“The Rings Of Power” Episode 3 – New Allies And Enemies Arise In Númenor

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER EPISODE THREE AHEAD!

“Then the Edain set sail upon the deep waters, following the Star [of Eärendil]….and saw afar the land that was prepared for them, Andor, the Land of Gift, shimmering in a golden haze. Then they went up out of the sea and found a country fair and fruitful, and they were glad. And they called that land Elenna, which is Starwards; but also Anadûnê, which is Westernesse, Númenórë in the High Eldarin tongue.”

– The Silmarillion: Akallabêth, p. 311

Only the first two episodes of The Rings Of Power were given to critics to review before the series’ release, and now having seen the third episode I believe that was a mistake on Amazon’s part. As was originally reported by TheOneRing.net in July of 2021, the first two episodes back-to-back form a feature-length prologue to The Rings Of Power, which like most prologues puts worldbuilding ahead of plot development – and that in turn led many professional critics to describe the series as slow and dense, which are legitimate criticisms of the first two episodes (though I personally disagree, and would even go so far as to say the first two episodes were fast-paced to a fault). However, the same cannot be said of episode three, which swiftly moves the story along and ends on an excellent cliffhanger that is sure to entice viewers back next week.

Rings Of Power
The Court of the Kings | aboutamazon.com

The difference is in the direction. Wayne Che Yip, whom I previously accredited with fixing the early mistakes of Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time in its third episode, does the same for The Rings Of Power, and I hope that at this point he can truly level up as a director, past the point where Amazon only calls him in to put a fantasy series back on the right course after squandering two episodes. Yip brings a dynamism to The Rings Of Power that was absent throughout J.A. Bayona’s episodes, marked by their placid (albeit pleasing) cinematography and minimal stunt choreography. Under Yip’s direction, the camera and the characters are always in motion – even the lengthy dialogue sequences that Bayona rendered dry and lifeless go down easier, because Yip encourages his actors to move about, interacting freely with their environments and one another.

His one fault as a director is his proclivity for slow-motion, an overused effect in action films which can still be used to convey something more meaningful than the impact of a big explosion – but there’s a random quality to the scenes Yip shoots in slow-motion that suggests to me he’s just playing around with the effect to see what it can do for him, and somehow his experimental footage ended up in the final cut. In case it’s not immediately clear what I’m referring to, those bizarre thirty seconds of Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) riding a horse along the beach in slow-motion while grinning from ear-to-pointed-ear like she’s in an equestrian apparel commercial took me all the way out of the episode. I appreciate that we got to see her happy for once, but at what cost?

Slow-motion is generally less jarring when used in the heat of an action sequence, where it can give viewers a much-needed moment to catch their breath and get their bearings – and that is certainly one of its purposes in the climactic action sequence of episode three, although Yip again overdoes it slightly. The skirmish, which pits two Silvan Elves and a handful of disposable human extras against roughly fifteen Orcs and one rabid Warg in broad daylight, isn’t even so complex that slow-motion shots are necessary to help viewers follow along – honestly, as long as you can keep track of Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) and the Warg, no one and nothing else is all that important to the outcome of the fight. It’s still a cool action sequence, however, and the Elven acrobatics are closer to what you’d expect from Peter Jackson’s films if that’s your thing.

But while an action sequence every now and again is a good thing to keep the stakes high, what really stood out to me about Arondir’s subplot in this week’s episode is that it would be right at-home amongst the pages of The Silmarillion, where there are already several stories of stoic Elven heroes forced to endure terrible suffering in captivity at the hands of Orcs, but few so intimate as this one. When ordered to uproot an old tree blocking the path which the Orcs have carved into the barren surface of the Southlands (what will later become known as Mordor), Arondir and his fellow Elves put their lives on the line to save the tree by suggesting they go around it, leading to the unceremonious execution of Arondir’s comrade, Médhor (Augustus Prew). Unwilling to let any more Elves die, Arondir tearfully agrees to fell the tree, but not before first asking for its forgiveness in the Quenya tongue of old. It’s a beautiful, tragic moment based in the deep knowledge that writers Justin Doble and Jason Cahill have of the lore (Doble snuck several Lord Of The Rings references into his writing on Stranger Things).

On the subject of lore, Amazon isn’t allowed to reference anything in The Silmarillion or Tolkien’s other posthumously published works by name unless it appears in The Lord Of The Rings or its appendices, but they can still convey a great deal of information through clever dialogue and subtle visual details, and that’s a loophole Wayne Che Yip, the writers, and production designer Ramsey Avery have taken advantage of at every possible opportunity – in the mixed architectural styles of Númenor, for instance, there are clear signs that the Edain are neglecting and even building over the ruins of Elven towers and citadels as they distance themselves from their immortal kinsfolk. What they’ve preserved are monumental statues of the Maiar responsible for guarding mariners on the open sea, Ossë and Uinen, and of the great mariner Eärendil with a seabird representing his shapeshifting wife Elwing. In Númenor’s Hall of Lore, a tapestry depicts the Star of Eärendil beaming down on the island realm’s first king, Elros, and his twin brother Elrond.

Rings Of Power
Elros and Elrond | otakukart.com

I hate to call these Easter eggs, because that term seems to be used primarily in relation to the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days, but fans of any franchise are much the same: we all get ridiculously excited over the most obscure bits and pieces of lore that only we can explain to our friends and family with the help of an hour-long PowerPoint presentation. The first two episodes of The Rings Of Power, which some critics said were “dense”, didn’t have many of those Easter eggs – probably because the writers and director hoped the show would be more accessible if it weren’t crammed full of references to things beyond their ability to explain. I absolutely get that. But also…I’ve been waiting for this moment.

For more casual viewers, however, this episode may be rather overwhelming as it abandons two major plotlines we followed consistently throughout episodes one and two (both of which ended on cliffhangers last week), while simultaneously introducing the entirely new region of Númenor and not one, not two, not even three or four, but five new characters: a few of whom are predestined to have equal importance to anyone we’ve already met. Not all are treated as such in this episode – for instance, one could easily make the mistake of assuming the character of Pharazôn (Trystan Gravelle), still merely a counsellor to the Queen-Regent, has little to no significance in the overarching story – but be prepared to spend much more time with all these characters, as their story is the overarching story of Middle-earth’s Second Age. They’re not going anywhere.

And what of Númenor, the fabled island kingdom never before seen onscreen? Though nearly every wide-shot of the capital city is comprised entirely of CGI, large sections of the harbor and Court of the Kings were built as practical sets, decorated, furnished, and populated by crowds of actors and extras for weeks on end, giving each space that feeling of being lived-in that made Jackson’s adaptations so revolutionary for the fantasy genre at their time (though he erred, I feel, in designing Minas Tirith as a cold, oversized gray wedding-cake dropped in the middle of nowhere). On street-corners throughout the city, there are craftspeople and merchants representing every one of Númenor’s Guilds, puppet-shows providing the citizenry all the latest dramatized gossip (including a depiction of Galadriel rescuing the Queen-Regent from…Morgoth?), and open-air restaurants serving seafood. The city – indeed, the whole island – is unmistakably alive, and home to a resplendent culture.

