It’s a good year to be a fantasy nerd. Shadow And Bone just dropped on Netflix, a second season of The Witcher is deep into post-production, The House Of The Dragon is dropping set photos left and right, and Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings series is…well, it’s coming, it’s just taking its sweet time. Despite being literally the most expensive TV show ever filmed, and capitalizing on a built-in fanbase of millions around the world, The Lord Of The Rings hasn’t quite captured the attention of mainstream media just yet, or gotten people chattering outside of the Tolkienverse fandom.
That’s going to change soon, though. The first season is set to wrap post-production in early August, and before then we’ll likely see an official still from the set, maybe even a brief teaser. At this point, a title reveal would be nice. But until then, we have the exciting news that Charlotte Brändström has indeed joined the series’ production team as a director on two episodes of the first season, becoming the first woman to helm a piece of official Tolkienverse media (an important distinction from Fran Walsh directing key scenes in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, something for which she does not get enough credit).
I want to give a shoutout to Fellowship Of Fans, a YouTube channel specializing in frequent and reliable updates on Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings series, including exclusive reporting based on admirable sleuth work. Fellowship Of Fans broke the news that Brändström was probably involved in the Amazon series some time ago, and their reporting has once again been proven accurate. With the prevailing trend in Tolkien fandom these days being to wildly exaggerate and hyperbolize any potential scoop (I’m not naming names, but…you know), Fellowship Of Fans’ high quality of reporting is extremely important.
But today, it’s been made official by Amazon themselves. Brändström is working on two episodes of The Lord Of The Rings, and multiple cast members – including Nazanin Boniadi and Ismael Cruz Córdova – have already congratulated her on social media. She joins J.A. Bayona and Wayne Che Yip as confirmed directors on the series, although we still don’t know for sure which episodes she’s directing.
Brändström, a Swedish-French director with an International Emmy Award nomination to her name, has had a long career in the TV industry, spanning multiple studios – but she’s probably best known for directing two episodes of The Witcher, something that bodes well for her work on The Lord Of The Rings. She has also directed episodes of The Man In The High Castle and Counterpart for Amazon, Outlander, Grey’s Anatomy, Arrow, and, most recently, Jupiter’s Legacy for Netflix (which I am very slowly making my way through, by the way. It’s not a very good show, but since I haven’t gotten up to either of Brändström’s episodes yet, I don’t really have anything to say about it that has any impact on the conversation at hand. But at this point, I’m continuing solely because I want to get a broader idea of her work.
The significance of a woman working to bring this new iteration of Middle-earth to life can’t be understated. The backbone of the Tolkien fandom has always been women, and it’s been kept alive this long by women, by people of color (particularly women of color), and by LGBTQ+ people – but that makes it all the more important that we acknowledge that this is only a small step in the right direction. A certain group of people will wring their hands about how a white cisgender woman directing two episodes of a Lord Of The Rings series is proof that “wokeness” is ruining Tolkien, but the truth is there’s not enough diversity behind the scenes yet, and I will continue to push Amazon to do better, especially when it comes to hiring Black people and people of color for leadership positions where their input can’t be ignored or sidelined.
Beyond that, there’s not much else to say. The announcement of Brändström’s involvement was accompanied by a photo of her standing in a mountainous environment in New Zealand, but it’d be pretty cool to see something substantial at this point – like a title logo, maybe? Please, Amazon? Anything so that I don’t have to keep calling it The Lord Of The Rings and then backtracking every five seconds to explain that it’s not actually The Lord Of The Rings!
So what do you think? Where have you experienced Brändström’s work before, and what qualities do you foresee her bringing to the series? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!