Episode 44
November 1, 2022

(Various Sighs and Groans.)

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about the inevitable: the first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Ever since By-the-Bywater began, the show’s creation, filming and buildup to its release has loomed large in our news reports and there were inevitable questions about it the more information was surfacing. But there was always hope that it could in fact succeed and add to the notable if admittedly varied canon of Tolkien adaptations already created over time. Suffice to say that there was a lot of heavy promotion, a whole amount of attention and there are definitely plenty of people out there who have enjoyed the series to one degree or another. The three of us…are not among them. Frankly, not in the slightest, outside of a few particular points and factors, and we try and bring them up as we can. But we’re not going to pussyfoot around the fact that we found this eight episode introductory season to otherwise be a near-unmitigated disaster and are still picking our way through the wreckage like the orcs after the ‘are you kidding us right now’ Mount Doom relighting trick. What choices were made by the showrunners to create incidents and particular character arcs, whether from Tolkien’s own creations or invented characters of their own, and why did so many of them fall so flat? What did the continuing use of non-standard English dialects mean for certain characters and how they’re meant to be perceived or understood? Who were the good actors who actually did something of note with their often confusing or underwritten or just poorly written character motivations? What if anything was in line with Tolkien’s general themes and approaches, and more importantly, what wasn’t? And once again, what in the WORLD with that scheme about Mt. Doom, good frickin’ grief.

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Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. See, if they’d cast a Celebrimbor who even LOOKED like this…

Yup, second season of The Rings of Power is happening. Yup, sure is. Great.

The HarperCollins union announces the strike. Again, please honor it.

We tend to favor the reactions that look at things with at least a slightly gimlet eye. James Whitbrook’s end-of-season episode recap at io9 had some good tart points, especially on the unnecessary approach making the entire season a prologue or pilot, in essence.

Published before the end of the season, Kathryn VanArendonk’s Vulture piece “The Fantasy Prequel Problem,” which also and understandably takes in House of the Dragon as well, also had some sharp observations.

Undone is a really, really good series that Amazon has, indeed. Check it out.

Repeating from the previous episode’s show notes: Ned’s Twitter threads on the time compression problem in the series with specific regard to Númenor.

The actual destruction of the Two Trees in this clip is truly marvelous, an excellent brief summary…and as we say, it immediately falls apart after that.

J. J. Abrams’s famous/infamous TED Talk about the mystery box/puzzle box approach he favors, which the ROP showrunners clearly have taken to heart. (We are not fans.)

A recent argument about how the Star Wars prequels became more embraced. (The point Oriana notes about having a vision is brought up as a factor.) See also Rian Johnson’s 2020 tweet.

The Bronwyn/Theo/orc duel in episode 2 and the Galadriel/Adar barn debate in episode 6 are very good scenes! But they were all too rare in comparison.

Our earlier episode on orcs.

If you want to delve more into the haphazard weirdness of 1980s/1990s D&D novels – and there are quite a lot to choose from – Rob Bricken’s irregular ‘Dungeons & Dragons & Novels’ series on io9 has been a treat; here’s the most recent entry.

Caroline Framke’s Variety piece on the show is much more positive than ours but zeroes in on an inescapable fact: the lack of traction the show has had in terms of wider discussion/interest, especially in comparison to House of the Dragon.

Star Wars: Andor! The Wheel of Time! The forthcoming Willow series! There’s so much more that’s just…better out there.

Our episode from last year on Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring.

Subscription required but we do indeed recommend Lindsay Ellis’s new video on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation choices, as well as the Like Stories of Old’s YouTube video The Rings of Powers Has a Narrative Momentum Problem.

The Spouter-Inn’s episode on The Two Towers – the bonus episode with Jared is forthcoming. (Their earlier Fellowship of the Ring episode, as well as the bonus episode with Oriana.)

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