Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Presents A Fantasy World Where You'll Actually Want To Live

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" has already proven itself to be a different beast than the legendary trilogy. It is a slower burn and a more expansive story, taking us to every corner of Arda for an epic story that truly feels like it impacts every single living being.

Taking place in the Second Age, "The Rings of Power" has less of an apocalyptic tone than the movie trilogy, instead showing us an era of peace, prosperity, and most of all hope for the future. Tolkien's writing is greatly influenced by his own experiences living through two world wars, as well as his Catholic beliefs that things have just gone from bad to worse the moment Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. Middle-earth is a place that only saw one truly perfect moment — that of its creation — before turning into chaos and evil. This means that "The Rings of Power" has to reconcile being set in the in-between stage after the horrors and destruction of the First Age, but before the horrors and destruction of the Third Age.

So far, the show has nailed that sweet spot. "The Rings of Power" never stops reminding you that evil is around the corner ready to strike, but also shows why everyone is so desperate to cling to just a sliver of hope and joy. Indeed, one of the best things about "The Rings of Power" is how it makes Middle-earth a fantasy world you'd want to live in. This makes the show a completely different experience from, say, "House of the Dragon" and its constant reminders that Westeros is a horrible place to live.  

'In sorrow we must go, but not in despair'

Indeed, it is a strange feeling every weekend to go from "The Rings of Power" to "House of the Dragon." Now, you don't need to remind me that these are different shows, I know. But still, going back to Westeros every Sunday and seeing nothing but pain and misery as the show turns staples of the fantasy genre — magic, dragons, castles, knights and more — into horrible things you want to stay far away from is a bit disheartening. Everything in that world is awful, from childbirth, to marriage, to friendship, to simply existing. 

But that is not the world of "The Rings of Power." Though the movies quickly became about an epic adventure with tons of battles and death, there are few cinematic locations that scream comfort as much as the Shire, or serenity as much as Rivendell. 

Even if Galadriel is constantly reminding the audience of the pending return of Sauron, and even if we know that many of the places highlighted in the show will be destroyed by the time Frodo takes the ring to Mordor, the show is far from doom and gloom. Instead, "The Rings of Power" understands the power a good fantasy world has and makes this take on Arda feel idyllic and enticing, even if you know there is pain and suffering around the corner.

That is in no small part due to the focus on making the kingdoms we've visited feel lived-in and full of history and culture — not just in the buildings and the land, but in the people too. We know some of these places will be destroyed, but the characters make us feel welcome and give us the feeling that these places will live on.

'There is frailty. But there is courage also, and honor to be found in Men.'

Take Númenor, for example. What little we've seen of the island kingdom so far looks like a true achievement in human ingenuity, a place that shows the strength and honor of men, their ability to create great works of art, colossal statues, and grand kingdoms. We know this will not last, though, and we see the start of the end right in this week's episode, yet the camera balances the impending doom with beautiful shots of the massive statues, the colorful streets filled with people, the ethereal look of what was meant to represent the very best in humans. 

The same applies to Khazad-dûm, a kingdom we know has a very tragic and bloody future ahead, but see none of that here. What we see is a vast and stunning kingdom that looks nothing like the cobweb-covered tomb, but a massive metropolis that stretches alongside the colossal mountain, with everything from the bridges to the elevator and the statues having a larger-than-life (literally) feel to them.

"The Rings of Power" wants the audience to know that nothing lasts forever, but we should appreciate the moment. It is showing us cast and beautiful locations that showcase the different cultures of Arda, the feats of engineering, of endurance, and asking us to look at the beauty that is rather than the pain that will be. And even knowing much of this will be gone in a few thousand years, Númenor, Khazad-dûm and Eregion already look like places you'd actually want to live in and make your home.

"Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" streams new episodes Fridays on Prime Video.