's right, I've been mentally tracking all the human characters and guessing which one(s) will be Nazgul. Adar, perhaps. The kid, definitely.

THE GOOD: From a pacing standpoint this episode was a HUGE improvement over last one. They spent decent time with each storyline and didn't hop between them every five minutes. Nori, Stranger and the Harfoots continue to be the best part of the show hands down in every way. I like Elendil, he's a decent and honest guy and he's attractively craggy.

THE BAD: Most of this episode was The Bad, with characters making dumb and/or hostile choices for no good reason except a need for tension, I suppose. I do not like Galadriel, and not because she's "out of character", I don't really give a shit about that, she's simply become a bad character unto herself; if this were a completely different person it would still be a bad character. I'm annoyed that things are being kept secret when it doesn't seem like they need to be, and would in fact serve the drama better if we were informed why things were happening and what the stakes are. I think if your show is good enough moment to moment then you shouldn't need cliffhangers to hook your audience; we don't get them for Nori's story nor do I need any, her deal is interesting enough.

Better than episode 2, but not by much; still not living up to the promise of the premiere. Forget numbers, this thread is now about letter grades: premiere A-, last episode a C-, this one a solid C.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Mon Dec 26, 2022 12:56 am

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LAST TIME: Stranger is friend! Stranger help pull cart! Arondir prepares to meet the much-ballyhooed Adar, who may or may not be Sauron, whom Galadriel learns is gathering strength in a place called Mordor. Hey, I wonder if that's connected to the tower Celebrimbor's building! We meet the Numenoreans and they are big jerky-jerks motivated by (siiiiigh) a prophecy.

EPISODE 4: The Great Wave
Queen Regent Miriel's faith is tested; Isildur finds himself at a crossroads; Elrond uncovers a secret; Arondir is given an ultimatum; Theo disobeys Bronwyn.
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Numenor drowns but it is, of course, just a dream. For now. Meanwhile, Pharazon talks to an assistant (whose name is Kemen but I will think of him as Kevin), the very picture of the ambitious chancellor trope; he's this close to talking about Dark Plagueis the Wise. This scene is basically the show putting on its Game of Thrones pants and asking the audience whether it makes its butt look fat.

Extremely clumsy anti-Elf sentiment is whipped up by an anti-Elf-sentiment whipper-upper. Like, literal "they're coming to take your jerbs" rhetoric. And look, I am absolutely in favor of LOTR:ROP addressing contemporary themes, I think the setting and timeline are well suited for discussions of imperialism for example. But this scene is absurd.

Now Pharazon shows up and he's totally correct that Great Elf Replacement Theory is stupid, given there's only one Elf refugee on the island; but Pharazon is Evil (tm) so of course his motivation is self-serving. Nobody's said "Make Numenor Great Again" but that's obviously what's happening. And then he buys drinks for everyone, which is twice in two episodes these dullards have been bribed in this manner.

And my problems with all this are twofold: one, that it's clunky and kindergarten-obvious, like I mentioned before. But second, and perhaps more insidious, is the failure (at least so far) to address any institutional problems in Numenor. I mentioned the imperialism theme earlier as something I'd like to see tackled; perhaps by showing how Numenor and the Elves, despite being the "good guys" (and certainly viewing themselves as such), are also unwelcome colonizers and exploiters to the people of Middle-earth. They might wonder, for example, why the "lesser folk" seem so quick to support Sauron, failing to understand that from the perspective of those "lesser folk", the threat posed by Sauron and the threat posed by the Elves or Numenoreans are not all that different. That would be a (relatively) subtle example of how great powers such as America can behave as the bad guys on the ground, even with "good" intentions. But to the extent that Numenor = America, the show doesn't seem to be critiquing America; it's critiquing Trump's America. That is to say, the problem isn't a fundamental injustice in Numenorean policy or Numenorean institutions; the problem is this one bad apple.

Halbrand may be a king in exile, but he's still a "common brawler"; he started the fight and was 100% in the wrong. He doesn't get a pass just because he might have royal blood. And the queen is right to point this out. Good on ya, Queen Regent.

