There are still plenty of unknowns about the new LOTR TV show, but we got a ton of info at Comic-Con this year.
Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power has been a bit of a mystery, to say the least. Despite three different trailers released (with the most recent premiering in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2022) and a number of character posters and stills hitting the internet, there’s still plenty of mystery remaining for this new chapter of Middle-earth’s story.
Prior to the Hall H panel at Comic-Con, we had a small handful of details we could be sure of. The show is set in the Second Age, hundreds of years before the birth of the Hobbits–their distant ancestors, the Harfoots, are running around here–and it will deal with the forging of the titular Rings of Power. Even if you’re not a Tolkien scholar, you probably know at least something about the Rings–they’re talked about pretty extensively in the introduction of Fellowship of the Ring, where we see some flashbacks to the Second Age and the subsequent wars the rings spurred on. That said, those flashbacks are pretty much the only content we’ve ever seen from the Second Age–and in fact, even the depths of Tolkien’s work leave a lot of vagaries and secrets to be discovered. There are simply things about this chunk of Middle-earth history that we just don’t know.
That’s where Rings of Power comes in–using those vagaries as a jumping off point, Rings of Power is going to be filling in some of the blanks, telling some of the stories, and extrapolating on some of the unknowns within the lore.
This weekend, at Comic-Con, we got some idea of what that might actually mean. Between various press opportunities, the Hall H panel Q&A, and the exclusive scenes played for convention goers, we’ve pieced together what we can of the story for the show, which will continue to play out across five confirmed seasons.
1.) The showrunners’ favorite Second Age moment is the fall of Numenor
A lot was going on in Middle-earth during the Second Age and not all of it was directly related to the rings themselves. Numenor was the last great kingdom of men that suffered a domino effect of tragedies (aided and abetted by the influence of Sauron) that eventually caused its complete collapse.
Showrunner JD Payne said “watching this kingdom in this factualiation, with these groups [pulling this kingdom] apart at the seams…The story of the downfall of Numenor is deeply painful but hopeful because maybe there’s something we can learn from it.”
2.) The new characters were helped along by Tolkien scholars
One of the biggest sticking points for many fans of Lord of the Rings in terms of this show has been the sheer volume of newly created characters present. There are new humans, new Elves, new Dwarves, all of the Harfoots–none of them have appeared in Tolkien’s canon before. But they were all created with the utmost care, according to the showrunners.
Payne explained that every new character was made under the watchful eye of “Tolkien scholars, linguists, and lore masters in the writers room.” He went on to explain that, “Tolkien gave us all these great clues about cultures of the Second Age…he gave us a couple of tantalizing paragraphs about Harfoots..piecing those clues together..When Tolkien was silent we tried to interpret things as Tolkienian as possible. “
Showrunner Patrick McKay emphasized that it was always about “going back to the books.”
3.) There might be Entwives(!?)
Female Ents (those giant tree people–you remember, they helped Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers!) do exist in Middle-earth lore, but they’ve never been seen or prominently used. That might change here, though–Payne playfully noted that they might have already been hidden in the trailers we’ve seen. Stranger things have happened.
4.) It took Owain Arthur three hours to get into his Dwarf makeup every day
Rings of Power is using as many practical effects as possible, especially when it comes to making the different races of Middle-earth come to life–and sometimes that comes with a cost. Owain Arthur, who plays Durin IV, sat in a makeup chair for three hours every day he was on set to have his Dwarven prosthetics applied. We have no idea what that might mean for the people who played Orcs.
5.) Durin and Elrond are pals (kind of)
In a clip played for the Hall H audience, we got to see the relationship dynamic between Durin and Elrond, who was visiting the Dwarven kingdom of Moria. The two of them appear to have a playfully antagonistic back-and-forth that felt reminiscent of Legolas and Gimli during the Two Towers. In the clip, Elrond was made to do some sort of ritual competition involving breaking a stone with a hammer in one swing, and, according to Elrond, if he failed, he would be banished from Moria forever. The clip cut off before we got to see how he faired, though.
6.) Dwarf women will have beards.
Disa will be the first Dwarf woman ever shown in a Tolkien story–and while we’ve gotten some glimpses of her in the trailers thus far (and she looks clean shaven) Sophia Nomvete assured fans at the panel that female Dwarves will have beards. This likely means that Disa won’t be the only female Dwarf in the show.
7.) The Harfoots live in wagons and migrate around
Unlike their Hobbit ancestors who famously live in burrow-like Hobbit holes, the Harfoots live in wagons and migrate around. They do, however, love to sing and party just as much as their Hobbit cousins.
8.) The Harfoots find The Stranger
One of the biggest mysteries of the show is centered around a character literally only known as The Stranger. Presumably he comes down to Middle-earth in a comet, which we’ve seen a number of times in a number of trailers. But in a clip shown to Hall H, we got to see Nori and Poppy finding the man within an impact crater. Nori reaches out to touch him from where he’s laying prone, and he suddenly springs to life and clutches Nori’s arm, causing his power to flare throughout the burnt earth around him. He passes out moments later, however, and Nori and Poppy decide to load him up into a wagon, which Poppy worries is going to make Nori’s mom very mad.
9.) The Stranger’s identity will be a core mystery throughout the show.
Daniel Weyman, who plays The Stranger, told the attendees at the panel that they won’t know The Stanger’s intentions or true nature in the first season, and that it will be one of the central mysteries in the mix. Not even panel moderator and Tolkien super-fan Stephen Colbert could say for certain who he was, but bets he’s either Gandalf or Sauron.
10.) The Orcs will retain their sunlight aversion
The Orcs have been shown in a few brief moments in the promotional material, but the details about them have been pretty vague–but don’t worry, their core tenets will remain for the show. The Orcs are still burnt by sunlight, and we got to see it first hand in a clip shown to Hall H where Arondir, a newly created Elf for the show, participates in a sort of riot in what looks like an Orc-run work camp. In the fray, he knocks down one of the tents the Orcs are stationed in, exposing them to the sun and burning them.
11.) Galadriel and Elrond’s relationship will be complicated
In another clip shown to the room, we got a unique look at Elrond and Galadriel’s relationship. Galadriel, having just returned from a harrowing adventure, appeared to be contemplating the finer points of Elves “crossing over” — presumably their “death” by way of leaving Middle-earth and physically traveling to the undying lands. “I hear that when you cross over, you hear a song,” she tells Elrond. Apparently, in her travels she failed at her goal, saying she came back with frostbite and no army. But Elrond is excited to hear the story, anyway, and giddily tell her to tell him everything.
12.) Galadriel might be a hostage at some point?
In another clip, we were shown what certainly seemed like a rough patch for Galadriel while she was apparently a prisoner or some kind on the way to Numenor. We know from the trailer that she does eventually end up safe there, but it’s difficult to tell what the context of any of these moments might be. At another point in the trailer it looks like she ends up thrown in the sea and chased by a giant monster, so that could all be related to this. It will be interesting to see what makes her wind up in chains in the first place, though.
13.) Galadriel’s armor is like that on purpose
Some fans have expressed concern that the insignia on Galadriel’s armor doesn’t make sense for the character–but it’s like that on purpose. Producer Lindsay Weber explained that the armor we’ve seen her in thus far doesn’t actually belong to her, and in fact, was a gift from someone else. We’re likely to learn more about this as the show progresses.
14.) The show will feature characters with disabilities
One of the lead characters in the show is partially deaf and the costume department took great pains in use adaptive, in-universe technology into the costume for both the character and the actor. There will be more characters with disabilities featured as the show progresses.