There’s a Lord of the Rings TV show on the way. Yes, surfing in on the significant tide of fantasy shows created by Game of Thrones, this new interpretation of Tolkien’s works will generate a brand new story set before the events of Fellowship of the Ring. Amazon is bankrolling it as an exclusive for its Instant Video streaming service, and the retail / media giant has already committed to a multi-season deal. Clearly, then, it’s an ambitious project. But what do we actually know about it? Um, very little. However, we can sensibly speculate on the stories it’ll tell by digging deep into the (dwarven) mines of the lore. What follows are some of the most likely characters and plots the TV show will follow although, in truth, it may include ALL of these if the budget and vision is big enough. There will almost certainly be a mixture of a few of them.
Aragorn’s ranging and his relationship with Arwen
This is where the hot money currently is. Aragorn’s life before his mysterious appearance at The Prancing Pony is a great unknown. We hear that he’s ‘a ranger’ and we know that his adventures are constantly linked to Elrond’s group of elves, where he eventually fell in love with Arwen. There’s enough structure here to make Aragorn’s story relatable to Rings fans, but heaps of creative license to work with: he’s already had a long life before the movies, he seems to know all the evil creatures they face, and there’s a pre-built romance ready to explore. And, let’s face it, everyone loves a handsome rogue.
The casting of Aragorn will be key, and most rugged, beardy actors have already appeared in Game of Thrones. If you’re looking for a bit of a star casting, someone like Alex Pettyfer or Nicholas Hoult could probably carry off a young Viggo Mortensen. Crucially, neither have been in Thrones.
Boromir and Faramir’s youth
The next most obvious choice would be to simply show us the realm of men, and where better to set the whole show than Gondor? The movies show off a small portion of Boromir and Faramir’s life shortly before the events of Fellowship, and there are some scenes in the extended edition that are set right at the end of the battle to reclaim Osgiliath. However, the rest of these brothers’ lives are largely undocumented on the screen. Imagine seeing them as young men, battling orcs, defying their father, and chasing women around the incredible city of Minas Tirith? This story is ripe for a TV show.
The only slight snag with this plan is… Sean Bean. See, as well as playing Boromir in Lord of the Rings, he also appears as Ned Stark in season 1 of Thrones. No, Bean won’t appear in the Rings TV show, but it’d be tough to play young Boromir too differently to young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones. Why? Sean Bean’s performance as both Ned and Boromir are - shall we say - very consistent. Maybe the show would want to play on that but, more likely, it’d want to keep a healthy distance from Thrones to maintain its own identity.
The life and death of Theodred, son of Theoden
We know from the start of The Two Towers that Theodred, the son of King Theoden or Rohan, is dead. We witness his funeral. What lead him to that point? All we really know is that he died fighting orcs when Saruman’s army began burning villages in the West Fold… The rest of his life is open to interpretation, although it’d definitely involve plenty of scenes with Eomer. While he’s a relatively minor character, this could really work to this plot-line’s advantage. It’s tied neatly to the core Lord of the Rings plot, but there’s loads of room for creativity. It’s implied that Theodred is a decent warrior, and he’d have a kingdom to play around in too.
The downside is that he’s mentioned all too briefly in the movies, and Rohan feels quite secondary to Gondor in the human pecking order. Plus, the region of Rohan also feels… very Game of Thrones; very middle-Westeros. Focusing on it could make the two shows a little too similar.
Smeagol and his relationship with The Ring
It’s almost certain we’ll see Smeagol in the TV show. He’s the most recognisable character from the entire Tolkien universe, and is at the heart of both the main trilogy and the Hobbit movies. His transformation from river-loving young man to twisted monster (upon finding and keeping The One Ring) is explored in the movies, but never really detailed. So, there is some potential here to learn more about Smeagol’s past and all the terrible things he does to keep hold of the ring.
However, yeah, it’d be very limiting to focus exclusively on Smeagol, and his tale simply couldn’t support a multi-season run on its own. Expect him to appear, certainly, in some kind of weird ‘they were so close to the ring of power, but didn’t know it’ episode (or two) but it seems likely the bulk of the show will be elsewhere.
Isildur and his failure to destroy The Ring
Bit of an outlier this… but what if the show went right back to the end of the third age / start of the fourth age of men? Where the armies of men and elves fight Sauron to stop him destroying middle-earth? There’s a hugely rich history here, and we already know some of the characters: Isildur, Elrond, and Galadriel were all there when the alliance failed to destroy the ring of power first time around. Where the strength of men failed.
This concept would have to lean heavily on those characters, and the Ring itself, which might make it too similar to the movies. Plus, setting the story so long ago severely reduces the number of cameos and Easter eggs you can cram into the show, which I’m betting the showrunners are eager to do. There are better ideas available, but this would totally work in theory.
Gandalf’s adventures between The Hobbit and The Fellowship
The timeline here is a little limited, but Gandalf could easily carry a multi-season TV show on his own. Perhaps you could take the time before The Hobbit into account too, although that period may stray a little too far from the movies for comfort. We know Gandalf was once ‘friends’ with Saruman, so it’d be interesting to see those two properly adventuring as younger wizards, and we know from the books that Gandalf has been around for an entire age. Certainly gives the showrunners heaps of material to work with.
It’s unlikely to be pure Gandalf, though. There’s no real chance for a proper romance, and the wizards are generally too noble to be much fun. If this is a rival to Thrones it’d need heaps of sex and violence to make an impact, and the guys in long cloaks and pointy hats just won’t give you that. Expect a handful of wizards - most likely Gandalf and Saruman - to feature heavily in a broader core concept. Who would play Gandalf? Someone like Tom Hiddleston would do nicely.
More Bilbo anyone?
Ok, feels like this last one is a bit thin. We’ve already had a couple of Hobbit-based adventures and, while they’re charming, we’re all a bit tired of the little hairy-footed do-gooders by now. Expect Bilbo to feature - if only via a name-drop and a quick cameo - but the chances of this show following any Hobbit is fairly slim.
If they did? There’s a little mileage in Bilbo’s story between the Hobbit and Fellowship - he does go on other adventures, and they would bring together a bunch of the races and characters we all know and love.