Set in the Second Age of Middle-earth's history, thousands of years before the events of J.R.R Tolkien's — and Peter Jackson's film trilogy — The Lord of the Rings, Prime Video's The Rings of Power from JD Payne and Patrick McKay brings to the screens a golden era of the kingdoms in Arda carving out their legacies, before the forging of the legendary rings gives rise to Dark Lord Sauron.
At the center of the epic is Elven commander and royal, Galadriel (Morfydd Clark). Thousands of years before Galadriel becomes the mightiest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth (portrayed in the films by Cate Blanchett), the youngest child of Finarfin, prince of the Noldor, makes it her life's mission to finish her brother's quest against Morgoth, the mighty creature from which all evil in Middle-earth stems. But years into her relentless crusade, when the seemingly fruitless hunt for Morgoth falls off High King of the Elves Gil-galad's (Benjamin Walker) agenda, Galadriel must reassess her calling.
As the Second Age marks the founding of the Elven political capital of Lindon, The Rings of Power finds the elves currently pouring their efforts into elevating their status by building enormous cities and a Valinor (the paradise from which they hail) on earth.
"The search for creative and scientific advancement is what drives my area," says Charles Edwards, who portrays Celebrimbor, an Elven craftsman from Eregion, the realm of the Elven smiths. "That's something that Tolkien always gently implies to the reader that he's a little mistrustful of. Not necessarily of creation per se, but of creation for gain, creation for anything other than beauty. When you get greedy — or start using machinery to do stuff that interferes with nature — that's what Tolkien is mistrustful of. And Elves are certainly party to a bit of science and technology."
To elevate the Elves to heights unlike any seen before, Celebrimbor tasks young Elven statesman Elrond (Robert Aramayo) with forging a working relationship with the Dwarves in neighboring Khazad-dûm, as the rising politician has a rare existing relationship with Dwarven prince Durin IV (Owain Arthur).
"Celebrimbor wants a bit of Durin's workforce over in Eregion," explains Edwards. "Tolkien says that, in the Second Age, Elves and Dwarves would never have achieved what they both achieved without the help of the other."
The Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, says Arthur, are a people primarily driven by profit, but according to Sophia Nomvete, who plays Durin's wife Princess Disa, there is a deeper purpose to their love of money.
"It is what is in the best interest for the kingdom," she explains. "We are seeing them in a position of power, and they are leading and protecting Khazad-dûm. What drives us is our people. Ultimately, they are a real community, one of the working-class races of Middle-earth. Survival drives them."
Long before there were Hobbits, there were their ancestors the Harfoots — a nomadic community that travel barefoot throughout the seasons and live inside portable homes.
"They have carts, which are their homes, and they literally carry their homes on their backs," explains Sara Zwangobani, who portrays Harfoot matriarch Marigold Brandyfoot. "They also have a very specific set of rules, which ensure everybody's safety and [are] very important in order to keep the community going and keep them alive."
Defying those rules out of youthful rebellion is Elanor "Nori" Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh), whose curiosity often gets the best of her.
"Nori grapples with responsibility she carries and her dedication of family, and also with what she would love to do, which is adventure and investigating the unknown," says Kavenagh. "That's something I feel we all can relate to in some way — the wanting to do what you want to do and the expectations from external forces and external parties."
The Second Age is known from the Tolkien legendarium as the Age of Númenor, a great island nation of Men ruled by Queen-regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson). But the first humans encountered on this epic journey belong to a far more modest tribal society. Human healer and single mother Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and her son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) hail from the rural village of Tirharad, where a sudden external threat places her family, the fellow villagers, and the Elves that have been tasked with protecting their village in danger.
As neither Bronwyn nor Theo hail from the original works of Tolkien, their journey remains one of the greatest mysteries of the series. But the creators and showrunners, who are also Tolkien enthusiasts, promise that they remain as loyal as they can to the spirit of the source material.
"Part of the fun of that is we didn't feel like we were creating it," says McKay. "We felt like we were discovering it and piecing together this grand puzzle. Whenever we felt like it was a character or a world or a story that was engaging, we felt like we were hopefully on the right track."
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power streams Fridays