Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series — officially titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — was easily one of the most anticipated shows of 2022, and it's finally hit our screens.
Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy smashed box office records and won a host of Oscars when it hit cinemas nearly two decades ago. After a long break from JRR Tolkien's fantasy world, we'll be heading back to it once again on September 1 in a brand new series exclusive to Prime Video.
Don't expect to see any of your favorite characters from Peter Jackson's films showing up on your screen, though. The show will be set during Middle Earth’s Second Age — thousands of years before the events of The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings movies.
Here's everything you need to know about The Rings of Power...
Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power release date
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 global two-episode premiere hit Prime Video on Thursday, September 1 at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT and at 2 am UK time on Friday, September 2.
For the rest of the season, new episodes will be going out on Fridays at midnight ET/5 am UK, meaning the third episode will be available on Friday, September 9.
Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power plot
The official synopsis for the Lord of the Rings TV series confirms the story will take viewers back thousands of years...
"This epic drama is set thousands of years before the events of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and 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, hope hung by the finest of threads, and the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness.
"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. From the darkest depths of the Misty Mountains to the majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon, to the breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor, to the furthest reaches of the map, these kingdoms and characters will carve out legacies that live on long after they are gone."
When the series' name was revealed, showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay elaborated a little bit on what we can expect from the new series: "The Rings of Power unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age: the forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
“Until now, audiences have only seen on-screen the story of the One Ring — but before there was one, there were many… and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all,” they added.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them, In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. #LOTRonPrime pic.twitter.com/7TuQh7gRPDMarch 7, 2019
Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power timeline
As we've already mentioned, this prequel series won't take place during the time period we're used to seeing on Middle Earth. That's because Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series is actually set thousands of years before The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings during the Second Age. For reference, when Gollum first obtained his 'precious'— aka The One Ring—it had already been lost for more than 2000 years.
The Second Age is most notable for being the period during which Sauron rose to power. During the Second Age, he tricked Celebrimbor and some of the other elven blacksmiths into forging the Rings of Power, whilst he secretly forged the One Ring to rule over all the others in secret. He also built up his fortress in Mordor and corrupted the people of Númenor.
Early reports about the show suggested that it would focus on a younger version of Aragorn, although those now seem very wide of the mark given the show's setting places it well before Aragorn's lifetime. As this is the first time these parts of Tolkien's world will appear on-screen, it's far more likely that we'll mostly be getting to know a brand new cast of characters and places in The Rings of Power.
More LOTR: The Rings of Power
- Meet the Rings of Power cast
- Who is The Dweller in LOTR: Rings of Power? Could The Dweller be Sauron?
- Who is Adar in LOTR: The Rings of Power? Is Adar Sauron? We weigh the evidence
- Who is the Meteor Man?
- The Rings of Power premiere: eight burning questions we need answered
- LOTR's Sophia Nomvete says the first female dwarf is a 'magical moment' for Tolkien fans
- Morfydd Clark — things you didn’t know about the actress playing Galadriel in The Rings of Power
- The Rings of Power episode 1 review: an intoxicating return to Middle-earth
- The best fantasy TV shows
How many episodes in Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power?
Despite early rumors that the first series could span as many as 20 episodes, we now know that the first season of The Rings of Power will be a more manageable eight episodes long.
The terms of Amazon's deal with the Tolkien Estate included a five-season commitment and the second series of the show has already been given the go-ahead. Amazon bosses are thought to be keen to replicate the kind of success HBO had with Game of Thrones.
Reactions to The Rings of Power
Reactions to the first two episodes of The Rings of Power appeared on social media just a few days ahead of the global premiere, and they were very positive!
Our What to Watch Rings of Power review described it as "an intoxicating return to Middle-earth. Nothing beats Tolkien for majesty and cinematic scope"
Corey Olsen —better known to many as the "Tolkien Professor"— was full of praise for what he's seen so far, writing: "I am very much looking forward to talking about this show for the next five years."
I have seen the first two episodes of #TheRingsOfPower, and I can’t say much yet, but I will say this: I REALLY enjoyed them, and I am very much looking forward to talking about this show for the next five years. At least! @LOTRonPrime @PrimeVideoAugust 24, 2022
Whilst responding to a fan who asked how they were, he said: "Really, really fun. I remember buying the Silmarillion as a schoolboy when it was published and it very much not being the prequel I was hoping for. This is the sort of thing I wanted to experience back then. I'll watch the whole series when it drops, with enthusiasm."