Rings Of Power
Númenor | nerdist.com

The Númenórean culture created from scratch for The Rings Of Power is built around sea-worship, in what I suspect is a clever example of reverse-engineering (no spoilers, but if you know you know). For aid in actualizing this concept, the production design team and VFX artists have looked first to the seafaring cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean for inspiration. Númenor’s primary architectural influences range from Byzantine to vaguely Babylonian by way of the Greek islands. Its people wear Greek or Italian-Renaissance era garments and hairstyles (well, the extras do), while the royalty make use of nautical patterns, marine gemstones, and jewelry fashioned in the shape of sea-creatures and coral. Its ships have Egyptian or Phoenician silhouettes (although their wing-like sails are very loosely based on those of Chinese junks, with a fantastical twist meant to evoke the wings of Aragorn’s crown).

This is, after all, the land of Aragorn’s distant ancestors; a tall, hardy, and extremely long-lived branch of the human race who fought alongside Elves in the First Age and were rewarded for their sacrifices with the mountainous, many-sided island on which they now isolate themselves from Middle-earth’s troubles – and those of their fellow Men, whom they regard as generally inferior to themselves in every way. Through the character of Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), a Southlander whom we see beaten up, mocked, and derisively called “Low Man” by Númenóreans out looking for a fight, The Rings Of Power tentatively begins to explore this conflict which past adaptations have shied away from, either because it’s too complicated or because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that the crimes of Aragorn’s ancestors went far beyond their inability to dispose of the One Ring.

If The Rings Of Power doesn’t abruptly back out of this conversation with its hands in the air, as I still fear it might, the series could provide an entry-point into more challenging discussions around race and racism in Tolkien’s writings – because honestly, these are discussions we need to be having now more than ever. Feigning shock at the very notion that Tolkien’s works contain aspects of racist ideology, as many fans and scholars have in the past few weeks, isn’t how we combat the racists who have adopted the book as some kind of white supremacist myth. At the same time, I understand that many fans (particularly fans of color) want to see fantasy-worlds free of racism and bigotry, so it’s definitely a tricky situation.

On a similar note, the Harfoots in this episode are revealed to have a shockingly grim tradition of ableism in their community. While they get ready to embark on one of their annual migrations across Wilderland, with a procession of kids dressed as wolves and birds-of-prey all chanting the phrase “Nobody goes off-trail! Nobody walks alone!”, Largo Brandyfoot (Dylan Smith) tries to reassure his wife Marigold (Sara Zwangobani) that his broken ankle won’t be a problem for them and their family even though they both know the Harfoots will in fact – without any hesitation whatsoever – leave their weakest members to walk alone at the back of the caravan, where whatever happens to them ceases to be the community’s problem.

Rings Of Power
Largo, Elanor, and Poppy | slashfilm.com

In the final, most horrific stage of this whole charade, Sadoc Burrows (Sir Lenny Henry) recites the names of all the Harfoots who died in the past year, either because they could not keep up – as I assume was the case with one Miles Brightapple, stuck in a mountain-pass…which in turn has me wondering if the Harfoots travel as far south as the Ered Lithui? – or for other terrible reasons, like the landslide that wiped out Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards)’s entire family or the wolves that got Daffodil Burrows, whom I assume had personal significance to Sadoc. The Harfoots’ response to tragedy is not to work together, but instead to prioritize the survival of a few while compartmentalizing their grief until it’s safe to mourn.

We see that attitude slowly beginning to change, however, as Elanor Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh)’s kindness towards others – which most of the Harfoots see as a weakness that will get her killed – actually results in not one but two friends coming to her rescue: first Poppy, who hangs back to help even though she could easily keep up with the others, and then the mysterious Stranger (Daniel Weyman), who understands, perhaps instinctively, that Elanor is in trouble and needs his help. This should have been the moment where the rest of the Harfoots came back to help too, but they made it abundantly clear that they don’t value friendships the way Elanor and her new found family do. Their loss.

While we’re on the subject, it’s heavily implied throughout this episode that the Stranger is not such a bad guy after all, though he still can’t coherently vocalize his own agenda in Middle-earth or explain why he occasionally murders fireflies, so the possibility remains that he’s not such a good guy, either. Maybe he’s somewhere in between. What is clear is that he’s looking for a particular constellation in the sky (or whatever it is that this constellation represents to him), one that Elanor is not familiar with, and he believes the Harfoots can lead him…somewhere he can see this constellation, possibly? That would presumably require a long journey to lands east and south of Wilderland “where the stars are strange”, according to Aragorn’s reports in the Third Age, but The Rings Of Power did promise to take us to “the furthest reaches of the map”.

If this is the case, and the Harfoots must take the Stranger east or south, it would certainly lend credence to the theory that he is one of the two Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando, who were sent to Middle-earth in the Second Age by the Valar to stir up resistance against Sauron behind the front-lines. The only problem with this theory, of course, is that the names of the two Blue Wizards and all the details of their accomplishments can only be found in Unfinished Tales, to which Amazon does not possess the rights…that, and we only saw one meteor streak across the sky in the first episode, although it’s possible the other Wizard was already in Middle-earth, or came from a different direction, or took a different mode of transportation entirely. It’s equally likely that the Stranger is just Gandalf.

Rings Of Power
The Stranger | gamesradar.com

Three episodes into The Rings Of Power, and our burning questions about the Stranger and about Sauron have yet to be answered: though we did find out that Sauron’s mysterious sigil, which he carved into Finrod’s chest and various other surfaces during the First Age, was in fact a highly-stylized map of Mordor meant to guide lost orcs into the embrace of a leader after the downfall of Morgoth. Frankly, I think that raises more questions than it answers (how did Sauron know Morgoth’s downfall was imminent? Why leave a map of his secret headquarters on a body he knew the Elves would take and analyze? Why is his plan only going into effect now, near the end of the Second Age?), but we don’t have time to address any of those questions in this episode.

We do apparently have time for an entirely unrelated mystery subplot involving Isildur (Maxim Baldry), whom we meet as a young man reluctantly training to be in the Númenórean navy, as he hears a voice calling him to the island’s western shores, the homeland of his paternal ancestors; this leads to a weird, vague conversation over dinner between Isildur and his father Elendil (Lloyd Owen) – and Isildur’s sympathetic sister Eärien (Ema Horvath), who has her own interesting journey ahead of her – in which Elendil warns Isildur that “the past is dead” and not to go down the same path as his brother Anárion…who is canonically younger than Isildur, so I’m not entirely sure what is going on here or whether we even need to care yet.

Then there’s a second new mystery subplot, currently unrelated to Sauron and at best only tangentially connected to Isildur and Elendil, one which involves Tar-Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), Queen-Regent of Númenor, and her father Tar-Palantír – who I believe are conspiring via a literal palantír to assist the Elves and their allies in Númenor. The timeline is being urgently sped up, and the divisions between Elf-friends (who still worship the Valar) and King’s Men (those who worship the divinely-appointed human rulers of Númenor) are already so prominent that Elendil is fearful to even translate his Quenya name, which just means “Lover of the Stars” but was also historically used to mean “Elf-friend”.

