The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power: 5 Things We Learned From The Comic-Con Panel

Almost five years in the making and with fifty total hours of story set to arrive on our television screens in the years ahead, the pressure was on for Prime Video's "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" to deliver on its highly-anticipated panel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con. Any J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation comes with a built-in fervor for live-action material that will do justice to the influential fantasy author's beloved work and live up to the vastly outsized expectations that seemingly everyone has built up over the years.

While viewers will have to wait until September of this year to uncover all the secrets at the heart of the new series, moderator Stephen Colbert, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, and the ensemble cast of the series all converged on San Diego for a wide-ranging and always-entertaining series of conversations about what lies in store. Here's everything we learned from "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" and everything you need to know.

You might be surprised by how much this resembles the Peter Jackson movies

One of the most pressing questions at the forefront for many fans has to do with just how much the inescapable influence of "The Lord of the Rings" will factor into "The Rings of Power." To be clear, despite including a few of the same characters seen in the prior franchise (most notably, the elven lords Elrond and Galadriel), this series takes place in a continuity entirely separate from what we've seen before. Yet one look at certain members of the show's creative team can't help but raise a few eyebrows. Longtime Tolkien artist John Howe and composer Howard Shore are returning after their work on the original trilogy, bringing a sense of continuity (if not literally, then at least in spirit) that helps bridge the two projects.

But will that go even further than fans previously thought? Much of the footage presented during this panel pointed towards this somewhat unexpected development. Based on the tone, the general production and creature design, and the sense of operatic drama on display, those who are most familiar with "The Lord of the Rings" and even "The Hobbit" movies may find a tangible common thread in the finer details of "The Rings of Power."

Our first fleeting glimpse of what seems like the Dark Lord Sauron bears an uncanny resemblance to his distinctive gothic armor seen in the prologue of "The Fellowship of the Ring." The dwarven look and aesthetic borrow heavily from that of the dozen dwarves featured in "The Hobbit" trilogy. And in the biggest reveal in the newly released trailer, the fire-spewing monster Balrog looks exactly like the one seen in "Fellowship."

In other words, be sure to strap in for another marathon of "The Lord of the Rings" before the new series debuts in September.

This is a story about vibrancy and loss

When most viewers were introduced to the world of Middle-earth through Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," the early scenes set in the idyllic countryside of the Shire painted a somewhat misleading picture of a utopia. As our heroes ventured further and further from home, however, their surroundings quickly devolved into an ancient, crumbling, and decaying Middle-earth, seemingly in its death throes.

One of the biggest points of emphasis during "The Rings of Power" panel indicated that the new series would take place in a world both familiar and very different. Set in the Second Age, thousands of years before the events of "The Lord of the Rings” during the Third Age, viewers will get to witness a version of Middle-earth at the absolute peak of its majesty. Previously established characters like Elrond and Galadriel are younger and more energetic, never-before-seen locales (and some we have seen, like the Dwarven kingdom that will eventually become the Mines of Moria) reflect flawlessly constructed and impeccably maintained cities, and a sense of vibrancy and life pervades the entire proceedings ... until things go wrong.

Showrunner Patrick McKay alluded to the original trilogy as a story set in a post-apocalyptic world, implying that we'll get to see exactly how that world will eventually come to resemble a ruined and downfallen land. This is still a Tolkien story, after all. The series won't skimp on thrilling acts of heroism, but tragedy tends to lurk just beyond the next corner.

Amazon may have the rights to more Tolkien material than you think

The ambition of a new series expanding on Tolkien's vast library of lore and mythology has always run into one particularly pesky obstacle: the rights to "The Silmarillion," essentially the author's painstakingly crafted legendarium of every age of Middle-earth, seem to remain completely off-limits under the protective custody of the Tolkien Estate for any would-be adaptations. With "The Rings of Power," the creative team will largely pull from the appendices that Tolkien affixed to the end of "The Return of the King" novel. Mostly a collection of historical events rather than a proper narrative, the task fell to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay to turn those notes into a full-fledged story.

While that might seem to have limited their storytelling choices — the showrunners acknowledged that they invented quite a bit of brand-new material — Payne also alluded to Amazon buying the rights to "thousands" of years of Middle-earth history, some of which seems to have been put into practice during the new trailer footage. Additionally, an assortment of other Tolkien novels set in the same period of history, such as "The Unfinished Tales," also seem very much up for grabs. Rest assured: the writers repeatedly returned to the various texts at their disposal to ensure a high degree of faithfulness to the source material.

In short, expect to see more adaptations of Tolkien's writings in "Rings of Power" than you may have expected.

Don't expect to learn the identity of the Meteor Man for some time

From a creative perspective, the specific timeline and setting of "The Rings of Power" offered the opportunity to delve into never-before-seen concepts and introduce something new to our well-established conception of what Middle-earth "should" look and feel like. We'll get to meet new characters, new locations, and new fantastical circumstances that the movies never had the ability to show. One such ongoing mystery that has driven more than its fair share of rampant speculation online goes back to that flaming meteor seen throughout the trailers and the mysterious man who emerges from the crater. The internet has dubbed him the "Meteor Man," but the character himself has been billed as "The Stranger" (played by Daniel Weyman).

Is he a wizard, perhaps Gandalf himself or one of the "Blue Wizards" that Tolkien only ever hinted at in his writings? Could this be the origins of Tom Bombadil, the quirky and divisive book-only figure who waltzes his way into the early stages of "The Fellowship of the Ring" and just as quickly departs? Is it someone else entirely, a completely unknown character who will play some hidden role to be revealed late in the season? Unlike the rest of the cast, Daniel Weyman had to keep everything close to the chest and offer up nothing but non-answers regarding who his character is and the nature of his purpose.

The secrecy only further suggests a significant role to come, heightened further by the exclusive clip showing the inquisitive Harfoots Nori (Markella Kavenagh) and Poppy (Megan Richards) coming across the Stranger's crash-landing. In short, stay tuned, folks.

Nerds, stay on the lookout for Easter eggs and deep-cut references

If you thought taking on the immense responsibility of shepherding a multi-million dollar production with multiple seasons already in the works was pressure-packed enough, then multiply that by a hundred for a property with as voracious and knowledgeable a fanbase as "The Lord of the Rings." Only a highly selective group of fans could look at the incredible craft and attention to detail and unfathomable resources poured into such a project ... only to stand up during a Comic-Con audience Q&A and ask the showrunners to explain the apparently unforgivable sin of Galadriel's armor insignia paying homage to the "wrong" figure for an elf with her lineage. (For anyone worried about this little "controversy," don't worry: Morfyyd Clark assured that there's an explanation for this.)

To their credit, however, the "Rings of Power" team has faced this challenge head-on and even gone so far as to pack in all sorts of exciting concepts, creatures, and references that will surely please even the most demanding of viewers. During the panel, the cast and crew teased all sorts of tidbits that will send hardcore fans into a tizzy. Those long-lost Ent-wives that the ancient creature Treebeard briefly talks about in "The Two Towers"? Payne suggests that we may have already seen them in the marketing of "The Rings of Power." Dwarf women? Yep, they'll have facial hair. Oh, and those loathsome orcs, the ubiquitous army of villains in the story? One tantalizing clip shown to those in attendance revealed that they will be physically harmed by sunlight.

Through it all, it's clear that we've hardly scratched the surface of what "The Rings of Power" has to offer.