Everything New In The Genshin Impact Version 4.7 Special Program

With the third and final expansion to the region of Fontaine behind us and travelers gearing up for the next leg of their voyage across the world of Teyvat, there’s still a few things left to do before Genshin Impact Version 5.0, and one of those is our annual encounter with the enigmatic Khaenri’ahn knight Dainsleif, who usually shows up soon after we’ve completed a region’s three-act Archon Quest to take us sightseeing around some underground ruins infested with Abyss creatures, drop some massive lore-bomb about our protagonist’s sibling, or about the Cataclysm, or both, and then leave. The Traveler is better than me, because if I were given the option, at this point I would gladly beat the living daylights out of Dainsleif until he would just tell me what else he knows that he thinks we’re not worthy of learning yet or something, but that’s why the protagonist is not a self-insert.

Close-up screenshot of Clorinde in Genshin Impact, surrounded by crackling purple lightning as she holds her sword, glowing purple, up in front of her face. She has short dark purple hair, a tricorn hat, and golden epaulets on a purple uniform with white gloves.
Clorinde | dexerto.com

But I think everyone has a bone to pick with Dainsleif this year, because he’s late by a whole patch or two, and the last time we saw him, we accidentally got trapped in one of our sibling’s memories from hundreds of years prior (long story), which revealed to us that they played a key role in the foundation of the Abyss Order when they helped a Khaenri’ahn survivor of the Cataclysm named Chlothar heal his son Caribert, who was cursed to devolve into a Hilichurl along with most of the population of Khaenri’ah (another long story), using Abyssal power obtained from a not-at-all-creepy, sentient, talking, chained-up purple crystal suspended over a void simply called “The Sinner”, who was somehow gone when they went back to talk to him but is now worshipped as a god by the Abyss Order. Dainsleif seems to have a guess as to the Sinner’s true identity, but of course won’t tell us anything, except to say that it can see through space and time and, uh, definitely knows now that we know, bye! All of that, coupled with the fact that we found the skeletal remains of Chlothar but not Caribert, means that Travelers have a lot of questions for Dainsleif the next time we run into him.

And that day fast approaches, because the trailer for Version 4.7 prominently features Dainsleif, as well as the Traveler’s rarely-seen sibling, colloquially known as the Abyss Sibling, because, yes, at some point, after traveling the world with Dainsleif for a while, they went back to Chlothar and joined his fledgling Abyss Order of their own free will, apparently as a result of some terrible, mind-blowing truth they had learned on their adventures, something they are certain we too will come to accept. Well, we’re officially over halfway through Genshin Impact’s overarching storyline, with just two regions left to explore (plus Khaenri’ah), and I still don’t know what that “something” is, but theorists smarter than myself have some good guesses, that it has to do with the gods in Celestia, who may or may not be alien invaders, and would explain why they keep randomly dropping enormous spikes into the planet, annihilating entire civilizations. The Abyss Order’s plan to overthrow Celestia is titled the “Loom of Fate”, and Chlothar called Caribert the “Loom of Fate”, implying that Caribert would be able to weave his own destiny, but in the new trailer it’s said that the “Loom of Fate” is now complete, so it’s also a plan, and…I’m confused, quite frankly. I’m just gonna wait for Dainsleif to explain it to me.

So if the Abyss Sibling could maybe not kill him, as it’s implied she will attempt by the shot of her coming up behind Dainsleif with her sword drawn (because even though it’s not technically canon that the female twin is the Abyss Sibling and her brother is the Traveler, and plenty of players experience the story the other way around, I can’t recall the last time HoYoverse used the male Abyss Sibling in promo, if ever), that would be great! I mean, I know she won’t, but I am interested to learn how things get to the point where she might try. Until now, she’s been content to watch us from afar, confident that we’ll see her side of things and join her, but I could see where Dainsleif might start to pose a problem. It’s not like he’s a completely objective documentarian – he seems to believe Khaenri’ah was playing with fire, and that the Abyss Order is following in its footsteps by trying to revive the fallen kingdom. Maybe the Abyss Sibling is tired of having their side of the story recounted to us by someone who views her with a sort of condescending pity.

I have no idea what to expect from this confrontation, but HoYoverse is definitely hyping it up – even using today’s Special Program to premiere an animated short which beautifully summarizes the Traveler and the Abyss Sibling’s parallel journeys across Teyvat. I’m not sure if we should regard this as a teaser for the Genshin Impact anime that was announced well over a year ago, or something entirely separate, but the animation style and quality is exactly what I’m hoping for from the series, whatever topic it covers. Also, as a side-note, it’s really impactful to see certain moments between the siblings that the game has never shown us brought to life in such vivid detail, even something as seemingly mundane as Lumine, before she was “The Abyss Sibling”, braiding her brother’s hair, or of the two of them goofing around. It strengthens our emotional investment in what is truly the protagonist’s one goal.

