The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Has Five Seasons Already Mapped Out

If you ask me, the idea of filmmakers planning out the overall arc of a story is given a little too much weight these days. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is commonly held up as a poster child of a studio knowing exactly what each movie was building to ... but that's actually not accurate at all, given the fact that many involved with the franchise have admitted to improvising on the fly when needed. As much as the recent "Star Wars" films have been derided because of Lucasfilm not knowing what direction to take the overall sequel trilogy, I'll die on the hill that they didn't need some master plan — they just needed to hire the right directors who understood how to jump on board a moving train and evolve the story in compelling ways (like Rian Johnson).

Television is obviously a much different beast than film, but I'd argue that much of the same applies here, as well. "Breaking Bad" and "Better Call Saul" co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould are famous for writing themselves into corners, without having any clear plan to follow, and forcing themselves to find the most creative and narratively satisfying solutions.

That brings us to the newest batch of quotes from JD Payne and Patrick McKay, the showrunner duo behind "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" series. Prime Video has released a few fresh looks at the upcoming epic today, but the latest information (along with a new image) from Empire might be the most fascinating yet, as we now know to officially expect five seasons of this new series.

'We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be'

Set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, long before the events seen in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" trilogies, "The Rings of Power" is apparently taking the scenic route towards telling its particular version of the story that's loosely adapted from author J.R.R. Tolkien's writings found in the appendices of "The Return of the King." That roadmap apparently includes stipulations for five seasons and 50 hours of story, total. As JD Payne told Empire:

"The rights that Amazon bought were for a 50-hour show. They knew from the beginning that was the size of the canvas — this was a big story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. There are things in the first season that don't pay off until Season 5."

"We even know what our final shot of the last episode is going to be," Payne remarks. Now, personally I tend to prefer an approach that involves throwing in every potentially great idea into the mix right from the outset, rather than "saving" anything for later installments down the line. In its prime, "Lost" might be one of the best examples of a series where the creators had absolutely no idea what their final destination would be ... but still made the journey to that endpoint as thrilling and entertaining as it could possibly be.

And for those about to cite the show's disappointing final season, allow me to point to "Game of Thrones" as a counterexample of a series where the creators knew exactly what the ending had in store, yet fumbled the conclusion anyway.

'Tolkien put some stars in the sky and let us make out the constellations'

Of course, the biggest concern of Tolkien purists revolves around whether the story will stay faithful to the author's original writings. As much as the details of this new story told in "The Rings of Power" will be brand-new additions to Tolkien lore, the showrunners are insistent that viewers will have nothing to worry about. They took their cues directly from someone who once admitted that his story was meant to be carried on by others long after he was gone. According to Patrick McKay:

"It was like Tolkien put some stars in the sky and let us make out the constellations. In his letters [particularly in one to his publisher], Tolkien talked about wanting to leave behind a mythology that 'left scope for other minds and hands, wielding the tools of paint, music and drama.' We're doing what Tolkien wanted. As long as we felt like every invention of ours was true to his essence, we knew we were on the right track."

Obviously, much of this will be in the eye of the beholder once the series finally debuts. But to hear McKay tell it, they found comfort in knowing that they were merely caretakers. "The pressure would drive us insane if we didn't feel like there was a story here that didn't come from us. It comes from a bigger place. It came from Tolkien and we're just the stewards of it. We trust those ideas so deeply, because they're not ours. We're custodians, at best."

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" will debut on Prime Video on September 2, 2022.