[Ed. note: This post contains light spoilers for the end of episode 2 of Rings of Power.]
In the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, our view of orcs is pretty limited. But still, they don’t compare to anything we’ve seen of them on screen before. Although they still pose a threat, they are no longer a swarm. Instead, the Amazon show shows just how scary one of them can be.
Lord of the Rings has turned into horror before, but Rings of Power carves its own niche here. When Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) goes off to warn the townsfolk that a neighboring town has fallen for who knows what, it feels rather classic out of a horror movie as their neighbors dismiss their concerns as flights of fancy. But it also marks the different relationship with the orcs: these people are a few generations away from the last time anyone saw an orc. And the mere idea of it seems incredible to them; They fear a returning occupying force more than they fear the whisperings of a myth.
And so, Rings of Power treats his orcs with honor in these early episodes. They are no longer the Horde that was introduced The Fellowship of the Ring, who fall off a cliff in their haste to attack their enemy, but a unique, terrifying monster that quietly climbs into Bronwyn’s house. Introducing the Orc has all the hallmarks of a slasher villain, captured in bits and pieces: an eye through the floorboards, a hand that clacks as it hits the floor, a close-up of a mouth and his grotesque tongue. We can make out his skull mask in the blurred profile, but we don’t see his full monstrosity until Bronwyn is hiding in the closet.
The orc here still sticks to general canon – he’s a vicious creature that looks like a skinned person, and an enemy whose fighting skills are still surpassed by a mother and son. But the threat feels real in a way like many others Rings of Power cannot fully materialize. While a swarm of them might feel menacing in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, a lone Orc still feels potentially deadly here. To put it simply, it’s the difference between extraterrestrial and Foreignerhighlighting the vulnerability that comes with each version of the monster.
It’s certainly enough to make Bronwyn and her fellow townsfolk set off at daybreak to ask the elves for help. And while there’s a lot, we still don’t know how Rings of Power Tolkien’s canon will change (or not) that feels like a step in the right direction. The most interesting thing you can do with a prequel is find ways to deconstruct what makes a thing tick and then delve deeper into aspects of the story that already feel familiar. It lets us see something in a new light so we can understand it better. With the threat that only an Orc poses – the way he moves and what he is – it illuminates the chilling horror of facing an army of theirs and the stakes of every Orc Showdown to come.
https://www.polygon.com/23329806/rings-power-orcs-lord-rings-episode-release Rings of Power uses Orcs in a new way as Lord of the Rings