Two limited series arrive with great fanfare. One, a Lord of the Rings prequel, comes with a loud buzz of anticipation that’s been around since the series was announced. The second is a Chicago-based restaurant drama that has enjoyed stellar word of mouth and is set to feature prominently in upcoming awards season.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Amazon Prime) – Galadriel hunting Sauron to avenge the murder of his brother, elves versus orcs; the first episode of this great series promises more and keeps its promises. And the first twenty minutes of the first episode alone show the grandeur, the strangeness, the spectacle, which will make this series a benchmark for streaming services. Reputedly now the most expensive series produced for a streaming app, the little anecdote circulating is how the son of Jeff Bezos, who loves Tolkien, looked his father in the eye and told him not to “f _ _ k that”. Based on the first two episodes dropping, I think Bezos can go home with his head held high proudly. The mega-budget seems to have been well spent, and the product shows it.
Morfydd Clark as young Galadriel is nothing short of a magnificent casting choice, while Robert Aramayo is Elrond. Elves, dwarves, hartfoots, orcs, snow trolls, the world building is painstakingly accomplished and creates a beautiful tapestry of Tolkien’s world. The conflict, Galadriel’s refusal to accept that the Days of Peace have arrived is conveyed only through her eyes and the stoic expression on her face. The whimsy and humor of the hartfoots is wonderfully conveyed and contrasts with Galadriel’s sinister mission and commitment. In short, there’s so much to love about the show, the use of sigils and signs – how our devotion to Jackson’s films is properly honored, and yet we’re being asked to embark on a new journey to Middle-earth and beyond. Stop reading this and start watching!
The Bear (Hulu) – This series came out of nowhere, without much buzz, and yet took critics and audiences by storm, running out of superlatives to heap on the series. Carm (Jeremy Allen White) is a James Beard award-winning chef who worked as a CDC at one of Manhattan’s most famous fine dining restaurants. When his brother Mikey commits suicide, Carm is forced to return to Chicago and take over The Beef, the family deli and sandwich shop. It’s a fat dive, with a motley crew of kitchen staff, and it’s obviously a big challenge for Carm to turn The Beef into something better than it was, while still keeping it real for the neighborhood and it’s a loyal clientele.
Beyond the great story, food and cooking plans, it’s the dynamic between the characters that makes this such a compelling series. Carm has a cousin named Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and he’s a wonderful character, the guy who’s always an inch away from being arrested by the police or shot by a thug. And there’s Sydney (Ayo Edebiri), a young African-American culinary graduate, who joins The Beef because she remembers how the best meal she ever had was cooked by Carm in her previous life. She’s there to help modernize and bring a system to the restaurant, but has to earn the trust of the staff who’s been there for years. There really is a lot to enjoy here as we invest in the characters and can imagine how those in the food community will relate so easily. Wonderful series.
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