There’s plenty of great TV available this fall, but if you only have time to watch one fantasy epic, which should it be: HBO’s prequel to Game of Thrones, or Amazon’s prequel to The Lord of The Rings?
We recommend you check out both, but there's a good chance you'll like one more than the other. And while some fans might hate the comparison, these are also the two biggest shows on TV right now — so just have fun with it!
Here’s what you need to know about the two shows, and how to decide which one to watch first.
If you love epic stories...
Lord of the Rings is one of the O.G. fantasy worlds, and you get to see a lot of it in Rings Of Power. The new series is a continent-sprawling drama much like the original Game Of Thrones, but instead of everyone fighting over a chair, the people of Middle-Earth are all eager to screw each other over and get their hands on some magic rings.
Rings Of Power starts with many different stories and locations, whereas House Of The Dragon is contained to one family and a smaller scale when it starts. However, Dragons is going to be bigger in terms of time, as it's going to cover several years and will soon involve older versions of many characters that you meet as teenagers.
If you love NSFW scenes…
Game of Thrones absolutely has the advantage over Lord of the Rings when it comes to adult content — if you consider that a good thing.
You won’t see brutal childbirth scenes, topless women, pantsless dudes or softcore sex in Rings of Power, but all of that is part of what made GoT a hit in the first place. You'll also find Matt Smith's Daemon Targaryen right in the middle of that stuff in House of the Dragon.
That’s not to say there isn’t violence or romance in Rings, though. There are plenty of orcs for the good guys to kill, and a steamy interracial romance between the elf warrior Arondir (Ismael Cruz Cordova) and the human peasant Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi).
If you want a strong female lead...
The early star of Lord of the Rings is Morfydd Clark's Galadriel, a hard-edged, take-no-prisoners version of the elf played by Cate Blanchett in the movies. She's steely and intense, and we're guessing that people will love her for it.
Of course, House of the Dragon is all about the family that gave rise to Daenerys Targaryen, and Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen is already winning over plenty of fans online.
We have no doubt that Rhaenyra will be fighting for the throne while on dragonback before the series is over, but it sounds like you'll have to sit through a few brutal child-birthing scenes before you get to see something like that.
This one is a total toss-up.
If you love fantasy creatures...
There are plenty of fantasy creatures in each of these franchises, so it really depends on what you're looking for.
House of the Dragon delivers on its promised dragons in the opening scene, and the whole story follows a family that's obsessed with the beasts.
Dragons also exist in the Lord of the Rings universe, but it doesn't look like we'll get them right away. Instead there's a sea monster, plenty of orcs and a demonic Balrog in the cards for Season 1.
You can also expect to see more fantasy races in Rings of Power, as the sweeping story follows human, elf, halfling and dwarven leaders across Middle-Earth.
If you like to read ahead...
These are both prequels, so we know how things are going to end: The Targaryen line eventually loses the throne, and Sauron makes the Rings of Power before backstabbing everyone and making one for himself.
However, Rings of Power seems like it'll have more surprises in store for even the most diehard fan, because it introduces several new characters and fills in many gaps from J.R.R. Tolkien's original work. Of course, there are also a few characters who have to survive because of the story (i.e. Elrond and Galadriel), and a few others whose deaths are already determined (i.e. Elendil and Isildur).
On the other hand, you can read about or look up a lot of the relationships in House of the Dragon, right down to the various marriages that we can expect in the show.
But if you're more interested in the journey than the destination, you'll probably find more dramatic acting in House Of The Dragon, although it's going to be close.
If you love a good fantasy drama...
Watch them both. We're spoiled to have two A-level fantasy dramas going head-to-head on TV each week, and this doesn't have to be a Coke-versus-Pepsi thing. You can love them both.
Lindsey Weber, the executive producer of Rings Of Power, said exactly that when we asked her about the showdown between these two franchises on TV.
"It's such an exciting time in television and the shows are so hard to make," she told Narcity. "It's good for the whole industry and fans everywhere to be in such a boom time."
However, she couldn't resist giving the nod to LOTR and its creator, J.R.R. Tolkien.
"Tolkien is sort of the godfather of the whole fantasy genre," she said. "We're here because of him."
Game Of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin had something similar to say about the matchup earlier this summer.
"I hope both shows succeed," he told The Independent. "I'm competitive though. I hope we succeed more. If they win six Emmys, and I hope they do, I hope we win seven.
"But nonetheless, it's good for fantasy. I love fantasy. I love science fiction. I want more shows on television."