Amazon's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a must-watch for traditional fantasy fans. It tells a story that only hardcore fans know, while remaining connected to Peter Jackson's iconic film series.
It's the kind of show that should be judged on its own merits rather than compared with other fantasy projects. The Rings of Power is attempting its own take on epic fantasy television, and for me, it's working.
If for nothing else, The Rings of Power has a cinematic visual quality that's unrivaled, to the point where it feels like James Cameron himself was consulted to some degree. It's simply a feast for the eyes.
Whether for their beautiful cinematography or intricate character work, here are my picks for the best scenes in The Rings of Power.
8. The Hammer Contest
When Elrond arrives at the Mines of Moria to see his old friend, Durin seems to be utterly unwilling to acknowledge their friendship at all, which leaves Elrond shocked.
So, in a battle of wits, Elrond challenges Durin to a rock-breaking contest, which would see him banished from Moria should he lose.
As the pair smash rocks endlessly, Elrond soon tires and finally falters, leaving Durin as the winner and their friendship open to repair.
The scene is great because of the wealth of history felt between the two in the moment, and because we finally get to see Moria again.
7. Numenor Rides on Middle-Earth
In The Rings of Power, Numenor is the closest thing that we see to Gondor's ideals and style that were on display in the films. For that, Numenor has an instant likability factor.
So, when Galadriel convinces Numenor's Crown Princess to ride for the Southlands on Middle-Earth, it feels reminiscent of those films.
The sight of the warriors riding to destroy the Orcs that have taken over the Southlands evokes memories of the Rohirrim riding to the aid of Gondor, and it feels like proper Lord of the Rings.
6. Durin's Bane Awakens
When Durin's father shuts down the mining of Mithril, he orders his underlings to seal off the mine for good, but not before casting a lone leaf into the deep chasm that lies beneath him.
As it falls through the depths of the Mithril mine, it gently lands on the ground—then incinerates. At that moment, a large creature of shadows rears its head: Durin's Bane itself.
The Balrog is such a famous character because of what it would end up doing to Durin, and then to Gandalf during the Third Age. Its awakening was a magnificent sight to behold for fans.
5. The Stranger Arrives
For the longest time throughout The Rings of Power, none of us in the audience knew who the Stranger was. Theories abounded between identities: Sauron? Saruman? Someone new entirely?
But amongst sharp-minded fans, the Stranger's method of arrival was the biggest clue to his identity, who was later revealed to be Gandalf.
Seeing the meteor fall to Middle-Earth in its brilliant display was a striking moment, one that gave us a touchstone character whom we could debate over, until the final reveal at the end of the season.
4. Sauron Revealed
The location of Sauron is a key point of interest during the first season as Galadriel searches for him in the darkest places across Middle-Earth.
So, when the moment finally arrives for Sauron to reveal himself to Galadriel—by attempting to make her his Queen and see what future they could have as the "saviors" of Middle-Earth—it's an epic payoff.
The scene is both fierce yet graceful, with Sauron showing Galadriel that she can have what she truly wants, but she refuses and Sauron disappears.
3. Always Follow Your Nose
For the entire season, we didn't know who the Stranger was. Of course, we all had theories, but none were ever proven.
That all changed when the Stranger was preparing himself to leave the Hobbits he'd been staying with and venture out into Middle-Earth.
As he watches his companion, Nori, say goodbye to her family and set off with him, both Nori and the Stranger realize they don't know the way—prompting the Stranger to speak a most iconic line.
When he tells Nori to "always follow your nose," it's a callback to something Gandalf said in the Lord of the Rings films, proving that the Stranger was Gandalf all along.
2. Galadriel Jumps Ship
While aboard the ship carrying the Elves to the Undying Lands, Galadriel makes a last-second decision to jump off and into the sea before the light swallows her and welcomes her home.
It's a simple scene, but one that's visually stunning. Television is rarely capable of evoking the cinematic, but this jump is one of those times, punctuated by Galadriel's grief and sense of unfinished business.
Instead of taking the easy road to safety, she takes the hard road that would lead her to her destiny—and to the malice of Sauron.
1. The Creation of Mordor
This was the moment the entire first season was building up to. In the end, The Rings of Power was always about one thing: the rise of evil in Middle-Earth, the advent of Sauron's shadow.
When we finally feel relief for the people of the Southlands—after Numenor rescued them from the Orcs—we watch in horror as one trigger starts a chain reaction that leads to the eruption of a volcano.
A volcano that, upon closer inspection, looks awfully familiar.
As the land is filled with black smoke that covers the sky, we pull back to see what the Southlands have become. It's no longer part of Gondor. It's now Mordor, home to Mount Doom.
The land of evil is created before our very eyes, and the final shot brings Sauron's arrival that ties together the story we all know so well.