The Rings of Power Episode 6: The War of the RetardsThe Dark Herald
“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.
Many ages ago, when this ancient planet was not quite so ancient, long before man recorded his history, there was the time of Middle-earth, where men shared his days with elves, dwarves, wizards, goblins, dragons and hobbits. In the lands of Middle-earth, in an area known as the Shire, there was a village named Hobbiton. There, in a hole in the ground, lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, nor a dry, bare, sandy hole. It was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
Those words were my introduction to the world of JRR Tolkien when I was little kid. I first heard that dialog being read by John Houston at the start of the Rankin Bass version of “The Hobbit.” It did its job and served as a gateway drug that led to my life-long addiction to Tolkien.
There are plenty of critics of that kid’s show based on a kid’s book that was written early in the life cycle of Tolkien’s Legendarium. I understand where the critics are coming from. But they’re bad and they’re wrong, and here’s why:
The Hobbit’s place in the lore is as I said, a children’s story. Professor Tolkien never intended this to be an adult work of fantasy. It was meant to draw children into his world. The objections that the show didn’t include every single little detail from the book are unrealistic, given the film had a limited budget and limited time constraint that was based on the ability of children to maintain an interest in any given subject of more than one hour.
The strongest objections are to the Manga-influenced art design. The fundamental problem here is that The Hobbit was made during a period of extreme stagnation in American Animation. Just about the American animator doing anything with any life in it, was Ralph Bakshi and he was making his own version of the Lord of the Rings. The anime influence of the Japanese production team brought a desperately needed vivacity to the animated film. The art style was new and very engaging for Generation X kids. Most of the complaints about the art design come from older generations that were cognitively rigid in their view of what Middle Earth should look like and would not tolerate any variation of their own fantasies.
Finally, anybody who ever said that version of The Hobbit looked cheap now owes Rankin-Bass, an on-your-knees groveling apology after Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power was launched.
This thing is dirt cheap and looks it despite having spent close to a billion dollars on it. There are a few places where they obviously spent money on flashy CGI. But everything else looks cheap and shoddy. The armor is plastic that looks like plastic. The crowd scenes are CG’ed in, (here, look):
This is the worst kind of cheap. The kind of cheap where you spent a shit load of money to achieve the look.
Opening Scene: Adar is planting a tree and muttering in Elvish. Deeply moving, it has no place in the Legendarium, but Tolkien might have been okay with the concept of Elves planting a tree before battle.
There is no way in hell he could accept the next part.
They’re doing the Orcs wrong now. I know, you are left slack-jawed in wonder at this. Turns out the Orcs have been oppressed by…uh…someone(?) and now they want their own homeland.
Wait a minute, the Orcs were slaves? And now will be “brothers and sisters in their own land?” When how and to whom were they enslaved? Who would be insane enough to even try to make slaves out of Orcs? Have I already reached the “Oh What the Fuck” portion of the episode? Seems a little early if you ask me. Maybe I should keep it reserve.
Great speech though. Adar goes on and at length about how the humans are weak and few in number but that a lot of Orcs are going to die anyway. Inspiring.
Speech concluded, the Orcs march on the watch tower with Adar totally out in front of them. Wow. They are marching in a miles-long, narrow, walled snake path of a road on a steep hillside. A road that stays that way across an equally narrow bridge and up at the gate of the Watch Tower. Military commanders going all the way back in time to Big Ooog of the Mountain Cave Clan have had wet dreams about target environments that rich and that vulnerable. They are armed only with torches, no shields to be seen anywhere.
They march right up to the gate with Adar leading from the front. Where he would be the best target but there are no arrows. Or any sign of resistance at all. Scruffigon is at his right hand. I have to say the Evil Innkeeper made the right call, in switching sides if he’s been promoted that fast. And all it cost him was the human sacrifice of Incelnor the Unmissed and Unmentioned Ever Again.
Adar goes chest first through the front gate and doesn’t die for it. It’s clear that the castle has been abandoned. Well, abandoning the castle and running for their lives was the right thing to do in that situation. As one of the Orcs said, “must have got smart and scappered.”