If you can believe it, there’s a third new mystery – but this one actually is connected to Sauron. Adar, the Sindarin Elvish word for “Father” from which this episode derives its title, is a word we first hear whispered by the orcs in a reverent tone as they punish their prisoners, and we soon learn that it’s a title by which they address their leader, whom we glimpse at the very end of the episode emerging from the shadows to interrogate Arondir, the only survivor of a failed prison-break that claimed the life of his comrade, Revion (Simon Merrells, very well-cast as an Elf but gone too soon). Adar, whose true name is probably of great lore significance, has long dark hair framing a gaunt, pale face…and if you’re not up-to-date with Rings Of Power leaks, that might be all you know of him just yet, so I’ll say no more for fear of spoiling casual viewers.

Rings Of Power
Adar | express.co.uk

That’s where we leave Arondir and the rest of our characters for the week, and that’s where I must now leave you too (unless you want me to start rambling on about my new favorite characters, Poppy and Eärien, because I can and I will if left unchecked), but not before delivering my final verdict. The Rings Of Power‘s third episode is far and away its strongest, boosted effortlessly to the top of my rankings by a balance of high-stakes drama and action, grand spectacle, deep-cut lore for the fans, and heart most crucial of all – and even a dash of romantic chemistry, if you want to interpret Galadriel and Halbrand’s interactions that way. Wayne Che Yip has done it again, but this time on an even bigger scale than with The Wheel Of Time, and I could not be more excited for the episodes ahead of us that he directed.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“Rings Of Power” Episode 1 Sets The Stage For An Epic Tale

MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER EPISODE ONE!

“Among those of [Morgoth’s] servants that have names the greatest was that spirit whom the Eldar called Sauron..,.in all the deeds of Melkor the Morgoth upon Arda, in his vast works and in the deceits of his cunning, Sauron had a part, and was only less evil than his master in that for long he served another and not himself. But in after years he rose like a shadow of Morgoth and a ghost of his malice, and walked behind him on the same ruinous path down into the Void.”

– The Silmarillion: Valaquenta, p. 23

Although Amazon was denied access to the contents of The Silmarillion (and it’s evident from the opening scene just to what extent this has hindered their ability to tell a coherent story), The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power is best described as a Silmarillion sequel of similarly gargantuan proportions, and not as a prequel to The Lord Of The Rings, despite how Amazon and the mainstream media have jointly marketed the series, and what its long and unwieldy full title would perhaps lead you to believe…and I mean that not merely in the sense that The Rings Of Power picks up right where The Silmarillion left off, with the great enemy Morgoth defeated and his lieutenant Sauron still evading capture in Middle-earth, but in that the writers have constructed an original story around these events that feels almost too large for even this largest and most expensive of television series’ – a grand and somber narrative spanning centuries, with a massive ensemble cast given precious few moments to leave a lasting impression in these first two episodes.

Rings Of Power
Elrond and Galadriel | newsrebeat.com

Yet on that note, there are hundreds upon hundreds of named characters in The Silmarillion, many of whom only stick around for a couple of pages and some of whom are mentioned just once or twice in a single paragraph, and these characters have nonetheless made an impression on people – so I firmly believe that the protagonists of Amazon’s epic series will do the same, especially seeing as the main cast already have more screentime in just two episodes than most of The Silmarillion‘s main characters had in a whole book. Still not as much as they deserve, mind you, but just enough that you’ll know going into episode three which of these characters you’ll want to spend more time with – and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that, for me, those characters are Elanor Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), Elrond (Robert Aramayo), and Disa (Sophia Nomvete), the latter of whom I’ll speak about in my review of episode two.

Collectively, these three characters represent almost all the Free Peoples of Middle-earth – Harfoots, Elves, and Dwarves, respectively – and at this point I’m just waiting for a charismatic human character to come along and give me a reason to get invested in the dealings of Men. Nazanin Boniadi does her level best with the character of Bronwyn, a shy and unassuming single mother from the Southlands who falls in love with a Silvan Elf, but humans in The Rings Of Power are the most underwritten of all the races that make up Middle-earth’s diverse population. To some extent, that could be interpreted as a reflection of their current social status in Middle-earth and an unconscious bias on the part of our Elven protagonists and narrator, but I have a feeling it’s probably not intentional.

Nonetheless, with so many different peoples represented in just the first two episodes, even if only briefly, the scope of this series is quite large – as I said, almost too large. In episode one, following a necessarily vague and therefore somewhat unhelpful prologue that is memorable mostly for the fact that it’s the first time we’ve seen events from The Silmarillion adapted for the screen, we flash-forward to find our main characters scattered far and wide across Middle-earth, each isolated to their own little corner of the map where they can pursue their own agendas untroubled. And while I’m hardly the first person to say this, it bears repeating that each location we visit is distinct and extraordinarily beautiful, from the rolling hills of Valinor bathed in unearthly light to the cliffs of Lindon overlooking the young sea, and the tumbling ladders of crystalline ice suspended from mountaintops in the Forodwaith.

In fact, not to get side-tracked or anything, but I can’t overstate it enough that The Rings Of Power is beautiful; genuinely some of the most beautiful television ever produced. Director J.A. Bayona definitely got the memo that Middle-earth is as much a character in Tolkien’s stories as any Elf or Hobbit, and just as deserving of flattering close-ups every now and again. If there’s one fault with Bayona’s direction, it’s that whenever his camera comes to rest just over a character’s shoulder during a reverse-angle dialogue sequence, he has a tendency to leave it there for the duration of the scene, which grows especially frustrating when the environments in which these characters are placed are clearly practical sets demanding – nay, pleading – to be interacted with and walked upon! I’m not feeling the energy that these sets inspired in the actors, and which they could have used to their advantage if they were allowed to ever move about.

Anyway, forgive me my occasional tangents. We’re first introduced to the Elves – an immortal race of beings from beyond the Sundering Seas who reside in Middle-earth partly out of genuine love for the land, and partly because the land was bought with their own blood. Characters like Elrond, who are relatively young in Elven years, have a vision of what Middle-earth could be if the Elves finally laid down their weapons and allowed themselves to be at peace for once in their lives, while Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is still poking around in dark corners, searching for any sign of Sauron, the undefeated enemy responsible for so much of her sorrow.

Conceptually, Galadriel’s arc is quite the compelling one – and the idea that there are Elves who wish for her to stop, and would even conspire with each other to send her packing and put an end to the war she insists on prolonging for her own purposes, is all rather fascinating. In execution, it only works half the time. Legally, The Rings Of Power can’t plumb the depths of Galadriel’s trauma without encroaching upon territory covered exclusively in The Silmarillion, including the gruesome details of her elder brother Finrod (Will Fletcher)’s death at the hands of Sauron. We only spend a few moments with Finrod in waking life before he’s dead, suddenly, at which point Galadriel embarks on her quest for vengeance.

Rings Of Power
Gil-galad | nerdist.com

Galadriel has been hunting Sauron for centuries by the time we catch up with her in the Northern Wastes, and is still hot on his heels, but we as the audience are only allowed one quick glimpse of the Dark Lord (conveniently wearing a familiar suit of full-body armor) – and while we can all agree that he looks absolutely fantastic, I can’t help but wonder if one shot is enough to convince fans, particularly casual fans who aren’t aware of the atrocities Sauron committed while serving under Morgoth, just what a threat he poses to Middle-earth. Sure, poisoned cow’s milk in Tirharad and decayed mallorn leaves in Lindon are an indication that he’s probably up to no good, but until orcs start popping up in the Southlands in episode two, the only tangible antagonist is a single hungry snow-troll that stupidly attempts to ambush Galadriel in a cave.

