This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power wraps up its first season with a barn-burner of a finale, an episode packed with action, magical jewelry, high emotional stakes, and frequently unbearable tension. And while “Alloyed” doesn’t manage to close the book on every outstanding plot thread from the series’ first season, the hour does give us a ton of answers to many of season 1’s biggest questions, while leaving us plenty of new plot twists to ruminate over during the wait for season 2.
Here’s a rundown of the big reveals from the season 1 finale and what they might mean about where The Rings of Power is headed in season 2, with a few tidbits from the show’s cast.
Sauron’s Identity Revealed
After weeks of speculation and plenty of wild fan theories, we finally know for sure who Sauron is. And, to be fair, The Rings of Power does a great job of making something many viewers guessed weeks ago still feel like a gut punch. Because of course, it’s Halbrand, the one person Galadriel seems to have allowed herself to trust in centuries, who’s actually her worst enemy in disguise.
While Halbrand has done a respectable job of hiding his secret identity for most of the season, it seems as though arriving in Ost-in-Edhil has shaken something loose within him: He gets entirely too excited about visiting Celebrimbor’s workshop and starts helpfully dropping hints no one asked for about using the power of these magical materials to control flesh like a total creeper.
“I see things clearly now and I’ve had this epiphany. You know, this idea that I’ve been working on, the power over flesh,” Sauron/Halbrand actor Charlie Vickers tells Den of Geek when we ask him what he’s thinking during these scenes that lead up to the forging of the first three Rings of Power. Sauron points Celebrimbor in exactly the right direction, and the Elven smith immediately gets to work, using the little supply of mithril he has, mixed with other elements, to forge these powerful artifacts. It’ll be with these rings that Sauron will attain that “power over flesh,” crafting the One Ring to bend all other ringbearers of Middle-earth to his will.
By the end of the episode, Sauron’s scheme has essentially worked, but not before he comes clean to Galadriel about his secret identity, rubbing her face in the fact that she was the reason he was able to return to Middle-earth in the first place and admitting that he’d very much like to continue to use her to further his own ends. Just with her willing participation this time.
How Galadriel will ultimately processes the emotional fallout from these revelations is something that will probably take centuries to unpack, but as far as season 2 is concerned, whew, if you thought she hated Sauron before…..
Is The Stranger Gandalf?
Despite the fact that “Alloyed” opens by declaring that the Stranger is Sauron, that revelation is a massive misdirect, not to mention a huge mistake by the mysterious witches who have been following him around for a couple of episodes now. They fully believe he is Sauron until they find out he’s not the moment right before he vanquishes them.
They do, however, give us a clue about his true identity. After he unleashes magic on them, they refer to the Stranger as an “Istar,” a word that will be wildly familiar to fans of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s work. As the Stranger later explains to Nori, “Istar” essentially means “wise one” or “wizard.” It also refers to a group of five Maiar spirits sent to aid the people of Middle-earth against Sauron. These include the beings who would become known as Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, and, yes, Gandalf the Grey.
Now that we know the Stranger is an Istar, one big question still remains: Is he Gandalf?
The Rings of Power doesn’t confirm anything, but it seems extremely likely this character is Gandalf the Grey. Besides the many similarities we’ve all noted over the season (the grey cloak, the affinity for fire, the affection for and connection to a group of hobbit-like creatures), there’s one line that basically gives the whole game away.
As the Stranger heads off with Nori toward the land of Rhun and hopefully more information about who he is, the pair wonders which direction to go next. But then the Stranger sniffs the air and decides that they should take the path where the air smells sweetest and declares that when in doubt one should always follow their nose. This is, of course, the same advice that Gandalf will one day give the hobbits deep in the mines of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring.
Daniel Weyman, who plays the Stranger, isn’t really to give anything up just yet on the identity of his character, but he can tease what’s on his character’s mind in the lead up to season 2: “The place we leave him in, he still doesn’t know really how to control this amazing power, and he’s still got this burning idea about this constellation. They’re the driving things for him on this journey,” he tells Den of Geek.
Who Are the Witches Three, Anyway?
The Rings of Power doesn’t exactly reveal who the Dweller, the Nomad, and the Ascetic are in the season 1 finale, but the episode does give us a better idea of what they’re after. (It’s Sauron, the answer is Sauron.) The three beings appear to hail from the East, the land where the Dark Lord will one day consolidate his power and whose residents, the Easterlings, will form a significant part of his army. (And at least one of them will become a Nazgul.)
They’ve been following the Stranger, incorrectly assuming he’s some version of Sauron that doesn’t remember his own identity, and their slavish devotion to him feels like nothing so much as a cult. And though the beings are banished to the darkness by the Stranger once he gains some control over his abilities, it feels highly likely we’ll see them (or, at the very least someone very like them) in episodes to come.
Who Dies in the Rings of Power Finale?
For such an eventful season finale, “Alloyed” has a surprisingly low body count.
While the Stranger and Nori’s family have a close call with the Sauron-loving mystics and their destructive fire, the most notable character to lose his life is Harfoot leader Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry), who is stabbed in the chest with a knife thrown by one of the witches and dies (relatively) peacefully while watching a sunrise.
The other major death is not particularly shocking, as one has to assume that the bed-ridden Numenorean King Tar-Palantir (Ken Blackburn) was always on his way out. That said, his death at the end of the season does not bode well for Miriel and Elendil’s return in season 2.
Strange Things Are Afoot in Numenor
Because the finale has so much ground to cover, “Alloyed” doesn’t spend a ton of time in Numenor, but a few interesting and potentially extremely impactful things happen.
