Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings spin-off is set during the Second Age of Middle-earth, which takes place thousands of years before the War of the Ring we all know and love. As a result, while you might recognize some of the locations, most of the show’s main cast will be brand new.
You won’t see any hobbits in Amazon’s series. Heroes like Aragorn, Gimli, Eowyn, and Boromir haven’t been born yet. During the Second Age, Gandalf is a disembodied spirit who hangs out in Valinor, realm of the gods, and not the cantankerous old wizard you’ve come to know and love. Luckily, a rich backstory should give the creators plenty to work with when it comes to new faces.
But many of Middle-earth’s residents live for a very long time, and a few characters that you know very well played important roles during the Second Age. Whether it’s a featured part or a brief cameo, there are several key Lord of the Rings characters who could show up in Amazon’s billion-dollar TV show. These familiar faces could go a long way in making Amazon’s series a bona fide hit.
If there’s one Lord of the Rings character who’s all but assured to appear in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings spin-off, it’s the Dark Lord himself. During the Second Age, Sauron disguised himself as a lord named Annatar and learned the Elves’ ring-making secrets. That’s when he forged the One Ring, rose to power, and built his headquarters in Mordor. The Elves retaliated, and The War of the Elves and Sauron consumed Middle-earth, changing its landscape forever.
However, we speculate Amazon’s show is going to focus on what happens after all that. The Second Age’s biggest story is the rise and fall of Númenor, a star-shaped island off the coast of Middle-earth. While the Valar (i.e. the gods) gave Númenor to Men as a gift, the Númenóreans grew jealous of the Valar and the immortal Elves over time. Eventually, they decided to claim everlasting life for themselves.
That’s when Sauron made his big move. Adapting a less monstrous visage, Sauron schemed his way into becoming an adviser to Númenor’s king, Ar-Pharazôn, and founded a human-sacrificing cult devoted to Morgoth, Sauron’s former master. Eventually, Sauron convinced Ar-Pharazôn to invade the Valar’s home, Valinor, directly. The Valar responded by sinking the island of Númenor.
Númenor’s slow decline could easily support a five-season TV series. It’s basically a Game of Thrones-style intrigue set in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Virtually everything that goes wrong during the Second Age is Sauron’s fault, and it will be shocking if he doesn’t play a major part on Amazon’s show.
You probably know Isildur best as the doofus who cuts off Sauron’s finger during The Fellowship of the Ring‘s prologue, claims the One Ring for himself, then later dies and drops it in a river, leaving it for Smeagol (don’t call him Gollum) to find. In reality, Isildur is a lot more important to Middle-earth’s history. Isildur built Minas Ithil, which later becomes the Ringwraith’s home base. He even co-founded Osgiliath, Gondor’s capital city, and served as Gondor’s second king.
He’s also a vital part of Númenor’s story. Isildur was born 110 years before Númenor fell (Númenóreans are mortal, but they live for a long, long time), and was one of the few Men who resisted Sauron’s influence. When Sauron ordered his followers to cut down Nimloth, a white tree that served as a symbol of the friendship between Elves and Men, Isildur risked his life to save a piece of its fruit. Later, the sapling that grew from those seeds became the symbol of Gondor.
Along with his father, Isildur helped all of the uncorrupted Númenóreans escape before the island sank, and captained one of the nine ships that brought the Faithful to Middle-earth.
If Amazon’s Lord of the Rings show needs a young, noble, Jon Snow-type hero, Isildur is the guy. Seeing how the Isildur-Sauron rivalry began would be an excellent source of drama, and knowing how Isildur’s story ends could make it a top-tier tragedy. In other words, great TV.
While the bulk of the Second Age’s action takes place on Númenor, Middle-earth’s Elves are busy during this time period too, including Elrond the Half-elven. When Sauron, disguised as Annatar, tried to infiltrate Elvish society, Elrond sent him packing. During The War of the Elves and Sauron, Elrond led a band of refugees to a safe haven called Imladris, better known as Rivendell.
Elrond was on the front lines during the War of the Last Alliance, when the Elves and Men teamed up to cast Sauron out of Mordor, ending the Second Age. He was there when Isildur cut off Sauron’s finger, and in the aftermath, advised Ilsidur to destroy the One Ring. Isildur refused, of course. We all know what happened next.
Elrond has strong ties to Númenor, too: The island’s first king, Elros, was Elrond’s twin brother. As the sons of an Elf and a human, Elrond and Elros could live as either race. Elrond chose immortality, while Elros chose the Gift of Man. Thousands of years later, Elrond influenced Númenórean history again. Aragorn, a direct descendant of the Númenórean faithful, married Elrond’s daughter, Arwen, who had to make a similar choice between her Elvish and human heritage.
Galadriel isn’t that important to the Númenor saga, but she crosses paths with some of the major players a few times and she’s one of the most powerful figures in The Lord of the Rings. It’s not inconceivable that Amazon will find a way to work her into the series.
As the wielder of one of the three Elvish Rings of Power, Galadriel is intimately involved when Sauron reveals his treachery and puts on the One Ring, and she spends most of the Second Age keeping her ring’s whereabouts secret from the Dark Lord. Galadriel’s husband, Celeborn, delivered Nimloth, the white tree that Sauron destroyed, to Númenor. Galadriel could’ve been present at that exchange, too.
If Elrond ends up involved in Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings show, Galadriel might follow: During the Second Age, Elrond fell in love with and married Galadriel and Celeborn’s daughter. Like we said, it’s minor stuff. Still, if Cate Blanchett is up for a quick cameo? Amazon will absolutely take it.
Any good villain needs a henchman. Sauron has nine of them. Whether you call them Black Riders, Ringwraiths, or Nazgûl, Sauron’s shadowy servants are among the most frightening creatures in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, and they could cause havoc in the spin-off, too.
After forging the One Ring — but before infiltrating Númenor — Sauron corrupted nine “mortal men, doomed to die” via the Rings of Power. Tolkien’s text never says that the Nazgûl were involved in Númenor’s downfall, but it never says they weren’t, either. In fact, many Tolkien scholars (yes, that’s a thing) believe that the Black Riders’ leader, who became known as the Witch-King of Angmar during the Third Age, was actually a Númenórean lord.
If the fall of Númenor is the focus of Amazon’s series, a fully-fledged Witch-King origin story won’t fit in the timeline. Still, the lead Black Rider’s ties to Númenor could give him a personal stake in the story — one that would make him even more dangerous. Don’t be too surprised if the Ringwraiths help Sauron manipulate things behind the scenes.