‘Dragon,’ ‘Rings,’ and ‘Andor’ start slow but get better

I know I complained in my last post about how much I don’t care about all these new shows, but some of them did get more interesting since then.

I will start with “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Amazon Prime). Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is a great character, and one that didn’t get a lot of screen time in the movies, so it was nice to see her story. I enjoyed some of the new characters also. I especially loved Nori and her bestie, Poppy. It struck me as touching and sort of rare to see their friendship in a show like this. Men dominate the books and films so it was refreshing to get some girl power this time around. (Fiona Apple’s beautiful voice singing “Where the Shadows Lie,” at the end of the season finale, was the icing on the cake.)

The series was beautiful and well-cast, but it took its sweet time to get interesting. It wasn’t until the last episode or two that it started to pick up the pace. That was my main beef with this series and in the slow category, it’s the worst offender on today’s list. There were some interesting twists and it would have been nice if they got there sooner. That being said, I will for sure be watching Season 2, which is already in production.

Alicent (Olivia Cooke) and Rhaenerya (Emma D’Arcy), “House of the Dragon.”

I was not thrilled about “House of the Dragon” before it premiered and I didn’t love the first couple episodes, but it grew on me. Because of its slow start (and because the last season of “Game of Thrones” was terrible and left a bad taste in my mouth), Season 1 of “House of the Dragon” doesn’t hold a candle to the first season of “Game of Thrones.” But I am definitely now hooked and want to see what happens next.

Like “Rings,” “House of the Dragon” is beautiful – the sets, the costumes, the special effects (dragons!), and the cast were all great. Paddy Considine and Matt Smith were wonderful of course, and I was happy to see Olivia Cooke as the adult Alicent, as I liked her in “Ready Player One” and “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.”

I thought it was interesting that there was such a strong focus on motherhood and childbirth, although it was difficult to watch some of the scenes, as they were so heart wrenching. This series also had a female friendship, albeit one that has soured (to put it mildly).

The women characters got the short end of the stick (as usual), and even Alicent, who seemed to be holding all the cards, was not much more than a pawn. As Rhaenys pointed out to Alicent in the penultimate episode: “You toil still in service to men: your father, your husband, your son.”

Alicent is even somewhat sexually beholden to her spy (the creepy Larys) who has a fetish for the queen regent’s feet. I would like to say that was the most disturbing scene thus far in “House of the Dragon,” but there were, unfortunately, scenes that were worse. That’s my biggest complaint about “House of the Dragon.” In this it is similar to its predecessor; I watched “Game of Thrones” despite its “yuck” factor, not because of it. I would also prefer they tone down the violence a little, but I know that’s not going to happen.

Maarva (Fiona Shaw) is one of the best characters in the Star Wars series “Andor.”

The Star Wars series “Andor,” on Disney+, is not yet done airing its first season, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

Sometimes I find it slow and boring and feel too scattered to keep up with the allegorical and political nuances of the series. Other times I am invested, sitting at the edge of my seat and biting my nails.

Diego Luna is an amazing actor, reprising his role as Cassian Andor, and I also love his adoptive mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw), and Rebel leader Vel (Faye Marsay, who portrayed the waif from “Game of Thrones”). It’s also cool to see Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) again.

It is well done, and well-cast, but it is depressing, with all the oppressive Imperial forces, but I guess that should be expected from a franchise with the word Wars in the title.

Marvel

If you haven’t already watched the Marvel special “Werewolf by Night,” check it out. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Laura Donnelly, it’s an homage to old-timey horror, and perfect for Halloween. It was released Oct. 7, on Disney+.

Wrapping up Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” in theaters Nov. 11, and “The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special,” Nov. 25, on Disney+.

The new year will bring Phase Five, beginning with the movie “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” in February. The first TV series of Phase Five will be the second season of “What If … ?” The first new TV series of Phase Five will be “Secret Invasion.”

Credits: Top photo, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” Amazon Studios; “House of the Dragon,” HBO; “Andor,” Disney Platform Distribution; “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

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Tolkien, Marvel, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, repeat

Well, I think it’s finally happening to me: Franchise burnout. I am really not that impressed with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” prequel series “House of the Dragon,” and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” prequel series “The Rings of Power” isn’t blowing me away either. And I’m not eagerly anticipating the new Star Wars series “Andor” (Disney+). I feel like I should want to watch all the new offerings from these popular sci-fi and fantasy franchises but honestly, I kind of just don’t care.

I doubt I would have even bothered with the Targaryens or the saga of Tolkien’s elves if it had not been for my husband convincing me to watch with him. Is it just me? Maybe I’m just tired in general. It’s a balmy 110 degrees where I live and it’s draining my will to do much of anything lately, much less care about Westeros or Middle-earth.

I’m happy to see there’s more diversity than I expected from these two series but both shows are still leaning white and blond, especially (most of) the lead characters. I guess they get points for including actors of different ethnicities, even if they are mostly peripheral characters? (I have read that some people are having a problem with any people of color in these shows, which I find confusing and sad.)

There is more diversity than I expected from these series but there’s still a lot of blond going on. Above, Galadriel from “The Rings of Power”; left, Rhaenyra from “House of the Dragon.”

Another issue I have with these series is that the events took place years before the original series. We already know how “Game of Thrones” ended – who cares what happened 200 years before that? (And let’s face it – the end of “Game of Thrones” sucked, which doesn’t help.)

We also already know what happened in “Lord of the Rings.” Do we really need to know what happened thousands of years before Frodo and Sam went to Mordor?

It seems a bit crazy to me that Amazon paid $250 million(!) for the rights to these stories, and they’re based mostly on appendices!

I realize they are banking on the name to draw viewers, but I would have been more interested in seeing something new. I think the post-apocalyptic Koli trilogy by M. R. Carey would be a fantastic miniseries, if they had the right writers and actors attached.

I would also love to see Charlie Jane Anders’ novel “All the Birds in the Sky” adapted to a movie or series. Her YA novel “Victories Greater Than Death” was picked up by Amazon Prime last year and is being developed by Michael B. Jordan’s production company Outlier Society. Hopefully they’ll do a good job with that so we’ll see more of her stories on the big and small screen.

Don’t get me wrong – “Dragon” and “Rings” aren’t really bad, just sort of boring. I guess it isn’t fair to judge them already since they’ve only released a couple episodes; maybe they are just getting warmed up. After all, “The Expanse” was confusing and boring at first, but it turned out to be awesome. So we’ll see.

“Andor” isn’t out yet. It was supposed to premiere on Aug. 31 but I assume its new release date, Sept. 21, is due to Disney+ not wanting it to compete against “Dragon” and “Rings.”

I hate to say this as a Star Wars fan, but why should we care about a prequel to “Rogue One,” which itself was a (boring) prequel? Having said that, I will probably still watch it. It’s Star Wars! (See, that’s how they get you.) Speaking of Disney, there’s another new Marvel series that just started: “She-Hulk,” which looked incredibly ridiculous in the trailer and actually is sort of ridiculous but is also kind of funny, and not as awful as I expected.

I like that it breaks the “fourth wall” and is sort of tongue-in-cheek, and of course Tatiana Maslany is super talented and adorable, which almost makes up for the silliness and the bad CGI.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time when I hopefully will have changed all my opinions on the aforementioned series because they dramatically improved halfway through!

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