Really, really fun. I remember buying the Silmarillion as a schoolboy when it was published and it very much not being the prequel I was hoping for. This is the sort of thing I wanted to experience back then. I'll watch the whole series when it drops, with enthusiasm. https://t.co/eEcGJvCOjkAugust 24, 2022
Cliff Broadway —of TheOneRing.net. —was similarly blown away, calling the show, among other things, "vivid", "highly cinematic" and "ready to win your heart" based on what he's seen so far.
First impressions of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: #TheRingsOfPower @LOTRonPrime first 2 episodes:- Vivid- Ebullient- Highly Cinematic- Enriching- Earnestly Heartfelt- Bit Outside the Box- Ready to Win Your Heart- Ready to Start Hardcore Lore Debates- Everyone Wins #Tolkien pic.twitter.com/TqsfqgG4O9August 24, 2022
Finally, Entertainment Tonight's senior editor of TV and streaming, Stacy Lambe, tweeted: "Having seen the first two episodes of #RingsOfPower, I have to admit I was surprised how much I liked it. The lush and expansive series very much breathes new life into the franchise. And it's a show that I think people will enjoy once they allow themselves to be sucked into it."
Having seen the first two episodes of #RingsOfPower, I have to admit I was surprised how much I liked it. The lush and expansive series very much breathes new life into the franchise. And it’s a show that I think people will enjoy once they allow themselves to be sucked into it.August 24, 2022
What happened in episode one?
In the prologue, we saw Galadriel and a few of her fellow elves head off in search of Sauron, and she explained what happened during the war with Morgoth.
From there, we were slowly introduced to the major figures of our ensemble: the nomadic Harfoots, including free-spirited Nori, the uneasy tension between Arondir and the other elves watching over the humans living in the Southlands (including Bronwyn, the woman he's forged a secret relationship with), where trouble is brewing, and we met Elrond in Lindon, where Galadriel and her soldiers had travelled.
In Lindon, High King Gil-galad gave a speech celebrating the beginning of the days of peace, and told Galadriel's select forces they were to journey to the Undying Lands in Valinor, to rest for eternity.
Arondir receives word that Gil-galad is disbanding the Elven watchposts throughout the realm, and that they're heading home. He goes to visit Bronwyn to say goodbye, but a villager brings a cow bearing an ill omen from nearby lands; her milk runs red and thick. Meanwhile, Bronwyn's son Theo reveals to his friend that he's found a sword bearing the mark of Sauron on the hilt.
Gil-galad and Elrond converse about Galadriel's fervor to seek out Sauron, and the king makes it clear he also fears the return of the Dark Lord, but worries that continuing to search for him could stoke up his return. The High King also tells Elrond he wishes for him to work with Celebrimbor on a new project he has planned.
Bronwyn and Arondir discover that the town of Horden has been razed to the ground, a meteor flies across the skies of Middle-earth, and Galadriel decides to dive overboard and refuse to return to Valinor at the very last second.
What happened in episode two?
In episode 2, Nori and her friend Poppy encounter The Stranger, who is at the center of the crater; Nori intends to care for him, but Poppy is very reticent. Arondir and Bronwyn continue to investigate Horden, and they find a great tunnel, which Arondir explores whilst she returns to her town.
In Eregion, Celebrimbor tells Elrond that he wants to build a more powerful forge than ever before for his new project; he needs it soon, leading Elrond to suggest they enlist the help of the dwarves and they journey to Khazad-dum, though they are not warmly received. To secure his allegiance, Elrond challenges Durin III to a dwarven endurance test, which he loses and is therefore set to be banished.
Adrift in the Sunless Sea, Galadriel encounters a raft with a few strangers on board; they grow hostile to her once they learn she is an elf, but the raft is soon attacked by a sea monster. In the attack, the raft splits apart, though she is rescued by the traveller called Halbrand.
Before he's kicked out, Elrond apologizes to Durin, who is upset that he never visited for twenty years and missed both his marriage and the birth of his children; Elrond bargains with Durin and gains the opportunity to make his apologies to Durin's wife Disa, who is thrilled to see him.
Bronwyn returns home, but the other villagers are not interested in what she's learned in Horden and they won't move on. Meanwhile, Arondir is chased by something in the tunnels under Horden. He escapes into a small chasm, but is grabbed by a group of hands out of nowhere and captured.
Bronwyn returns home to find her son cowering in the cupboard, as an orc has emerged from under the floorboards. Together, she and Theo manage to kill it, and she brings the head to the inn as proof that they need to leave the village behind. They pack their things up, but Theo brings the sword hilt, which appears to be drawing his blood into it.
Durin puts Elrond's proposal for help to his father, who wonders whether the elf is hiding something from him, whilst Nori makes a small breakthrough in her struggle to communicate and assist The Stranger: she realizes he wants her help to find some constellations...ones which she has never seen before. Finally, Galadriel and Halbrand barely make it through a storm, though they are rescued by a silhouetted figure who stands on a grand ship.
Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power cast
Robert Aramayo leads the cast as a young Elrond. Robert played a young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones and more recently Rob in Netflix's Behind Her Eyes. Aramayo's role was originally offered to Will Poulter (Midsommar), but Poulter reportedly had to step away from the project due to scheduling conflicts.
Meanwhile, Years and Years star Maxim Baldry has been cast “in a significant role” (now revealed to be none other than Isildur, who eventually cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand) and Joseph Mawle — who starred in Game of Thrones as Ned Stark's brother Benjen — has been cast, with rumors suggesting he's set to play the show's main antagonist, Oren.
Meanwhile, Welsh actor Owain Arthur (A Confession) plays Durin IV, prince of the Dwarven city of Khazad-dûm, with play Nazanin Boniadi (Homeland) starring as Bronwyn: a human mother and healer who owns an apothecary in the Southlands and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Power) takes on the role of Míriel, a human and queen regent of Númenor
One returning character fans of the films will be familiar with is Lady Galadriel. Although the role was played by Cate Blanchett in the original film trilogy, His Dark Materials star Morfydd Clark will bring a younger version of the character to life in the TV series.
Other stars include Ismael Cruz Córdova (Ray Donovan), who plays a Silvan Elf not in Tolkien's original work, who shares a forbidden romance with Bronwyn.
Elsewhere, Markella Kavenagh (The Cry) plays Elanor "Nori" Brandyfoot, a curious Harfoot, a race believed to preceded Hobbits, while Megan Richards (Wanderlust) plays her friend Poppy Proudfellow.
Charles Edwards (Downton Abbey) will star as Celebrimbor, the Elven smith who forges the Rings of Power, Trystan Gravelle plays Pharazôn: a human advisor to queen regent Míriel and Lenny Henry plays Sadoc Burrows: a Harfoot elder.
Ema Horvath (Don’t Look Deeper) plays Isuldur's sister Eärien, Dylan Smith (Maze Runner) plays Harfoot, Largo Brandfoot and Charlie Vickers (Medici) plays Halbrand: a human running from his past whose destiny is entwined with Galadriel's.
Meanwhile Daniel Weyman (Silent Witness) plays 'The Stranger', a character some have speculated could be none other than Gandalf... We can't wait to find out.
Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power trailer
We got our final trailer for the series on August 23, and is packed full of action from the get-go. It sees Galadriel taking up arms in her brother's stead, and shows us all sorts of fantasy characters, beautiful landscapes and just a few epic battles with some of the hostile creatures that populate Middle-earth.
On July 6, Amazon released a new sneak peek at The Rings of Power that was exclusively available to Prime Video members for 48 hours before general release.
The clip showed a comet surging across the skies of the realm and gives us a glimpse at plenty of the stunning locations we'll be visiting. Oh, and it confirms we'll be seeing ents back on our screens, too, as you can spot them roaming the forest towards the end of the clip!
A shorter version of the new clip was also posted on the show's social media pages.
Watch the full sneak peek exclusively for Prime Members on https://t.co/Sw8xN6skP7. #TheRingsOfPower pic.twitter.com/fGkEHtngz3July 6, 2022
Amazon released its first-look teaser trailer during the Super Bowl LVI to much excitement. We got a new look at Middle Earth and young Galadriel scaling an ice wall using only a dagger — from what we can see from this short clip it looks as impressive as Peter Jackson's movies.
Previously they announced the show's title in this extravagant live-action teaser.
It features the voice of Morfydd Clark, as Galadriel, reading out several lines from Tolkien's "Ring Verse" and shows The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power being forged by craftsmen.
In July a second teaser trailer was released, giving fans the first look at some of Tolkien's legendary characters from the island kingdom of Númenor.
The teaser trailer also highlights some of the realms viewers will visit over the course of the eight-part series, including the Elven realms of Lindon and Eregion, the Dwarven realm Khazad-dûm, the Southlands, the Northernmost Wastes, the Sundering Seas, and the island kingdom of Númenór.
At San Diego Comic-Con 2022, another trailer for The Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power was shared. Watch it below.
Where was The Rings of Power filmed?
The first season was filmed in New Zealand, just like Peter Jackson's blockbuster film series. In August 2021, Amazon announced that production on thesecond series would be coming to the UK.
The move came as a surprise, not least as the studio had already invested heavily in sets and facilities for the first series. The steep costs are rumored to be a big factor in the decision: the UK will be a more economical choice and New Zealand's strict Covid-19 lockdown policy is also thought to have played a part.
