‘I expected both to be cheap cash-ins’: readers’ verdicts on House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings

Costumes, sets, CGI, scripts and performances go under the spotlight – as readers weigh up the new ventures into Middle-earth and Westeros

‘I can barely remember anyone’s name’

The Rings of Power looked amazing, but I can barely remember anyone’s name. It feels like not a lot has happened over the first two episodes. Much of it seems to be filler, with lots of Galadriel swimming and staring into the distance or Elrond breaking rocks. I also don’t understand the political situation of Middle-earth. What are the relationships between men and elves like? House of the Dragon, I feel, is more of a success. The narrative scope is narrower and I can grasp the relationships and political consequences of the characters’ actions. I have been impressed by the acting in the first episodes; The Rings of Power is quite hammy by comparison. Paul, 38, teacher, London

‘I don’t understand why the elves sound as if they’re from Eton’

I’ve only watched The Rings of Power so far and I wasn’t impressed. For one, I don’t understand why the gilded, blond-haired elves all look and sound as if they’ve come straight from Eton, and the unkempt, agrarian harfoots all have thick Irish accents. As someone from Ireland, the latter annoyed me a lot. None of these actors are Irish, so why exactly are they using this accent? What is it about these simpletons that makes the producers see that accent being so well suited to them, I wonder? John Phelan, 35, working in finance, London

Robert Aramayo as Elrond and Morfydd Clark as Galadriel.
‘Gilded elves’ … Robert Aramayo as Elrond and Morfydd Clark as Galadriel. Photograph: Prime Studios

‘George RR Martin’s involvement in House of the Dragon is obvious’

I’m a huge fan of both the Lord of the Rings books and the original film trilogy, but House of the Dragon comes out on top for me. GRR Martin’s involvement is obvious, even if his source material is only used as a skeleton. Great care has been taken to stay faithful to the narrative and aesthetic canon of Westeros, and it continues the scheming, grittiness and intensity that made the early seasons of Game of Thrones work so well. By contrast, The Rings of Power doesn’t seem to understand what worked about the Lord of the Rings movies, nor does it tell a story that reflects JRR Tolkien’s sensibilities. A Tolkien work leans heavily on the idea of bonds and relationships, illustrating that small purities can lead to big changes. By grounding The Rings of Power in Galadriel’s independent, aggressive protagonist, it loses emotional weight. Of course, this could change – I hope the characters’ relationships are given the space to breathe. Elizabeth Tomaselli, 24, telemedicine operations manager, New Jersey, US

Attention seeking … Matt Smith as Daemon in House of the Dragon.
‘Attention-seeking’ … Matt Smith as Daemon in House of the Dragon. Photograph: HBO

‘House of the Dragon looks magnificent’

The first two episodes of HotD look magnificent, with an obviously bigger budget than series one of Game of Thrones. I did feel that the show lacked characters who immediately grabbed my attention, with the actors so far lacking the charisma and talent of Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage. The scripts feel a bit formulaic, full of pompous speechifying in the cliched fantasy style, without the wit of the original series. It may pick up later, but I may drop it if nothing changes after two more episodes.

The Rings of Power is even more sumptuous. I’m a long-term Tolkien fan, and I’ve read The Silmarillion a few times, so I can tell that hardcore fans of the books might have been annoyed with episode one’s changes – due to lack of the rights to First Age characters and events. The first episode was grandiose but dull, spending a full hour on exposition – but episode two improved as the plot kicked in. I’m looking forward to the next episodes. Russell Massey, 61, Worthing

The Rings of Power.
‘Astounding costume, CGI and set design’ … The Rings of Power. Photograph: Amazon Prime Studio undefined

‘Budgets so big they could sort out some of the world’s problems’

Don’t judge by my age; I’m a Tolkien nerd. Both shows looked amazing, with budgets so big they could sort out some of the world’s problems. But The Rings of Power still lacks texture compared with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings extended version, which looks truly “lived-in”.