Galadriel comes in and reveals the Southlands are 1) vulnerable, 2) leaderless and 3) soon to be absorbed by Sauron's empire. Now if I'm Numenor's head of state, I'm thinking this is the perfect time to annex the Southlands myself. It's a perfect opportunity for Numenor to gain a bunch of land while denying it to a rival. They might frame this annexation as defending the Southlands from Sauron, "we must all unite" and so forth, but it's really simple power politics. Anyway, that's what I'd do; let's see if Miriel is thinking the same thing.

Then Galadriel gets thrown in jail because she's very bad at diplomacy, but very very good at giving speeches about how passionate she is. And now exactly like Halbrand, she's locked up for something that is 100% her fault. I suspect neither will learn anything from this. I suspect they will escape (possibly with help from Elendil) and find the actual king and appeal to him, and that will work. There may be an absurd action scene involved.

Don't go into a weird vision-trance while you're working, Isildur! This isn't the time! Is another poor sap going to get injured in a rope accident? The answer is yes! Why do you keep repeating yourself, show? Also, when is Nori coming back? I miss Nori. :fluttersmith:

What the hell? Isildur is a fuckup but in no way does this accident mean he let go of the rope deliberately. Why does the captain come to this conclusion? Why does he also fire Isildur's two friends?!

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Adar shows up and he's an Elf with burns on his face. He has an evil dagger. If this isn't Sauron, it's a very convincing misdirect. Regardless of his deal, I really like Adar's actor and the character's look. He's interesting to watch.

If only Theo had some kind of magical artifact to help with his burglary mission! A ring that turns you invisible would be really useful right now. Now, I agree Theo has the right idea here -- Rule #1 of a siege is don't let your garrison starve. However, even if they came across a fully stocked Whole Foods (extra perks with Amazon Prime!) there's only so much food two skinny teens can carry, so I hope if this succeeds they come back with more people. Oh okay, they found a wheelbarrow so that helps a little.

Oh man all that loose grain on the floor, the rats should be ALL OVER that.

Theo's sword gets long, and now the boy has become a man. :ponder:

Now Celebrimbor's tower is already half built, and I really wonder about the time scale these events are happening in. It feels like it's been three days for Nori and company, maybe a week for Team Bronwyn and Team Galadriel, and several months for Elrond? Well, maybe a wizard did it.

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Come what may, I never have an unkind word about the scenery. It's nearly always gorgeous, except for some ocean scenes that look oddly cheap, like they were shot in a swimming pool with a matte painting in back. In the first episode even that kinda worked for me; the voyage to the West looking artificial seemed to drive home the idea of the West as this very distinct other world -- and for Galadriel, not an appealing world to go to. We share her unease because it looks unnatural to us too. But like many other things about the premiere, it seems I read too much into an unmotivated choice made by a not-all-that-great TV show.

Okay, Dwarves having such a thing as "the knocking game" which is seemingly just hitting each other, that's pretty cute.

Ah, the old secret door. Never have a fantasy tale without one!

That's a pretty serious oath for Elrond to swear just to satisfy his curiosity -- and in this setting oathbreaking has real consequences. I think if I were Elrond, I'd just say "You know, if it's that important to you then I don't need to know all that bad. I just wanted to see that you & I were still cool." Especially since Elrond caught a glimpse at the mithril vein and should already have guessed. (EDIT: It appears mithril was just discovered so okay, Elrond wouldn't have known what he saw. Also, lol that Elrond comes up with the name.)

"This mithril is so secret, I demand you swear a mighty oath to not breathe a word of it to anyone. Feel free to take a chunk home though, I'm sure it'll be fine."

Oh that's right, Galadriel's still in jail. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Halbrand gives a speech about mastering your enemies through fear, which lends credence to my theory that we're looking at a future Ringwraith.

"Cease comparing me to a horse." Okay, that's a good one. :ponydrugs:

It seems like if Galadriel wanted an army, she could just go back to the Elves and tell her people what's what. Stop wasting time and risking your life in Numenor, G!