No, it was a brilliant trap! Elfagorn fires an arrow that sets off a Rube Goldberg machine that brings down the ENTIRE tower on top of a bunch of the Orcs. I guess Elves have ripoff military contractors too.
Okay, I gotta give the town’s people points for brains here. They scuttled fortifications that could have been used by their enemies as a forward base against them and killed a lot of their enemies in the process as they make their escape. That was a good plan and it worked.
See? I can be nice to this show. It can happen.
Although in truth this is going to be a battle-heavy episode, that is mostly action visuals and that is Bad Reboot’s biggest strength. It’s probably going to be the best episode of the series even if that isn’t saying much. (Future Dark Herald: Oh, you sweet summer child of sixty minutes ago, you had no idea what future was in store for you)
You see the townsfolk cheering in the next scene and…
Nope. Sorry. I got it wrong. Points for brains withdrawn. They are completely retarded after all. The townsfolk are now going to, (I can’t believe I’m writing this), fortify their old town. The one that is on a flat plane. With about a hundred different ways in. And all the houses are wood with thatched roofs. Maybe this is my Oh WTF moment? Nah, not yet.
Believe it or not “run like hell” can be a perfectly good military strategy if it is done in good order but they didn’t do that. They traded a great defensive location for a terrible one. While they were in the Watch Tower, they had a ludicrously good position that could be defended by a one-eyed monkey throwing rocks. The Orcs would have had to have come uphill, on a path that would keep them bottlenecked for miles. Then try to get over a ridiculously high bridge then over a very narrow strip of an extremely tall, thick wall. The Men might lose five or so people to random arrows and missiles before the Númenoreans show up. A couple of rough all-nighters and it’s over with minimal casualties.
Whatever happens now, a bunch of them are going to die.
Cut to the Númenorean fleet. Well, squadron really, it’s too small to be a fleet.
Isildur wakes up aboard ship and goes to the stable. Was this sailing ship built on Gallifrey? It’s huge inside. Isildur feeds half an apple to his horse and then eats the other half. Which would be fine, but he never cut the apple in half. He just let the horse take a bite out of his apple and then he ate the rest of it. Seriously? I suppose it does add a little verisimilitude to the portrayal of the revolting grottiness of medieval life, but we are six episodes in and it’s a weird place to start.
He goes up on deck and has a chat with Galadriel. He admits his rank is Stable Sweep, and the goddamn hypocrisy of the writers is beyond breathtaking because Karen-Galadriel the Bestest Elf Warrior evah, has the gall to give a speech on the virtue of humility.
Also, she can see Middle Earth and he can’t because Elf eyes are keen and the writers have once again forgotten that Middle Earth was still flat in the second age. On a clear day, the mainland would have been clearly visible all the way from Númenor.
Karen Galadriel tells Isildur he has the look of his father, and he says, ‘I thought I looked like my mother.’ He’s right because that kid looks nothing at all like Elendil and now that I think of it his “Father” did spend a lot of his life both deployed and not keeping a close eye on Mrs. Elendil. The boy looks nothing at all like Elendil, which might go a long way to explaining their poor relationship. “Yeah, Chadnor was always hanging around the wife whenever Elendil was at sea. Born at ten months, my ass.”
“You cannot quench your thirst for vengeance by drinking seawater.” Which is up there with “Our pregnant blades must be aborted”. Except that one was supposed to be funny.
The Queen is pouring over a map of Middle Earth. Not-Sauron gives a rough indication of where the Orcs are probably heading. The fleet has to cross the sea, then sail upriver which these ships absolutely can not do. And then they need to ride 300 miles to get to the village. I am forced to assume Manwë told them where to go in a dream. There is so much wrong here, I just can’t keep up with it. It should take them one to three months, but you know they will be there in 24 hours. And the five hundred cavalry troops they brought with them will be just enough to defeat an army whose size is completely unknown to them.
Three ships. Three lousy ships. The invasion of the Southlands up the River Harnen should have looked like this:
They could have CG’ed in more ships but then they would have had to have had a correspondingly big army. However, that would have meant less money allegedly going into I don’t know who’s pocket, but I have a feeling that Amazon is now itching to find out where their budget went.
