One of my local theaters had the fan screening of the first two episodes last night, so I took my adult son along for the showing. In what is likely a quirk of geographic distribution of Cinemark theaters, there were a lot of screenings around where I live, so there were plenty of seats and it wasn't crowded (when I logged in to get the tickets, there were twenty screenings within about a half hour drive of my home). Here are some of my initial impressions (without spoiling anything plot wise) - I will post a very spoilery review over in the proper thread after the episodes air on Prime - don't go there until you have seen the episodes yourself!

  • The experience in a theater was great - I will have further thoughts after rewatching on a small screen, but the material, cinematography, costuming, sets, sound and music all were fantastic on the big screen. Downside for me personally was my poor hearing - maybe 10% of the lines were just muddled enough to me that I couldn't catch them, so I look forward to rewatching with captioning.

  • I tried to watch through my son's eyes, who has not read any of the Tolkien books covering this period. (He liked it, by the way). I felt like there were just a bit too many plot threads going on, and some things felt rushed or compressed - meaning the action beats came very quickly at times without giving them room to breathe/be absorbed. I hope/think this will pay off over the whole season, and be fun to go back and rewatch knowing this.

  • The show diverges from what Tolkien wrote. I've known this for a long time now, and went in not expecting a documentary of Tolkien's writings on the Second Age. Some of their choices really, really bothered me. I still enjoyed the show.

  • One of the goals of the show appears to be to draw in/appeal to the Jackson film fans - New Line Cinema is prominently mentioned in the credits, they were involved in the making of this show at some levels, and a lot of visuals and creative decisions in The Rings of Power are clearly pulling from the movies. Many I didn't mind, but there were some that I didn't like. I feel like I have to save this criticism to the spoiler thread in order to explain better, so more soon.

  • The structure of the first two episodes are not a "pilot" self contained story - there is no closure that many a typical show pilot would have, like a miniature movie. They knew going in that the whole season/arc would get filmed and released, so these two episodes are 20% of the first season and are essentially a portion of the first act of whatever story they plan to tell this season.

  • I liked that they chose to follow Tolkien's writing structure of perilous/lighthearted/perilous/lighthearted. I think the Harfoot plot was specifically developed to allow this structure, though it is not the only lighthearted material we see. In order for the Harfeet to pay off they have to tie in to the main plot, though, and not just be a separate story intermixed. This concerns me.

  • There was one particular plot line that clearly the Prime team love (given the screen time and emphasis) that supremely bothers me from a general character motivation/geographic feasibilty perspective. It just doesn't make sense, even internally to the "Rings of Power" world they have developed.

I would give it a 7 (EDIT: out of 10) as a fantasy TV show (I'd give it a 9 but for that last bullet). As a Tolkien adaptation, I am probably closer to a 5, but honestly after a first watch that didn't bother me too much, as I wasn't going into it expecting a Tolkien adaptation. Five is better than zero! Overall, a thumbs up - I am looking forward to the next episodes, and will enjoy watching these episodes again tonight at home.

I would love to hear other (non-spoilery!) thoughts of others here if you've seen them already or have questions/comments on what I've written. I'll lock this thread after the show releases so discussion can move to the episode thread.