Earien and Kevin are our romance, I guess. (EDIT: I guess Arondir and Bronwyn are an item, but it's been a while since they even shared a scene, let alone a romantic moment.)

"How did you know I would come here?" BECAUSE YOU TOLD HER YOU WOULD, G, THAT'S WHAT PUT YOU IN PRISON. Jesus.

Here I'm going to get needlessly pedantic. In the books, one blessing of being Numenorean is that you age gracefully; the infirmity and decline of old age happens very late in life, and when it occurs is a signal that it's time to give up the ghost and die gracefully (which is also a Numenorean privilege). The later Numenorean kings refused to do this, clinging to life right up to the bitter end. But Tar-Palantir is explicitly of the Faithful. So it's unlikely we'd see him in this state, decrepit and feeble. He would have chosen to pass on before this point. This isn't really a problem with the show because I doubt they've made that canon, but it's something I noticed.

Tar-Palantir has a palantir! How nice! Here, in a break from the books, the other 6 are already lost (in the books that happened much later).

"I will not second-guess the gods", Miriel says, but of course she's doing exactly that. Bad writing, or clever writing? I'll give the benefit of the doubt this time.

Still not sure why there's a food problem among Bronwyn's people. When they left for the tower, did they not pack the food they already had in town? I understand they felt they needed to leave in haste, but who forgets to bring food? It's the one thing they should pack if they're going to button up for a siege.

Escaping from Orcs under the cover of ... night. I sense a problem with this plan. Theo sneaks through the tall grass and suddenly it's The Last of Us 2 but less fun.

I am not sure why Arondir went to the village where Theo was when Adar had explicitly directed him to the tower, but maybe the village was along the way. I don't have a sense of location here. Anyway, it's nice to see Arondir with the other characters again.

This fight/escape scene is in slow motion with sad chanting, which is movie talk for "a character dies here". Except it doesn't happen, and the mysterious clouds which darkened the previous day, have just as mysteriously vanished now that our characters need to get away. Okay then.

Dwarves shutting down a vein of astronomically precious ore because of a mine collapse? I'm not buying it. These are dwarves, they'd invent safety measures. Or come at the vein from another direction. Mining is dwarves' entire deal. They're willing to take decades to do it right. For something to be too dangerous for dwarves to mine it'd have to be, I dunno, on an asteroid or something.

Elrond musing about Earendil is a nice character moment. You do have to wonder what it would feel like, to have a dad who was one of the greatest heroes of all time, and every time you look up at the stars, you know that one of those stars is your dad sailing a ship across the sky with a Silmaril on his brow. Just ... up there all the time for eternity. Dad. What would it feel like to be his son, knowing this? How would you live up to that? It's nice the show lets him share his thoughts on this, let's be honest, bugfuck family situation. It's a good scene.

I'm glad Durin made peace with his father. It's a sweet moment. But also: who cares? Why does this matter in any goddamn way? Let's recap -- Durin making peace with his dad is a subplot to the mithril-vein plot, which is itself a subplot to the Elrond-Durin-friendship plot, which is itsef a subplot to the Dwarves-building-the-tower plot, and we don't even know the purpose of this tower yet. So what even are we doing here, that we're spending time in this scene, sweet as it is?

So they seem to be setting up this show's Siege of Helm's Deep. These rag-tag villagers must defend their tower against the rampaging Orc army. We're sure to get the obligatory scene of Arondir training the townsfolk; "I shall teach you to fight Elf-style" and then we get a montage of drilling and absurd stuntwork.

Ah, so there are still *some* villagers loyal to Morgoth. A secret cult (consisting of one guy)! And the Stranger's meteor is part of that, although I'm pretty sure Stranger is not Sauron, funny as it would be to imagine Sauron pulling a cart for hobbits.

"Your task is to be ready for what's coming." "Okay, but what should I be ready for?" "For what's coming, lad." "Yeah I know, but specifically what--" [credits]

I hope they end this episode with Galadriel jumping off a boat in the middle of the ocean. I hope they end every episode with Galadriel jumping off a boat in the middle of the ocean.