Cut back to the village, they are now doing the kind of improvised weapon-making they should have done at the castle. Back when they had a castle. A ludicrously easy-to-defend castle.
Long, slow boring scene of preparations, while Bronwyn gives a speech that I’m supposed to find inspiring. It’s better than Adar’s, I’ll give it that. “Our position gives us an advantage…”
No. No! NO! It doesn’t. You had the advantage of position (note the past tense) when you were held up in a castle, but this town has no fortifications.
Oops, the town suddenly has some fortifications. They were never there before, and this village has been shown in long shots without any kind of wall surrounding it but the important thing is that it’s there now. That’s what really counts. Also, we get to see the cool Vietnam-era traps the writers saw in a documentary.
Night falls and the Orcs arrive, they are all carrying torches so they can ruin their excellent night vision. The bad guys infiltrate the village looking for the obvious ambushes that are about to hit them.
Bronwyn strikes! She stabs an Orc in the foot with a sickle. The Orc roars in fury and swings his sword savagely. Bronwyn ducks away… And the sword goes right through the neck of the villager that was standing behind Bronwyn. I laughed my ass off.
Not all of the action scenes are that funny, but some are in the running. Elfagorn is fighting an Orc on a rooftop. Another Orc hooks a chain into the back of Elfgorn’s armor and pulls him off balance. The chain-wielding Orc manages to hurl himself completely off the roof doing it.
This show has turned the mighty Orcs into Stormtroopers.
They’ve ripped off Game of Thrones again, but now they are lifting the bad parts. This battle is so dark you can’t see a damn thing. I suppose I should be grateful, but it’s like a slave thanking his taskmaster for using the lighter whip today. Especially when it’s obvious that the taskmaster wasn’t doing you any favors, his wrist was acting up again that morning.
The villagers have a predictable false victory when the first wave breaks and retreats.
Elfagorn notices the blood on their enemies is red instead of black. The townsfolk are horrified when they find human faces behind the armor. The Orcs sent the villagers that surrendered to them to fight their former friends and neighbors. That is actually a good idea. Burn up your most expendable troops on the field expedient traps the village will deploy and as a plus, your new recruits know the village like the back of their hands. The smartest of your B-squad might survive. Call it a filtering mechanism.
Now, Orc arrows fill the night sky.
Tragedy! Bronwyn gets hit in the back with an arrow. Then she reacts to being hit in the leg by a second arrow, but they forgot to CG that one in, but they DID put in the sound effect. Regardless, she is definitely hit by one arrow. The one you can see.
The Townsfolk retreat to the tavern. This will put them all in one convenient location for the Orcs. Thoughtful and easy on the budget.
Since they are ripping off Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, I am willing to bet and even pay up that the Númenoreans will shortly be reenacting the charge of the Rohirrim.
Actual drama. Bronwyn is down! A major character is going to die and it’s a heroic woman? The arrow gets pulled out and a garden hose spray of blood pours from her upper chest. That’s a brachial hit, she’s got to be done.
So, you can cauterize a brachial artery. Who knew? No Doctor on Earth for one.
Orcs break into the tavern and start killing villagers
They are doing the Charge of the Rohirrim and it’s completely wrong. 90% of the cavalry is CG’d and they did a lousy job.
Adar finally has the One MacGuffin sword hilt and gives secret orders to Scruffagon just as the Númenoreans ride to the rescue.
How do you make a big climactic battle boring as hell?
Galadriel or to be exact her stunt double is doing a bunch of riding tricks that look silly while everyone on screen is being amazed by her. The writers are nothing short of completely incompetent. They are convinced on the basis of nothing, that the audience is absolutely irretrievably in love with Galadriel. So much so that we think she farts perfume. They have no clue how to make a character. It’s beyond them.
Every single sword stroke is done off-camera. The connection between sword and flesh is not shown, unless Bronwyn is getting one of her friends killed, or they need Galadriel to show off some more. I think they are trying to keep the violence at PG-13.
The Orcs have lost.
Adar takes off on horseback. Galadriel mounts a horse and takes off in pursuit as does Not-Sauron. We have a pointless chase scene for a bit and then, I shit you not, Not-Sauron freaking teleports himself in FRONT of Adar so he can unhorse him by tripping the horse.
