Amazon Studios The Rings of Power is a couple months away. We want all Spoilerites to have the best viewing experience possible and have the widest knowledge base about the Second Age of Middle-Earth. This is a weekly Let’s Get Nerdy article series highlighting a different piece of Tolkien I think you need to know about!
In past articles I have answered the question:
- What Are the Rings of Power?
- What is Númenor?
- What is the Second Age?
- Who are the Harfoots?
- Who is Prince Durin IV?
- What is Khazad-dûm?
- Who is Celebrimbor?
- What is the Last Alliance of Men and Elves?
- Who is Elendil?
- New Pics! Who are Bronwyn and Theo?
- What is Rivendell?
- The Rings of Power First Reactions Are In!
- What is Lindon?
- What are the Nine Human Rings?
- Empire Magazine’s The Rings of Power Covers
- New Character Pictures
- Will Wizards Appear in The Rings of Power?
- New Promo for The Rings of Power
- What is Eregion?
- Leaked! Rings of Power Trailer Breakdown
- The Rings of Power Teaser Breakdown
In addition to The Rings of Power teaser trailer dropping yesterday Entertainment Weekly released a slough of new photos of the characters and the world adding context to the precious little fans know about the series up to this point. This week as San Diego Comic-Con rages around us I am going to dive into who the tent pole characters of The Rings of Power are in case more reveals come and you need additional context.
The picture above is Isildur. Yes. That Isildur. I’ve written about him a bunch and you met him in the opening sequence of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Maxim Baldry stars as Isildur, a name that should sound familiar to LOTR fans. In Tolkien’s writing, the young Númenórean will grow up to be one of the era’s great tragic heroes, slicing the ring from Sauron’s hand, only to ultimately fall under its spell of corruption. At this point, however, he’s just a young sailor, following in his father Elendil’s footsteps.
“He’s one of the characters most ripe for deepening because everyone knows him,” explains co-showrunner JD Payne, who created The Rings of Power with Patrick McKay. “He’s most defined by his final, fatal decision to keep the Ring, when he has the chance to throw the Ring into Mount Doom and destroy Sauron forever, and he chooses incorrectly. We sort of said, ‘How do we make that a tragic turn in an otherwise very human, relatable, and heroic arc?'”
Arrowverse fans will recognize Cynthia Addai-Robinson joining the ranks of the Númenoreans as Míriel (a.k.a. Tar-Míriel).
The Rings of Power covers much of Middle-earth, from the elegant elven kingdom of Lindon to the glorious mines of Khazad-dûm. But much of the story centers on Númenor, the great island realm known for being a haven of culture and knowledge. When the series begins, Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s Míriel serves as the queen regent, overseeing the grand kingdom.
Remember, Gondorians (who we saw in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), are descendants of the Númenoreans.
The great rulers of Númenor are descendants of Elrond’s half-elven brother Elros, so they live much longer than ordinary humans. But Rings of Power picks up in the twilight of the great kingdom, as factions clash about remaining loyal to the elves and the angelic Valar in the west. Here, Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) leads her army into battle, alongside Isildur (Maxim Baldry, third from left).
“When it comes to playing a character that holds such a lofty position, I can’t say that I necessarily relate to what it is to be a queen,” Addai-Robinson says with a laugh. “But I think there is something relatable about how isolating that can feel, and how you’re grappling with things that no one else can really understand.”
I predicted when I wrote about The Rings of Power teaser last week that Galadriel in this sequence was on the banks of Númenór and it is so gratifying in EW’s caption to learn I was proved correct!
In this shot, the elf Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) rides along the Númenórean coastline with Elendil (Lloyd Owen). Elendil is a legendary figure in Tolkien’s writing, eventually clashing with Sauron. But here, he’s just a Númenórean sailor, and Owen cautions that although readers may think they know how certain characters’ stories end, the journey can still hold surprises.
“There are signposts on the way,” Owen explains. “Ultimately, those of us that know the lore know Elendil ends up helping to lead the Last Alliance of elves and men. But how he gets there? Tolkien hasn’t written the man in three dimensions, and that’s the gift of this [show].”
If the inclusion of Annatar is being played close to the vest by The Rings of Power they are willing to reveal other villains book readers are familiar with.
Welsh actor Trystan Gravelle plays Pharazôn, a close counsel to the queen regent. (Tolkien readers will know him as one of the major players in Númenor’s eventual downfall.)
“When you see the set of Númenor, it’s like you’re walking through [Pharazôn’s] mind,” Gravelle teases. “When you see these epic statues and this wonderful masonry, you’re walking through the mind of a person that’s burdened by his own mortality and is very concerned about what legacy he’s going to leave behind.”
Keeping up with the Númenoreans. No. I will never stop making that joke.
This portrait showcases some of the major players in Númenor. From left: Leon Wadham as Pharazôn’s son Kemen, Cynthia Addai-Robinson as the queen regent Míriel, Trystan Gravelle as advisor Pharazôn, Lloyd Owen as seafarer Elendil, Ema Horvath as Elendil’s daughter Eärien, and Maxim Baldry as Elendil’s son Isildur.
We’ve seen very little BTS content from The Rings of Power and I really enjoyed seeing the team at work – especially with a strong genre director like Wayne Che Yip joining the series from Doctor Who!
Director Wayne Che Yip (Doctor Who) directed four episodes of the series, including many key Númenórean moments. (Here, he’s seen speaking to Cynthia Addai-Robinson and Trystan Gravelle.)
“Tonally, we wanted [Rings of Power] to reflect [Tolkien’s] main story points of friendship and good and evil,” Yip explains. “One of the ideas is: How far into the darkness are you willing to go to do the right thing?”
Galadriel is known for her visions. They’re usually tied to her mirror. The Rings of Power may be set during The Second Age of Middle-Earth, but if sequences such as this are revealed to be visions of events of The First Age of Middle-Earth there’s a chance fans who were hoping to see these stories writ large – admittedly, like myself – will find satisfaction in the end.
The series will also visit other parts of Middle-earth and introduce other characters — some of whom might be familiar to Lord of the Rings fans. One such character is Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel, who hasn’t yet grown into the regal leader portrayed by Cate Blanchett in the Peter Jackson films.