But if the Traveler’s story doesn’t interest you (what are you, heartless?), there’s a lot of other cool stuff to do and explore in Version 4.7 – a surprising amount, actually, given that Version 4.8 immediately afterwards will be bringing us the year’s summer event and the closer on Fontaine, and before that there’s usually a bit of a dry spell in Genshin (I guess we already had that with Version 4.5, which I didn’t even cover). For starters, three characters are joining the game’s roster – two of them, Clorinde, a five-star Electro sword-user, and Sigewinne, a five-star Hydro bow-user, have been in the game since Version 4.0 and Version 4.1 respectively, while players only recently met Sethos, a new four-star Electro bow-user, in Cyno’s second Story Quest.

To break down all their kits in full would be exhausting, because to be honest, I still don’t entirely understand how the Bond of Life mechanic works. I just got Arlecchino because I think she’s neat, not because I have any idea how to use her properly. Clorinde applies a Bond of Life to herself when she uses her Elemental Burst, its value based on her max HP. Using her Elemental Skill, she enters the Night Vigil state, during which her normal attacks are infused with Electro, and using her Elemental Skill again causes her to lunge. In each of these different states, she gains different effects depending on the value of her Bond of Life – so for example, if you perform a lunging attack while Clorinde’s Bond of Life is less than 100% of her max HP, she will be healed based on her Bond of Life value, and her DMG and AoE will both be increased. Did you get all that? I hope so, because I sure as hell didn’t.

In the foreground stands Dainsleif, a tall man with shaggy blond hair and a dark blue mask covering one half of his face, wearing black with a high collar. Behind him stands the Traveler, with Paimon floating alongside him.
(left to right) Traveler, Paimon, and Dainsleif | gamertweak.com

Sigewinne’s Bond of Life is applied after she casts her Elemental Skill, which also causes a Bolstering Bubblebalm to bounce across the battlefield (the alliteration!), dealing Hydro DMG and restoring HP to all party members except Sigewinne herself upon impact with enemies (pressing and holding her Skill creates a larger bubble that will gradually reduce in size with each bounce, and these bubbles can even immobilize small opponents). When Sigewinne casts her Skill, two Sourcewater Droplets will be left behind, and picking these up gives her a Bond of Life worth 10% of her max HP, while clearing the Bond of Life restores energy. Her Burst seems fairly simple, a Hydro DMG cannon like Neuvillette’s, but because she’s a doctor, it’s a comically oversized syringe.

Last and unfortunately least, Sethos. He’s a charged attack-reliant four-star main DPS, and to make matters worse, his charged attacks are unusually slow and consume energy – and of course, because he’s a four-star, whatever increase in DMG you get from fully charging his Shadowpiercing Shot will likely be dwarfed by what any five-star bow user can accomplish in less time and without wasting energy. His Skill is a battery, recovering more energy when it triggers pretty much any Electro reaction, and his Burst converts his normal attacks into Electro. It’s not a great kit, which is sad, because I want him nonetheless for his design and personality, but I know in my heart I’ll take him out for one joyride and then never use him again.

Clorinde’s debut banner will run alongside Alhaitham in the first half of Version 4.7, featuring Sethos, while Sigewinne will arrive in the second half alongside a Furina rerun. Additionally, both Clorinde and Sigewinne will receive Story Quests, with Clorinde’s showing us a softer, possibly nerdier side of the stoic duelist, as an avid TTRPG (table-top role-playing game) fan, and Sigewinne’s giving us some insight into how the vastly different worlds of Melusines and humans have come to overlap in Fontaine. Cool, very cool, but now can we talk about the Imaginarium Theater?

Players of Genshin Impact have been asking for new endgame content since…well, forever. Don’t get me wrong, the Spiral Abyss is definitely still challenging in my opinion as somebody who has never fully cleared it, but it’s also really repetitive after a while, and outside of that, domains, and bosses, there’s been nowhere that players can really test their characters’ limits or their own strategizing skills. Until now, that is. Imaginarium Theater is set up so that players accustomed to breezing through every challenge the game throws at them with the same couple of characters will be forced to think long and hard about who to choose from a limited pool of characters. For instance, in Version 4.7, you can only choose Anemo, Electro, and Pyro characters – which all synergize pretty well anyway, so if anyone complains about this restriction I’d point out to them that it could be much worse, we could be forced to pick Anemo, Dendro, and Geo characters. Think about it, absolutely no Reactions. It would be infuriating.