Many of the cast hailed from Britain and any time a member of the cast or crew left the country, they had to quarantine for 14 days in order to reenter New Zealand, and there were limits as to how many people could come and go from the production at any given time.
Vernon Sanders, VP, and co-head of TV, Amazon Studios said: “We want to thank the people and the government of New Zealand for their hospitality and dedication and for providing the Lord of the Rings series with an incredible place to begin this epic journey. We are grateful to the New Zealand Film Commission, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Tourism New Zealand, Auckland Unlimited, and others for their tremendous collaboration that supported the New Zealand film sector and the local economy during the production of season one.”
On 24 November 2021, Variety revealed the first two shooting locations for the Rings of Power season 2 would be Bray Film Studios and Bovingdon Airfield. Bray Film Studios has played home to Mamma Mia, Rocketman, Dracula, and Bodyguard and Bovingdon Airfield is where Dancing on Ice is filmed and has been used for Justice League and Fast and Furious 6.
Writing the Rings of Power
Initially, it was thought the showrunners J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay would be drawing material from The Silmarillion which contains a lot of the backstory to Middle Earth. However, it was revealed back in February that Amazon only has the rights to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, the appendices and The Hobbit. This takes a whole lot of the lore from the Second Age off the table, but the duo has instead worked with what they've got to tell a compelling story.
As Patrick McKay explained to Vanity Fair, "There's a version of everything we need for the Second Age in the books we have the rights to. As long as we're painting within those lines and not egregiously contradicting something we don't have the rights to, there's a lot of leeway and room to dramatize and tell some of the best stories that [Tolkien] ever came up with."
Payne added: "We took all these little clues and thought of them as stars in the sky that we then connected to write the novel that Tolkien never wrote about the Second Age", later saying: "We worked in conjunction with world-renowned Tolkien scholars and the Tolkien estate to make sure that the way we connected the dots were Tolkienian and gelled with the experts' and the estate's understanding of the material."
Who's directed Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power?
At the 2019 summer Television Critics Association press tour, Amazon revealed the creative team behind The Rings of Power.
The show features writers, directors, producers, costume designers, visual effects artists, and more with credits from shows and movies such as Game of Thrones, Westworld, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Avengers, Stranger Things, Fringe, and many more.
Meet our Fellowship. pic.twitter.com/Npouu6ZlRtJuly 27, 2019
Peter Jackson will not be working on the series, but fans will be pleased to hear that John Howe, who served as a conceptual designer for the original trilogy will be.
Amazon revealed the directors for the first series across the year. They first revealed that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom‘s J.A. Bayona would direct the first two episodes of the series.
In March, Amazon Studios revealed that they had brought British-Chinese director Wayne Che Yip (Doctor Who, Utopia) on board to direct four episodes of the show.
Yip said: "It is a true honor to be invited into the world of Tolkien by J.D. & Patrick and Amazon Studios. Every day I look forward to working with the incredible team here in New Zealand as we humbly contribute to the legacy of the greatest stories ever told."
The last director attached to the show was Charlotte Brändström. Amazon announced the Swedish-French director's involvement in May. Brändström is an Emmy Award-nominee who's worked on shows like Outlander and The Witcher. She directed two episodes of the show.
“I’m very excited to be guided through Middle-earth by J.D.'s and Patrick’s vision and immerse myself in the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a great privilege to be in New Zealand to work with Amazon Studios’ outstanding ensemble of creative talents,” said Brändström.
“There are countless things still to see in Middle-earth, and great works to do,” she added, quoting Gimli.
Greetings from Middle-earth#LOTR #LOTRonPrime @LOTRonPrime pic.twitter.com/EEYgIRTIWsMay 13, 2021
Who wrote the score for Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power?
Although this new trip to Middle Earth won't be led by Peter Jackson, there may well be a familiar face behind the series' music!
Last year, Deadline reported that Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore was in talks to provide the score for Amazon's Lord of the Rings TV series. Shore has provided the scores for more than 80 movies, including the soundtracks for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, both of which are his most successful works to date.
As we now know, Howard Shore isn't the main composer on the show, but he has put together the title theme. The rest of the music has been provided by Bear McCreary, who composed the iconic theme from The Walking Dead and scored all six seasons of Outlander.
Lord of the Rings — The Rings of Power budget
Amazon beat off competition from Netflix, back in 2017, to complete a reported $250 million rights deal with the Tolkien estate, publisher HarperCollins and New Line Cinema to bring The Lord of the Rings to the small screen.
The TV show is reported to be the most expensive in history and when production expenses such as casting, producers and visual effects are factored in, the series is expected to cost more than $1 billion!
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Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for whattowatch.com. He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.
- Martin ShoreStaff Writer at WhatToWatch.com