Still, one could argue that the Elves are the antagonists of their own story – for indeed, it’s their pride, their stubbornness, and their misplaced confidence in their own might that leads the High King of the Noldor, Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), to dismiss all of the evidence piling up as just a string of coincidences out of which Galadriel has constructed a false narrative that Sauron has returned. In that sense, too, The Rings Of Power is much like The Silmarillion: for at their core they are both stories of Elven failings. Where the stories may differ slightly, and where The Rings Of Power certainly differs from previous adaptations of Tolkien’s work, is that The Rings Of Power doesn’t depict the Elves as ethereal or untouchable to the point where their aloof attitude is ever justified.

Nor are they capable of the same gravity-defying feats that Peter Jackson’s Elves effortlessly pulled off in The Hobbit trilogy. In fact, physically, they’re almost indistinguishable from humans. Some might consider this a downgrade – personally, I find it to be an intriguing stylistic choice that unexpectedly serves a thematic purpose in the story. For if Elves look just like humans, and they act just like humans, then the only thing differentiating them from humans is their immortality – and for a human, to look at an Elf and see nothing there so vastly different from themselves that it could be said to warrant the gift of immortal life being bestowed to one and not the other, that would be weird and a little conflicting. On top of that, the Elves and humans are still pretty close in the Second Age, so these are people the humans know well, and regard as friends, if not nearly family.

Well, mostly. In Middle-earth’s Southlands, where Elves were assigned to watch over the descendants of humans who followed Morgoth during the First Age, there’s a clear divide between the two peoples that is widening with each passing day – and only Bronwyn and a Silvan Elf named Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) have any interest in bridging that divide. While their relationship is described in romantic terms by supporting characters in-universe (Arondir is harshly reminded by his Elven compatriots that two prior unions between Elves and Men ended tragically), I have not yet discerned this apparently palpable chemistry of which they speak. It’s only when the two characters find themselves suddenly standing on the front lines of the war for Middle-earth that I was even convinced they cared for each other.

Still, while neither Arondir nor Bronwyn is particularly high on my list of characters I cared about deeply after watching the first two episodes, I’m nonetheless curious about life in the Southlands for both the Silvan Elves and the descendants of Morgoth’s worshippers, and I wish The Rings Of Power used its time as wisely as it did its enormous budget; perhaps then we could have explored the conflict between Elves and Men with some proper nuance and avoided awkward moments…like when a kid refers to Arondir by the name “Knife-Ears” (I need writers to stop inventing fantasy slurs, please for the love of Eru, stop), or when Arondir tells Bronwyn that the residents of a nearby village were especially loyal to Morgoth in the old days, as if it hasn’t been over a thousand years since then – you’re telling me that the people of these two neighboring villages didn’t intermingle and intermarry to the point where such labels would be meaningless after a few generations?

I suppose it’s not so bizarre that an Elf would think that way, but that one line – well, that and Bronwyn’s immediate rebuttal that the people in the village are “good people”, close kin of hers – doesn’t make for the most thorough exploration of the subject. And unfortunately, Bronwyn is interrupted before she can say anything more, when she and Arondir find the village in question deserted. That’s the end of that conversation, and as of episode two the writers have not yet picked up this story-thread again.

That sort of thing happens a lot in the first two episodes of The Rings Of Power (not that specific scenario, just scenes being interrupted before they can reach their seemingly natural conclusion), which is why I take issue with complaints that the pacing is slow. I felt as though the first episode raced by! The moments that stand out to me in these episodes, generally, are the still and contemplative moments that have been given space to breathe – when the show isn’t rushing on to the next thing but instead allowing us to live in the present with characters we adore, set amidst beautiful scenery or on any of those magnificent practical sets I mentioned before. I think that’s one reason why both Elrond and Elanor got through to me, because they’re the two characters who benefit most from such moments in the first episode.

Rings Of Power
Elanor Brandyfoot | esquire.com

The time we spend with the Harfoots in episode one, for example, is time well-spent establishing characters and character dynamics that will be easy to remember going forward. Elanor Brandyfoot is an inquisitive young Harfoot who wants to see the great wide world off the beaten path that the Harfoots take each year as they migrate back-and-forth across the same familiar patch of land in Rhovanion (a patch of land that by the time of The Lord Of The Rings had become an “unfriendly waste”, blasted by some “pestilence or war or evil deed of the Enemy” – so make a mental note of that). Her best friend, Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards), is the prehistoric Samwise Gamgee to her prehistoric Frodo Baggins; well, perhaps not quite as fascinated by Elves as Sam would be, but no less willing to help her friend out of a tight situation at a moment’s notice.

Even outside of these two characters, I felt that we really got to know the Harfoots, individually and collectively, who they are and what they stand for, as they spend the entire first episode preparing for a festival to mark the end of summer (who wants to bet it’s held on September 22nd?), while avoiding “Big People” and other dangerous creatures wandering across their lands. There are several character actors with small but memorable roles sprinkled amongst the Harfoots, including legendary British comedian Sir Lenny Henry as an elderly sage named Sadoc Burrows who is in possession of the Harfoots’ only book – and is the only Harfoot capable of reading it. Thusitha Jayasundera is also delightful as Malva, a gossip constantly prophesying doom who hangs around Sadoc in the hopes that he’ll spill some secrets from his dusty old book.

Because it’s not until the very end of episode one that something momentous actually happens to the Harfoots in the form of an old man falling from the sky (more on him in my review of episode two), the Harfoots are, for the time being, relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. As Elanor’s mother Marigold (Sara Zwangobani) tries to explain to her, the Harfoots don’t need to get involved in Big People business because they have each other, they always have and they always will, and that’s always been enough. Therefore, while it comes as no surprise that the Harfoots are easily the most endearing characters in The Rings Of Power, I was personally shocked to discover that their subplot is also one of the most interesting, even before the arrival of the aforementioned Stranger (Daniel Weyman).

Of course, it’s because the Harfoots make the most of their limited screentime that this is the case – and I’m sure I’d feel the same way about Elves or Men if we had spent a little more time getting to know them as actual characters – but I think part of it, at least for me, is that the Harfoots, alone of all the Free Peoples we’ve met (with the possible exception of the Dwarves, but they don’t show up until episode two), are unfamiliar in a way that is particularly immersive, because it underscores how far removed this story is from the events of The Lord Of The Rings.

To put it another way, when we first enter the Elf-kingdom of Lindon in episode one, I felt at-home right away because The Rings Of Power uses all the same design cues for the Elves and their architecture that Peter Jackson did – Lindon is, much like Jackson’s interpretation of Rivendell, a web of open-concept porticos and colonnades draped across cliffs and autumnal woodlands. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but it does make me feel as though I’m returning to Middle-earth the way that Peter Jackson conceived it, when really I want to see something different, something new (is it any wonder Elanor is my favorite character?). When we meet the Harfoots, living not yet in cozy holes in the ground but in tents and small carts in the middle of the woods, rather like the Nelwyn from 1988’s Willow…that was the moment Rings Of Power first pulled me out of my comfort-zone, and it felt wonderful.

