Amazon is betting big on Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The Lord of the Rings prequel series, which is rumored to have cost over $1 billion, is the streamer’s foray into providing its service with a Game of Thrones-style fantasy epic. Outside of a brief Super Bowl spot, a few teaser posters, and some cover stories, details on the show were few and far between—until today, when Amazon unveiled an extensive trailer for Rings of Power. The sneak peek arrives one week before the show holds its Comic-Con panel next week, where we’ll undoubtedly learn even more about the series, which hits Prime Video on September 2.
But for now, the trailer reveals a good bit about just exactly when and where the show will take place within the history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic saga. To help make sense of it all, let’s break down the footage to give you context on what you may have missed. (Mild spoilers from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings book and film series do follow, so skip if you want to enter the show completely cold.)
The two giant trees seen in this screencap are Telperion and Laurelin, aka the Two Trees of Valinor. You may remember Valinor by another name: the Undying Lands, which is where Frodo sails off to with Gandalf, Bilbo, Galadriel, and Elrond at the end of Return of the King, and is basically Tolkien’s version of the Garden of Eden. Everything is beautiful and perfect…until it’s not.
A voiceover from Galadriel (Morfydd Clark, in Cate Blanchett’s old role) provides more context: Her mention that “there had not yet been a sunrise” indicates we’ll see some of Middle Earth’s First Age, as detailed in The Silmarillion. There was no sun in the initial half of the First Age, as it wasn’t created until the second half by a Middle-Earth god known as the Valar. Perhaps the series will begin with a Fellowship of the Ring-style prologue covering that First Age, establishing where we are when events in the Second Age begin? For reference: The events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit take place during Middle Earth’s Third Age.
The Second Age spans about 3,441 years and was (briefly) covered in that opening Fellowship montage. This period is defined by two significant events: the Fall of Númenor (more on that shortly) and the initial defeat of Sauron. The latter is shown extensively in that Fellowship prologue, while the former hasn’t made it to screen—until now.
As the trailer cycles through a montage of the various Middle Earth kingdoms—the elves, the dwarves, and men—we appear to be missing hobbits. Except we’re not, as the trailer later introduces the ancestors of the hobbits: the harfoots. In the Second Age, hobbits were nomadic and intensely focused on caring for one another. (And, like their hobbit descendants, it looks like they also know how to throw a party.) Markella Kavenagh’s harfoot character Nori mentions being “safe,” as the Second Age is at a peaceful lull after the defeat of Morgoth—the first big bad of Middle Earth. But who was Morgoth’s second-in-command? Sauron.
As young Elrond (Robert Aramayo, stepping in for Hugo Weaving) speaks to Galadriel, he urges her to “put up her sword” after hunting down the remaining of Morgoth’s forces. Galadriel still believes there to be evil among these lands, and she’ll be proven right when Sauron returns later in the Second Age.
Elrond and Galadriel go back and forth before cutting away to what appears to be a mass slaughter of elves, floating underwater with a sinister red shadow lingering over them. Could that light be coming from a tower? Perhaps even one of the titular Two Towers? This could be a vision of future Galadriel experiences, indicating the creation of the Barad-dûr tower in Mordor. Per The Silmarillion, the assembly of this fortress is one of the initial signs of Sauron’s return and fledgling power.
However, this may also be a flashback to a First Age event —The First Kinslaying—in which two groups of elves clashed in an epic battle. But, considering the water-based nature, it also could be a vision of the drowning of the aforementioned Númenor…
This is a more extensive look at Númenor, an Atlantis-like city of men that is doomed to fall, a tragic milestone of the Second Age. The how and why of that fall is better left unsaid, as it will be a major focus of Rings of Power.
Here’s our first good look at a Númenorian sailor portrayed by Maxim Baldry. Only that’s not any ordinary seaman—it’s none other than Isildur. You may remember Isildur as the legendary warrior who defeats Sauron, only to be corrupted by the Ring of Power itself. At this point in the story, however, Isildur seems to be a far cry from his doomed fate.
“This could be the beginning of a new era,” the dwarven Prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur) exclaims. The gem-like stone in his hand is none other than Mithril, which serves as the base for an armor that critically saves Frodo’s life inside Moria in Fellowship. There’s a level of tragedy here, too; the greedy hunt for more Mithril eventually causes the dwarves to unleash the dreaded Balrog, leading to the destruction and then abandonment of Khazad-dûm.
Amongst Lord of the Rings obsessives, there’s been a lot of conversation around Daniel Weyman’s mysterious meteor man. Unfortunately, Amazon isn’t revealing who the character is, which is causing lots of wild speculation, including the prevailing thought that he’s Sauron—or, at least, some version of Sauron. When Sauron returns in the Second Age, he does so under the guise of Annatar, who becomes known as the “Lord of Gifts” for all the knowledge and insight he brings. His trickery and cunning as Annatar is what allows him to sow seeds of discontent between elves, dwarves, and men, leading to the end of the Second Age. Even if this isn’t Sauron, the trailer is positioning him to appear to be the dark lord, so we’ll have to wait and see what the truth is when Rings of Power debuts.