There are other discrepancies. In The Rings of Power, Galadriel takes down a snow troll without breaking a sweat – compare that with the gruelling cave troll scene in Moria in Fellowship of the Rings. And, when did Celebrimbor become a cheeky sort of Q from James Bond? When did Elrond become a pen-pusher afraid to challenge Galadriel? How can Galadriel swim an ocean to get back to Middle-earth? This may have a Tolkien label slapped on it, but that’s not what is in the tin – a pity for those who are watching this as their first introduction to The Lord of the Rings. Lynda Kenny, 62, artist and writer, Cheshire

Morfydd Clark as Galadriel in The Rings of Power.
‘Lots of Galadriel swimming and staring into the distance’ … Morfydd Clark in The Rings of Power. Photograph: Prime Studios

‘House of the Dragon feels like a fan-made project’

The first two episodes of House of the Dragon have been a disappointment. The show lacks the humour of Game of Thrones, which gave the show some much needed levity. House of the Dragon feels almost like a fan-made project, rather than prestige TV. The first episodes of The Rings of Power were better. The show does an excellent job of replicating the visual design language of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Morfydd Clark is excellent as Galadriel. My biggest concern, as an avid Tolkien reader, is how loosely it plays with the author’s lore. I appreciate the show has to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, but I worry that Amazon are overly keen to replicate the formula of Jackson’s films. For example, the forbidden love between Bronwyn and Arondir, and the stranger resembling Gandalf. How much the show deviates from Tolkien’s source material will be interesting to see. John Service, 34, software developer, Belfast

‘House of the Dragon is about relations between human beings’

House of the Dragon is vastly superior to The Rings of Power. It is about relations between human beings, who, unlike the varied species in the Rings of Power, talk like human beings. The stage was set up perfectly in the first episode, while even after two episodes, the main players in The Rings of Power are just emerging. There is only as much CGI as is needed in House of the Dragon, whereas the budget for The Rings of Power would have been better spent hiring good writers. Bernard O’Kane, 73, professor of Islamic art and architecture, Egypt

Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in House of the Dragon.
‘The characters’ motivations are clearer’ … Paddy Considine and Milly Alcock in House of the Dragon. Photograph: HBO

‘Both shows have been surprisingly good’

Both of these shows have been surprisingly good so far. I expected one or both to be cheap cash-ins but both have been visually stunning and rich in detail, with interesting characters. But so far, Rings of Power has edged it for me. The return to Tolkien’s world is intoxicating, and the plot developments of the first two episodes have surprised me more. Then again, House of the Dragon seems to be following the Game of Thrones pattern of a slow buildup, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it reached some epic and bloody conclusion in episode nine. Long live fantasy TV. Jim, 38, teacher, Liverpool

‘The best scene of Rings of Power is Elrond’s dinner with the dwarves’

I prefer House of the Dragon. The acting is of a higher standard, the stakes are more well-defined, and the characters’ motivations are clearer. Otto Hightower wants power; Daemon wants attention; Viserys wants a son. In The Rings of Power, Galadriel wants revenge, but why do humans want Morgoth or Sauron back? Why do the dwarves resent the elves? How did Morgoth die and why is Sauron on the run? Why do the harfoots hide when there are hundreds of them? The best scene of The Rings of Power so far is Elrond’s dinner with the dwarves, because it felt like there was some chemistry between the actors there. The Rings of Power needs more scenes like this to make the show memorable. Paul Davis, 29, English teacher, South Benfleet, Essex

Paddy Considine as Viserys in House of the Dragon.
‘Viserys’s motivation is clear – he wants a son’ …Paddy Considine in House of the Dragon. Photograph: HBO

‘Lord of the Rings’ costumes, CGI and set design are astounding’

So far, The Rings of Power is my favourite, with its astounding costume, CGI, and set design. The story has been boldly and thoroughly developed. House of the Dragon has been an exciting return to Westeros, clearly helmed by a showrunner determined to correct course after the disappointing end to Game of Thrones. (Admittedly, Miguel Sapochnik’s departure for next season and HBO’s merger tomfoolery casts a shadow over it.) That said, too much of the show seems to lean into Game of Thrones nostalgia rather than giving us anything new. Also, the wigs. They did little Laena Velaryon wrong with that wig. Billie Alexander, 28, research and data analyst, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


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