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The Rings Of Power Finally Makes Middle-Earth's Orcs As Terrifying As Tolkien Intended

Contains spoilers for "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" Episode 2

When you sit down to watch a live-action version of a J.R.R. Tolkien story, it's virtually guaranteed that you'll see folks like Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves over the course of the adventure. Likewise, at one point or another, there's going to be Orcs. These twisted, brutal creatures oppose the protagonists of "The Lord of the Rings" on multiple occasions, and make up the bulk of both Sauron's and Saruman's armies in climactic battles. Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" film trilogy even features prominent Orc-lords Azog (Manu Bennett) and Bolg (Lawrence Makoare and John Tui).

The Orcs in the various movies are imposing and fearsome-looking, and they hiss, grunt and roar exactly like you'd assume. However, in the grand scheme of things, the live-action orc groups we've seen so far are essentially just factions that happen to oppose the heroes because they serve the villain, and it's their literal job description to do so. Sure, as Boromir (Sean Bean) fatally finds out in "The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring," particularly strong Orcs like the Uruk-Hai have been known to achieve major victories. Still, by and large, orcs serve the same purpose as Stormtroopers do in "Star Wars" movies — they're unsympathetic cannon fodder for the heroes to mow down by the dozen. 

That is, until Amazon Prime Video's critically-acclaimed "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" turned up. The series doesn't take long to establish Orcs as a true terror, and in doing so, the show finally makes them as horrifying as Tolkien intended.

The Rings of Power gives Orcs the horror movie treatment

Every Tolkien-themed live-action project has managed to portray Orcs as creepy creatures. However, "The Rings of Power" Episode 2 outright turns them into horror movie villains by leaning hard on their digging abilities, which Tolkien has noted rival the Dwarves themselves. These Orcs don't just look like slasher movie monsters, either — they also play the part. They provide copious jump scares. They lurk terrified, hiding people. They chase, claw, and as Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) find out firsthand, they're extremely hard to kill when you're not a powerful hero armed with rare and luxurious weaponry. Even well-equipped and trained Elven warrior Arondir (Ismail Cruz Córdova) gets the scare of his lifetime as he flees the terrifying enemies ... and then, just when he least expects it, several clawed hands emerge from the darkness and grab him from behind.    

It's horrifying stuff, and a very good take on Tolkien's Orcs. Out of all the different beings in "The Lord of the Rings," they might just be the most twisted, but they're still more or less cannon fodder in the movies — which is far from the unyielding monsters Tolkien wrote them as.

"Their hearts were of granite and their bodies deformed; foul their faces which smiled not, but their laugh that of the clash of metal, and to nothing were they more fain than to aid in the basest of the purposes of Melko," the author wrote about Orcs and their creator — Sauron's old boss Melkor, aka Morgoth — in "The Fall of Gondolin." Now, which portrayal fits that description better? The unruly minions of the movies, or the ruthless, stalking beasts in "The Rings of Power" Episode 2?

The show's Orcs are deliberately extra gritty

According to an IGN article about "The Rings of Power's" Orc game, the feral and terrifying version of Orcs we see in the show is a very premeditated approach. 

"We spent a lot of time talking about what it would mean to be an Orc in the Second Age," executive producer Lindsey Weber said. "It felt appropriate that their look would be different, part of a wilder, more raw, Second Age Middle-earth, closer to where the First Age ends. As we meet them, they're not yet organized into armies, they're a little more scattered and they've been scavenging." Weber also teased that the show will feature all sorts of different Orcs, including female ones. 

Interestingly, the unnerving effect of the show's Orcs is so strong that even the actors were thrown off by them. As Lloyd Owen (who plays notable Númenórean Elendil in the show) told Metro, the Orcs legitimately creeped him out on set. "You get a visceral reaction to it," the actor said. "Which is rejection ultimately. 'I don't want to be around that'." 

Based on what we've seen so far, it's difficult to imagine anyone wanting to be around the show's Orcs for any amount of time ... but from the looks of it, the people of Middle-earth might not have any other option.