The major takeaway from Game Of Thrones, as we all learned so painfully, is that when writing a television epic, it’s helpful to have a clear destination in mind–especially if you’re veering off the source material. Prime Video’s new Lord Of The Rings series is totally off book, but the writers are doing their due diligence early.
In an interview with Empire magazine, co-showrunner J.D. Payne explained that they have five seasons planned for The Rings Of Power, from beginning to end. “The rights that Amazon bought were for a 50-hour show,” he said. “They knew from the beginning that was the size of the canvas – this was a big story with a clear beginning, middle and end. There are things in the first season that don’t pay off until Season 5.”
In fact, “We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be,” he revealed.
It should be noted that sometimes a show evolves over time, and sometimes ignoring that evolution to force the show into its original ending may be its downfall. (Looking at you, How I Met Your Mother.) But with a story as beloved as LOTR, it’s probably best for the writers to have a clear idea about the story arc from the start.
Payne has no reason to doubt his plan, as he insisted “we’re doing what [J.R.R.] Tolkien wanted.” In his spiritual perspective, “It was like Tolkien put some stars in the sky and let us make out the constellations.”
“In his letters [particularly in one to his publisher], Tolkien talked about wanting to leave behind a mythology that ‘left scope for other minds and hands, wielding the tools of paint, music and drama,’” he explained. “As long as we felt like every invention of ours was true to his essence, we knew we were on the right track.”
Co-showrunner Patrick McKay agreed, “The pressure would drive us insane if we didn’t feel like there was a story here that didn’t come from us. It comes from a bigger place. It came from Tolkien and we’re just the stewards of it. We trust those ideas so deeply, because they’re not ours. We’re custodians, at best.”
Hopefully they can keep that confidence after the first season airs in September 2022, as Tolkien fans will undoubtedly have plenty to say about just how faithful the story is to the denizens of Middle-earth.