With that said, up to four characters who don’t meet the season’s requirements can be chosen as “Special Guest Stars”, so again, there’s no reason to complain. If you don’t have enough characters to fill out your team, several Trial Characters equipped with flawless Artifacts will be provided, and players can even borrow or lend out their own characters for others to use, which sounds fun but also mortifying, because even my best characters are not where I want them to be and I would hate for someone to take my Lvl. 90 Dehya (hypothetically), only to discover that she’s been using an unleveled ATK goblet since I first got her because I could not – and cannot, try as I might! – obtain a Pyro DMG Bonus goblet from the Crimson Witch of Flames domain. These characters-for-hire are referred to as your “Supporting Cast”, not to be confused with your “Alternate Cast”, more of whom will gradually become available each time you complete a challenge in the Imaginarium Theater (keep in mind that your Supporting and Alternate Casts must meet the actual requirements of the season). Even as characters join your team, however, others will become unavailable. You can also trigger events inside the Theater, either randomly or by using Fantasia Flowers, and some of these will allow you to add more characters to your party while others will throw you into an unexpected battle and completely mess up your strategies.

The characters you choose to form your initial party, your “Principal Cast”, will all receive Fantastical Buffs, not only within the Theater but also outside of it, in the open-world, for the duration of the season. That means if I choose Dehya as part of my Principal Cast in Version 4.7, which I probably will, my Dehya’s max HP, ATK and DEF will increase by 20% until the Theater closes (temporarily: Imaginarium Theater and Spiral Abyss will alternate each month from now on). And there will be plenty of rewards, including Primogems, Original Resin, forging billets, and Toy Medals, the latter of which can be exchanged with the Theater’s concierge to obtain iconic poses for your characters, so that when taking photos, you don’t have to wait around for them to cycle through all their other idle animations and then frantically snap a dozen more pictures than necessary in the hopes of getting the one you wanted….which is an experience I’m sure we can all relate to. That totally isn’t just a me thing….right?

Version 4.7 will also see the return of a cute and fun minigame from way back in Version 3.8, the Spinoblaster, as well as a few other Events – Mutual Security Enhancing Simulation, in which players will take control of various monsters and maneuver them into battle against each other, for a chance to obtain the new four-star bow Cloudforged; Record of Reflective Writing, a platformer game where the objective is to collect coins and evade traps; and Endless Forms Most Martial, a classic combat challenge. Nothing too extravagant, but nothing there that sounds boring, either. If nothing else, it’s a few more Primogems ahead of Natlan’s release.

An aquatic Saurian swimming through a river of molten lava in Genshin Impact, orange streaked with vivid turquoise.
A Saurian in Natlan | youtube.com

I’ve saved our discussion of the upcoming region for last because that’s how they went about it on the Special Program, but of course it was all that anyone could talk about afterwards – our very first glimpse of a land we’ve only heard about from a handful of NPCs scattered around Teyvat, who have spoken highly of its hot springs and graffiti-artists, and described it as a colorful place with fashionable people. It’s hard to form a first impression of Natlan from the teaser because it doesn’t show us the culture, which I find curious and potentially worrying given that Natlan is or was supposed to be based on Mesoamerica, parts of Africa, and also…Spain (knowing HoYoverse, they threw Spain into the mix so they would have an excuse for when 90% of the playable characters and NPCs alike are white). The teaser is Saurian-centric, highlighting three of the different species of adorable dragons that players can apparently shapeshift into in Natlan, including one that burrows into the earth and speeds along the sides of graffiti-streaked canyon walls, one that can swim through rivers of lava, and one that uses its extremely long tongue to grab objects and propel itself through the air. It’s very much giving Dinotopia, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but was exactly what I was afraid of when Neuvillette first mentioned that the people of Natlan live alongside dragons, because it feels like another excuse to steer into full-on fantasy and abruptly away from the real-world cultures that informed everything from the architecture down to the literature of Mondstadt, Liyue, Inazuma, and Fontaine. In Sumeru, those influences are filtered through a layer of orientalism and exoticism so thick as to be almost impenetrable, and I fear something similar will occur in Natlan.

