Between Vigilance and Vengeance

Galadriel in the LightWe’re two episodes away from the end of the first season of The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime.  It’s been a fun 6 episodes so far, putting to the screen characters and locations that have mostly only resided in text and pictures.  The show has not been without its critics.  (Let me say that I am so glad that the Peter Jackson trilogy came out before Twitter was a thing.). That’s been true of every other adaptation of Tolkien’s work, so it’s nothing new.  As I might have mentioned before, it’s just nice being able to step into Tolkien’s world in a way like this.  It’s not something that happens often.  And it’s fun to see the show’s creators find interesting ways to pace things and slow-burn certain mysteries.  (I’m glad we’ve had a couple of episodes without the Harfoots.)  It’s also be interesting to see how the show-runners have brought in echoes (or almost direct quotes) from the Tolkien story and media (like the Harfoot song “This Wandering Day” or Bronwyn’s use of a Samwise Gamgee quote).

I think the thing that stands out to me this far into the story is the balance of the promise of the trailers with the realities of each episode.  And it mostly centers on Galadriel, since she’s the show’s true lead and the most significant thread tying things into Lord of the Rings.  The trailers (and the first episode) brought out a strong sense of the important of vigilance.  Is Sauron back or not?  Either way, what do we do about it?  Vigilance is a good word for everyone.  But for Galadriel, the other side of vigilance’s coin is vengeance.  She really wants to get back at Sauron for what has happened to her loved ones.  Which is understandable and likely sells more than the slow work of vigilance.  I hope that vigilance comes back to the foreground as the season comes to an end.  This first season has had the benefit/curse of evil being “unseen” (thus little action from the elves). But based on this last episode, evil is about to be more fully seen, which requires a vigilance all its own.

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I’m still slowly rereading Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales (and mostly out of order).  Yesterday I finished the the story of Turin from the First Age.  And it’s all about vengeance (or at least it felt like it).  I think maybe the strength of both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is that vengeance isn’t very present as a motivation.  Maybe that’s why Galadriel both “takes and passes” the test when the Ring is presented to her.  Almost everyone else is focusing on vigilance or on prevention or protection.  As others have said before, maybe this is the arc of Galadriel’s journey in the series.  If so, it will be a good arc to witness.

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