Rings Of Power
Lindon | timeout.com

In that moment, I wasn’t returning to Middle-earth – I was being reintroduced to this world and these characters as I’ve never seen them before onscreen or even in the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. I can predict each step the Harfoots will have to take for them to transform over time into the Hobbits of the Third Age, but I’m enjoying this take on the Harfoots so much that I don’t need to see them evolve any time soon – and in just five seasons, I don’t know that The Rings Of Power could even believably get them to the point where they’d be recognizable from The Lord Of The Rings, decked out with late 19th Century accoutrements like pocket-watches, parasols, and floral-printed waistcoats with brass buttons.

That being said, The Rings Of Power covers over five-hundred years of Middle-earth’s history in a prologue under five minutes long (though there’s enough intentionally vague imagery in there that you’ll still want to check out my recent Silmarillion summary so you can pick up on easily-overlooked details) before jumping forward a few thousand years to an indeterminate point on the timeline somewhere near the end of the Second Age, so it’s clear now that the writers are taking many liberties with the chronology where they feel it suits their story to have, say, Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) alive simultaneously to the last Númenóreans.

I can’t honestly say that it bothers me every time the Tale of Years has been slightly altered, but I do find it strange that the character dynamics amongst the Elves don’t at all reflect their canonical age differences – Elrond and Galadriel, for instance, speak to each other as if they’re roughly the same age, when in truth Galadriel is anywhere between 5000 to 24000 years old in The Rings Of The Power, while Elrond, at a mere 1500 years old, is young enough to be her future son-in-law. Gil-galad and Celebrimbor are a generation younger than Galadriel, yet both are played as if they’re much older, and portrayed by middle-aged actors to boot.

I have no desire to dissect every moment in the first episode that I would consider “lore-breaking”, because inevitably that will turn into nit-picking and in fact I’m quite satisfied with how The Rings Of Power has turned out, so if that’s the kind of coverage you’re expecting I urge you to continue your search elsewhere besides my blog. Just to give you a sense of what kind of thing irritated me, and because I think it will irritate me for a long time yet and I need to share this burden with my readers, I was…deeply conflicted when Gil-galad granted Galadriel permission to return across the Sundering Seas to Valinor, as if he possessed the authority to do so. On the one hand, I understand that it would be exceedingly difficult to explain why Galadriel is banned from heading west without mentioning her crimes against the Valar in the First Age that Amazon can’t legally mention, but also…it just felt so wrong.

On a more positive note, while I expected to be extremely critical of the original dialogue written for The Rings Of Power, I can only think of a few instances from the first episode where a line was poorly-written or its delivery fell flat. For the most part, Amazon’s writers did an admirable job of mimicking Tolkien’s signature style without ever reusing or misappropriating lines from The Lord Of The Rings. But given how high the bar is that they’ve set for themselves, every occasion on which they fail to clear that bar – in the first episode, the worst line of dialogue is undoubtedly “Elf-lords only” – will momentarily break the immersion.

Rings Of Power
Into the West | polygon.com

What will draw you back in again, whether you’re a diehard fan or someone just looking for a cool new show to watch over the weekend, are the characters (whom you really can’t help but root for), and the visual splendor on display in every frame of these first two episodes. After finishing these episodes, you may feel – as I do – that the story still needs a little more time to solidify into the firm backbone required of a multi-season series and a potential billion-dollar investment on Amazon’s part, but if Amazon (and audiences) are willing to give The Rings Of Power the time it needs to do just that, it could quickly grow to become what it already aspires to be: a worthy sequel to The Silmarillion.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

It’s Been 4 Years But “The Rings Of Power” 1st Trailer Is Finally Here

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER AHEAD!

Taking advantage of the Super Bowl’s audience of millions, Amazon Prime used last night’s game to launch the first teaser trailer for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power into the world. It was brief, just about a minute long, and more evocative than it was revealing – purely designed to get audiences, particularly more casual fantasy fans, excited to be back in the world of Middle-earth after almost a decade. But if the trailer seems light on story details and you’re still confused as to what’s going on, I want you to go check out Fellowship Of Fans on YouTube, because you will find many of the answers you are looking for there.

Rings Of Power
Galadriel | polygon.com

In fact, let me just put a pause on the trailer breakdown for a moment and invite you to marvel along with me at Fellowship Of Fans’ impeccable track record, because this teaser trailer officially confirms at least four exclusive story leaks and a character leak released by Fellowship over the past year – and a recent Vanity Fair article with accompanying promotional images confirmed several more of their exclusive character leaks, including Maxim Baldry as Isildur and Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor (sadly, I did not have the time to cover the contents of that article in the depth and level of detail that I wanted before the trailer dropped).

Knowing the context behind a lot of the split-second images in last night’s teaser trailer was immensely helpful to me, even as a long-time reader of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, because The Rings Of Power isn’t a straightforward adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, where knowing the source material forwards-and-backwards is enough to fully grasp what’s going on. It’s an adaptation of Tolkien’s accounts of the Second Age of Middle-earth, which he left only partially completed at the time of his death, scattered like broken shards of a narrative across heaps of disorganized notes, rough drafts of stories that never went anywhere.

A relatively brief synopsis of the Second Age did find its way into the appendices to The Lord Of The Rings and is included in most editions of The Return Of The King, but it’s written in the style of a historical text and spans over three-thousand years. Amazon has opted to construct their own largely original narrative around the main events of the Second Age, which will be squeezed into a much smaller timeframe coinciding with the lives of the Númenóreans Elendil and Isildur – which is either the safer approach, the riskier approach, the right approach or the wrong approach depending on who you ask.

So anyway, while there are a number of characters in this trailer that come to us directly from Tolkien’s writings on the Second Age (Galadriel and Elrond being the most notable), there are just as many original characters pulled from the corners of Middle-earth that Tolkien left largely unexplored – including a Silvan Elf protagonist and a Dwarven princess. Obviously, most of their scenes and storylines are wholly original as well, but even the canonical characters have been placed in unfamiliar settings and situations, with Galadriel embarking on a mission into the Forodwaith to hunt orcs while Elrond mingles with the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm.

I’m sure a book purist will inform me in the comments below that that’s exactly why The Rings Of Power will suck, because it’s “fan-fiction” and not “canon”. Regardless of the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien would first have to rise from the grave to write any adaptation of his works that wouldn’t inherently be a piece of “fan-fiction”, and that no adaptation – bad or good – will ever have any bearing whatsoever on the original work if you don’t let it, I’m frankly confused as to how purists thought a Second Age show was ever going to work without at least a couple of original characters and storylines. I mean, did you not want any dialogue, either?

What concerns me slightly about all of the original characters and storylines packed into this teaser trailer is not that they exist in the first place, but that general audiences trying to get a handle on what The Rings Of Power is really about won’t be able to find that information easily – because it’s not in the teaser trailer itself, and it’s not in the source material that most journalists will point you towards. It’s in Fellowship Of Fans’ archives, mostly, and if you don’t mind a few minor potential spoilers, I highly suggest you check out all of their videos regarding The Rings Of Power as well as their Second Age breakdown posts and my own.