It's weird that they have to ask for volunteers to accompany the queen on her journey. It's not as if Numenor doesn't have soldiers. It's not as if queens don't have elite guards to do this very thing. But, given that they are asking, it's also weird that nobody volunteers. Maybe they're all to racist to share a boat with an Elf, that would connect to earlier in the episode; but the vibe of this crowd is more cowardice than racism. Especially since once Isildur and his asshole friends volunteer, then everyone else wants to as well.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I've noticed a sassier tone with this post, which I take to mean the shine of the first episode has worn off. By now I think the show has mostly settled on the level it's operating at, and the level of quality (good as well as bad) I can expect as a baseline. It adds up to what I would currently call a fair-to-middling TV show; some bits I like, others not much, and when I think about a billion dollars going into this I get a little crazy.

As far as this specific episode, it suffers from a lack of Nori, even though I appreciate the show realizing it can't juggle all its plotlines in every episode. Sometimes we just aren't going to check up on certain characters at all, and structurally that's probably a good call, although it would be a better call to merge some of these storylines and have characters meet finally. I just realized that as far as Elrond and the other Elves know, Galadriel is in Valinor and not coming back.

It's wild to think we're in episode 4 of [checks] 8? seriously? -- it's the halfway mark of the season and our various storylines haven't merged, our character groups haven't interacted, things seem poised to happen but very little has actually happened, and most surprisingly, there has been not even a hint about the Rings of Power after which the show is named. Like that's not even on the radar right now. If you weren't already a lore nerd who recognizes Celebrimbor as the guy who eventually makes the rings, there wouldn't even be foreshadowing. So this episode feels like more flailing without forward motion, and a lot of characters doing things without many actual character moments.

I do like Adar though. We need more Adar. He's got a Lee Pace thing going on.

No letter grade. I think we can assume every episode will be a C unless it's remarkably good or bad.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Jan 01, 2023 6:28 pm

What say we RING in the new year with ...

EPISODE 5: Partings
Nori questions her instincts; Elrond struggles to stay true to his oath; Halbrand weighs his destiny; the Southlanders brace for attack.
What "partings"? Most of the characters haven't even met yet. :fluttershrug: Whatever, let's just do this.

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Nori (welcome back, Nori!) and Stranger have a li'l conversation. You know, over the past week I realized I've been thinking too hard about all this -- which character is whom and all that -- and everything's probably more obvious than my lore-nerd brain allows me to think. Take Stranger, for instance. If you're a normie watching the show, the minute you saw the old bearded guy with supernatural powers you probably said "Hey, it's Gandalf!" and the normies are probably right. I shouldn't have to overthink Stranger's deal when the obvious answer of Gandalf is right there. He looks like Gandalf, he's got superpowers, he arrives at the same time Sauron reappears, and we know Gandalf has to be around to receive an Elf-ring. So there you have it. I'm referring to him as Stranger-Gandalf from now on.

The map gives us the Harfoots' itinerary which means finally, FINALLY, I get a picture of where these characters are in relation to one another. They're passing the Limlight and into the Grey Marshes, the future Dead Marshes (hopefully they know a path since they're all pushing carts (EDIT: nope, there's no path and the cart is predictably stuck, GO AROUND THE MARSHES YOU IDIOTS)). So the hobbits have up till now been nowhere near the Southlands (revealed earlier as being future Gondor) but now seem to be moving in that direction. I think the show could have been clearer about everyone's whereabouts; it was never clear to me whether the Harfoots were in Team Bronywn's neck of the woods or not.

I do like the map showing mundane names like "Trout Bend" for things which I'm sure will get fancy Elvish names once Gondor is founded. Great landscape shots and a nice song, too.

Weird people in hoods visit Stranger-Gandalf's crater, and I have no idea who they are but it's interesting because they're so off-putting.

Adar, like Mr. Burns, yearns to destroy the sun. So finally come Episode 5 the show gives us some narrative stakes. I don't care about mithril or a bunch of yokels in a tower, but I like the sun! I'd miss it if it were gone!

