Why I'm (even more) worried about The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 2

Filming wrapped on the second season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power nearly a year ago. Why have we heard basically nothing official about what's coming?
Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor)
Morfydd Clark (Galadriel), Charles Edwards (Celebrimbor) /

The story is nigh-legendary by this point. In 2017, when HBO's Game of Thrones was barreling towards an ending, then Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave marching orders to his lieutenants working at Amazon Prime Video, the company's streaming arm: bring me that. He wanted a massive hit on the level of Game of Thrones, a huge epic fantasy that would enrapture viewers at home.

Amazon puts its eggs in a few different baskets. For one, it snagged the rights to adapt Robert Jordan's beloved Wheel of Time books into a TV show; the first season aired in 2021 and the second in 2023. But the big investment was The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a series set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth.

The Rings of Power is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before The Lord of the Rings story most of us know, with Frodo and Gollum and the One Ring and all that. (Although a few characters from the classic trilogy are still around on account of them being immortal elves.) Amazon shelled out a ton of money to make the show; Collider tallies the total cost of the first season to be $462 million, which works out to $58 million for each of the eight episodes. That's well beyond what even Game of Thrones cost to make in its final and most expensive season, when episodes cost around $15 million apiece.

Amazon was betting big on The Rings of Power being huge. To get as many eyeballs on the show as possible, the company advertised everywhere, even on Amazon packages; I still remember getting deliveries wrapped in Rings of Power packaging. The show finally kicked off with a two-episode premiere on September 1, 2022, and the response was...fine.

The Rings of Power certainly found its fanbase — it was in no way a flop — but the response likely wasn't as positive as Amazon would have liked, with fans consistently rating new episodes of Rings below new episodes of HBO's Game of Thrones prequel show House of the Dragon, which was airing its first season at the same time. The second season of House of the Dragon returns for a second season next month, and HBO is out in force promoting it. The second season of The Rings of Power is allegedly coming out later this year, but we've almost nothing in the way of official promotion, which is strange considering how hard Amazon went in promoting the first.

This has me worried. The more time that passes between new episodes of a show, the easier it is for interest to flag, especially when a studio isn't reminding people why they should pay attention. Was Amazon so put off by the mild response to season 1 that it's downplaying season 2? Have executives seen new episodes and been so disappointed that they've decided not to promote them? The answers to both of those questions could be a firm "No," but in the absence of an official narrative, questions like that will bubble up. And Amazon seems in no hurry to establish an official narrative.


Things start looking more alarming when you lay out the timelines. The cast and crew of The Rings of Power wrapped on filming a long time ago, in July of 2023, before Hollywood actors went on strike. It takes a long time to edit and finish a show as complicated as this, but that means they've been working on it for nearly a year, with nary a peep about what's to come, no interviews with the cast, and no release date. Contrast that with the second season of House of the Dragon, which finished filming in September of last year, went back for reshoots this past February, and is premiering on June 16, with plenty of promotional material to entice fans during the leadup. And not just trailers, either; the cast is hyping up the show at comic cons and HBO is dropping silly little videos with the stars:

Even assuming The Rings of Power is taking an inordinate amount of time to put together, it would behoove Amazon to keep it front and center in people's heads. These days, shows like The Rings of Power and House of the Dragon are so jam-packed with complicated special effects that it's become the norm to wait two years between seasons. But this can erode audience interest. At least HBO is keeping House of the Dragon alive in the minds of viewers while they wait.

That's also true of The Wheel of Time, Amazon's other big fantasy show. The second season of The Wheel of Time finished airing in October of last year, but just lately the cast and crew have been giving interviews to promote their work. We're hearing things about a 2025 release date from reputable outlets, and the official Wheel of Time account on X has been dropping little videos like this one of star Rosamund Pike reading from Robert Jordan's book The Great Hunt:

Filming on The Wheel of Time season 3 finished pretty recently. We won't be seeing new episodes for a while, but at Amazon is doing something to remind us that the show exists. For The Rings of Power, all we have are rumors about locations that might show up in season 2 and a hint from Amazon Studios executive Vernon Sanders that new episodes may air late in 2024. That hint was given in 2022. Who knows what plans Amazon has made in the meantime?

Much more recently, in February, Sanders talked about Amazon's continuing working relationship with The Rings of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne, saying he can't wait for fans to "experience the epic adventure and high-stakes drama that JD and Patrick are continuing to build throughout season two and beyond." That's a nice sentiment, but it is frightfully thin on any kind of detail, to say nothing about a picture, a teaser, a release date, or a word from one of the cast or crew members.

If The Rings of Power does indeed come out in late 2024, it could well be over two full years after the end of the first season, longer than fans had to wait for the second seasons of either House of the Dragon or The Wheel of Time. Put bluntly, it feels weird. It feels weird that fans have to wait this long without official word. For a lot people, that probably just means they'll forget The Rings of Power existed, which will make it that much harder for Amazon to capture their interest when and if the second season ever does come out. For those of us who follow this kind of thing obsessively, it means nerves, worries, and conspiracy theories.

It should have been Wheel

My personal theory is that Amazon knows it has a bit of a turkey on its hands with The Rings of Power, and it's trying to determine how best to sell it to us. I think we will get a second season sooner or later, and probably even a third — Amazon has spent a lot of money on this show and they won't want to leave it unfinished, even if the show operates at a loss — but I'm less certain we'll see the rollout of their initial five-year plan for the show, to say nothing of what they had in mind for afterwards.

I think it's hard not to look at the multitude of big budget fantasy shows on the air right now — House of the Dragon, The Wheel of Time and The Rings of Power — and not compare them. Although the second season could change this — we'll soon see if fans are willing to come back after 19 months away — to me, House of the Dragon is currently in the lead. It successfully recaptured a lot of the magic of Game of Thrones, it delivered taut drama, and HBO is doing a great job of marketing the comeback. The Wheel of Time, too, has been a lot of fun. Not every fan of the books is on board with the changes the show has made, but the series has improved as it's gone on, and the books provide a great foundation.

Despite being the most expensive, The Rings of Power is the least impressive of this trio. Unlike Dragon or Wheel, it doesn't have a meaty source text. Instead, it's based on the appendices to Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which summarize the major events of the Second Age in bullet point form. The show has veered wildly off even that template, to the point where it's hard for diehard Lord of the Rings fans to endorse it. But it also established enough of its own identity to truly stand alone.

I hope The Rings of Power returns to much success and proves me wrong. But right now, it looks like investing in this series was a mistake. I think the studio painted themselves into a corner and that there's no clean way to get out. Were I Jeff Bezos, and if I had a time machine, I would make it so Amazon ignored The Rings of Power and poured all of its resources into The Wheel of Time, a long-running fantasy book series that fans had been waiting decades to see adapted to screen.

Again, I hope I'm wrong. Maybe Amazon will drop a shiny trailer for The Rings of Power season 2 tomorrow and I'll eat my words whole. But I think the complete lack of promotion for The Rings of Power season 2 indicates that something is amiss. As for what it is, we'll have to wait and see.

dark. Next. Game of Thrones: Every war in Westeros history, in chronological order. Game of Thrones: Every war in Westeros history, in chronological order

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