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September Edition: Dungeons, Dragons and Middle Earths

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So many nerdy things are happening in the realm of TV and podcasts that, dare I say, it's an exciting time to be alive for dorks like me. I've already expressed my love of comics and superhero movies plenty of times across these pages, but now my lifelong obsession with fantasy is finally paying off. Whether it's new stuff in the "Game of Thrones" world, new stories set in Tolkien's Middle Earth or a 25-year-in-the-making adaptation of Neil Gaiman's masterpiece, "Sandman," — the stuff I got beat up for liking in middle school is now cooler than ever. Now who's a stupid head, Troy!?

This is not your grandparent's version of Galadriel...it's better. - COURTESY OF AMAZON
  • Courtesy of Amazon
  • This is not your grandparent's version of Galadriel...it's better.

In Pod We Trust:

If you've been missing high fantasy content since "Game of Thrones" completely pooped the bed with its ending, do what I've been doing since 2019 and discover some pretty excellent podcasts to tide you over (not that any tiding needs to happen anymore). I have a deep and abiding love of listening to strangers play Dungeons & Dragons (I've been listening to "Critical Role," "Nerd Poker" and "Harmontown" campaigns for years), but the one I'm really digging now is "Broadswords," an all-female D&D podcast focused intently on the storytelling and world building. The effortlessness to their camaraderie throughout the play-through makes this the most bingeable D&D campaign since the early days of "Critical Role."

What really depresses me about nerd culture is how much gatekeeping is involved when it comes to inclusivity. Just look at the raging and frothy anger coming from a segment of the toxic nerd fandom about the POC in "House of the Dragon" and "Rings of Power." It's very ugly and got me re-evaluating whether I even wanted to be a part of that fanbase anymore. I sought out something to counteract the hate and found "Rivals of Waterdeep," a Chicago-based D&D campaign played exclusively by a POC cast and live-streamed to the official "Dungeons and Dragons" Twitch stream, then formatted into a podcast for people who can't watch live. If you've ever had the desire to dive into D&D and feel alienated by nerd culture, these two podcasts are both pretty great places to start.

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"Game of Thrones" has burned me before, so I'm a bit gun-shy when it comes to diving back into the world of Westeros, but I remember how much I loved those early seasons of the show (and still dearly love the books and world George R.R. Martin has created), so giving the first two episodes of the new prequel series, "House of the Dragon," a shot was an easy choice. And so far, so good. The series (already renewed for a second season) is set 172 years before the birth of Daenerys Targaryen and follows the fifth generation of Targaryens sitting on the Iron Throne. There are plenty of dragons and even more high court posturing and political shenanigans, so consider me cautiously optimistic that we're headed somewhere addictive and unmissable.

Jeff Bezos was given direct instructions by his kid not to screw up "Lord of the Rings," and I think he hired the right folks to make sure he doesn't disappoint the little dude. I'm kinda loving what Amazon is doing with its new billion-dollar acquisition as of the first two episodes and I have a feeling it's only going to get better.

"The Rings of Power" is set in the Second Age of Middle Earth (thousands of years before "The Hobbit"), so this is less a prequel and more of a deep dive into a period of Tolkien's universe that we haven't seen before. The budget is so massive that it's impossible to tell that it's a TV show and not a new movie, plus the casting and prosthetics for the elves, orcs and dwarves are so perfect that the first two eps instantly made me feel like I was back home in Middle Earth. I can't wait for more.

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.

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