Bronwyn, the closest thing this bunch has to a leader, gives a very generic "who will stand with me" speech and it's exactly the same as last episode when Miriel was getting volunteers, except hilariously, nobody wanted to help Miriel who was their actual queen but everyone volunteers to help Bronwyn who isn't. Oh, except Waldreg the cultist shows up to ruin the good vibes.

You do get a strong sense that this show believes that common people are idiots with no wants or survival instincts of their own, just waiting for someone to stand on a soapbox and lay out their choices for them. And hey, maybe that's true to life if you're cynical enough. But it's not fun to watch. The people of the Southlands should already have opinions about what they want to do without Bronwyn and Waldreg telling them. They're medieval, not stupid.

Meanwhile in a more well-scrubbed part of the world, Numenor assembles its expedition. We learn that despite last episode's reluctance, now "half the city wants a spot on these boats". Because the common people are easily led idiots, you see. Isildur is Disney Princessing about wanting MORE out of life and forging his nebulous destiny in the wide world. And Elendil, despite being a hardass to his son, is at least on point with his hardassery in this scene, because Isildur is being an absolute failson right now.

Halbrand is out of jail and working as a smith but ... not being licensed to smith was the thing that led him to break the law and end up in jail in the first place? Did I miss a scene? Well, anyway he's a good smith. He may not be a king but he has marketable skills, at least. Galadriel has volunteered him to come on the expedition, and Miriel should probably be picking up that he clearly doesn't want to.

Oh, Halbrand sold out Galadriel's whereabouts for a guild crest which ... okay fine. I'm not going to turn over this particular rock any further, the point is Galadriel and Halbrand have each betrayed the other, and now they're headed to the Southlands together.

Stranger-Gandalf is getting blamed for bad things that happen around him, which is the story of his whole life when you think about it.

There are wargs, and it's a little weird that they sound nothing like the wolves they're supposed to be based on. They screech instead of howl, what's up with that? Anyway, Stranger-Gandalf declares that they shall not pass, and the day is saved but his hand looks gnarly.

Two Numenorean younglings are doing sword practice, and there's no other way to say it, this stuntwork sucks. It's like they plucked two actors off the street and gave them no training. Dialogue implies this is considered decent swordplay. It isn't. Thankfully Galadriel is here to train them to fight this new foe, and good news, killing an Orc is the same as killing a regular person. Those millennia of experience are really paying off, G. I like the fight music, though. This is absurd (how is fighting an Elf supposed to be practice in fighting Orcs?) but it's one of the few lighthearted moments for Team Galadriel so far, so in the name of fun I give it a thumbs up.

Now Kevin is trying to convince Pharazon to stop the expedition, and I guess Kevin is Pharazon's son? And Miriel is Pharazon's cousin (which we knew from the books but which it seems the show has just sprung on us)? Anyway, Pharazon is thinking the same thing as me: war in the Southlands is an opportunity to expand Numenor's empire. That's good practical policy, and the show presents it as sinister but it really isn't. Is it really much worse, or even different, from Galadriel's goal? They both plan to drive out Sauron and install Halbrand as king (whether he wants it or not); the only difference is Pharazon's more open about how this will benefit Numenor's interests.

Meanwhile, Tar-Palantir warns Miriel not to go to Middle-earth, and now the show is giving incredibly mixed signals as to whether this expedition is a good idea or not. Are Numenoreans behaving as bad guys? Are they earning the apocalyptic judgement that lies in wait? What exactly do the Powers That Be want them to do?!

Stranger-Gandalf's powers are varied with no particular theme -- ice, ground pounding, killing fireflies -- and he seems increasingly in control of them. Nori meddles in his affairs, gets frostbite, and it's suddenly his fault.

Mithril contains the light of a Silmaril and without it Elves in Middle-earth will go extinct? :rariwhat: It's bizarre but at least it gives an explanation for everything that's happening. And that's good enough. We get context and we get stakes. It wouldn't have hurt to have gotten these things earlier, but at least we have them now. It does, at least, set up the reason why the Elves would want to make Rings of Power to sustain themselves in Middle-earth, so when that happens later, we know why.