Not-Sauron took off last, was behind Adar in one scene, then in front of him the next.
After unhorsing him, Not-Sauron stabs Adar in the hand when he reaches for the package he was carrying. Then he holds the tip of the spear to Adar’s throat and asks if he knows who he is.
Adar, doesn’t, but then tries to goad Not-Sauron into killing him and it almost works. Galadriel stops him because she needs him alive. Put a big old pin in that we are circling back to it big time.
Back in town and the Orcs are in chains(?). I’ve honestly never seen that anywhere before in Tolkien or for that matter in anything that has been influenced by Tolkien. Maybe a half-Orc will be captured in Dungeons and Dragons, but this may be a first. I can’t recall off the top of my head any work of Tolkien-inspired fiction where Orcs are taken alive. They either fight to the last or they run in a panic. It is strange to see them that way, but it is very revealing about the showrunners. I’ll get to that in a little bit.
Galadriel begins her interrogation of Adar wearing her number seven resting bitch-face (determination tempered by anger).
We finally get Adar’s backstory.
Yeah, I didn’t need to worry about the writers being clever. They weren’t. Adar is one of the “Moriondor.” A word that is nowhere to be found in the Legendarium. Adar was one of the original Elves that Morgoth captured, tortured, twisted, and degraded into being the first generation of proto-Orcs.
And Galadriel is now calling the Orcs ‘slaves(?).’ Am I supposed to feel sorry for them now? I’m deeply confused because my brain is trying to make sense of the senseless, stream-of-consciousness plot points spilling out of these writers’ childish heads and onto the screen. You have to remember they are from a generation that isn’t really capable of rational thought at all. They just have a bunch of conflicting feelings that they try to express in different ways that are always at odds with any kind of coherent reality when they try to verbalize these emotional expressions as rational, adult speech.
Adar insists the Orcs are the children of Ilúvatar as well as the Men and Elves.
Now, this raises something rather shocking in this TV show, namely an interesting issue. And it’s a long-standing one.
The following is from a post I made last week and now wish I’d held off on it because I have had to basically repost the whole thing here. If you’ve read it skip ahead.
The Orcs presented a fundamental conflict for J.R.R. Tolkien, one that he never resolved during his life.
On the one hand, he envisioned the Orcs as being little more than animals that talk. He wanted them to be soulless abominations.
On the other hand, he didn’t want Morgoth to have any power of creation whatsoever. He was unique among the Valar in this regard.
Aulë was allowed to create life. Or to be more exact had the capability since he was never given permission by Ilúvatar to bring the Dwarves into the world. Aulë was forgiven for this action because it was done out of a love of creation and an impatience to see the Elves brought into the world. He simply couldn’t wait to teach them.
“But the delight and pride of Aulë is in the deed of making, and in the thing made, and neither in possession nor in his own mastery.”
This is significantly different from Melkor’s motivations.
“And he descended upon Arda in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar, as a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire; and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that withers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold…
Melkor, however, was stripped of any ability to create when he rebelled, and perhaps even before he rebelled. The following took place when the world was being created.
“Melkor wove his strange thoughts into his song. His song clashed against the Theme of Ilúvatar, disturbing the Ainur around him and causing some of them to attune their music to his. For a while the Theme of Ilúvatar and the discords of Melkor warred against one another. But Eru smiled, and sent forth a new theme. Most of the Ainur joined with it, but Melkor rebelliously opposed it even more violently. At last, many of the Ainur stopped singing in dismay, and Melkor’s discords gained dominance. Eru sent out a third Theme against Melkor, sweeter and more beautiful than the others, and unquenchable. But though Melkor could not defeat it, still he opposed it. At last, Eru halted the music completely with a single chord.
Eru then publicly rebuked Melkor, saying that all music finds its source in himself, and thus Melkor could not create his own song or truly alter the Themes of Ilúvatar. Thus, though Melkor opposed Eru to his last breath, he only furthered the cause of Ilúvatar in new and wondrous ways.”
It was critically important to J.R.R. Tolkien that Morgoth be fundamentally incapable of the power of creation.
“The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own. I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures.”