I know a few people who don’t like to come across anything even remotely spoiler-y before watching a film or series they’re excited for, so I’ll give you this one last chance to leave before we jump into the actual trailer breakdown you’ve all been waiting for, and some minor potential spoilers for season one. See you in seven months! The rest of you, follow me.

Although there’s nothing in this teaser that shocked me while watching, I feel like it still might surprise some folks to learn that the meteor streaking across the night sky at around the 0:35 mark is actually a person, whose true identity will be a running mystery throughout season one. Fellowship Of Fans reports that this character, dubbed “Meteor Man”, will crash into Middle-earth (sustaining severe memory loss in the process), where a group of Harfoot hobbits will discover him and adopt him into their traveling community at the behest of one Elanor Brandyfoot, the inquisitive young hobbit girl who narrates the trailer.

We catch a brief glimpse of Elanor holding the Meteor Man’s bloodied hand (it’s the trailer thumbnail, embedded above), but I doubt that’s immediately clear to anyone who hasn’t been watching Fellowship Of Fans’ videos religiously. This teaser trailer could have used slightly more footage of Meteor Man’s crash-landing and his discovery by the hobbits – just something to get casual fans talking and theorizing the same way they did with Amazon’s The Wheel Of Time, which had everyone wondering who the Dragon Reborn would turn out to be.

The difference is that the identity of the Dragon Reborn was common knowledge to anyone who had read Robert Jordan’s books, and the answer was easily available on Google anyway. Meteor Man’s identity is a genuine mystery, but Amazon is holding their cards so close to their chest that most fans don’t know that there’s a mystery here to be solved…yet. I don’t know when we can expect to see our next trailer, but I hope it shows more of this character and the bizarre circumstances of his arrival. Did I mention he might also be evil?

Amazon has officially nicknamed this character “The Stranger”, which is definitely more ominous and creepy than Meteor Man but somehow doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, either. It’s like how Disney wanted us to call Baby Yoda “The Child” at first. Not gonna happen. Don’t try to make it happen. And please let his actual name be something better than Grogu.

On the subject of names, we have to talk about Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot, Markella Kavenagh’s hobbit character. Elanor in this case is clearly a reference to Elanor Gamgee, the eldest daughter of Samwise Gamgee – born shortly after the events of The Lord Of The Rings. The name is Sindarin Elvish, and in the case of Sam’s daughter it was derived from the golden flower elanor that once grew in the forests of Lórien. It’s a beautiful name, and creates a powerful link to the hobbit characters of the Fourth Age, but I really do hope there’s an explanation for how Elanor’s parents came across the flower and discovered its Elvish name.

In the one clear shot we see of Elanor, she wears a sprig of yellow flowers in her curly hair – which I would have thought were just wildflowers were it not for her peculiar name. What we can extrapolate from this is that Elanor and her family must live somewhere near Lórien, which more or less lines up with Tolkien’s account of the late Second Age and early Third Age hobbit territories being situated in Wilderland, between the Misty Mountains and Greenwood. The Harfoots specifically “long lived in the foothills of the mountains” and “had much to do with Dwarves”, theoretically placing them somewhere in the vicinity of Khazad-dûm’s eastern gates and Lórien. This works out!

Markella Kavenagh’s Elanor is the only character to speak in the trailer, and she gets just a single line – “Haven’t you ever wondered what else is out there? There’s wonders in this world beyond our wandering. I can feel it.” Presumably, she’s talking to someone else in her hobbit traveling community, although I take it from this dialogue that these hobbits must never stray from their well-worn paths, or else why would Elanor be unsatisfied with her life? Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that The Rings Of Power will follow the Harfoot hobbits on their westward migrations into Eriador.

Assuming the hobbits reach the Misty Mountains by the end of season one (and if they truly live next-door to Khazad-dûm, it might not even take them that long), it will only be the second perilous mountain journey in The Rings Of Power after Galadriel’s adventure in the Forodwaith. Here, in the bitterly cold wastelands once occupied by the Dark Lord Melkor, we’ll meet up with Galadriel and another Elf played by Kip Chapman as they seek out orcs, trolls, and other monsters left over from the First Age. Galadriel is out for vengeance, and she won’t rest until all of Melkor’s minions are wiped off the face of Middle-earth – including, and perhaps especially, Sauron.

I unironically love this whole concept, so much so that I’m not even disappointed to learn that is the Forodwaith and not the Helcaraxë, as some fans had hoped. I mean, I would have been happy either way, and the crossing of the Helcaraxë in the First Age by the Elven rebels leaving Valinor would have made for an even better parallel to the hobbits crossing the Misty Mountains looking for a new home, but whatever, I’m cool with it if it means we get to see Galadriel scaling an ice-wall using her Valinorean sword. Also, the Forodwaith is one of those wide empty areas on Tolkien’s map of Middle-earth where Amazon can play around as much as they like.

Rings Of Power
Kip Chapman’s Elven character | cbr.com

My early prediction is that something will happen up north that puts the fear of god in Galadriel. She’ll learn that Sauron is rising again (The Hobbit kinda did this storyline already, but badly, so we’ll let it slide), and she’ll quickly return home to Lindon, where King Gil-galad and Elrond will be unreceptive to her warnings and try to ease her fears instead of preparing for the inevitable. Fed up, Galadriel will leave again, this time on a sea-voyage. I don’t know why, but we’ve learned via Vanity Fair that Galadriel somehow ends up shipwrecked by episode two, and has to work together with a mysterious man named Halbrand to survive a storm at sea.

At some point during this sequence, probably after the storm has settled down a bit, Halbrand discovers that Galadriel is an Elf and pulls her hair aside brusquely to reveal her leaf-shaped ears. The audacity! My only takeaway from this is that Halbrand needs to get pushed off the boat or whacked in the head with an oar or something.

All signs point to Galadriel and Halbrand washing up somewhere on the shores of Númenor, where Elendil will find Galadriel. The trailer opens on an establishing shot of a Númenórean port-city, presumably the westward-facing city of Andúnië where Elendil and his family lived during the late Second Age. The camera follows a cargo-laden ship through a sea-gate painted blue and gold, and lifts over the archway to reveal a wide harbor crowded with fishing-boats, over which loom the palatial estates of the lords, and Tolkienesque interpretations of the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Colossus of Rhodes. Further in the distance stands the great peak of the Meneltarma.

It’s a beautiful sight, but it’s gone almost before you have time to register that you’ve just beheld the shores of Númenor. The rest of this trailer is Elf-centric and focuses primarily on Middle-earth, with no human characters besides Halbrand even appearing. I suspect we’ll see plenty more of Númenor in trailers, TV spots, and promotional images closer to release, but for now Amazon just wants to get the message across to people that this is Middle-earth, and Elves, Dwarves and Hobbits do a better job of conveying that than humans.

And based on the fan reaction to Ismael Cruz Córdova’s Silvan Elf protagonist Arondir in last night’s trailer, I can absolutely understand why the Elven characters will dominate the marketing for The Rings Of Power. They’re just neat. Arondir catching an arrow in mid-air, flipping it around and firing it in one fluid motion (all in the dark, mind you) is cool the same way that Legolas swinging across the front of a moving horse was cool in The Two Towers, before Peter Jackson decided he needed to top that scene every five minutes, using increasingly implausible CGI to do so.