But maybe that’s just me being cynical. What do you think? As always, share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Sauron Stuns In New “Rings Of Power” Season 2 Teaser


Specifically targeting those viewers who couldn’t make it through The Rings Of Power‘s slow-paced first season, the teaser trailer for the epic fantasy series’ upcoming second season promises high-octane action sequences, thrilling drama, and stunning visuals that the most expensive show in the history of television has to be able to deliver consistently (and probably shouldn’t need to convince anyone that it can). The drastic shift in tone is due at least in part to the fact that, in-universe, the character of Sauron is out in the open now and The Rings Of Power can finally employ him in its marketing campaign, instead of having to conceal their charismatic antagonist behind various red-herrings.

Charlie Vickers as Sauron in The Rings Of Power, wearing a black long-sleeved robe with ornate gold embroidery and a wide gold belt, standing surrounded by long-haired Elven warriors wearing armor and holding swords to his throat.  He has long blond hair.
Sauron | youtube.com

Charlie Vickers returns as Sauron’s “fair form”, casting off the drab and filthy rags he wore while disguised as the human Halbrand throughout season one, donning new and more richly-embroidered garments of black and gold, with long golden-brown hair and pointed ears to fit the part of an Elf. There are several shots and lines of dialogue in the trailer that seem to indicate the writers are trying to follow the story as sketched out by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion, in which Sauron posed as an Elven emissary from Valinor named Annatar to gain access to the powerful forges of Eregion and seduce the great jewel-smith Celebrimbor. In The Rings Of Power‘s non-canonical version of events, of course, Sauron (as Halbrand) already weaseled his way into Eregion and assisted Celebrimbor in making the Three Rings before Galadriel made him leave, so unless Elves are just totally face-blind, it’s hard to believe that the new hairstyle and fit will fool everyone in Eregion. Even if they don’t realize he’s Sauron (because Galadriel kinda left that part out when she told everyone that Halbrand was gone), surely they’d question how Halbrand turned into an Elf overnight?

Or maybe not. There’s a shot in the trailer of Celebrimbor, in his forge, shielding his eyes as a figure strides toward him through parting clouds, silhouetted against a bright white light, which I initially interpreted as the sunlight breaking through a hole in the wall, with the clouds being the smoke of war. But rewatching the footage, I feel that the imagery is heavily evocative of how The Rings Of Power depicted the light of Valinor, and of the cloud-wall surrounding the Undying Lands to the Uttermost West that rolls back to allow the grey ships of the Elves through. I would go so far as to bet that this scene is from the very first episode of the second season, and demonstrates how Sauron will get away with his ruse, by appearing only to Celebrimbor as an angel (for lack of a better word, and because that’s essentially what Sauron is, or was, before his fall). Remember, Celebrimbor was quite taken by Halbrand, and benefited greatly from their brief partnership, so Sauron may choose to keep the man’s face specifically for that reason. Maybe he doesn’t even have to set foot in Eregion to continue his corruption of Celebrimbor. Imagine your guardian angel secretly trying to lead you to your doom, now that’s the kind of dirty trick at which Sauron excels.

I am most intrigued at what Amazon apparently doesn’t consider a spoiler – you’d think that the shot, near the end of the trailer, of Sauron standing amidst the ruins of Celebrimbor’s forge, still wearing his fair form, but encircled by sword-wielding Elves in armor (including Celebrimbor himself, who appears to be missing his left hand), would be giving away a major plot-point, but if it’s not, that means that the writers might still have a few tricks up their sleeves, and maybe all is not as it seems. What is plain to see, however, is that the kingdom of Eregion is under siege by Sauron’s forces, and the aforementioned shot, as well as one of Celebrimbor frantically dumping rings (presumably the lesser Rings of Power) into the flames where they were made, strongly implies that their defenses will not hold.

The city of Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion. It is night. Flaming missiles are being launched from catapults set up on side of a river at the walled city on the other side.
The Siege of Eregion | youtube.com

Before then, we can expect to see Eregion’s craftspeople reach the pinnacle of their creativity and innovation under Celebrimbor’s guidance (and Sauron’s instructions, whispered in his ear), with two more sets of great Rings, seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone and nine for mortal Men doomed to die, forged alongside the Three, which are safely – and secretly – situated on the hands of King Gil-galad of Lindon, the Lady Galadriel, and Círdan the Shipwright (the latter a character we have not met in any prior adaptation of Tolkien’s works). We catch a quick glimpse of Peter Mullan’s King Durin III holding what is very likely the Ring given to his clan, inset with a rough blue gemstone. No sign of the Nine, that I could find anywhere in the trailer or in the accompanying behind-the-scenes feature released on YouTube, but it may be that Sauron will come into possession of a great many Rings and then begin distributing them amongst Men in the third season.

