Big Questions is where we answer the most pressing queries about the latest exciting releases. Here’s what you need to know about Prime Video’s new Middle-earth series…
By Virgin TV Edit
Fans of hobbits, elves and dwarves assemble: it’s almost time to head back to Middle-earth. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power, Amazon Studios’ hugely ambitious prequel series, premieres on Prime Video in September – and anticipation is reaching fever pitch. But there are still lots of unanswered questions about the five-season fantasy drama, including whether it can possibly live up to Peter Jackson’s films.
We can’t tell you that at this stage – but we can shed light on many other questions you might have about the new series. Read on for your Big Questions, answered.
What is the story behind The Rings Of Power?
The series will bring all the major events of the Second Age to life, following a large cast of characters as evil emerges in Middle-earth. Across the eight episodes in season 1, a growing darkness will threaten the lives of elves, men, dwarves and harfoots – the ancient ancestors of the hobbits – alike.
Over five seasons, the show will cover the forging of the Rings of Power, the rise of the evil Lord Sauron, the fall of the kingdom of Númenor (an island to the west of Middle-earth that was once the greatest civilisation of men) and the last alliance between elves and men. According to Amazon Studios, The Rings Of Power “will take viewers back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested [and] hope hung by the finest of threads”.
When is it set?
The series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before the events of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. It was “a time when the world was so young, there had not yet been a sunrise”, according to the teaser trailer.
As a result, fans will recognise some locations and characters – notably some of the immortal elves. There will also be plenty of new places and faces to discover, including ancient characters who have never been captured on screen before, but whose names will be familiar from Tolkien’s writing.
So, how many Rings of Power are there?
Twenty in total, all of which were (obviously) magical. Nineteen were initially forged during the Second Age: three for the elves, seven for the dwarves, and nine for Men.
Sauron, the sly dog, forged one more – the One Ring – for himself at Mount Doom.
What did the Rings of Power actually do?
Disclaimer: we don’t know yet how precisely Amazon’s adaptation will slot into Tolkien’s narrative. But in the author’s telling, Sauron masterminded the creation of the Rings of Power to corrupt the rulers of Middle-earth and lure them into joining him in evil. Disguising himself as Annatar, Lord of Gifts, he tricked the elf-smiths of Eregion into crafting the 19 “lesser” rings. These were all linked to the power of the One Ring – allowing Sauron to control their wearers as long as he possessed the One.
If a mortal wore any of the Rings of Power, according to Gandalf, their lifespan would also be hugely extended. But they would not retain their youth, health or energy, and eventually, living would become unbearable.
Wait – is The Rings Of Power canon?
As in, an official part of the published Lord Of The Rings universe? It’s… complicated. The series, which has been created in collaboration with the Tolkien Estate and the Tolkien Trust, is based on the author’s history of Middle-earth – primarily the appendices at the end of The Return Of The King, the final novel in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Broken down into six parts, each appendix covered a different aspect of Middle-earth, from language to history (particularly hobbit and dwarven history, beginning at the start of the Second Age).
Beyond the appendices, the TV show’s creators will have been able to draw on the references to Middle-earth’s Second Age throughout Tolkien’s writings – in novels such as The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings; in the author’s notes; and in The Silmarillion, his posthumously published (and controversial) five-part book filling in much of Middle-earth’s history.
However, there will be many key differences. Events that take place over thousands of years in Tolkien’s original stories have been condensed into a shorter timeframe in the Amazon adaptation, and several new characters have been created specifically for the series – a licence granted by the Tolkien Estate. The writer’s grandson Simon, also a novelist, worked as a consultant on the series.
Who’s in the cast?
There are some familar faces and some new faces among the cast. Read on to find out more…
A rising Welsh actor whose biggest role to date was the lead in 2019’s critically acclaimed horror Saint Maud, Clark stars as Galadriel – the role played by Cate Blanchett in the movie trilogy. She is one of the most powerful elves in Middle-earth, and bearer of one of the three elven rings of power.
Walker plays Gil-Galad, the High King of the Elves of the West and Middle-earth’s last Noldor king. Gil-Galad forms the Last Alliance of Elves and Men to wage war against Sauron. Walker is perhaps best known for playing the titular ghoul-bashing US president in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, although he was last seen in long-delayed action-adventure fantasy The King’s Daughter with real-life wife Kaya Scodelario.
Aramayo, who appeared as young Ned Stark in Game Of Thrones, will play the half-elf, half-human Elrond – Lord of Rivendell, captain and herald to Gil-Galad, and bearer of the Blue Ring of Power.
Baldry plays Isildur, the King of Gondor and one of the most prominent human characters in the series. Isildur and his sons head the army fighting Sauron in the Second Age, and his actions set off a chain of events that leads directly to The Hobbit. British actor Baldry has 80 episodes of Hollyoaks under his belt, and as a child starred in Mr Bean’s Holiday.
Addai-Robinson stars as Queen Regent Míriel, the last rightful heir of Númenor, the kingdom of men. You might recognise her from US TV dramas including Arrow, Chicago Med and Power.
Henry makes an unexpected but very welcome appearance in The Rings Of Power as Sadoc Burrows, a non-canonical Harfoot character created for the TV series. The comedian and Comic Relief co-founder has proved his acting chops in everything from Doctor Who to theatre productions of Shakespeare plays.
Boniadi, perhaps most recognisable as Barney’s ex-girlfriend Nora in How I Met Your Mother, will play Bronwyn. Another non-canonical character, she is a healer from Tirharad – who falls in love with the elf Arondir.
Who wrote and directed it?
The series’ showrunners are JD Payne and Patrick McKay, a writing duo who have only ever created unproduced or uncredited work before. They were championed to Amazon Studios by director JJ Abrams, who previously worked with them on an unproduced Star Trek film.
However, plenty of established screenwriters have also contributed to the series, include Stephany Folsom (Thor: Ragnarok), Bryan Cogman (Game Of Thrones), Jason Cahill (The Sopranos), Justin Doble (Stranger Things), Gennifer Hutchison (Breaking Bad) and Helen Shang (13 Reasons Why).
An eclectic mix of film-makers also shared directing duties for the first season of The Rings Of Power. JA Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Wayne Yip (Doctor Who) and Charlotte Brändström (The Witcher) all directed at least two episodes, respectively.
Where was it filmed?
Like The Lord Of The Rings films, the first season was filmed entirely in New Zealand. The country’s breathtaking scenery will stand in for fantastical lands including the Misty Mountains and the forested elf capital of Lindon.
However, it’s been announced that future seasons will be filmed at both locations and studios in the UK, as Amazon Studios seeks to continue investing in production on these shores.
How much did it cost to make?
Put simply, it’s the most expensive TV show ever made, with a price tag of $1 billion (more than £827 million). Amazon founder, multi-billionaire and Tolkien super-fan Jeff Bezos was reportedly personally involved in negotiations for the television rights to The Lord Of The Rings.
When is The Rings Of Power on Prime Video?
The first season is scheduled to premiere on Prime Video on Friday 2 September. Clear your diaries – Middle-earth awaits.
How to watch Amazon Prime Video with Virgin TV
Prime Video is available to all Virgin TV customers with a V6 box, powered by TiVo®. Simply sign up to Amazon Prime Video via their website, and you can log in on the box. And because Prime Video is fully integrated into TiVo®, you can search without even going into the app. Just select Search & Discover from the Home menu and type in the name of the show or movie you’re after.