Thus, Tolkien was presented with a conundrum. Morgoth could not create but only twist and ruin. So, he had Morgoth degrade and corrupt the first children of Ilúvatar, the Elves and turn the ones he caught into the Orcs. In his early works there were variations on this involving Men.
Either way, it created a problem: If this was the case then whenever an Orc died, he would go to the ever-expanding Halls of Mandos along with the Men and Elves to await resurrection and the Judgement of Mandos.
But Tolkien didn’t want them to have souls, he specifically wrote in the margin of Christopher Tolkien’s notes, “change that. Orks are not Elvish,” but he couldn’t let Evil be a creator either.
J.R.R. Tolkien never resolved this conflict in his life. Eventually, Christopher Tolkien made the call for his Dad when he published the Silmarillion and locked down the creation of Orcs as tortured and corrupted Elves. He decided that the more important aspect of his father’s work was that evil could not create.
As for the whole Halls of Mandos thing? That kind of got swept under the rug.
However, the critical thing to keep in mind is that this is not in any way shape, or form a genuine engagement with the more esoteric facets of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium.
JD Payne and Patrick McKay are in their mid-thirties and were both born into upper-income liberal families. Every single element, feature, and aspect of their upbringing and worldview taught them that there are only two kinds of people in the world: The Privileged and the Oppressed. If you are unattractive, have an odd accent, and live in a bad neighborhood then you are automatically Oppressed. And therefore, an object of earned pity and sympathy. If you are good looking and live in a nice place like Martha’s Vineyard or Rivendell, then you are inescapably Privileged and if you don’t feel guilty about the Oppressed you are a very bad person and likely to vote Republican.
The showrunners are fundamentally unable to view the Orcs as anything other than objects of pity. Consequently, they had to bulldoze any part of the Legendarium that challenged their foundational paradigm.
Tolkien’s authorial intent was simple and obvious. The Orcs are all evil and their motivation is to do bad things for wicked reasons. Therefore, you cannot make Orcs sympathetic characters.
Millennial fantasy writers are constantly trying to turn Orcs into Moaning Myrtles sobbing about their feelings and how everyone has been mean to them. They just can’t do a race of oppressed barbaric warriors right.
After swearing she is going to keep Adar alive so he can see her kill every last Orc, she then tries to kill him anyway but is stopped by Not-Sauron.
More #Sauradreil shipping ensues.
A recovering Bronwyn is now presented to the Queen by Elfagorn. Who then has to immediately leave the scene, so the queen can praise Bronwyn for everything (the male) Elfagorn has done in the show.
The Queen introduces Bronwyn to Not-Sauron so she can ask if is he the king they were promised.
Not-Sauron mumbles, “yes.”
There is general cheering for the new king of the Southlands. Then there are a couple of extremely pointless scenes loaded with dialog about various characters’ fweelings before discovering that they’ve all been tricked.
The package Adar was carrying did NOT have the One MacGuffin in it after all. Scruffigon has it. He sticks the sword hilt into a hole in the ground at the Watch Tower’s ruins, turns it like a giant key, and…
Oh. What. The. Fuck?
(You’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t you?)
This is a JJ Abrams special if I’ve ever seen one. The secret MacGuffin has another secret just like in the Rise of Skywalker. When you stick it in this hole in the stones and turn it like a giant key it opens the floodgates on the dam. Yeah, it does that.
Wait, Scruffigon was the secret hero all along? Brilliant! YES! GO SCRUFFIGON! GO! DROWN THEM ALL!!! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!
Nope, that wasn’t the plan. It was a lot dumber than that. The water gushes into the trenches and tunnels the Orcs were digging. That water pours into bigger trenches and then all of it ends up pouring into the lava lake inside of an entirely hollow Mount Doom.
All this water sets off a volcanic eruption complete with pyroclastic surges and ash plumes. It’s very impressive to look at and clearly, money was spent on this CG.
BUT VOLCANOES DON’T WORK THIS WAY!!!!
You can’t set off a volcano by pouring water on it. You just can’t. This is feelings as science.
The ash cloud swallows Galadriel and if they had any brains at all that is where they would have ended the season.
Sadly no. I have two more episodes to wade through.
Okay, I’m done here.