Still geographically removed from Middle-earth’s problems but not far enough to protect them from the fallout, Númenor, the greatest kingdom of Men in Middle-earth, is seen in the throes of religious strife following the death of the old king and the return of his daughter Míriel from a crushing defeat on the battlefields of the Southlands with wounds to both her body and her pride. Míriel remains faithful to the traditions followed by generations of Númenórean monarchs before her, but there are many, even in her own court, who believe that the time has come to shrug off the burden of their old oaths to the Elves and the gods in Valinor. An Eagle of the West, regarded by the Faithful as heralds of the god Manwë, alights in the Court of the Kings, and Pharazôn, Míriel’s advisor, approaches the bird with sword unsheathed. Míriel is tortured by visions of a leviathan, some Lovecraftian horror with the face of a goblin shark and the body of a squid, rising up from the depths to swallow her and the island nation whole (I was deeply disappointed with the sea-monster in season one, so this, whether it’s a real creature or merely a metaphor for Númenor’s impending demise, is the shot that got me most excited for the new season).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the map, Elanor Brandyfoot and the Stranger trek through the lands of Rhûn, trying to piece together a more accurate picture of where the Stranger came from and where he’s supposed to be going by following the trail of the Mystics, the only three people in Middle-earth who knew who he was. Though the Stranger incinerated their flesh-and-blood bodies in the first season using his magic, and they evaporated into a swarm of butterflies, it seems we’re not done with the Mystics just yet, or perhaps, with the organization of which they were a part. A woman with bloody hands, wearing similar clothes to the Mystics we’ve seen already, is seen standing in a temple with sandstone pillars, while butterflies swirl around her. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I remain convinced that the Stranger is not Gandalf but one of the two enigmatic Blue Wizards, and that the Mystics are disciples of the other, who arrived in Middle-earth long before him. I say this because one of the very few descriptions Tolkien left behind of the Blue Wizards mentions that they founded “secret cults and magic traditions” in the East, which aligns so perfectly with everything we know about these Mystics, it’s aggravating to think that there are actually other alternatives.

Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor, wearing a dark red velvet gown, walking down an ornate flight of steps into a room of his forge, filled with smoke and a hazy golden light.
Celebrimbor | youtube.com

Something fascinating that The Rings Of Power is doing (and not getting enough credit for) is diving into these corners of Tolkien’s lore that no one else has dared to touch, and expanding the general audience’s understanding of what Middle-earth can be. Don’t get me wrong, the writers have made their fair share of choices and changes, some of which have rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s that exact willingness to think outside the box that makes The Rings Of Power so enjoyable for me, because I genuinely never know what to expect. A wizard falling out of the sky into a nomadic tribe of proto-Hobbits, hints of romantic tension between Galadriel and Sauron, apocryphal origin stories for mithril, and now the rumor around town is that Tom Bombadil could show up in season two – yes, that Tom Bombadil, the same singing, dancing, bright yellow boot-wearing character who’s been cut out of every previous film adaptation of The Lord Of The  Rings because he would have been too bizarre and random for people’s minds to process. Whether they can pull that off is anyone’s guess, but you’ve got to respect that a show this expensive, whose creators have every incentive to stick to played-out stories, is still taking the path least traveled and not once apologizing for it.

Trailer Rating: 9/10

Peter Jackson To Return To Middle-earth With “The Hunt For Gollum”

As Warner Bros. continues to narrowly dodge financial ruin, no cherished classic or satisfyingly completed series in the studio’s vault is safe from being used as a lifesaver. The DC Comics universe is in the process of being rebooted for the trillionth time, Harry Potter is being reimagined for HBO Max, Game Of Thrones is spinning off into various new projects…inevitably, The Lord Of The Rings was going to get the same treatment once Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav realized that, collectively, the two Peter Jackson-helmed film trilogies set in Middle-earth grossed over five billion dollars at the global box-office, with every installment in the franchise being an undisputed success, and that interest in the world was still strong enough as of 2022 to earn Amazon Prime Video’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power the service’s strongest premiere viewing numbers ever.

Close-up image of Gollum, a gaunt, pale, wide-eyed bald creature.
Gollum | digitalspy.com

So it should come as no surprise that a new live-action film set in the continuity of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth is already “in the early stages of script development” and slated to release in 2026. No, that announcement was boringly predictable, if anything. What did come as a shock was the series of increasingly mind-boggling reveals that the film would be produced by Jackson himself, co-written by Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, and directed by Andy Serkis, with Serkis also reprising the iconic and groundbreaking motion-capture role of the creature Gollum in a story set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, documenting Gollum’s hunt for his stolen Ring of Power, and the efforts by Gandalf and Aragorn to find him before the forces of Sauron. The film has the working-title “The Hunt For Gollum”, which seems apt.

