[Ed. note: This post contains light spoilers for the conclusion of episode 2 of Rings of Power.]
Orcs are fairly absent in the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. But, nonetheless, they are unlike anything weve ever seen on the screen before. Though they are still a threat, they are no longer a threat. Instead, the Amazon show is demonstrating how terrifying one can be.
The Lord of the Rings has previously taken a risk in horror, but Rings of Power has carved out its own niche here. When Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) goes to warn the townpeople that a nearby town fell to who knows what, she feels more classically drawn from a horror film, as her neighbors wave away her worries as cheap flights of fancy. Yet the mere thought of it makes these people more attracted to the myth.
In these early scenes, Rings of Power treats its orcs with distinction: they are no longer the horde introduced in The Fellowship of the Ring, tumbling off a cliff in their rush to defeat their foe, but a singular, terrifying monster that is quietly climbing into Bronwyns house. We can see its skull mask in its fuzzy profile, but we only see its whole terror once it has been discovered.
The orc here maintains its general canon, being a malicious being, whose fighting ability is still bested by a mother and her son. But the danger of it is real in a way that most of the rest of the Rings of Power cant quite grasp. To put it in one way, its the difference between Alienand Aliens.
The suspense of getting Bronwyn and her fellow townspeople to seek help from the elves is substantial. This feels like a step in the right direction. With the threat posed by just one orc, it illuminates the bone-chilling horror of facing down an army of them and the consequences of every orc showdown.