Amazon’s Lord of the Rings is going to serious lengths (like locking writers in a room) to prevent spoilers, but details keep slipping out about the TV series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic high fantasy book series. That includes the $1 billion price tag, which blew the mind of movie-version Frodo, Elijah Wood. In 2018, it was revealed by the Hollywood Reporter that Amazon made a five-season commitment in order to secure rights from the Tolkien Estate, and now, it seems like these might be some relatively enormous seasons.
In other words, Amazon’s taking the word “epic” quite literally, especially when one considers the streaming trend towards seasons with fewer episodes (generally a dozen at most). Or if one references Game of Thrones as an “epic” cable example, those seasons topped out at ten episodes apiece with the last two being even shorter. Well, a German Tolkien fansite, Deutsche Tolkien, interviewed British literature scholar Tom Shippey, who is serving on Amazon’s creative team in an undisclosed role, according to Deadline. He literally wrote the book (the “definitive guide”) on Tolkien. Although this hasn’t been confirmed, Shippey spilled that there are 20 episodes in the first season:
Logically, you try to bundle all the scenes that take place in one location and film them so that you have it done and don’t have to return to that place several times. But this also implies that everything has to be clear at the start of filming, you have to know the end. There’s supposed to be 20 episodes for the first season. So until they’ve decided what the end is going to be, they can’t start filming.
Yes, that seems like a lot of episodes. Too many, some might say, but as far as a shooting location goes, Shippey didn’t have anything to say about whether the rumored Scotland or New Zealand are on the map. He did, however confirm suspicions that Amazon’s isolated room full of writers are working within the constraints of the Tolkien Estate, which is keeping a “very careful eye” on proceedings and won’t hesitate to whip out the veto pen over every aspect of the series. Do you want more muddled details? Shippey says that the First and Third Ages are considered “off-limits,” and Amazon’s hefty price tag only came with rights to the Second Age. Also, the Tolkien Estate declared that “the main shape of the Second Age” will remain intact.
To translate that into speak that’s a little less nerdy, Amazon has clarified that their series is set in the Second Age and throughout the 3,441-year period leading up to The Fellowship of the Ring. There’s no release date set as of yet, but Amazon’s hoping to start production in 2020 and possibly release in 2021.