My feelings in this moment are complicated. I’m happy for Peter Jackson – it would have been a terrible shame if the experience of making The Hobbit trilogy, which was by all accounts chaotic, exhausting, and often miserable for Jackson, had turned him off from ever again wanting to touch the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. And he deserves a better closer to this chapter of his career than The Battle Of The Five Armies, by far the worst of the six films; comprised almost entirely of mindless, weightless, CGI-reliant action scenes. The Hunt For Gollum, by contrast, is a small-scale (but high-stakes) tale of horror and mystery, expanding on Tolkien’s brief but chillingly vivid descriptions of Gollum’s time in Wilderland:

“The Wood-elves tracked him first, an easy task for them, for his trail was still fresh then. Through Mirkwood and back again it led them, though they never caught him. The wood was full of the rumour of him, dreadful tales even among beasts and birds. The Woodmen said that there was some new terror abroad, a ghost that drank blood. It climbed trees to find nests; it crept into holes to find the young; it slipped through windows to find cradles.”

— The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring: Book I, Chapter II; The Shadow Of The Past

That single passage kept me awake and afraid at night as a kid, and Jackson comes from a background in horror, so I can begin to see why this story in particular might have lured him back to Middle-earth at last, even if only as a producer. Of course, it’s also exemplary of the challenge the writers face adapting this story, the same challenge that the creators of Daedalic’s Gollum video game could not overcome – Gollum is, to put it lightly, not a very pleasant character to spend time with, on his own. He also lacks agency. The Ring’s influence pulls him in one direction, Sauron’s influence in another, and then Aragorn comes along and quite literally drags him kicking and screaming off in a different direction entirely. He’s held captive by Orcs and by Elves for long periods of time, and even his escapes are pre-meditated rather than the product of his own cunning.

It seems likely, then, that the characters encircling Gollum will be the true protagonists, and the film will generate a lot of buzz and social media discourse depending on which roles are recast and which of the original actors return. Viggo Mortensen is likely a bit too old now at 65 to convincingly portray a version of Aragorn younger than the one audiences first met in the inn at Bree over twenty years ago, so brace yourselves for that recasting, but Sir Ian McKellen, 84, could still plausibly come back as the wizard Gandalf, and his character’s role in this story is just small enough (limited mostly to interrogating Gollum) to make it work, but pivotal enough to make it worthwhile and special. Lee Pace returning as Thranduil seems like a given, and Orlando Bloom could conceivably show up as Legolas. Evangeline Lilly’s original character Tauriel reappearing is maybe a bit far-fetched given how she basically tanked her entire career with her anti-vaccination stance, but not out of the realm of possibility, I suppose.

One thing we can expect is that The Hunt For Gollum will adhere to the established aesthetics of Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth, though I’m taking the perhaps-too-optimistic stance that the main cast will not be exclusively white and predominantly male, as was the case on both of Jackson’s previous trilogies. All manner of bigots have sought to stake a claim on Tolkien’s invented world, and The Rings Of Power did the right thing by shaking them off. Their insistence that Jackson’s “true” version of Middle-earth asserts their worldview should be met with firm rebuttal by these filmmakers.

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, brandishing the sword Anduril in front of his face. He has shoulder-length dark brown hair, and wears a gray cloak over brown garments.
Aragorn | gamesradar.com

Speaking of The Rings Of Power, the show will likely still be running in 2026, when The Hunt For Gollum arrives in theaters, and it will be quite interesting to see how these two separate iterations of Middle-earth influence each other. The Rings Of Power can’t exactly bring back an actor from the films at this point, but it can do more to win over diehard fans of the books by utilizing more of the lore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly how they respond, by revealing some fan-favorite character set to appear in the upcoming second season (it would be most ironic if it’s Glorfindel, because of how many of the same people who hate The Rings Of Power for its “forced diversity” also hate that Jackson replaced Glorfindel with Arwen in The Fellowship Of The Ring). Then again, it’s Amazon we’re talking about, so they might just not promote the second season at all.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on The Hunt For Gollum, and the wide range of Tolkien adaptations on the market these days? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

