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The Marquis de Leech

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  1. Problem is, the notion of an occupying force trying to educate the locals "for their own good" carries with it heavily imperialist overtones. I think the show actually manages to thread that needle pretty well here. The Elves aren't brutal, they try to be fair, and their different views of time come into play, but they're still occupiers. Which means the locals will inherently look kindly on the enemies of said occupiers. In the case of Galadriel, she's actually being set up to be the rhetorical punching-bag for Adar. Adar's going full Shylock from The Merchant of Venice here, and it is glorious. Galadriel, unfortunately... I am willing to write this off as her losing her temper, and being unable to engage in more sophisticated bullying, rather than her channeling Tywin Lannister, but for a flagship protagonist, she's highly unlikable. I am currently filing all this as "this is a AU where Galadriel is a daughter of Feanor crackfic", but I never thought I'd see her basically become Celegorm with boobs.
  2. My review of episode 6. I view it broadly positively. Silliness of Ostirith and Orodruin an issue, and while Galadriel versus Adar was great thematically, it is not so great at the character level for Galadriel.
  3. *We* will know he's Sauron. The characters themselves won't. Dramatic Irony and all that.
  4. Yep. I remember that too. http://flyingmoose.org/tolksarc/theories/bombadil.htm
  5. First viewing impressions: So much better than Episode 5. Adar is who I always wanted him to be. I am so happy. Best handling of Orcs in a Tolkien adaptation. I can understand starting Galadriel off like that, but Dear Eru they are making her unlikeable. The battle tactics vaguely remind me of the Battle of Bywater in the Scouring of the Shire. Certain bits are very spectacular, but very silly.
  6. Dwarven forge fires would be hotter than Orodruin. This wasn't a matter of heat, but rather of magic - the One Ring was created there, so it could only be destroyed there. In other news, I have just finished a re-read of the Finnish Kalevala, and have some thoughts on its role in influencing Tolkien: Kalevala Comments: Tolkien Influences and the Translations.
  7. Tolkien's Minas Tirith has rich farmlands around the city. Jackson just sticks the city in the middle of nowhere.
  8. Episode 5 makes so much more sense if you work with the idea that Gil-galad is Sauron. (1) He dispatches Galadriel to Valinor. Show-Galadriel is obsessed with hunting Sauron. Getting rid of her makes perfect sense from Sauron’s perspective. (2) He controls access to the Havens, and him granting passage to Valinor is a great boon. A great gift to recipients. Would that not make him a Lord of Gifts? Or, to use the Quenya, an Annatar? (3) He sabotages the relationship between Elves and Dwarves by withholding crucial information from Elrond, and being overtly rude to Prince Durin. Sauron does not want his enemies to trust one another. (4) The conception of Sudden Elvish Fading Syndrome makes perfect sense as a lie spread by Sauron. He wants to have Celebrimbor start his work on the Rings as soon as possible… but why should Celebrimbor believe this nonsense? Simple. Celebrimbor would believe it if the message came directly from the High-King… and this is a message Gil-galad is currently pushing very strongly. (5) Only two named Elven characters currently know about Celebrimbor’s real plan. Gil-galad and Elrond. Elrond is too damned nice to be Sauron, which leaves Gil-galad as the more dangerous confidante. (6) Show-Gil-galad is drenched in gold. As per Morgoth’s Ring, the element of gold contains a significant amount of corruptive Melkorian influence. Very appropriate for Melkor’s chief lieutenant then… (7) Show-Gil-galad is highly manipulative. How very Sauronian… (8) Show-Gil-galad is shown as an authoritarian control-freak. Another Sauronian trait. Indeed, what would otherwise be blatant character-assassination is really a genius hint at Gil-galad’s real identity. (9) As Halbrand says, appearances can be deceiving. No-one expects Sauron to be the High-King of the Noldor. (10) You never see Sauron and Gil-galad in the same room at the same time.
  9. She's speaking to Kemen because he's the son of the mighty Chancellor. Her own Dad has very little clout - and seems overly dutiful.
  10. Doing it this way gives Kemen a rebellious streak. He's not simply a puppet of his father. I saw the whole thing as a shout-out to Losgar and Amrod myself.
  11. Earien: "I think War for the Elves is stupid. Worse, my brother seems to be into it. I know... I'll ask Kemen to chat with his Dad." Kemen: "This is important to her... OK." Pharazon: "Gives reasons this War might be useful." Kemen: "OK. I can't go back with bad news. Maybe if I sabotage the operation. Yeah, that will definitely please her.* It's not deep writing, but it works. There is much worse in this episode than that.
  12. Makes perfect sense to me. Kemen's brain is going "I don't care what Dad thinks. If I pull this off, I am so getting laid tonight."