The one shot in this trailer that gives me Hobbit vibes, in a bad way, is right near the end. An Elf wielding a giant battle-axe leaps in slow-motion across the screen, with a chain attached to his ankle unfurling behind him in the sky. It’s clearly supposed to be an awesome action beat, but I don’t know what’s going on here and it doesn’t look like it was achieved using practical effects, which is why it falls flat for me. If we learn that it is practical and that this is actually a really raw and visceral action scene, that’s interesting, but the character looks as weightless and removed from reality as Legolas when he was gliding up a falling staircase in The Battle Of The Five Armies, and I’m not feeling it.

Happily, this awkward moment is counterbalanced just a second later by a quick shot of an Elven character played by Will Fletcher standing in the rain, screaming soundlessly while a swarm of orcs presses against him from all sides – and not only is Fletcher clearly real and present in this scene, but the orcs are as well. I can’t begin to express how relieved I am that both of Amazon’s biggest fantasy series’ are committed to using practical effects wherever possible, and this one shot has me longing for the Wheel Of Time finale we could have had, were it not for COVID-19.

According to Fellowship Of Fans, this Elven character is Galadriel’s brother Finrod – and yes, he has short hair. It’s a tragedy, although perhaps not quite as tragic as what’s about to happen to Finrod in this scene. I know that canonically, he dies wrestling a werewolf in the dungeons of Tol-in-Gaurhoth, which as far as death scenes go is unparalleled in Tolkien’s works, but that happens in The Silmarillion and the rights situation is complicated, so maybe Rings Of Power Finrod will have to die in battle instead. I just hope it’s epic…well, that, and I hope Amazon gives him long hair in post-production. That’s where the CGI budget should be going!

You know who is actually rocking the short hair? Elrond, shockingly. His hair, while several shades lighter than I would have liked, looks a lot better in motion than it did in the Vanity Fair photos, and Robert Aramayo makes the absolute most of his one shot in the trailer by hitting the audience with a smoldering gaze that could melt a Ring of Power. It’s never not gonna be vaguely annoying to me that so many of the male Elves – and only the male Elves – are sporting short hairstyles, but it looks good on Elrond, I won’t lie.

Also, I love that he’s an accidental heartthrob; he’s not just smoldering for the sake of it, he actually seems to be glowering at a group of Dwarves partying in the background, who are breaking his concentration on whatever old artifact he’s studying. Aramayo’s Elrond is an ambassador from Gil-galad to the Dwarves, according to Vanity Fair, and at some point early in the season he will be sent to Khazad-dûm to try and repair the old alliances between Elves and Dwarves that existed sporadically throughout the First Age and almost invariably ended in one side betraying the other.

Fellowship Of Fans has previously reported that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm will be reeling from the sudden collapse of a mining-shaft in the first few episodes, probably just before Elrond’s arrival in the city. Vanity Fair pointedly describes Elrond as an “architect”, implying that he puts his skills to good use at some point in the three episodes their writers have seen – perhaps literally helping the Dwarves rebuild and thereby strengthening the bonds of friendship between their peoples? I’m down for that.

A few quick shots of Dwarven characters pass by in this trailer – mostly from what is believed to be the funeral ceremony for the Dwarves killed in the mining-shaft collapse. Prince Durin IV and Princess Disa, the latter a new character and the first Dwarven woman with a major role in any adaptation of Tolkien’s works, are both in attendance. Disa leads a song of lament in a scene first described by, you guessed it, Fellowship Of Fans. We don’t get to hear any of it, unfortunately, but Sophia Nomvete’s physical performance tells me that this is gonna be an impactful moment.

A few moments later, Durin IV reappears wielding a hammer, and strikes swiftly at a large block of stone in a dark chamber. He’s being observed silently from the corners of the room by three or four older Dwarves, which almost makes me think this is some kind of time-honored ritual in which he must partake before he can become King Durin IV. Of the Dwarven characters in Tolkien’s works, those with whom we’ve spent the most time were either exiles or travelers long away from home, so to see Dwarven culture on display – and not through an intermediary character like Bilbo – is actually quite rare and exciting.

Rings Of Power
Elanor “Nori” Brandyfoot | arstechnica.com

That’s what I love most about the direction The Rings Of Power is taking: it’s giving us a unique opportunity to explore the regions and peoples of Middle-earth that only ever existed on the peripheries of Tolkien’s most well-known stories. By the end of the Third Age, Khazad-dûm is in ruins, Númenor lies under the waves, Lindon is virtually uninhabited, and paradise has been removed from the world entirely – but in the Second Age they’re all alive, vividly alive, and The Rings Of Power lets us imagine what Middle-earth was before its decline.

And yes, it’s fan-fiction, all of it, but that’s…okay with me? I’ll still be interested to see where and why it deviates from Tolkien’s writings, and when it crosses a line for me I’ll voice my frustration, but it’s just one adaptation of many that have been, and many that have yet to be. It’s never gonna “ruin the books”, because the books will always be there – no matter what.

Trailer Rating: 9/10

Who’s Who In The “Lord Of The Rings” Cast?

Amazon Prime has officially announced the fifteen members of the main recurring cast for the first season of their The Lord Of The Rings, a massive fantasy series that will dive deep into the uncharted expanses of time and space between J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic creation-narrative The Silmarillion, and the events of his most well-known work, The Lord Of The Rings. In this mostly unknown and unexplored region of the Tolkien legendarium, there are three-thousand years of stories, subplots and character arcs that can absolutely be stitched together into the five-season series that Amazon is hoping to create: and now they have a cast to help them with that daunting task.

A cast that, for the time being, is just that: a bunch of names and random headshots that really doesn’t give us any clear picture of what’s going on in Middle-earth at this point in the fantasy world’s history – are most of these characters original, devised by the Amazon Prime writer’s room? Or are they Tolkien characters, and we just don’t know it yet? Who is playing who?

That’s why I’m here: to make extremely random and imaginative conjectures based on a handful of vague hints, and, hopefully, get something right. I’m likely wrong about most or all of these predictions and theories, so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

That being said, let’s start out with Robert Aramayo, first on the cast-list and the man presumed to be the series’ central protagonist. Aramayo’s real character name is unknown, but it is known that he replaced fellow Brit Will Poulter, who was supposed to play “Beldor”. While no character with that name exists in Tolkien’s canon, Poulter’s striking resemblance to Hugo Weaving – who portrayed Elrond Half-Elven in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy – led many to believe that Poulter was playing a younger version of Weaving’s character, and that “Beldor” was merely a code-name. Aramayo doesn’t bear the same resemblance to Weaving, but he’s not entirely dissimilar, either. If Poulter was playing Elrond, then it seems certain that Aramayo is, as well.

Who's Who In The "Lord Of The Rings" Cast? 1
hollywoodreporter.com

There’s another (small) bit of evidence that points to Beldor being Elrond: in an unofficial character breakdown, a character named “Neldor” was mentioned as being very similar to Beldor. Frankly, Neldor makes the most sense as a code-name for Elrond, since it’s literally just the word Elrond with the letters scrambled, but I think Neldor is more likely to be Elrond’s canon twin brother, Elros – the first king of Númenor, and forefather of the Dúnedain. And who better to play Elros than the only other member of the cast (so far) who looks anything like Robert Aramayo: Welsh actor Owain Arthur? Arthur has similar facial features to Aramayo, but is also noticeably older, meaning he could convincingly portray the Half-Elf’s mortal brother, who chose to live and die as a human.