Elrond answering "I cannot answer because I swore an oath to secrecy" is itself answer enough.

On the eve of the expedition, Numenor's in full it'll-all-be-over-by-Christmas mode. Except Isildur, who's propping up a wall like the loser he is. It's nice to see him get decked. It's good. Oh, if only Isildur had some kind of ring of power to make people obey his wishes! Or make him invisible so he can stow away on the ship!

The boat catches fire and then BLOWS UP. Am I dating myself if I make a Ford Pinto joke? :granny:

Everyone's calling him "Lord Halbrand" even though he has no formal title and doesn't want one. I feel like the royal-blood thing is just an excuse to keep him in the story because there's no reason the characters would care about Random Dude, especially since they actively dislike him.

This is where we see the Elrond from the premiere, a generally smart guy but lacking in guile to keep from being outmaneuvered by those around him. We see how he can become the Elrond of later, but he's not there yet. It's nice to see this Elrond back.

Galadriel opens up about what a frankly awful person she's become, and that too is nice to see. This self-awareness doesn't come with a resolve to change, to be less inflexible or less deceptive perhaps, but it's still nice to see.

Adar is upset that Waldreg called him Sauron, although IIRC the real Sauron didn't like that either, so that doesn't in itself prove anything.

Arondir gets a dialogue with Theo which reveals how he's come to feel about the humans under his watch, and like a lot that happens in this episode, it should have happened long ago. Characters need to talk about their motivations, show! They need to share their perceptions! That's easier to do when they have scenes together!

Bronwyn talking about her people perhaps being "destined for the darkness" is also a nice moment.

That table's made from sacred Dwarven stone, and Gil-galad never even used a coaster.

"A burden shared may either be halved or doubled" is a good line. Very much like something a Tolkien Elf would say.

OK, nice fakeout where Halbrand grabs his crest at the last second.

Isildur's sister remains useless. Also, it's weird that Anarion has been talked about but hasn't appeared yet.

The Numenoreans may be ambivalent about Elves, but when Galadriel shows up in armor, every head turns.

And off they go in three ships! Somehow a believably majestic departure even though it's so tiny.

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This episode was measurably better! It's amazing what you can do when you open the mystery boxes, provide reasons and motivations for things, and let the drama flow from that. Also things really do seem to be moving forward:
  • The siege with Team Bronwyn/Arondir is imminent, and better still, we finally have some stakes: they're looking for the sword which is a key which Adar will use to turn off the sun or something. It matters, outside of these characters themselves, whether this battle is won or lost. Bronwyn considering giving up is also a nice character beat. This plotline is now officially interesting!
  • While the larger point of Stranger-Gandalf and the Harfoots remains unclear, I find Stranger-Gandalf's concern over his own moral character compelling. Clearly he's a potential WMD, but is he meant to be that? Is he, put simply, the Iron Giant? I'm curious to see how this progresses and how he grows into the Gandalf we know.
  • We finally understand the deal with the Elves and Dwarves, which means we can get on with the moral quandaries that result from knowing the situation. And that lets me enjoy the Elrond-Durin friendship more.
  • Galadriel is finally getting off that damn island.
A lot of characters are being forced to soul-search and to make moral decisions, and again, all this should have happened much sooner because now that it is happening everything just works better. I'm actually looking forward to the next episode! How about that?
Last edited by Mechanical Ape on Sun Jan 01, 2023 6:44 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Sun Jan 01, 2023 6:31 pm

As an aside, I'm just gonna note that based on where the Harfoots are and when this story takes place, there's a non-zero chance we see some Entwives.
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Tue Jan 24, 2023 11:48 pm

Well, should we see what those wacky lords of the rings are up to this week? :iamapony:

IIRC: A group of the rural proletariat are sheltering in a tower from an approaching Orc army. This matters because the tower contains a macguffin that turns off the sun. Galadriel accompanies an army from Numenor to challenge Sauron. This matters ... um, not at all actually! There's mithril in Khazad-dum and Elves need to eat it, or whatever, in order to stay alive. Finally the Harfoots are on the migration with their pal Stranger, and this only matters to the degree we care about these characters, which is a whole lot.


