Season one of the proposed 5 year one BILLION dollar series finally made its way on to my iPad on a recent trip to Boston. The bus ride is long and dull and the perfect time for a lavish escapist TV show. Covering events that predate the Lord of the Rings book series, this story follows the history of how the rings of power, central to those books, came about. While not having any real connection to Peter Jackson's films it does keep a certain continuity of design and tone, though I found the TV show a bit more bloody and violent.
Production values, acting and story are pretty top notch and well thought out (though I did spot a couple continuity errors) this is without a doubt set up as a serialized TV show in how is laid out and not a movie extended over episodes. The massive budget shows, I was afraid it would look like a video game from the trailers and was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't over sharpened or over saturated and while stylized, it did manage to have a natural look well combined with a fantasy aesthetic.
The story mostly centres around elf Galadriel, a powerful force in the Tolkien era, as a warrior dead set on revenge after her brother is killed in the battles again the now missing and presumed dead by most, Sauron. She is a powerful character physically but not the mystical force we see her as later on. Other known characters are included due to the long lives of their races and it gives the series a nice link to the later versions without having to be slavishly tied to them.
For Tolkien fans, you can see the emergence of later characters coming a mile away... sort of. They were smart, I think, to fill this storyline with quite a few red herrings to throw off the fans enough to not be really sure if their assumptions are right. I works to keep the show interesting and exiting as some of the mysteries are revealed while others are left for the next season. Some of the characters seem like jerks and are developed to be anything but over the run of the show and that helps keep things tense as the heroes may not always be right or have all the information they need to see the whole picture.
Overall it's pretty damn good, they didn't waste the budget or the confidence of Tolkien followers and are creating a nice companion piece to what was already out there. As a rule, I HATE prequels. I don't think we need to fill in every five minutes of what happened between this and that in a franchise as it takes audience participation out of everything and destroys much of the mystery and fun of speculating about things only hinted at. Luckily this was cleverly crafted to avoid the pitfalls of prequels so far.