Amazon’s long-gestating Middle-earth set project is looming in the autumn, and this week we got a look at some character posters. They aren’t much, just shots of torsos and hands that give us an idea of the show’s aesthetic. There’s cool armor, berries, and it’s anyone’s guess as to which one is Hot Sauron (as he was before the Last Alliance). There are some questions too; there’s a hilt with a carved horse on it that harkens to Rohan, which is odd because the show supposedly takes place around the Fall of Númenor and the Last Alliance, which marks the end of the Second Age, around 1,200 years before Rohan was founded proper.
So is my Tolkien-loving self deeply curious about the show? Oh, you know it; I wrote about it on this blog four years ago (and hey, these posters and the cast seem a few measures more diverse than the movies). And why wouldn’t I be? It’s more Middle-earth! But that curiosity is tempered with caution, because, well, we don’t really know what the show’s going to be about.
Yes, we’ve got the Fall of Númenor, and the title suggests the forging of the Rings will be part of it (which, brings up timing questions, since the One Ring was forged 1,700 years before the Fall of Númenor), but beyond that, we don’t know too much. The Fall of Númenor suggests that we might see Ar-Pharazôn’s corruption and war against the Valar, which lead to the Changing of the World. Out of that tragedy, Elendil came to Gondor and, a hundred years later, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men’s war on Sauron. If they take that course, there’s a redemption story there; the folly of Men and a radical campaign of atonement. The question is how they do it.
The tone and spirit of The Lord of The Rings and Tolkien’s other work are very, very specific. Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy was able to perfectly distill it, and in so doing created a beautiful counterpart of the novels. The recent video games, particularly Shadow of War, went hard into the grimdark of it all and made something that did not feel like the Legendarium at all. There’s a strong sense of right and wrong, of beauty and ugliness, in Tolkien’s work. The rebellion of Fëanor and the Elves in The Silmarillion is not a cool moment to be envied, it’s deeply tragic and mournful. Similarly, though there’s a lot of war in the stories, it is never glorious in and of itself, but a desperate act to defend that which is loved.
Do I want to see a tv show about the pride of Númenor and the Last Alliance? Oh totally. Do I want to see Gil-galad fight the power of Mordor with Aeglos? Hell yes. But with it all I want it to feel like Tolkien’s stories. I don’t want some gritty Game of Thrones-light, I want heroes and hope and tragic failings. I want more Tolkien.
And yes, of course, give me Gil-galad (I think that’s him in the silver armor).