EPISODE 6: Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring Ring, Bananaphone


Adar plants a seed and gives a rousing speech to the Orcs as if they gave a shit about honor and respect and all that. There is a tragic idealist vibe about Adar, like he wants to treat his followers as if they were humane beings and doesn't want to confront the fact that he's leading a bunch of monsters. There's absolutely a discussion to be had about whether Orcs are irredeemable and to what extent their cruelty is owed to the conditions they keep getting pushed into by this or that evil wizard. Bronwyn's ancestors served Morgoth, but when his influence was removed they got over it -- could the same be true of Orcs, and if not, why not? That's a question Tolkien punted on but which this show could conceivably explore. In this particular scene, though, the feeling seems to be that no, Orcs are monsters and you're deluding yourself to imagine otherwise. Nampat!

The approach to the tower is a long, narrow bridge spanning a deep ravine. Do the townsfolk not have any bows, because that is the entire point of having that -- it's an approach that makes it hard for attackers to overwhelm the place. That Adar and company are allowed to cross and walk right up to the front door is ... look, Bronwyn and Arondir better have a plan is all I'll say. Nampat!

Okay there IS a plan. That's okay, then! The plan seems to involve Arondir doing everything himself, including bringing the tower down on the attackers. Eh, it's plausible enough for me -- Arondir's folk built the tower, maybe they installed a self-destruct which he would have known about. It's fine, and a decent enough subversion of the inevitable siege I assumed was coming.

Galadriel chats with Isildur and Elendil and it's really quite good.

Arondir, this is Middle-earth! Evil artifacts are always beyond our skill to destroy. That's just how it works here. I guess they did need to show someone trying, though, just to establish the fact.

The villagers are doing a defense-in-depth sort of thing, it looks like. Keep falling back, making the enemy pay for each step. It's a solid plan! Theo's just a kid so he gets Eowyn'd into the tavern with the noncombatants.

Oh yeah, remember when Arondir and Bronwyn had romantic feelings for each other? They're finally coming back to that.

The battle scene finally begins, and Arondir cuts a fine figure as an archer. It must be said that for all the work Episode 2 did to make a single Orc feel like a terrifying predator, that sure isn't in evidence here -- it's a typical battle sequence where the filthy peasants get some kills and the Orcs get some kills. Arondir gets an Indiana Jones mano-a-mano with a big Orc which is fun, though. We never got to see Legolas get down and dirty with his fists, or get a punch in the face.

Apparently the villagers won! But among the fallen foes are red-blooded human people. And now there's a counter-ambush from the Orcs! Nampat! Bronwyn gets shot in the shoulder which is movie-speak for Just A Flesh Wound. If you're ever the hero in an action movie, be sure to armor your shoulders because that's where the bullets/arrows will land. And now it's time for some first aid, medieval-style. I don't know if fire is actually the best way to patch a wound, but Rambo did it once so it's probably sound.

Meanwhile, apparently in another time zone, here come the Numenoreans riding hard! They're in great haste, which makes for great cinema but I don't know what they're hastening toward -- this is an expeditionary force, they don't know where the enemy is and they don't know about the battle happening with the Southlanders. So they're not riding to the rescue, they're just ... riding. Really fast. Somewhere. It sure is urgent, though!

The Orcs hold Bronwyn and Theo hostage instead of slaughtering them because they are important main characters and the Orcs magically know this. Adar walks in like he's just here for a drink.

Theo is the first to crack, yelling "Wait! It's under there." Then Adar says, "Under where?" and Theo says "I just made you say underwear."

Sure enough, the Numenoreans show up like they knew exactly where to go and what was happening. I forget, did Galadriel or Miriel have a vision earlier, that they knew they had to get to this place right away? Because this seems really unearned. I mean, if you're going to have a rescue out of nowhere then you might as well keep tradition and have Eagles show up. Well, whatever -- we're finally converging two storylines, that's the important thing.

