‘The Lord of the Rings’ TV show at Amazon Prime Video is around a year and a half away from premiering but is already one of the most expected upcoming shows. There’s been a ton of silence around it, and aside from a few plot details, some cast members, and the creative team, we know fairly little about the series.
However, from the small bits producers have revealed about the plot we can go to the books and know some more about where the show may be heading. Also, the last couple of days have been huge, as the show cast the actress who’ll portray one of the most beloved characters of the saga, while another enticing member of the cast confirmed he would not participate in the show.
The show will be set in the Middle Earth, the alternative world where all of the universe created by JRR Tolkien is set. However, it will not explore the plotlines we’ve already seen in the movies directed by Peter Jackson, which were based on the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, and on ‘The Hobbit,’ the first book Tolkien wrote set in the Middle Earth.
However, the streamer was silent for a long time on what would the show be based on. We didn’t know at what age the show would take us to, if we’d see Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Lady Galadriel or many other characters or even if Peter Jackson was involved in some way.
But then in September, the producers announced New Zealand would play the “primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle-earth” in the series. As you may know, New Zealand was the production base for LOTR of The Hobbit films. Saying the show would be based on the Second Age gives us some guidance on which might be the major events of the show.
(Major potential spoilers ahead)
First of all, the series will focus on Númenor, more than in the other regions of the Middle Earth. If you haven’t read the books, that’s probably the first time you’ve heard the name ‘Númenor.’ To explain its importance we need to go way back to the end of the First Age, where the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, was defeated by an alliance of Elves, Men, and the Valar (let’s say they are angels to keep things simple).
However, the conflict lasted for thousands of years, so men needed a safe refuge as they fought against Morgoth. The Valar created it for them: The Island of Númenor, located in the middle Great Sea, between the Middle Earth, and the Valar’s home, the Undying Lands. However, the men of this age were not the ones we know from the LOTR saga such as Aragorn and Boromir. They are the descendants of the First Age joining between Elves and Men, which means they are half-elves. They could choose the fate of Elves (not dying of natural causes) or of Men. Those who chose the fate of Men would eventually settle on Númenor. Even as they were not immortal, they had amazingly long lifespans. After settling in Numenor, they started a rich culture of sea exploration.
Thus, they were quite different from the men who stayed in the Middle Earth, as they were sided with Morgoth, or hid during the war against him. And here is one familiar name appears. The men who were loyal to Morgoth sided with Sauron, his successor. You may ask: But Sauron wasn’t that huge, scary, fire eye in LOTR? Yes, but at this stage, he could take a corporeal form. This means that if he appears on the show, which is quite likely considering his importance in the Second Age, he will necessarily be portrayed by an actor.
At this point, Sauron built an army of Orcs, men, and other creatures. He had territories in the South of the Middle Earth before Númenoreans started building colonies in the Middle Earth, which, eventually led to a, where Sauron was captured in Mordor and taken as a prisoner. But Sauron was a master of deception, and he was able to pervert men and elves easily. He could even pervert Valar, so you can understand how he was able to persuade his captors to take him to Númenor, where he convinced the king to get on his side and establish a Morgoth cult that the king eventually followed. He promised the king he could go to the Undying Lands of Aman to be immortal.
I won’t continue because I could basically spoil several seasons of the show but the rise and fall of Númenor is, by far, one of the best and more complex stories of the Middle Earth. It takes place over thousands of years, so it’s hard to say exactly when the show will be based. However, as most of the major characters have long lifespans or are immortal, so the show could show us hundreds of years with no problem.
Also, as so many characters have such longevity, we may see some familiar characters of the show, even as we don’t see them portrayed by the same actors. For example, Elrond, played by Hugo Weaving in the films, is a descendant of the First Age bonds between Men and Elves. During the Second Age, he and Gil-Galad, the Elven King in the Middle Earth had their issues with Sauron and were initially allied with the Númenóreans.
Also, the most recent cast member announced for the show was Morfydd Clark, to play a young version of Lady Galadriel, who was portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the films. Galadriel is said to be a major character in the series, which means Elrond (her son-in-law), Celeborn (her husband, played by Marton Csokas in the film saga), and Celebrían (her daughter) are almost sure to appear on the show, too.
So, you may ask, what about Gandalf? Well, that depends on how much the show covers. If it goes beyond Númenor’s downfall, we may see him. As Númenor Falls, the Valar become estranged from the world. Nevertheless, they send five Maia spirits to aid them against Sauron in the form of old wizards. We know three of them: Radagast, Gandalf, and Saruman. They arrive in the third age, but the first two that we don’t know much of, arrive right after the Fall of Númenor. We don’t know much of them as they only appear on Tolkien’s unfinished tales but they most likely fell into Sauron’s manipulation or died trying to take the Easterlings out of Sauron’s hands. This means writers have a ton of leeway with them, they can be antiheroes, villains, or they could even tweak things a little bit and send the five Maia together.
Other known characters that are alive at the time are Tom Bombadil, probably the best-known character that hasn’t appeared in the films (We can talk a ton about him another day as his story is quite complex) and Thranduil, Legolas father, who was played by Lee Pace in The Hobbit trilogy films.
Clark wasn’t the only star cast for the show but was the first one that we know of her character and is not yet unknown. Amazon hasn’t confirmed much of the cast, but Markella Kavenagh is rumored to play a character named Tyra, and Joseph Mawle, best known as Benjen Stark in Game of Thrones, is said to play a villain called Oren. Both would be new characters. Ema Horvath will also play an undisclosed character. Will Poulter, who we last saw on ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ was set to play a lead role but was later let go due to schedule issues.
The show is still on pre-production, but Amazon Prime Video decided to already renew it for a second season. That means the creative team will go on a 5-month break after filming the first two episodes of the show at the beginning of next year to write the skeleton of Season 2 scripts.
The series is the most ambitious project of Amazon Prime Video so far. The show has an all-star creative team that includes members of the writing and producing teams of Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, Stranger Things, Toy Story 4, The Aviator, Suicide Squad, The Revenant, and Star Wars. JD Payne and Patrick McKay will be the series’ showrunners. JD Bayona will direct the first couple of episodes. The three of them will produce the show alongside elén Atienza, Lindsey Weber, Bruce Richmond, Gene Kelly, Sharon Tal Yguado. Gennifer Hutchison; Jason Cahill and Justin Doble are the screenwriters and also serve as exec producers. Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar serves as an advisor for the writing team alongside Glenise Mullins
“This team is our Fellowship – assembled from around the world, all walking the road together to try and accomplish something far greater than any of us could on our own,” Payne and McKay said about the crew. “We feel humbled and extremely lucky to be surrounded by such inspiring and talented women and men.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m already re-reading all of the books ahead of this upcoming LOTR-based show. The hype is real.