December 9, 2022

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This Grand Final Solution to ‘Rings of Power’ Doesn’t Work in the Age of Broadcasting

warning: This story contains all the details of the great development at the end of The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. Click away if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power piling up to this point for weeks: the unveiling of Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who we’ve assumed is the leader of men like Aragorn and the last legitimate king of the Southlands and It was actually a big bad for JRR Tolkien himself, Sauron. It’s a game-changing twist that forces viewers to re-examine each episode in the series to see the little hints and clues that have been dropped throughout.

At least, that’s what show goers were hoping for.

In fact, when Halbrand confirmed his identity to Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), it’s possible that many viewers – especially smart ones – negatively accepted an imposed result. Lots of people discovered the development well before this weekend, and even if you don’t quite connect the dots, there’s been enough chatter online that anyone with a passing interest in the show will likely run into the popular fan theory. (For the full recap, read my colleague Erin Carson Explanation of the end of the first season of episodes of strength.)

Had this evolution occurred in the age of network television, without the help of the Internet and a community of vulture viewers to share and post their theories to YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, and more, the Rings of Power finale would have been far more impactful.

Now, it elicits a disinterested disregard.

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Rings of Power is the latest reminder that it’s hard for TV shows to surprise anyone—think Jon Snow in Game of Thrones—especially in this age of streaming, critically acclaimed audiences. It’s also a warning to exhibitors of the dangers that come from putting your show’s season on hold on some big development. Attracting fans too early reduces any chance of you being able to shock and delight your audience.

And in the case of Rings of Power, the twist, if it really surprised anyone, could have redeemed what had been an uneven season. While it was only eight episodes, the show moved at an icy pace, dotting lines of varying quality and interest.

At best, it was a lesser version of Peter Jackson’s original Lord of the Rings trilogy, particularly the intimate relationship between Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and Prince Doreen IV (Owen Arthur). At worst, it was inducing sleep. I couldn’t stay awake for some early episodes, even for the episodes set in the beautiful, but oddly soulless Númenor set.

The show eventually gained strength and really peaked In the sixth episode, which had its mediocre-scale development with the eruption of Mount Doom and the creation of Mordor (which the show should have spelled out literally with a title card that seemed to suggest a bit of faith to its viewers). This development has also been taking shape in the background in previous episodes, but it’s been placed more subtly than allusions to Sauron.

Sauron’s talk started with the premiere, at the show Stranger feet In an amazing fiery way. Certainly, clever speculation fell on Gandalf or some other healer. But there has been enough chatter online about Sauron’s character being a red herring. In contrast to the development of Mount Doom, Rings of Power has captured Sauron’s speculation from the start.

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The situation reminds me a lot of Star Trek: Discovery, another show built on an established franchise for the purposes of guiding audiences to the streaming service. Star Trek spoiler warning: Paramount Plus built its first season around a major twist, as Ash Tyler (Shazad Latif), the human union officer and his interest in main character Michael Burnham (Sonicoa Martin Green), was a double agent for Klingon.

This was another scenario where die-hard fans had previously detected this twist, damping out any potential impact. Aside from the ups and downs, the season was met with mixed reactions. The good news: Discovery’s showrunners have adapted in subsequent seasons, steadily improving and moving away from that season. big. twist.

Which is where I wish the Rings of Power would go. Revealing Vickers’ character as Sauron opens the door to a more human interpretation of the character, something we haven’t seen in all six of Jackson’s films. And Galadriel’s close brush with Sauron is supposed to provide interesting wrinkles in her arc in Season 2.

But the ingenuity of fans and our ability to communicate with each other so broadly and instantly means that models are really, really, really better, clever when it comes to masking those fluctuations. It’s certainly possible – The Good Place is an excellent example, although it hasn’t come under the scrutiny of a large franchise property. Better yet, just ditch the swings altogether. Instead of a big reveal, I’d appreciate it if they could consistently create a more compelling show.

After such an uneven first season, this might be the biggest shocker of them all.

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