Three episodes into the Lord of the Rings: the Rings of Power, it's very clear that the writers of this show are trying to capture the central theological framework of Tolkien in their story. Tolkien's view of providence and the portrayal of the faithful remnant in Numenor is simply getting him right, at least so far. I was expecting this to be completely insensitive to Tolkien's major themes, perhaps even contradicting them, as Peter Jackson did numerous times in his original trilogy (less so in the Hobbit, ironically, given how much more hate there is from Tolkien fans about that). I could list numerous things:
1. Aragorn as reluctant king rather than biding his time for the right moment to assume his rightful throne while working behind the scenes to meet his kingly responsibilities, as in the books
2. Eowyn as seeking the second-wave feminist goal of trying to make women be like men rather than Tolkien's view of recognizing differences between men and women as something to affirm in women as equally good to any virtues more typical of men
3. Faramir's reduction to being a second-rate Boromir rather than the faithful remnant within Gondor who valued the right things
4. the Ents' motives for helping at Helm's Deep being presented as a hasty decision, completely contrary to their character
5. the presence of any elves besides Legolas at Helm's Deep running contrary to the entire theme in Tolkien of the elves in the Third Age largely hiding and avoiding the evil that was on the rise
I don't see anything as egregiously offensive as that in this show.
Some are upset that this show has been forced into inventing their own details to fill in, because the Tolkien estate refuses to let them use Tolkien's actual second-age materials outside the appendices, but that is the fault of Tolkien's heirs, not the creators of this show. What matters more is whether it is consistent with the world Tolkien gives us, and so far it mostly is. And what matters even more than that is whether the moral and theological framework is compatible with Tolkien's, and it seems from the third episode that they are actually trying hard to get it right.
Now there are a few things they could do to alienate Tolkien fans that I sure hope they do not do. If Meteor Man turns out to be any of the Istari other than Alatar or Pallando (or whichever other names Tolkien used -- I know there are several versions, and one version does have them appearing in the Second Age), then there is reason to be outraged. I think he is more likely to be Sauron than Gandalf, though, but we'll see.
If they don't follow through on the promise they have made that this is a transformation of a very imperfect Galadriel into what we see in the Lord of the Rings story, then that would be bad. But I am taking them at their word on this and thinking the claims of critics are simply premature. This is the Galadriel who becomes that Galadriel, and these experiences will serve to explain why she would know herself well enough to think Frodo's offer of the ring to her would play to all her bad tendencies. They have to had existed sometime in her long life for that whole scene in the Lord of the Rings to make sense.
Some I see are complaining that the show is woke, which of course is a stupid term at this point in its unclarity and lack of precision. I can think of a couple things that the now-orthodox social justice movement in our society wants to see that this show is doing, but they seem hardly concerning to any healthy conservative on social justice issues. There might be some issues on faithfulness to Tolkien's world, but I'm conflicted on that, even.
Jeremy Pierce is a philosophy professor, Uber/Lyft driver, and father of five.