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SYFY WIRE The Lord of the Rings

WIRE Buzz: The Haunting of Bly Manor first look; Lord of the Rings' Gollum game; Carnival Row S2 wraps

By Jacob Oller
Lord of the Rings: Gollum screenshot

One of the few big genre shows lucky enough to wrap its production before the coronavirus sent the industry into delays and shutdowns, The Haunting of Bly Manor has been a spooky beacon for horror fans — and now the Netflix series is showing off a first look at its latest haunted house.

The series follows Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, swapping the first season’s Shirley Jackson adaptation for the work of The Turn of the Screw’s Henry James (other works of his worming their way into Bly Manor include “The Jolly Corner” and “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes”). Now, fans have a first look at the ghosts and ghouls of the series — and a hint at where it might all be going.

Take a look:

This year, things are taking a turn for the romantic. “It certainly provides a new way to tell a love story, and there are three of them really that beat at the heart of this season,” Flanagan told Vanity Fair. “They all have a very dark edge to them. And by the end, it’s really hard to differentiate tragedy with romance. That sense of romantic longing for someone who meant so much to us — but who’s gone — really is the heart of any ghost story.”

Leading the way is Dani (Victoria Pedretti), a nanny caring for Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and Flora (Amelie Bea Smith). The kids won’t be the only things underfoot however: the background ghosts and faces are coming back with a new twist. “This season we wanted our hidden elements to tell their own story,” said Flanagan. “And very much unlike the first season, they’re actually going to be explained. By the end of the season, you’re going to know who they are and why they’re there.”

Bly Manor stars Pedretti, Henry Thomas, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Kate Siegel, T'Nia Miller, Catherine Parker, Rahul Kohli, Ainsworth, Smith, and Amelia Eve. The Haunting of Bly Manor hits Netflix this fall.

Next, what’s video games, precious? Gollum is getting his own prequel gaming adventure and fans of the warped member of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe are getting an extended sneak peek at all the gameplay available as the being formerly known as Sméagol.

Naturally titled The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, the stealth game tracks the Ring-crazy being through Mordor’s dangers — and through the dangers of Gollum/Sméagol’s own broken mind. The first trailer from developer Daedelic won’t clear up what exactly that means, but it still rules.

Take a look:

From the prisons of Sauron’s Dark Tower to the more grassy realms of Middle-earth, Gollum’s story will balance between secrets, climbing, and player choice.

"The game mixes stealth with vertical climbing parkour," lead game designer Martin Wilkes told IGN. "If you want a reference you might think of it as similar to Prince of Persia. It is mostly a non-combat game, but Gollum will be able to stealthily take out enemies. However, this will not be easy and always come with big risks. We want players to carefully weigh these encounters. After all, Gollum’s strengths lie in cunning not combat."

LOTR fans will also meet “special allies” that will be recognizable from the franchise as they choose a branching path along the split moral lines of Gollum and Sméagol. Lead narrative designer Tilman Schanen said, "We start our story parallel to the first book when Frodo is still in the Shire and knows nothing about anything. Gollum at that time ventures to Mordor still desperately looking for Bilbo Baggins and the Ring. Unfortunately, he gets caught by Sauron’s servants and this is basically where our story begins.”

Get the ring, don’t get killed, escape torture — sounds about what fans expect from this new, hairier Gollum. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is set for 2021.

Finally, not only has the second season of the fairy tale Carnival Row been shooting in the Czech Republic, it’s completed what it started before the COVID-19 pandemic went into full swing earlier this year.

Variety reports the Amazon show starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne has wrapped production on its sophomore season, becoming the highest-spending Czech production ever. And the fact that it was filming at all — while shocking in light of the coronavirus’ damper on all things film and TV for half a year — isn’t that strange: the Czech Republic was one of the first places reopening to shoots and U.S. productions are taking advantage.

It’s where Wheel of Time and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are shooting now, though neither series had the advantage of completing most of their filming pre-pandemic, as Carnival Row did. The Victorian-styled dark fantasy (about murders, immigration, and storybook creatures) started up production last November but had two scheduled weeks left when COVID shut the industry down.

“The craftsmanship of our Czech crew is second to none, among the best I have ever seen in 30-plus years in the business,” said Season 2 showrunner, Erik Oleson. “The massive sets of Carnival Row are built out in such meticulous detail that you wouldn’t know you’re on a backlot. You can walk its streets and alleys and directly into buildings that are functional working sets of their own. What would be prohibitively expensive to construct and film elsewhere is not only possible in the Czech Republic, the locals make it happen for a reasonable price and with a smile.”

During filming, those with Carnival Row tested cast and crew “several times a week” for the coronavirus. Carnival Row does not yet have a release date set for its second season.