We don’t know who’s playing Elrond, but it looks like Welsh actress Morfydd Clark is almost certainly playing a younger version of the Elven heroine Galadriel, as was reported some time ago. Clark could easily pass as Cate Blanchett’s twin, and has an ethereal aura that would befit a character of Galadriel’s nobility and majesty.

Similarly, it seems definite that Australian actress Markella Kavenagh is playing the character of “Tyra”, an elf or non-human character with an optimistic, naive worldview and an eager curiosity. This has been reported since she was cast several months ago, and it hasn’t changed once. Kavenagh is playing Tyra: of that I’m certain. I’m not yet certain whether Tyra is a code-name, but I do think she’s an original character – my theory is that she’s a rustic Silvan elf, and I will not be swayed in that opinion until proven wrong. A lot of people want to believe she’s actually Celebrían, the future wife of Elrond and mother of Arwen Evenstar, but those people are wrong. Sorry.

Who's Who In The "Lord Of The Rings" Cast? 2
thepopinsider.com

If I had to guess who is playing Celebrían, it would be Ema Horvath, a young Slovak-American actress who was cast a while ago: she doesn’t look like the type of actress who could play “warm and maternal…Eira” or “self-sufficient single mother…Kari”, so I have to assume she’s playing another character, whom we haven’t seen yet in either character breakdowns or leaked audition tapes. Celebrían is as good a choice as any. though another possibility is Tar-Ancalimë, the first ruling Queen of Númenor.

But let’s get back to that self-sufficient single mother for a moment, because I think Iranian-British actress Nazanin Boniadi is the perfect fit for the role of Kari, whose audition tapes revealed a conflicted character struggling with a dangerous secret that could turn her people against her. Either that or she’s Erendis, a proud, fiercely determined Númenórean noblewoman who has a prominent role in Middle-earth history, and was the subject of one of Tolkien’s most emotional, intimate dramas. Boniadi would kill it in either role. I’ve also seen suggestions that she could be a gender-bent Celebrimbor, and I would love that too.

Who's Who In The "Lord Of The Rings" Cast? 3
theguardian.com

The series needs a villain, and I think both Daniel Weyman and Joseph Mawle make strong cases for why they should play Sauron, better known in this age of Middle-earth as Annatar, the giver of gifts and deceiver of men. Both men have strong, harsh features and a gaunt, almost sinuous look – personally, I’d take Mawle as Sauron and Weyman as his right-hand man, the Witch-King of Angmar, but maybe that’s just me. Sauron is an important role, and has to be cast right: in fact, since the character is a notorious shape-shifter, I wouldn’t mind seeing a number of different actors (or actresses) take on the role over the duration of the series, just to keep us constantly on our toes about who to trust. That way, the heavy burden wouldn’t just be on one actor’s shoulders, but would be passed around from episode to episode, allowing for the demigod villain to have a certain incorporeal feeling.

Who's Who In The "Lord Of The Rings" Cast? 4
variety.com

The character of “Hamson” is as good as Sauron is evil – described in breakdowns and audition tapes as a kind, loving farmer trying to preserve his fading health long enough to see his family through the winter, I imagine Hamson to be a rugged, rustic middle-aged man: basically, actor Dylan Smith. Otherwise, I could see Smith taking on the role of Loda, “an earthy man” whose daughter is training to be an apprentice in her village community.

Which brings us to Megan Richards, who I think fits the role of Loda’s daughter perfectly. This character doesn’t yet have a name, but had an important role in Loda’s audition tape, which saw the father and daughter duo conversing about a stowaway living in their house. With her charming, expressive features, Richards would be a sturdy emotional core for the series: a simple character wound up in a number of extraordinary circumstances. Alternatively, she could be playing one of Tyra’s sisters.

Next up, we have the youngest member of the cast, Australian child actor Tyroe Muhafidin. This boy has elf-ears, no questions asked: his ears are about as pointed as a human being’s can be, and I think it would be a waste to cast him as a human child, or anyone other than an elf. But are there any elf-children running around in the Second Age of Middle-earth? There are a couple: in one version of Galadriel’s backstory, she was the mother of a son named Amroth, who went on to become a noble elf-lord and the subject of a tragic love-song. Or, with a little timeline-altering, Muhafidin could be playing one of Elrond’s twin sons, Elladan or Elrohir. Those are the only elf-children I can think of off the top of my head, but there are very few kids in the Second Age – most likely, Muhafidin is playing a young version of a character who will become important as an adult in future seasons of the show.

Charlie Vickers is my pick for the character of “Cole”, who is described simply as a “charismatic” young fellow with a heavy burden and a melancholy attitude. Even after much brain-wracking, I can’t quite decide who this character might be in the Tolkien canon: perhaps the gloomy, pessimistic Celeborn? Imagining a “charismatic” Celeborn is somewhat difficult, so perhaps Vickers is playing a human – I keep coming back to Aldarion, the world-weary adventurer who set sail from Númenor to explore the edges of the world and found himself halfway across Middle-earth, leaving his family far behind him and largely abandoning the cares of his kingdom.

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Aldarion’s closest friend among the Elves was the last king of the Noldor, the immortal Gil-galad. This is a role I wouldn’t mind seeing race-bent, especially because Puerto Rican actor Ismael Cruz Córdova seems like such a good choice: not only does he have a curiously timeless look, but his eyes are almost as striking as Elijah Wood’s – reminiscent of the pale starlight that the Elves adore so much. I could picture Córdova’s Gil-galad as a solemn, mature young leader and a keen judge of character.

Sophia Nomvete, an Iranian-African actress, is an exciting casting choice, and I want to see her in an exciting role: this could be as a queen reigning over lands in Middle-earth, or even as one of the two Blue Wizards who visited the far east and helped rally the fight against Sauron from behind his front-lines, causing irreparable damage to his war effort. The fates of these two wizards are a long-running subject of debate in the Tolkien fandom, and we’ve never seen them onscreen – the closest we got was a throwaway reference to them in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

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Finally, we have to figure out who Australian actor Tom Budge is playing: no easy task, considering that most images of him show the actor sporting a large, downright Gallic mustache. But once you look past the facial hair, I think it’s easy to envision Budge as an elf: perhaps even the foolhardy Celebrimbor, who will probably have a large role in the show as the creator and craftsman behind the forging of the Rings of Power. But Budge could also be playing a villain – in particular, I could see him as one of the nine mortal men ensnared by Sauron and transformed into the horrible Ringwraithes.

So all fifteen have been accounted for, and where does that leave us? Well, technically, nowhere, since these are all just guesses. I’ve tried my best to check off all the many characters listed in the unofficial breakdowns and audition tapes, but even so, a couple are still missing: who’s playing the maternal “Eira”, or irascible “Brac”? Which of these is the charismatic but cunning “Aric”, who made such an impression on us several months ago?

I leave you to come up with your own guesses, and tell me what you think of mine: share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!