Ever since the news broke that Amazon Studios had a Lord of the Rings TV series in the works, fans have been eager to find out more. We now know the release date (2 September 2022) and we’ve even been treated to a jaw-dropping first-look image – but we’re still almost completely in the dark when it comes to actual the plot.
All we have to go on is Amazon Studios’ official synopsis, which confirms that the Lord of the Rings show will be set during Second Age – thousands of years before J.R.R. Tolkien’s original book and its big screen adaptations by Peter Jackson – when an ancient evil returns to once again threaten Middle-earth. That all sounds suitably exciting, however, it’s also a little vague. Fortunately, we have Tolkien’s exhaustive chronology to fall back on. By referring to this material – the bulk of which appears in the appendices to The Return of the King – we can start to piece together the key plot points the Amazon Studios series might cover.
Now, based on the timeframe mentioned in the synopsis, it sounds like big moments that happened (relatively) close to the events of The Lord of the Rings itself won’t make the cut – however, we don’t yet know how faithfully the series will follow Tolkien’s established timeline, or whether there will be time jumps between seasons. And so, bearing in mind the showrunners’ freedom to explore all 3,441 years of the Second Age, here’s a round-up of five major events from the period that we might see in the Lord of the Rings Amazon series.
5. The rise of Sauron
Let’s kick things off with a no brainer: the Lord of the Rings series is almost certainly going to depict the rise of arch-villain Sauron. Tolkien’s canon makes it clear that the Second Age was when Sauron really came into his own as “big bad”, no longer playing second fiddle to his old boss, Morgoth (Middle-earth’s answer to the Devil featured in quasi-prequel The Silmarillion).
Expect the Sauron of the show to follow the would-be conqueror playbook fairly closely – he’ll amass an army of Orcs and other beasties, and build Barad-Dur fortress, seen in the book and Jackson films – only with a twist. That’s because at this stage of his villainous career, Sauron has an ace up his sleeve: he projects an intense aura of intelligence, beauty, and grace (in short: he’s hot).
This version of Sauron is vastly different to the hulking dark lord fans of the Jackson trilogy remember; he’s less intimidating, more persuasive – and far, far more dangerous.
4. Moria’s heyday
The dwarves don’t feature much in The Lord of the Rings compared to The Hobbit or The Silmarillion, and that’s something the Amazon Studios series looks set to address. The official synopsis lists the Misty Mountains among the locales we’ll visit in the show, which means a return to the subterranean kingdom beneath those snow-capped peaks is highly likely.
This won’t be Moria as we know it in the movies, however; this will be the underground realm at its height (figuratively speaking). As set out by Tolkien, the Second Age saw Moria’s population, culture, and technical expertise flourish, and the kingdom made key alliances with other races – even the Elves! But if this sounds a bit dull for an epic fantasy TV show, fear not: the Dwarves also came under constant attack from Orcs around this time, so there will be plenty of scope for action, too!
3. The Rings of Power are forged
As Lord of the Rings moments go, it doesn’t get much bigger than the forging of the Rings of Power – heck, without the Rings, there wouldn’t even be a story! What’s more, if the Amazon Studios series does portray this Middle-earth milestone, there’s a lot for the creative team to work with.
According to Tolkien, it all goes down like this: first, Sauron (in the “Sexy Sauron” guise mentioned earlier) shows the Elves the ins and outs of crafting magic jewelry. Then, once the Elves have made the Rings of Power, he sneaks off to forge the One Ring, which is designed to control the other Rings and their wearers!
From here, things only escalate. The Elves realise that Sauron has done them dirty almost immediately and remove their Rings before he can dominate them, enraging the Dark Lord and leading to the kind of all-out war that’s a perfect fit for big-budget fantasy TV.
2. The origin of the Ringwraiths
The Ringwraiths are arguably the most fearsome foes our heroes face in The Lord of the Rings, so it stands to reason that the creative team behind the Amazon Studios series might want to include them. It’s convenient, then, that these iconic baddies first arrived on the scene in the Second Age – which means there’s a very real possibility we’ll see their origins in the show. However, if we do, it’ll be interesting to see whether showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay incorporate a tweak to the Ringwraiths’ backstory introduced by Peter Jackson in the Hobbit trilogy.
While Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies stayed true to Tolkien’s description of the Nazgûl as shadowy, immortal beings kept alive by their own Rings of Power, in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Jackson and screenwriters Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Guillermo del Toro depart from this entirely. Instead, Jackson and co. make it clear that the Ringwraiths were killed in battle long ago and later resurrected by Sauron – a controversial change Middle-earth purists will be hoping the show ignores.
1. The downfall of Númenor
Another confirmed location in the Amazon Studios series, Númenor was an island kingdom ruled by the ancestors of The Lord of the Rings’ king-in-waiting Aragorn. Located between Middle-earth and Aman (home of the Valar, the angelic beings of Tolkien’s cosmology), Númenor was the greatest civilization of Men until it, well… sank.
As you might expect, Sauron played a part in Númenor’s Atlantis-inspired fate, corrupting the benevolent Númenoreans from within and turning them into a society of Devil-worshipping pagans fond of the odd bit of human sacrifice. This all culminates in Sauron convincing the Númenoreans to invade Aman and steal the gift of immortality, and as you’d expect, the Valar don’t take kindly to their neighbours showing up uninvited. They call on Illuvatar (read: God) to intervene on their behalf, and boy, does he deliver – scuttling the invasion fleet and plunging Númenor itself into the ocean!
It’s not all bad news, though: those Númenoreans who resisted Sauron’s influence survived and made it to Middle-earth, where they founded realm of Gondor, a key location in The Lord of the Rings books and films. So, when you factor in the significance of these events coupled with the sheer spectacle involved, the real question becomes why the showrunners wouldn’t feature the downfall of Númenor in the Amazon Studios series.