Review: Even in Tolkien's Middle Earth, You Can't Escape Immigration Restrictions

Elves need not apply.


Amazon's The Rings of Power series is a fun fantasy show that offers an escape from most things about 21st-century America—except its regulatory burdens.

Set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth, the show serves as a prequel to the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Its primary plot points lean heavily on the fantastical elements of Tolkien's universe. We see the creation of powerful magic rings and the origin stories of the heroes and villains who will pop up in the author's more famous works. Overall, it's a refreshing break from more dour and cynical prestige fantasy shows such as HBO's House of the Dragon.

Even this ancient action-adventure romp can't escape incorporating some modern political themes. In one early episode, we see the protagonist, elf warrior Galadriel, contend with the racist immigration restrictions of the island kingdom of Númenor (elves need not apply). Her fellow refugee Halbrand fares no better under the kingdom's strict occupational licensing rules, which exclude him from working as a blacksmith without the requisite guild membership. The show even has a lesson about the perils of military adventurism: Númenor's attempted liberation of the Southlands from orc domination ends in a disaster that counterproductively spreads evil on the continent.

Absent from Rings of Power are Tolkien's deeper warnings about the destructive lust for power that lurks within every human heart. It's not that serious of a show. But its occasional libertarian themes give pleasing extra depth to the conflicts between orcs and elves.