Despite being weeks away from release, Amazon Prime Video's upcoming sprawling big bet series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power remains a bit of a mystery. A couple of visually stunning, bloody intriguing trailers aside, we still don't know all that much about what the show has in store. Aside from the fact that it's expensive – reportedly one of the most expensive shows ever made.
Thankfully, at the recent San Diego Comic Con Hall H panel, host and famed Tolkien-nerd Stephen Colbert managed to extract a few more details from showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne. Here's everything we know about the highly anticipated show so far.
Set thousands of years before J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings books (and director Peter Jackson's celebrated trilogy), The Rings Of Power follows the initial rise of Sauron along with the story of the forging of the rings of power. Three for the elven kings, seven for the dwarf lords, nine for mortal men, and one for the Dark Lord Sauron which he used to deceive them all and generally do mean, destructive, not nice things. You know how Dark Lords are.
The prequel series takes place in the Second Age of Middle Earth, whereas the original trilogy covered the Third Age. To put it in context, during the Comic Con panel, co-showrunner Patrick McKay described the events of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy as a "post apocalyptic" Middle Earth. The kingdoms of men have fallen and the elves are leaving the land, whereas the Second Age sees Middle Earth thriving and at its most vibrant, before it all went to hell.
A key part of that downfall was the destruction of the kingdom of Neumenor. Often described as "Tolkien's Atlantis", Neumenor was considered the greatest kingdom of men before it was destroyed as a result of the rings of power and all the havoc they wreaked.
Showrunners Payne and McKay said that much of their show (which is planned to take place over 50 chapters across five seasons) is faithful to the books, while a great deal of it is an extension of Tolkien's text by "filling in the blanks". The Rings Of Power takes inspiration from the vast backstory that Tolkien set out in the appendices to the LOTR trilogy, but it also expands on the material and goes into more depth to tell new stories and introduce new characters.
The Rings Of Power features a massive cast of over 20 lead actors most of whom have never been in a mainstream project like this. Fans might recognise a few familiar characters and names – immortal elves Elrond (Hugo Weaving in the movies, here played by Game Of Thrones' Robert Aramayo) and Galadriel (Cate Blanchett in the films, here played by Saint Maud's Morfydd Clark) appear as their younger selves. As does Isildur (Maxim Baldry here and Harry Sinclair in the movies) – the man responsible for first defeating Sauron but then refusing to finish the job by destroying the One Ring, thus allowing Sauron to one day return and usher in an entire trilogy's worth of more evil. Men, am I right?
The show also introduces us to a fresh roster of kings, queens, elves, dwarves and all manner of mystical beings. These include the first female dwarf seen on-screen from Middle Earth (Sophia Nomvete), the Harfoots – the ancestors to the hobbits, and a mysterious figure known only as The Stranger (Daniel Weyman).
The trailer gives us our first glimpse of The Stranger who seems to have landed on Middle-Earth along with a meteor. During the Comic Con panel, the showrunners said his identity will be one of the show's central mysteries, while host Stephen Colbert theorised that he's either Gandalf or Sauron. Colbert also got them to confirm that the show will also, in fact, show us Entwives – the wives of the massive tree creatures known as Ents. Oh, and of course Orcs. Lots of Orcs.
And no, while the chances are we won't see any sign of the human swag machine that is Aragorn considering he probably won't be born yet, the trailer does seem to promise us a Balrog. I call that a win, wouldn't you?
The eight-episode first season will drop weekly on Amazon Prime Video from Friday, September 2.