FX’s “Shogun” Is A Stunning Accomplishment


Epics. Every streaming service (with the possible exception of Peacock and Paramount+) has one nowadays – a visibly expensive series of breathtaking scale and scope, typically an adaptation of a classic fantasy, sci-fi, or historical fiction novel, boasting inspired cinematography, immersive production design, stunning visual effects, gripping action sequences, an outstanding cast, and in at least a few cases, strong writing to match. Think HBO’s House Of The Dragon, Amazon’s The Rings Of Power, Andor on Disney+, Apple TV’s Foundation, Netflix’s…uh, relentless barrage of live-action anime adaptations and projects set in The Witcher universe? Most of these are good shows. A few are even great. But with high price-tags come even higher expectations, and in this economy it’s not enough to be a good show, or even a great one. You have to be the best, and your first season needs to be an unprecedented success within its weekend of release, or you’re getting canceled. So every one of these shows is inevitably and unfairly measured up to Game Of Thrones, which for one brief shining moment in television history had all of the aforementioned elements in abundance as well as keeping audiences glued to their TVs week-to-week, and most fall short. Heck, even Game Of Thrones itself went from being great to good, to just okay, to downright bad, over the course of its last three seasons, though that didn’t stop the controversial finale from having record-breaking viewership (somewhat justifying the slew of spin-offs and prequels that HBO has greenlit since).

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in Shogun, seated on a white horse on a grassy hillside, with a hawk perched on his hand. He is wearing golden-brown garments, and a tall straw hat with a chinstrap.
Yoshii Toranaga | ca.style.yahoo.com

So when I saw that critics were using the phrase “the next Game Of Thrones” to describe Hulu and FX’s Shōgun – a remake of the 1980 miniseries adapted from James Clavell’s best-selling 1975 novel by the same name – I didn’t think too much of it. I’ve heard the phrase misused so many times before that it’s lost virtually any and all meaning that it ever had. There is no “next” Game Of Thrones because streaming doesn’t accommodate that kind of communal viewing experience the way television did for Thrones, and streaming shows are given too few episodes and seasons to gradually prove their value, as Thrones did. Don’t get me wrong, in a fair and just world, Shōgun would absolutely be a cultural phenomenon, maybe even running for several seasons and accumulating dozens of Emmy awards and other accolades along the way to a satisfying series finale, but it doesn’t have to be. What it is, however, is an extremely high-quality production with a fine-tuned script, so in that regard, I suppose it is comparable to early Game Of Thrones, and probably more deserving of the comparison than most.

Now, I’ll confess, I’ve never seen the original miniseries and only read about a quarter of the book before putting it down, as I recall being unmoved by Clavell’s writing style and suspicious that the protagonist would turn out to be a white savior (though I’ve heard that’s not the case), so this reimagining of Shōgun wasn’t on my radar until fairly recently. But that only makes the pilot episode more of a triumph, in my opinion, because even without much prior knowledge of the story I was hooked in almost instantly – by the artistry, authenticity, and attention to detail on display in every frame, by the magnificent performances from the entire cast, and by the subversive score from Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross, and Nick Chuba.

This adaptation’s smartest and most significant deviation from the source material is in putting the focus squarely on Shōgun‘s Japanese characters, thereby gently nudging English explorer John Blackthorne (Cosmo Jarvis) into a secondary role for which he’s much better suited. He still functions like a window for (white, Western) viewers into the (to white Westerners) unfamiliar world of feudal Japan throughout the first episode, but Shōgun trusts its audience not to need him after a certain point and to come join the party on the other side of that window where all the really interesting stuff is happening, leaving Blackthorne to just keep strutting around confidently – and most amusingly – as if he’s the protagonist, while in reality, he’s unknowingly being used as a pawn in the power struggle between Yoshii Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) and the other warlords on Japan’s ruling Council of Regents, spearheaded by Ishido Kazunari (Takehiro Hira).

Sanada, who also serves as a producer on Shōgun and was instrumental in getting this series made in the first place and, furthermore, made with historical accuracy front-of-mind, needs virtually no introduction after more than fifty years spent working across every medium and genre, but outside Japan, audiences far too rarely get a chance to see him in starring roles (in Hollywood blockbusters, most egregiously in Avengers: Endgame, he’s often cast as expendable sword-wielding villains). Shōgun rectifies that. Sanada lifts a sword only once in the first two episodes, and his most memorable scenes have him employing carefully-selected words and precipitous silences as his weapons of choice in negotiations with his enemies and prospective allies. With any stoic and seemingly unshakeable character, there is a balance that must be skillfully maintained to convince the audience of both their humanity and their almost inhuman composure in equal parts, and Sanada walks that invisible line with such ease that you simply have to marvel. It is especially evident through his profoundly intimate conversations with Toda Mariko (Anna Sawai), a noblewoman of his house whom he appoints to be Blackthorne’s translator, that Toranaga’s sincerity and his solemnity are not in conflict nor in danger of canceling each other out, but in fact conspire to keep him on the path to victory.