Looks like Theo's got a li'l crush! :3:

Galadriel lectures Halbrand about not living for revenge, which is pretty rich coming from her. But she's right that they need Adar alive, because what even is this guy's deal?

Okay, Adar's deal is he's one of the unfortunate progenitors of the Orc race. That's actually pretty interesting and explains how he feels a sort of kinship with his Orcs, because he literally is kin to them. Meanwhile Galadriel plans to keep Adar alive out of sheer cruelty, which is the same reason Morgoth kept him alive back in the day.

G also vows, well, genocide against the Orcs, which is an ominous turn for G's character and the show makes no bones about saying so. Adar should just say "you would make a good Dalek" and be done with it.

Galadriel swings her blade at Adar but is stopped at the last second by Halbrand, as opposed to the previous scene where Halbrand swung his blade at Adar but was stopped at the last second by Galadriel. Really, this episode has had like six moments where a character is about to kill someone only to halt inches away when another character yells "Wait". That's lazy writing but also, it's really hard to stop a killing blow in mid-swing. You'd think eventually this wouldn't work, someone would yell wait and the person can't stop because it's a fucking sword and it doesn't stop on a dime.

Miriel is noticeably taller than Bronwyn which I would not have guessed before they shared a scene together.

And Halbrand has his Aragorn moment where he embraces his kingly heritage. The folk of the Southlands seem pleased with this although it's not clear they're actually in need of a king; they were doing just fine before the monsters showed up. I'd always seen them as more like the Breelanders, happier to be left alone than to be part of a kingdom (as long as they were kept safe). But okay, all this is clearly intended to mirror, and make us think of, the ending of LOTR, while at the same time we know there's 2 episodes left, so just like The Phantom Menace we get what feels to the characters like a happy ending, but the audience knows it's a false resolution and there's worse to come.

Theo tells Arondir about the deep desire he felt for the artifact's power, and Arondir responds by giving Theo the artifact. Someone's got their wires crossed here. But it's irrelevant because Cult Man took the artifact and used it so now this whole episode was completely pointless. Like the heroes failed for no good reason other than the DM needed to railroad the players into following the so-cool plot he'd written.

Given that the apocalypse just started, I'm not sure why the show feels an urgent need to show Elendil and Isildur talking about horses, but here we are.

Oh great, you guys just invented Mordor. Nice job, assholes. It's a visually amazing scene though. Meanwhile Galadriel stands there all cool, like just because you're an Elf doesn't mean you're immune to flying hunks of lava. Get your bad ass indoors like everyone else.

It's a nice apocalyptic ending to the episode and I hope the show has the chutzpah to go full dark and kill all these characters (not Galadriel obviously, we know she survives, though I can't imagine how). Like, in the next episode the place is an ashen wasteland and everyone is dead. Like in Watchmen after the squid appears: we've been following this group of characters the whole story and they all die in vain, all their little stories and personal dramas are cut short; they just lose for reasons they never had control over. That would be a ballsy move and I hope they do it. If you're going to railroad the story to make your heroes fail, you should at least build on that to emphasize the tragedy and inevitability of it all. That opportunity is lost if we find out next episode that all of the named characters we like survived.

--------

This episode was all right, although ending on a Big Moment as it did, I can't fully settle my feelings without also seeing the episode it leads into. That'll be another time. Till then, we got the merging of storylines and the resolution to a few, questions were answered, and Mount Doom erupted. (I am pretty sure I heard "Orodruin" mentioned in a previous episode, which implies they were calling it Mount Doom even when it was a regular mountain, which ... oh what the hell, that's the least of our worries right now.)
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Adiwan (?) » Thu Jan 26, 2023 4:44 am

After this episode Mount Doom should be really called Mount BOOM
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Re: Mechanical Ape and the Rings of Power

Post by Mechanical Ape (?) » Thu Jan 26, 2023 9:29 pm

The earth's inner core is slowing down and I blame Bronwyn and co. for making all the lava leak out. Thanks for nothing, you fuckups.
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