Thank God They Didn’t Let The Russo Brothers Make An Aragorn Series
The Rings of Power is on a roll; it’s currently the most-watched TV series on our screens, and fans are frantically theorising as the first season comes to a head. Is Halbrand Sauron? Is The Stranger Gandalf? Why is Gil-galad like that? That story about Mithril cannot be true, surely?
I’ve done my fair share of theorising, too. The show is a big game of Among Us right now, and I think that most of the mortal characters are in for grisly fates. The show has its detractors, mostly from racists and grifters claiming “Tolkien purity” while lifting up the Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens films as if they were in any way canonically accurate. They’re great, but they erase, contradict, and add new elements to most aspects of Tolkien’s books even more than The Rings of Power.
Those of us familiar with Tolkien’s work and not committed to earning a living from hating things are pretty much in agreement and take The Rings of Power for what it is: non-canonical, but pretty good fun. Don’t get me wrong, there’s parts that haven’t worked – if the Mithril story isn’t actually apocryphal I’ll be mighty disappointed – but I’m at the very least waiting to see how the showrunners tie it all together before making my full judgment. After all, the first Hobbit film isn’t terrible, but it remains forever mired to me because of the irredeemable Battle of the Five Armies. Whatever your thoughts about The Rings of Power, however, it could have been so much worse.
A recent interview with The Rings of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne revealed more about the pitching process the duo undertook to get the show off the ground. An insider told The Hollywood Reporter that the Russo brothers, of MCU fame, pitched an Aragorn story set in the Third Age. This would have been an unmitigated disaster, let me explain why.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe once made superhero blockbusters, decent enough action movies that would hold your attention for a couple of hours at a time. Nowadays, however, it seems that every film is released simply to advertise the next. Every satisfying ending and moment of catharsis is replaced by the next reveal. Whether that’s the star of the next movie popping up after the credits or a fan favourite from The Avengers making a cameo, the moments that go viral on social media boil down to, in the words of TheGamer’s Editor-in-Chief Stacey Henley, “hey it’s that guy from that thing!”
That’s what the Aragorn show would have been. Much like there’s not much Second Age Tolkien writing to go on, we know little about Aragorn before the events of The Lord of the Rings. We know he was one of the Dunedain, rangers of the north, and was likely posted around Bree. We also know he helped Gandalf hunt for Gollum after the slimy creature escaped from the dungeons of Mirkwood. I imagine this is when an Aragorn series would take place, or at least culminate.
Anything set in the Third Age is ripe for references. Despite Aragorn’s extended lifespan, most characters we know from The Lord of the Rings would have been alive at this time. I expect we would have met a young Theoden watching Aragorn and his father ride into battle on the plains of Rohan. I imagine we would have seen some Hobbits, too, perhaps even Bilbo. Merry and Pippin could have cameoed as cantankerous toddlers, despite the age gap. Elves, including Thranduil and Legolas, would have featured prominently, and of course Gandalf would have a major role. None of that is necessarily a bad thing, but in the hands of the Russo Brothers I could only imagine it turning into a Middle-earth Cinematic Universe, trudging out average film upon average TV show while underpaying their artists.
You could make these arguments for Galadriel, except she’s simply built different. Tolkien wrote a lot less about her backstory, besides being a warrior in her youth, and the fact that she’s about 8,000 years old to Aragorn’s 87, meaning that a lot more happens in her life – and there are far more gaps to fill.
The Rings of Power might not be to everyone’s tastes, but I think we can unanimously say it has high production values and there is a great level of care put into the show. The costume designers and armourers deserve particular praise in my eyes, but the sets look equally spectacular. Most importantly, the showrunners are filling in the blanks of the Tolkien canon, rather than retelling a story we already know. The Second Age is the perfect canvas for that, as it has the most gaps to fill, but they still need to tread carefully so as not to directly contradict anything Tolkien wrote. It may not be exactly how you imagined the events, but if it doesn’t contradict Tolkien, it’s an acceptable adaptation in my book. Whether you think it’s good or not ultimately doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t change what’s in the books. They’re still there, you can still read them, and they’re still as magical as ever, unchanged by any production.
It would be a lot harder to fill a TV series with adventure if it was based on a young Aragorn. Tolkien’s Third Age timeline is jam packed with canonical events, and Aragorn ultimately didn’t do a lot until just before the fellowship was formed. Besides, with the Russo Brothers at the helm, we would have inevitably had the Aragorn show supplemented by Dain Ironfoot: The Real Story of the Iron Hills, a Faramir and Éowyn ‘will-they-won’t-they’ sitcom, and Young Theoden.
At the end of the final Hobbit film, Thranduil tells Legolas to search for a man named Strider. It’s arguably the worst moment of a bad trilogy, and I can only imagine an Aragorn show would be a series of these references presented as a story. The Rings of Power already calls back to the ‘00s film trilogy too often for my liking, but we dodged a bullet in avoiding a Russo Brothers Aragorn show and the MECU.
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