We just got confirmation of a major character's recast on The Rings of Power. Joseph Mawle will no longer play the orc leader Adar in Season 2. He has been replaced with Sam Hazeldine (Peaky Blinders, Slow Horses).
Meanwhile, Amazon has finally released some data related to The Rings of Power's viewership.
According to it, it The Rings of Power Season 1 achieved the total viewing time of more than 24 billion minutes, or around 400 million hours. Which is pretty good, but less than half of, say, Stranger Things Season 4, another high-profile, lavishly funded show of this year, which crossed the line of 1 billion hours – and wasn't the first Netflix show to do so.
And even Season 4 of Stranger Things, which received extraordinary funding, had only a bit more than half of The Rings of Power's budget per episode.
What could the news mean for the show?
Well, to be fair the whole recasting trouble could actually mean nothing at all.
Joseph Mawle's performance as Adar was one of the better parts of the show, on that most people agree, so it is very unlikely that he was fired in an attempt to fix something. In fact, he could have left the production for any number of personal reasons.
Amazon bosses might be thinking that the numbers above are adequate for the moment, given that Amazon Prime has much less subscribers than Netflix. Success or failure of streaming media depend on long-term subscriber number trends, so real impact of any given show's performance might be difficult to estimate, even with full data.
Alternatively, the recast might be the first visible crack in the overexpensive failing show's façade. It is possible that the above-mentioned bosses are actually livid with rage due to the show's underperformance, and their displeasure is starting to affect the crew and the cast, resulting in new tensions, which made Mawle uncomfortable.
But for now this remains in the realm of speculation. Only if more of old actors drop from the show, or if news about other problems with its production, such as delays, surface, we might be able to say with any confidence that it is experiencing troubles, possibly related to script rewrites and other attempts of course correction.