Excluding the final season of Game of Thrones that’s dropping in 2019, the most anticipated entertainment event coming to the small screen may be whatever Amazon has in store for its first (of potentially several) Lord of the Rings series. However, since making the initial announcement last November, the only details about the series that the company has disclosed is that this new story will take place before the events of The Fellowship of the Ring, which is about as vague as the shipping date for the athleisure pants I bought on Amazon Prime a week ago.
With J.R.R. Tolkien’s world so vast and intimately developed over decades, “before Fellowship” could mean just about anything. But it might just mean “The Young Aragorn.” Lord of the Rings fan site TheOneRing.net confirmed with “multiple sources” that Amazon is moving forward with a series centering on Aragorn, which would follow soon after the events of The Hobbit.
It’s important to note that as of now, this is just a rumor—Amazon has yet to confirm anything, and no shots at TheOneRing, but it isn’t exactly The Hollywood Reporter. On the other hand though, it’s hard not to get excited about, and to see the value in, Amazon centering its maiden Lord of the Rings show on Aragorn. With Thrones heading into its final season, Amazon has been explicit about its desire to make the next zeitgeist-grabbing fantasy series, and Young Aragorn is probably its best bet to do so.
For starters, the familiarity of a character as established as Aragorn means that more casual Lord of the Rings fans would be more inclined to tune in (the most ardent of fans are going to watch regardless); same goes for anyone who saw a photo of Viggo Mortensen and thought, “I’d watch a show about a younger version of this extremely hot person.” (Semirelated: Can someone please Photoshop Aragorn onto a Young Pope poster? Thank you.) The Aragorn show wouldn’t be the most adventurous choice, but it’s an ideal stepping stone: Amazon reportedly paid somewhere between $200 million and $250 million to procure the rights to Tolkien’s series, a huge financial gambit that doesn’t even include the cost of producing what will likely be a CGI-heavy series. The company needs some kind of assurance that the first Lord of the Rings show can matter to the most people; Aragorn would be that kind of steady central figure.
More specifically, though, making him the star of the series would make Amazon’s Lord of the Rings spiritually similar to the show Jeff Bezos so badly wants to mirror, Game of Thrones. Picking The Lord of the Rings—a high-end fantasy with a medievalesque world and plenty of comprehensive tomes to mine from—as the source material was the first step. Aragorn would be even more of a commitment to the stated goal. Aside from the presumption that Young Aragorn would be just as heroic and dashing as Kit Harington’s Jon Snow, the two characters are thematically similar. Jon Snow is a subversion of the fantasy hero trope; like Thrones’ main protagonist, Aragon is a reluctant (but capable) leader from a lineage that’s important to the series’ overall mythology. He’s a mysterious loner with a penchant for doing the right thing. Aragorn might not reach Jon’s levels of mopeyness, but that’s probably a good thing.
Again, we can’t get ahead of ourselves. Amazon’s yet to formally reveal any details about its first series, and there’s still a chance that the company will be like, “Actually! Anyone down for This Is Smaug?” Until then, hopes are high that it’s headed in the right direction. Using an established, compelling character like Aragorn to mine new stories in Middle Earth is a promising foundation for a larger small-screen universe. The road to becoming the “next Game of Thrones” is as arduous as ever—there may never be another show that’s as relevant a piece of monoculture—but following these steps would at least ensure Amazon and The Lord of the Rings have a fighting chance.