Lord Of The Rings’ Undead Barrow-Wights Finally Hit The Screen In The Rings Of Power Season 2

The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power

by Ben Travis |
Published on

Middle-earth has always been full of dark and dangerous creatures: the sinister Nazgul, the flaming Balrog, the marauding Uruk-hai, spider-demon Shelob – none of which you’d particularly want to encounter on your travels beyond the Shire. But a foe from Tolkien’s lore that has never made it to screen in a significant capacity are the Barrow-wights: undead foes who appear in The Fellowship Of The Ring novel, yet didn’t end up in Peter Jackson’s film. That all changes with The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Season 2, which is about to conjure these nightmare-fuel ghouls in all their terrifying glory.

Emerging from their tombs, the Barrow-wights will menace our heroes – Galadriel included, as you can see in the exclusive image above – in a major way in the upcoming season. “The Barrow-wights are ancient, reanimated heroes, acting for evil against their will,” Rings Of Power VFX supervisor Jason Smith explains to Empire. “It was super-exciting to take on something I hadn’t seen before. We’ve seen undead before, but not like this. We’re doing a little horror movie in Middle-earth.” The Barrow-wights used to be noble people (“Kings, queens, high-ranking officials,” Smith explains), and who they were in life has been translated into the character designs of who they are in un-death.

Here's another look at some Barrow-wight concept art, courtesy of Einar Martinsen, on Empire's exclusive subscriber cover:

The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Season 2 – Empire subscriber cover

Since the Barrow-wights have only ever been depicted in a little-seen 1991 Russian TV adaptation of Fellowship, bringing them to the screen here was both a challenge and an opportunity – one that took the Rings Of Power team back to Tolkien’s tomes. “The feeling the passages give you is of a doom that is approaching, not by speed but by being indefatigable,” Smith explains of the creatures’ creeping dread. “It’s a menace that is just going to encroach an inch at a time until you have nowhere to go and you die.” And when they’re near? The first thing you’ll see is their glowing blue eyes, piercing through the dark. “The eyes are one key thing we took from the writing,” says Smith. “I used to walk around by my grandma’s farmhouse in Idaho at night, and there’s something about a forest at night that can be so frightening. And if you come across a tree and think you see a glimpse of eyes that are glowing blue, it’s just horrific.” Bring on the fear factor.

The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Season 2 – Empire covers

Read Empire’s full The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Season 2 feature – going on set, and speaking to showrunners J.D. Payne and and Patrick McKay; stars Charlie Vickers, Morfydd Clark, Sophia Nomvete, and Daniel Weyman; director Charlotte Brändström, and more – in the August 2024 issue, on sale Thursday 4 July. Pre-order a copy here – choose the Galadriel cover, or the Sauron cover. The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power Season 2 comes to Prime Video from 29 August.

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