Amazon's hugely expensive new Lord of the Rings show, The Rings of Power, is just weeks away. Here's everything to know about the highly anticipated series:
When is 'The Rings of Power' set?
Like Game of Thrones' upcoming House of the Dragon, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a prequel to the original story — in this case, set thousands of years in the past during a time known as the Second Age.
This period culminates in an epic battle fought by an alliance of men and elves against Sauron, which we learn about in the opening of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Sauron is seemingly defeated, only to return during the Third Age, when The Lord of the Rings is set. The Second Age also includes the forging of the Rings of Power, as well as the fall of Númenor, an island kingdom similar to Atlantis.
"In the Third Age, Middle-earth is sort of post-apocalyptic," co-showrunner Patrick McKay explained during a Comic-Con panel. "All of these kingdoms have fallen. The Elves are on their way out the door. In the Second Age, Middle-earth is vibrant and full of life."
Though J. R. R. Tolkien established the Second Age lasted thousands of years, its key events will take place over a shorter period of time in the show. Prior to the Second Age, the First Age ended with the defeat of the first Dark Lord and Sauron's master, Morgoth. Sauron himself, though, is still out there somewhere.
What's the show about?
The trailers for The Rings of Power have kept the plot somewhat vague, but Prime Video says that "beginning in a time of relative peace, the series follows an ensemble cast of characters, both familiar and new, as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil to Middle-earth."
Indeed, McKay said at Comic-Con that the focus of season one will be "reintroducing this world and the return of evil" in the aftermath of the war of the First Age, and the show is expected to depict the rise of Sauron.
As its title suggests, the series is also ultimately the story of the forging of the Rings of Power. As we learn in The Fellowship of the Ring, during the Second Age, three of these rings were given to the elves, seven were given to the dwarves, and nine were given to the men, and "within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race." But Sauron "forged in secret a master ring to control all others" — the One Ring to rule them all — in the fires of Mount Doom.
So The Rings of Power, McKay told Vanity Fair, is "the story of the creation of all those powers, where they came from, and what they did to each of those races."
Who are the characters?
Morfydd Clark stars as a young Galadriel, the elf played by Cate Blanchett in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, while Robert Aramayo is young Elrond, the half-elven character previously played by Hugo Weaving. According to Vanity Fair, Galadriel is "hunting down the last remnants of" Morgoth and Sauron's collaborators when the show begins, and the trailer depicts her as reluctant to hang up her sword because "the enemy is still out there."
The massive ensemble cast also includes Isildur (Maxim Baldry), who is a sailor at this time but is later seen in the Fellowship of the Ring prologue cutting the One Ring off Sauron's finger; Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Númenor's queen regent; Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), high king of the Ñoldor, a clan of elves, who was briefly seen during the opening of Fellowship of the Ring; Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), forger of the rings of power; Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), an elf who's in love with Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), a human; Durin (Owain Arthur), a Dwarven prince of Khazad-dûm (which we later see in the Peter Jackson films); and Disa (Sophia Nomvete), princess of Khazad-dûm and the franchise's first female dwarf. Ismael Cruz Córdova is also the first person of color to play an elf in the series.
We'll also meet a number of harfoot characters, who are meant to be ancestors of the hobbits. Tolkien established the hobbits themselves didn't do anything of note during the Second Age, so co-showrunner J. D. Payne said at Comic-Con that using harfoots was a way to get around that. "Tolkien doesn't say anything about harfoots not having done anything amazing in the Second Age," he noted.
One lingering mystery is who, if anyone, is playing Sauron. But the character, who can shape-shift during this time, is likely to appear in human form at some point. Some fans have theorized Sauron could be played by Daniel Weyman, who has been cast as a mysterious character dubbed "the Stranger," while others think he'll be played by Anson Boon or possibly Bridie Sisson.
What's the relationship between the show and the movies?
Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy, isn't involved with The Rings of Power, which was set up at Prime Video after Amazon spent $250 million on the rights specifically to stories about the Second Age. The showrunners are J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay, who didn't work on the Jackson films.
One connection to the movies is that Howard Shore, who composed both of Jackson's trilogies, has returned to write the main title theme for The Rings of Power, though Bear McCreary serves as the composer for the rest of the show.
What's the show based on?
The Rings of Power draws on information we learn about the Second Age in the Lord of the Rings and especially its appendices. But because there isn't a Lord of the Rings novel that is fully set in the Second Age, it won't be as direct an adaptation as the Jackson movies, and numerous characters were invented for the show. According to Vanity Fair, Amazon also doesn't have the rights to Tolkien's The Silmarillion, which offers more Middle-earth history.
How long will the show run?
When Amazon purchased the rights to make The Rings of Power, it made a commitment for five seasons, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and the showrunners have described planning out that whole story from the beginning. "We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be," Payne told Empire, adding, "There are things in the first season that don't pay off until Season 5." It's certainly Amazon's biggest bet on original programming ever, and the company reportedly spent $465 million on the first season alone.
When does it premiere?
The Rings of Power premieres on Prime Video on Sept. 2, less than two weeks after House of the Dragon. The first season consists of eight episodes, which will air weekly.