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The Rings of Power finally delivers real thrills, but has Amazon’s Tolkien prequel left it too late to shine?



Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Rings of Power

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Rings of Power

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Rings of Power

SIX hours is a long time in television, yet that’s what it took before the million-dollars-a-minute Lord of the Rings prequel The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime) finally exploded into life.

And I do mean exploded. It climaxed with the eruption of a volcano – the creation of Mount Doom, inside which Sauron will later forge the One Ring – that rained fireballs of lava down on all and sundry, turning the surrounding countryside into a wasteland that will come to be known as Mordor. This was the most impressive bit of CGI I think I’ve ever seen.

Overall, it was a fantastic episode that delivered everything we’d hoped the series would from the start, but which it had largely failed to do.

It also left out the single element that’s been trying the patience of even those of us who are well-disposed toward the series and really want it to be something special: the Harfoots, those grating ancestors of the Hobbits.

There wasn’t a hairy foot to be seen or a fake Irish accent to be heard. This made for a blissfully whimsy-free hour. No irritating songs either.

Unfortunately, it also meant we’ll have to wait even longer before finding out who the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) who’s been tagging along with the Harfoots really is.

If he doesn’t turn out to be Gandalf himself (and the powers he used last week to banish some terrifying wolf-like creatures strongly suggest he is) then I’ll eat my wizard’s hat.

It was also a week off for elf Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and his dwarf friend Prince Durin (Owain Arthur), whose bantering gives the series a welcome injection of warmth and humour to lighten the more po-faced tendencies of the fantasy genre.

But there was little time to take a breath, let alone to crack a few jokes, in this terrifically propulsive instalment, two-thirds of which were taken up with spectacular action.

The creepy-looking Adar (Joseph Mawle), with the help of the traitorous Waldreg (Geoff Morrell), launched an attack on the Watchtower.

They walked, or rather stormed, straight into a trap devised by elf archer Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) and Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and were thoroughly routed. If the victory seemed to come a little too easily, there was a reason for it.

Lifting the mask on one of the dead, Arondir discovered to his horror that they’d been fighting – and killing – humans disguised as orcs. Adar had used the Southlanders Waldreg persuaded to join him last week as sacrificial lambs to lull his enemies into a false sense of security.

The real wave, this time with real orcs, came moments later. This was thrilling stuff with brilliantly choreographed fight scenes, cleanly filmed and crisply edited so you were never in any doubt who was who. The violence was more graphic than we’d so far seen from the series, which has tended to lean in a PG direction.

There were moments of genuine tension too. It really seemed like Arondir wouldn’t survive a fight with a gigantic orc – a particularly brutal, gory slug-a-thon. Bronwyn also looked like she was about to die after being hit by an arrow.

With an axe-wielding orc about to separate Bronwyn from her head, her son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) saved her by handing over the coveted sword hilt Adar had been seeking, and which the weaselly Waldreg would later use to trigger the volcano.

This was slightly unfortunate timing. At that very moment, an army of Númenóreans, led by Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), came riding to the rescue and eviscerated Adar’s forces of darkness.

This was the moment when The Rings of Power finally woke up and fulfilled its potential. It was an epic battle with all the breathtaking sweep and scale of Peter Jackson’s LOTR films.

But with just two episodes to go in this first season, has it arrived too late? Building a fantasy world using the scant materials in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings and populating it mainly with brand new characters takes time and demands patience from the viewer.

But The Rings of Power has made extremely slow and heavy going of it. There were long stretches when little or nothing happened.

This episode should be enough to win over viewers who were wavering. But the remaining two need to keep the momentum going.

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