The Rings Of Power Showrunners Wrote Most Of Season 2 Before Season 1 Aired

In a lot of ways, it can feel like we're living in a time when the boundaries between fan and artist barely even exist anymore. For better or worse (mostly for worse), social media has allowed viewers to provide near-instantaneous feedback on all manner of movies, shows, and other media the second that they air. In the best case scenario, this ease of access can help underdog movies like "Everything Everywhere All At Once" turn into pop culture touchstones through word-of-mouth. At its worst, however, it can result in major studios bending over backwards to pander to their core fanbases, taking stock of fan reactions to prior installments in real-time and basing future creative choices off of that.

When "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" made its highly anticipated debut, one could hardly navigate online circles without being inundated with loud and incredibly vocal responses to the series. Given how much fervor certain plot developments inspired among both dissenting viewers and passionate fans alike — everything involving Galadriel and Halbrand, Durin and Disa's power couple energy, the mystery surrounding the Stranger, etc. — it stands to reason that some would be concerned about whether audience reactions to season 1 as a whole might dictate the direction of season 2 and all the rest to come afterwards.

In a new interview with Vanity Fair, creators and showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay poured some cold water over that idea. According to Payne:

"In terms of how [viewer reactions] impacted season 2, we wrote most of season 2 before season 1 came out. We're refining the last bits of it now as we're starting to shoot. But really, the cake was kind of baked before the audience response came in."

'I wouldn't say we're over-correcting for any of it'

As artists, there can be a delicate balance between taking audience feedback into account versus staying laser-focused on the needs of the story above all else. Too much in one direction or the other can spell doom for any given production, leading to empty calorie entertainment that merely gives people nothing except what they want or stubborn manifestos that alienate their audiences without even realizing it. Those challenges are magnified even more with a property as popular and well-known as "The Lord of the Rings," which the team on "The Rings of Power" were fully aware of when they got the job.

Payne goes on in the interview to describe that very same issue, assuring fans that their good-faith engagement is being taken into account ... to a point. According to Payne:

"Certainly, you look at audience response, and you see what characters people love, and what kinds of storytelling moves them. I wouldn't say we're over-correcting for any of it, but we're certainly listening to people's responses."

That's not to say that the showrunners believe season 1 was infallible, however. Payne acknowledges that the majority of responses ended up aligning with the creative team's own viewpoints on both strengths and weaknesses.

"Other than the extremes, which can be very loud — whether it's people who are like love, love, love, or people who hate, hate, hate — generally, when you sift through the noise, I think we feel that people see the same show we do. And the things we love, they love. And the things we know maybe, 'Oh, we got away with it there. We've got to do better next time,' were things people called us on."

"The Rings of Power" is currently streaming on Prime Video.