Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) meet in the elven kingdom of Lindon.
The article confirms that the show is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings. The story is set after the defeat of the Dark Lord Morgoth at the end of the War of the Jewels and the destruction of the western lands of Beleriand. The surviving elves have established new kingdoms in the north-west of Middle-earth, most notably the coastal kingdom of Lindon and the inland nation of Eregion. Their human allies from the war have been given a great gift, a new island home in the midst of the Sundering Seas, Númenor. Over the intervening centuries Númenor has become a powerful island nation, sending its ships to explore every corner of the world. Likewise, the dwarves have established new holdings and reestablished contact with old ones, such as the great subterranean empire of Khazad-dûm, lying beneath the Misty Mountains (and whose dusty ruins will one day be explored by the Fellowship of the Ring, when it is known as Moria).
Despite the defeat of Morgoth, evil has not left Middle-earth. Morgoth's lieutenant, Sauron, is missing, presumed destroyed, and some of his fell followers, including orcs and trolls, remain a problem. It is probably not a massive spoiler to reveal that Sauron (not, at this point, a flaming giant eyeball) is not dead and is plotting a comeback involving the forging of some rather familiar hand-ornaments...
The story of the Second Age is not relayed in any novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, but in historical summaries at the end of The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) and an essay called The Akallabeth, which is published at the end of Tolkien's mythic account of the wars of the First Age, The Silmarillion (1977). Additional essays, such as a detailed lineage of the Kings and Queens of Númenor, an incomplete short story about a Númenorean mariner-king and a character study of the elven leaders Galadriel and Celeborn can all be found in Tolkien's Unfinished Tales (1980). But these accounts only reveal the grand, over-arcing history of the time period, omitting the close-up details. The writing team, led by Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne, has taken advantage of this to create a narrative that both explores the unfolding main narrative but also introduce a host of new characters who will be our eyes and ears into these epic events.
The character list includes some familiar names: Galadriel and Elrond are key and important characters who play a major role in The Lord of the Rings. As the show is set thousands of years before the novels and earlier Peter Jackson film trilogy, these roles have been recast with younger actors. Characters who appeared briefly in the film trilogy, such as the Númenorean king Elendil and his son and heir Isildur (who both briefly appear in the prologue to the first movie), will play a larger role here, and of course Sauron will be the chief (but not sole) threat.
Most of the characters will be new. A young elven warrior named Arondir has found love with a human woman, something this forbidden by his culture. A mysterious human named Halbrand strikes up an alliance with Galadriel after they are both shipwrecked in a storm. Prince Durin, the heir to Khazad-dûm, has to navigate a difficult path.
Showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne have relatively few credits, but were recommended for the job by J.J. Abrams, who'd worked with them on the script for Star Trek Beyond (2016). The two writers also had a take on the Second Age story that excited Amazon. The showrunners quickly assembled an experienced writing team including Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), Jason Cahill (The Sopranos, Fringe) and Stephany Folsom (Toy Story 4, Thor: Ragnarok), whilst director J.A. Bayona (The Orphanage, The Impossible, A Monster Calls, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) was assigned to produce and direct the first two episodes.
There is one major deviation with this show from the source material. In Tolkien's works, the major events of the Second Age are largely compressed into two time periods, one revolving around the forging of the Rings of Power and the resulting war between Sauron and the elves, during which Numenor makes its presence felt, and another period some fifteen centuries later when the Númenoreans capture and imprison Sauron on their home island, leading to an apocalyptic series of events culminating in the War of the Last Alliance (which opened the original move trilogy). Here the two time periods have been collapsed into one period, presumably lasting a few years or decades.
This isn't completely unprecedented - Jackson collapsed a seventeen-year time gap in the opening chapters of The Lord of the Rings into a few weeks - but the scale here is extreme, with most of the second half of the Second Age being erased. This already seems to be the most contentious change, when the writers could have either instead used a flashback framing device or multiple timelines, or simply done a mid-series time jump. How successful it is remains to be seen.
Confirmed Cast of Characters
- Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), a much younger version of the character played by Cate Blanchett in the original trilogy. Galadriel is younger, prouder and perhaps less measured than in the Third Age. A senior leader of the elves of Middle-earth, she is utterly opposed to the machinations of the Dark Lord Sauron but is tempted by the trappings of power.
- Elrond (Robert Aramayo), a younger version of the character played by Hugo Weaving in the original movie trilogy. Elrond Half-elven has forsaken his human heritage to become a senior leader of the elves of Middle-earth, standing as advisor to the elven High King, Gil-galad.
- Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), one of the highest-ranking elven survivors from the War of the Jewels. Founder and ruler of the inland elven kingdom of Eregion, which borders the dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dum. Celebrimbor is a master-smith driven by pride and the desire to forge the most beautiful artifacts ever created. Unfortunately, his pride is something that can be manipulated and used against him.
- Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), a silvan elf warrior who finds a forbidden love with Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), the healer of the village of Tirharad.
- Prince Durin (Owain Arthur), the future King Durin IV, heir to the dwarven throne of Khazad-dûm, which in later ages would be known as Moria.
- Princess Disa (Sophia Nomvete) of Khazad-dûm.
- Isildur (Maxim Baldry), a young nobleman of Númenor.
- Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), a human fleeing from his own past.
- A Harfoot Elder (Sir Lenny Henry), a leader of the harfoot people, an early tribe of Hobbits who have come west centuries before the rest of their kin. Megan Richards and Markella Kavenagh play two harfoot youngsters who encounter a "mysterious lost man" whose identity becomes a key mystery in the story (Kavenagh's character may be called Tyra).
- Joseph Mawle and Simon Merrells are playing new (?) characters called Adar and Trevyn. Adar is an antagonist.
- Gil-Galad (Benjamin Walker), High King of the Elves in Middle-earth, overlord of Lindon and the senior-most elven leader in Middle-earth.
- Carine (Ema Horvath), Isildur's sister and a young noblewoman of Númenor.
- Elendil (Lloyd Owen), a nobleman of Númenor, father of Isildur and Carine and a kinsman of the king.
- Pharazon (Trystan Gravelle), a royal prince of Númenor.
The first episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is called Shadow of the Past and will debut on 2 September 2022 on Amazon Prime worldwide. The first trailer for the show will air on Sunday during the US Super Bowl.
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