  13. Some context: Morfydd Clark generally plays vulnerable characters. Adapting from that to Galadriel meant that her previous instincts were no longer appropriate to the character. Hence she had to do some work to ensure that she wouldn't flinch in fight scenes. That's really it.
  14. There is good canonical basis for thinking Earendil was mortal prior to his choice.
  15. I actually didn't mind the bizarre mithril origin story. It's one of the show's ongoing Silmarillion shout-outs (in this case Glorfindel's death). Much worse is the notion that it can be used to treat Sudden Elvish Fading. Sure, it might be an idea of a certain Annatar, but it is very silly - not least because the Phial of Galadriel can hold a reflection of Silmaril light, so the Elves could gather up some of Earendil's light and preserve it if they needed such light.
  16. The first four episodes were an upwards trajectory. I was honestly surprised here.
  17. FFS. I have been highly supportive and sympathetic to the show thus far. But this was really, really, bad.
  18. As I have said elsewhere, I think the show has an excellent grasp of Tolkien's themes - better than Jackson, in that respect. It is also extremely clever, in its ability to make shout-outs to The Silmarillion, Jackson, or real-life history. The problem thus far has been the coherency of the plotting, though that is improving, and the occasional issue with dialogue.
  19. Except that they have brought up death and mortality. The differing cultural views of the passage of time has been discussed multiple times so far in the series. This particular scene was about establishing the character of Show-Pharazon, together with fleshing out the role of the Guilds in Numenoren society. These are the interest groups that will propel Pharazon to the throne later. Time-compression makes perfect sense in the context. It means you actually give your mortal characters arcs. Not sure what you have against Kemen. Calling her Miriel keeps things simple. The buoyancy thing is supposed to be poetic. Do you really want a lecture on the weight of the water displaced? Thus far the series has a very sound grasp of Tolkien's themes - far better than Jackson. Time and change, evil as corruption, Providence, Imperialism, and so on. Properly secretive Dwarves and Orcs that can actually fight. The show's weakness is plotting and dialogue, not theme. We're dealing with a show sufficiently clever that it uses a nineteenth century painting of Empress Zenobia as the basis for Miriel's costume design... the joke being that Zenobia was ousted by a bloke called Aurelian (Latin for the Golden). There are references to Tolkien's Atlantis dream. The show is drenched in easter-eggs and cleverness. It just needs work on the plot, to make it less forced.
  20. On the Elvish immigration front, here's an extended piece I've written on the subject: ** As per my Episode 4 review of The Rings of Power, I noted that the Men of Númenor objecting to Elves on a “they’ll steal our jobs!” basis feels a tad weird. Of all the things these people have to throw at their pointy-eared brethren, the show settles upon that? It is not merely profoundly petty, considering the wider cosmic themes of Death and Mortality at work in the source material, but also carries with it a whiff of on-the-nose contemporary commentary. Recall that the real reason Tolkien’s Númenorens fall out with the Elves is over envy at immortality. Jobs never come into it. Now, for me, this is not a deal-breaker. Pharazôn – who both dampens down the crowd and harnesses it for public relations purposes – is posing as a Man of the People. The guy is weighed down with Guild badges like Leonid Brezhnev with self-awarded medals, and is interested primarily in maintaining excellent political relationships with the people of the island. Given his populist political tendencies, the addition of certain sinister overtones is not completely outlandish. It’s not exactly Tolkien, but I’m prepared to live with it. However, certain other commentators are not prepared to live with it, asserting that this is the show imposing modern politics on Tolkien. Now, such people do have a case. Immersion matters in art – if it is broken, that is the fault of the creator. However, this might also be a Mountebank and the Farmer situation from Aesop’s Fables, whereby the audience incorrectly thinks the real thing is a fake. Or as TV Tropes calls it, Reality is Unrealistic. You see, tempting though it is to imagine that pre-moderns had other concerns, to think “they’re stealing our jobs!” is purely modern politics is to ignore history. Indeed, stirring up the rabble over “immigrants stealing jobs” is a time-honoured tradition. In 1517, the so-called Evil May Day resulted in anti-foreigner riots in London. