I love the attention to detail in The Rings of Power. From the extravagant sets depicting lands I never thought I’d see on screen, to referencing the deepest depths of Tolkien’s writing, there’s loads to uncover. I can only imagine rewatches of the series will unveil new Tolkien references and details; Míriel’s Palantir chamber already has a host of important artefacts that I’d love to see in greater detail and apparently Túrin Turambar’s Dragon-helm of Dor-lómin has featured in every single episode. We only saw a glimpse of Aeglos in the final episode, too – there’s so much to take in.
However, my favourite aspect of the show, by far, has been the costumes. Every garment has been crafted with precision and detail, and all serve numerous purposes. They tell you the story of the character, the history of their people, and often have symbolic undertones, too.
Take Galadriel’s dress in Númenor, for instance. While I largely disliked the number of callbacks to the Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens trilogy, it’s no coincidence Morfydd Clark’s blue dress was referencing Cate Blanchett’s ‘Dark Galadriel’ moment in The Fellowship of the Ring. This cleverly represented Galadriel’s character in Númenor: filled with anger and revenge, lusting for the power that would lead her to Sauron so she could destroy him. Her dress is beautiful and wouldn’t look out of place on the red carpet, but it also symbolised so much more, and showed the thin line that the character was toeing: was she avenging her brother, or succumbing to the temptations of power and domination?
While in Númenor, I can’t go without mentioning the armour of its warriors. While I loved Elendil’s plumed helmet that mirrored his ship’s sails, the breastplates really did it for me, across the board. From Elendil, to the lowly warriors, to Queen Regent Míriel herself, their ivory cuirasses were made from small plates resembling scales. The effect was impressive as the armies marched through the streets and rode into battle, but one look also tells you a great deal about Númenorian society.
You can tell that they’re an island nation and worship the sea – something I think may come back to haunt them if Ulmo takes notice – and that their greatest military asset is their navy. Even if you hadn’t seen a second of the show and knew nothing about Tolkien, I’m sure you could make a good guess about the Númenorian people from their armour alone.
It’s not just the heroes, though, the same attention has been paid to the Orcs, too. Every piece of armour included some kind of hood or piece of fabric due to their fear of the sun. If you look closely, you can clearly see that some Orcs have taken pieces of Elven armour and modified them for their own purposes. It’s a clever addition that helps to build the world – why wouldn’t Orcs wear the high quality armour of the Elves they enslave? It shows that this process has been going on for years, and reinforces the power dynamic of the scene: the Orcs are in charge.
And did you really think I was going to write this article without a single mention of the best armour in the whole show? From the moment Arondir’s armour was revealed, I was sold. The intricately carved Green Man figure immediately told me he was a Silvan Elf, or Wood Elf. It gives Ent vibes (I hope we see more of them, by the way) and the intricacy is like nothing else in the series. The Elves are clearly as careful when crafting rank-and-file armour pieces as Celebrimbor is forging rings.
Even though he was stripped of it at the time, the moment when Arondir is captured and says a prayer to the tree in the Orc trench marries perfectly to his armour and shows how well it represents his character. Elves love and respect all living things (Orcs are an exception, especially in Galadriel’s case), and Arondir and the Elf guard in The Southlands wear that on their chests. I fully expect his armour and its origins to play a part in seasons to come, and I can’t wait to find out more.
It would have been easy for a show like this to cut corners. We know Marvel is now CGI-ing capes and helmets onto its stars for cost-cutting convenience, and I’m glad The Rings of Power didn’t follow suit. There may be executives to please, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the show employed actual blacksmiths and craftspeople to forge its armour. Tolkien veteran and armour nerd (that’s a compliment) John Howe worked on the series, so he may have had a hand in the designs, but everyone involved deserves immense praise. And a doubled salary. They earned it.
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