Samm Tembo
5 min readAug 31, 2022
Image: Amazon Prime Video

What a time to be alive. I can’t remember a period, if ever, when two fantasy epics the likes of House of The Dragon, (a Game Of Thrones prequel), and Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power were streaming in the same week of each other. With House Of The Dragon already two episodes ahead, having premiered on August 22, Amazon’s billion-dollar epic, The Rings Of Power, follows on its heels, as it airs its first two episodes this Friday, September 2, on Amazon Prime Video.

These two shows can be said to be the biggest and most anticipated shows of 2022, due to their grandiose budgets, legacy, and expansive mythos. On one hand, House of The Dragon had something to prove, after the disappointing final two seasons of Game Of Thrones. With a billion-dollar budget, plus Tolkien’s legacy and the bar set by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of The Rings film trilogy 19years ago, on the line, The Rings Of Power is under just as much scrutiny, if more, from fans and critics, than the newest HBO adaptation from the world of George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire saga.

With the latter already sitting at an 83% average on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer and an 8.9/10 on IMDB; it will be interesting to see where the former lands, after receiving nothing but harsh criticism from the most devout Tolkien scholars on YouTube and Twitter, who claim the show shits on everything that Tolkien did with his work; based off the marketing material we’ve seen thus far; from posters depicting characters of color, to the teaser trailer, and the main trailer, that show off female dwarf and orc characters…it’s been nothing but an uphill battle for fans and critics to fully get behind Amazon’s take on Middle-earth during the 2nd age.

This could be due in part to amazon’s poor marketing of the show. That, and the fact that the shows’ showrunners, Patrick Mckay and J.D Payne, are names that nobody really seems to know; behind one of the biggest entertainment franchises and most expensive TV shows ever made; making people wonder if the two showrunners will be the next David Benioff and D.B Weis, the Game Of Thrones showrunners, who ran their own legacy to the ground by turning arguably the greatest TV show ever made into a hot-pile-of-steamy-whore-horse-shit; forcing some fans to renounce their love for the beloved show, entirely.

J.D Payne and Patrick Mckay — Image by The Latin Times.

Until their involvement in The Rings Of Power, not much was known about the showrunners J.D Payne and Patrick Mckay, besides the fact that they’re script writers who’ve been writing together for over 20 years, since first meeting in high school, without any significant credited work to show, despite having worked on titles that include Star-Trek: Beyond, Godzilla Vs Kong, and films like Dwayne Johnson’s 2021 action-adventure, Jungle Cruise; which led to a lot of questions as to why the duo got such a big gig helming a colossal franchise for one of the biggest streaming giants without being household names.

While the apprehension is understandable, a lot of it at times feels unprecedented, as it’s been mostly void of any real objectivity and any kind of open-mindedness to what the duo can bring to the table. In a lot of ways, J.D Payne and Patrick Mckay reminded me of myself, and a whole lot of talented people around me with loads of experience, and fresh ideas, despite not having any major credits to their name, not for a lack of competency, but more a lack of opportunity and people doubting your ability to deliver.

But what I see in the two, Payne and Mckay, are two deeply passionate and talented people deserving of a shot, just like everyone else; hungry to deliver on an IP that actually means something to them; despite not boasting a million accolades to their name.

“Success Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”.

Which makes the whole discourse around Payne and Mckay’s seat at the table interesting; as they had the best pitch for an idea for a Lord Of The Rings TV show than anyone else out of the plethora of known and unknown names that got the opportunity to pitch their ideas to Amazon; according to the streaming giant. And I think that’s something a lot of people aren’t giving them enough credit for. From where I stand, it seems to me that they were hired on merit (as it should be). And merit isn’t always synonymous with being a household name.

In interviews, Payne and Mckay have stated that they understand the “great responsibility” they have in adapting the show. And this comes from the love they have from being long-time Tolkien fans who’ve spent a lot of their adolescent and adult years nerding over Middle-earth’s rich lore and its robust characters. As a practicing Mormon, Payne has even gone far as expressing parallels between his religion and the works of Tolkien.

Based on everything above, I can’t help but root for Payne and Mckay. Not just because they’re underdogs. But because they’re the best people to tell the story they’re trying to tell. The fact that their idea stood out from 100 other ideas, good, bad, and some maybe even downright horrific, that’s saying something, right?

If it so happens that Rings Of Power turns out to be a huge success. That won’t just spell out a win for Payne and Mckay. But it will also be a win for underdogs everywhere who’ve been quietly putting in the work for years, building their crafts and their stories…working towards bigger opportunities to prove themselves in the film/TV industry. Not only that, but it will also spell a win for Tolkien fans like myself feigning for a great live-action return to Middle-earth since 2014 when Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies was released.

So far, early reviews from critics and fans who’ve been privileged to catch private screenings of the first 2 episodes of The Rings of Power have been nothing short of fantastic. With most even going as far as hailing it as a masterpiece!

Twitter Screenshot

Will Mckay and Payne surprise by delivering one of the best TV shows and a great adaptation from the works of one of fantasy’s greatest authors? Or will fans be left gutted and unsatisfied at the hands of two “newbie” nerds who’ve bitten off more than they can chew, proving all the YouTube critics who’ve branded the show as a disaster and an insult to Tolkien, without having seen a single episode, right? I guess we’ll find out for ourselves this Friday when The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings of Power airs to the world on Prime Video.



Samm Tembo

Samm Tembo is a freelance photographer, filmmaker, lifestyle writer, from Lusaka, Zambia; sharing his love of storytelling with the world.