Miriel and Elendil return to the island and discover that the king has died, as signaled by the presence of black banners hanging throughout the city and the black sails on all the boats in the harbor. Is this foreshadowing for the eventual rise of the Sauron-supporting Black Numenorean faction from the books?
Elendil, who is still mourning the son he thinks is dead, struggles to tell Miriel the truth about what has happened. What neither of them knows is that Chancellor Pharazôn now appears to be in charge—or at least was at the time of the king’s passing—so whether that means a coup of some sort is about to take place against the kingdom’s newly blinded regent remains up in the air.
Elsewhere, Elendil’s daughter, Eärien (Ema Horvath), has been chosen as part of a group of artisans charged with preparing the king’s tomb, but while she’s sketching his dying form, he begins speaking to her as if she were his daughter, begging her to return to the old ways and directing her down a mysterious hallway. That’s where Eärien finds the palantir (a magical seeing stone) we saw earlier this season.
What will she see if she touches it? Is this the beginning of somehow drawing her into Sauron’s web?
Sauron Tempts Galadriel
One of the most iconic moments in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring is the scene in which Frodo offers Galadriel the One Ring freely, and she resists the temptation to take it, claiming that it would ultimately make her a Dark Queen “as beautiful and terrible as the dawn.” But it turns out that isn’t the first time the elf has had to reject that kind of offer. We learn in the finale that Sauron asked her to join him as his queen in Mordor all the way back in the Second Age.
According to Morfydd Clark, who plays Galadriel, there’s some “tiny part” of the elf that wants to say yes, but won’t, because she realizes the danger involved.
“I think because she took such risks and it cost so much, she won’t take those risks again,” Clark tells Den of Geek. “She kind of has an idea of herself as an atomic bomb in some ways. Sauron shows her that her power could be dark. So even the tiniest bit of temptation is quite alarming.”
And, to be fair, Sauron does try his best to convince her, sending her visions of her dead brother Finrod and recreating their time on the raft together, all in an attempt to show her what a future for the two of them could look like. He even promises to make her “stronger than the foundations of the earth,” a nice bit of foreshadowing Galadriel’s speech in Fellowship while rejecting the One Ring.
Galadriel’s complex relationship with Halbrand has been a highlight of The Rings of Power throughout its first season—Clark refers to their relationship as “cosmic”—with many viewers predicting a romance might blossom between the two of them, though obviously, the revelation that he is actually her worst enemy kind of cools any hope that the pair might get together romantically. (It does add an entirely new layer to Galadriel’s centuries-long determination to defeat him, though.)
While Vickers doesn’t view the pair’s relationship as “romantic,” he admits the two have a very unique bond. One that the Dark Lord hopes to use to his advantage.
“I think he feels a connection to her,” he says. “Since the First Age, he hasn’t met many people that operate on his level. And I think he thinks with her, he can affect his designs more quickly. It comes from a place of selfishness, that’s what it is with Sauron and his relationship with Galadriel here. Ultimately, if he has her on his side, he thinks he’ll get what he wants faster. In the same way, he loved working for Morgoth because he got what he wanted quicker. But when she says no to him, it’s no means the end of the world.”
In other words, now that he’s got Celebrimbor making those rings, Sauron doesn’t really need Galadriel anymore. But you should definitely expect these two to meet again down the line, if not at some point in season 2…
About Those Rings of Power
The Rings of Power finally lives up to its title by showing us the creation of the “three rings for the elven Kings under the sky”: Narya, Vilya, and Venya.
Made using the small nugget of mithril, the gold and silver from Valinor in Finrod’s dagger, and three powerful gems that represent different elements, the rings will ultimately be given to High King Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Cirdan, a character that The Rings of Power has yet to introduce but who will reportedly appear in season 2. (He’s the leader of a faction of elves who live on the western coast of Middle-earth who build the boats that sail to Valinor.)
“We spoke a lot about how there’s an almost childlike ‘back to Valinor’ thing that happens to the Elves when they look upon those rings. So for a brief moment, all that exists is this beautiful light shining from them.” Clark explains. These rings are supposedly what will save the Elves of Middle-earth, except for the fact that their forging was clearly influenced by Sauron. Intriguingly, Galadriel knows how Sauron plays into their creation but says nothing to stop Celebrimbor or Elrond.
“She knows that she has done something that she’s going to have to pay for, she’s deceived Elrond and Celebrimbor, but she knew they needed to create something powerful to fight him, but also terrifying,” Clark says.
No way Galadriel will regret this later. No, sir.
What About the Rest of the Rings?
While the Elves have successfully crafted their three rings, that’s only a small portion of the 20 Rings of Power that will one day exist. And despite the fact that Galadriel insists that they must be touched by Elven hands alone, it seems unlikely that the other races of Middle-earth will be okay with them having such power on their own for very long.
Celebrimbor is most likely the smith who will forge the rest of these rings, but what brings him to make sets for these other races is unknown. Will the Dwarves demand equity with the Elves? How do the Men find out about them? More questions season 2 will have to answer.
Apparently, You Can Just Walk Into Mordor
The Rings of Power season 1 concludes with a fairly iconic image. Sauron arrives in the land that will become synonymous with his reign of terror and darkness: Mordor. And according to Vickers, his arrival in the ruins of the Southlands is a pure triumph for the Dark Lord.
“Tolkien talks about, at the beginning of the Second Age, [Sauron] lingers in Middle-earth and very slowly comes back. And I think that’s what we’ve seen,” he says. “We’ve seen the end of that period over this first season. So, I think in his mind, he’s like ