Thanks to House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s release dates, Game of Thrones vs. Lord of the Rings is now the big TV battle of 2022. Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings have always been somewhat linked. A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin was hugely influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien, with similarities in their works extending well beyond the RR middle initials. Martin wrote ASOIAF in part because of so much fantasy mimicking Tolkien’s works, with the writer inspired by him but also looking to subvert many of the conventions of the genre. That extended into their respective adaptations too, with Game of Thrones owing a clear debt to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies.
And yet, for the most part their journeys have never overlapped directly, despite being connected. Martin’s first book, A Game of Thrones, was published over 40 years after The Lord of the Rings; Game of Thrones started airing on HBO a decade after Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring had released in theaters. With both now established movie/TV franchises in an era where every studio and network is looking for the one IP to rule them all, however, then they are finally going head-to-head.
Previously, Amazon had announced Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’s release date as September 2, 2022. Later, HBO confirmed that House of the Dragon’s release date would be August 21, 2022, setting the two shows on a collision course. While they won’t air the exact same date, from The Rings of Power episode 1 and House of the Dragon episode 3 they will be sharing the same weekend space, each aiming to dominate in terms of viewership, critical approval, online buzz, and general cultural space for eight straight weeks (The Rings of Power season 1 has eight episodes, House of the Dragon season 1 has 10).
The timeframe also means House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power should be going up against one another at the Emmys in 2023, assuming both are nominated as their respective streaming services surely expect, further solidifying them as TV’s big new rivals. There’s a sense in which this is all fitting and brings things full circle: Martin’s books and the Game of Thrones TV show both owe a debt to Lord of the Rings, but now that’s being repaid in kind. House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power are both born out of a desire from all networks and streamers to find the next Game of Thrones, looking to create big budget, epic high fantasy shows that can dominate in the same kind of way.
Of course, TV trends have changed a lot even in the few short years since Game of Thrones ended in 2019, so one show having quite the same level of live viewership is perhaps unlikely. But nonetheless, as streamers look for the next watercooler hit, two of the absolute biggest contenders are releasing at the exact same time, and both have hurdles to overcome. House of the Dragon has to win back viewers after Game of Thrones’ ending was divisive at best, while The Rings of Power has caused controversy for potential changes to Lord of the Rings lore. Which show will ultimately win remains to be seen – Game of Thrones has the proven track record on TV, but Lord of the Rings is one of the biggest movie trilogies of all time, making it an enticing clash worthy of a Westeros or Middle-earth battle – but, hopefully, the real victors will be viewers.