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_May_Day The phenomenon even shows up in English Elizabethan Drama, with Sir Thomas More (the play of 1591-1593, not the person) explicitly featuring it – the scene where More tries to reason with the crowd is now often thought to be the work of William Shakespeare himself. In an uglier variant, Robert Wilson’s xenophobic Pedlar’s Prophecy (1595) actively runs with the notion that Migrants are the Problem. So such rhetoric is not simply the domain of twentieth and twenty-first century societies, nor even democratic ones. This stuff is as old as it is ugly. But putting it in Tolkien is still a bit weird, right? I mean, Tolkien deals with myth, not in economics or politics. Well, in that case I would suggest the show is guilty of trying to ground Tolkien’s worldbuilding in reality. You see, Tolkien likes having Guilds in his world. Aldarion’s Guild of Venturers might be the most famous one, closely followed by the Gwaith-i-Mirdain of Eregion. More obscure – but arguably more relevant for the present discussion – is the Guild of Weaponsmiths in Númenor (Unfinished Tales, p.219.). And what Tolkien’s Guilds all have in common is that they are communities of like-minded individuals, devoted to preserving or expanding knowledge. Less charitably in the case of Aldarion, his Guild is just a club for rich boys who like to muck around with ships. Tolkien the academic is interested in these institutions preserving and expanding knowledge. What he does not consider is the economic implications of the Guild system. Because in historical reality, the purpose of Guilds was to strictly regulate economic activity in a given location – the regulation in question being tantamount to a price-fixing Cartel. The Guilds kept their membership exclusive and their prices high, and jealously maintained their monopolistic privileges. Heaven help you if you wanted to work as a smith in a given city without Guild approval. That sort of economic competition could not be allowed. (While the Guilds themselves are gone today, or at least have been de-fanged, their legacy still survives in various odd little legal quirks, like council by-laws). So while Tolkien probably did not imagine the Gwaith-i-Mirdain turning up on some innocent Elf’s doorstep and demanding that they stop making jewellery for their neighbour “or else”, that is actually what the situation implies. In theory. Cue fanfiction about Celebrimbor running his Guild like a Mafia boss. It is also what The Rings of Power itself runs with, at least in the case of Númenor. In Episode 3, we have Halbrand being told that he cannot work as a smith without Guild membership, and Eärien’s entry into the Builders’ Guild is seen as a big deal. Pharazôn’s collection of Guild badges testifies to his ability to curry favour with political interest groups, all of whom are interested in one thing – preserving their economic power. Well and good. Now put yourself in the shoes of one of these Guildsmen. You have a comfortable, protected livelihood. Your customers pay premium rates for your products, but then you pay premium rates for everyone else’s products too. You have your well-established place in the economic hierarchy, and your Guild-Master is one of Chancellor Pharazôn’s drinking-buddies. Your son will follow in your footsteps, and you know that he too will enjoy a comfortable, protected livelihood. Now suppose that you learn of a new arrival in town – an arrival who turns up with an Elf, no less. You hear this arrival has tried to steal someone else’s Guild-badge – a direct economic threat to everyone associated with Guilds. Why, who knows what mediocre work an unlicensed smith might turn out, quite apart from the likelihood that he will be undercutting Guild prices too – if he’s low-quality (of course he’s low-quality. He’s not Númenorean!), he’ll want to sell-off his stuff cheaper than the fixed price to ensure he gets customers. He must be stopped, clearly. And that Elf associated with him… why that makes it worse. Imagine if the Elves started filling the key crafting roles, or start infiltrating your Guild. No chance now of advancement – those bastards live forever! So given the in-universe situation, the Guildsman’s Quendiphobic rhetoric actually makes self-interested sense, albeit he ought to be going after Halbrand more than Galadriel. Is the scene remotely based in Tolkien’s own work and thought-processes? No. But Tolkien was not interested in economics, and he gives zero thought to how his Númenorean Guild of Weaponsmiths would actually behave in practice. The show is actually making a stab at this, and in the process trying to inject allusions to Elven immortality being an issue for Númenoreans. Is the result a bit on the nose, given modern political debates? Yes, I think one can make that case – and the immersion argument is a fair one. But the show is not being stupid about this, given the worldbuilding details Tolkien left them to work with. Alas, in this case I think The Rings of Power might have been too clever for its own good.
  21. Except that we don't know what Second Age Galadriel was like as a person. Having her start out as pseudo-Feanorian (her First Age self was Amazonian) and wind up as more wise and measured is a decent arc for five seasons. She presumably won't remain like this, it's just that the notion that any of the Noldor ought to be automatically "sensible" is a stretch. Not everyone can be a Maedhros or a Finrod.
  22. Numenor has contact with Middle-earth (why else would having a navy be a thing? It also looks like there's a fair amount of trade going on). It just doesn't have relations with Elves or a formal political Empire (albeit they do look down on the "low men", so there's interactions going on there). They've just foisted Numenorean Imperialism onto the Elves at the moment. Edit: My full review of the thing.
  23. Some of Galadriel's cousins were not particularly noted for diplomatic skills, and her singlemindness is basically Feanorian at this point. Show-Galadriel is easier to think of as a gender-flipped Celegorm, with a superiority complex towards Men a mile wide.
  24. It's a blatant Romeo/Juliet plotline, just involving the King's Men and the Faithful. Also might have the side-effect of protecting Elendil's family politically when Sauron turns up on the island and starts getting Pharazon to burn people.
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