Anna Sawai as Toda Mariko in Shogun, kneeling on straw-mats covering the floor of a large room. She is wearing a white robe over a black and blood-red kimono and has a crucifix on a necklace. She has long black hair, parted in the middle. There are people seated behind her and to either side.
Toda Mariko | dish.com

Mariko, on the other hand, finds herself torn in different directions by her loyalty to Toranaga and her commitment to her Catholic faith, after Blackthorne’s arrival brings with it the chilling revelation that the Portuguese missionaries embedded in Japan are but the forerunners of a brutal empire that would absorb the country and eradicate its culture. In the middle-ground, that limitless sandbox, Anna Sawai sculpts the series’ most complex and formidable character, who must overcome obstacles that do not exist for the men around her if she intends not only to survive the dark days ahead but carve out a path for herself across blood-soaked battlefields. Her performance is made up of subtle, immensely purposeful movements – the merest flicker of the eyes conveys a hundred emotions.

The cast are backed up by a clean, concise script from Rachel Kondo and Justin Marks (among others) that moves between Japanese, English, and English-representing-Portuguese (one of the few immersion-breaking choices in the series, but ultimately a small grievance to hold against it). The original miniseries notoriously shunned the use of subtitles, a decision one could conceivably praise as subversive if it weren’t made with the explicit intention of shackling the series’ majority non-Japanese speaking audience to the viewpoint of the white Western protagonist, Blackthorne. All this while also aggressively whittling down the book to focus exclusively on Blackthorne, discarding many of the Japanese characters, their subplots, and with them, just about everything I can think of that makes Shōgun worth adapting in the first place. As I’ve mentioned, this new iteration of the story distributes the focus more evenly amongst its cast, denying us access to no crucial scene because Blackthorne isn’t there to witness it.

While I am by no means qualified to speak over actual historians, Japanese historians in particular, as to everything that Shōgun gets right (or wrong; in a production of this scale, it would be shocking if a few small inaccuracies didn’t slip past even the most hands-on cultural consultant, but I have not yet come across any), it has been heartening to hear the whole cast and crew emphasize the importance of telling this story as truthfully as possible, with Japanese creatives in key positions behind the camera as well as in front of it, and to have this further accentuated by the series’ clear, crisp lighting that ensures no aspect of the set design, costume design, or visual effects used to reconstruct entire early 17th Century Japanese cities and castles on Vancouver backlots is lost in the literal darkness that has subsumed so much of modern television as a quick fix for dodgy CGI and cheap wigs. There is a tangible sense of age and wear and depth to every set, every costume, every prop and piece of furniture, on this show.

Now, to be clear, lavish production design is only half the battle in making a visually outstanding piece of television. Good lighting also helps, but cinematography is crucial. I can think of several shows with genuinely beautiful set decoration and costumes and whatnot, that are burdened down by conventional cinematographers who prioritize blunt efficacy over artistry. Shōgun does not suffer from that problem, at least not under Christopher Ross (Ross, whose credits most shockingly include the film adaptation of Cats, only worked on the first two episodes). Intentionally or not, the elegant composition of each shot heavily evokes the artform of Japanese garden design, and many of the same design elements that go into creating these three-dimensional structures, concepts such as empty space, enclosure, and borrowed scenery, can be found in the texture of Shōgun‘s cinematography, albeit adapted for the stark rectangular confines of a television or phone screen.

Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne in Shogun, from the chest up, wearing a dark brown robe. He has close-cropped brown hair and a beard.
John Blackthorne | msn.com

Debuting with a perfect score of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which it was able to hold for a couple of days before dipping by a single point based on a single review, Shogun is poised to remain one of the highest-reviewed series’ of the year, and there is no doubt in my mind it will be a strong contender at next year’s Emmys in practically every category (it’s being called a limited series, but that term is used somewhat…liberally, these days). On every front, it is a mighty force. If that holds true throughout the remainder of this season, it may well be that future epics of this staggering scale and exceptional quality will no longer be measured up next to Game Of Thrones, but to Shōgun. Ideally, we would do away with the comparisons altogether, as they help pretty much nobody, but I for one would probably consider it the greatest honor of my life to someday have my work mentioned in the same breath as this masterpiece.

Review: 10/10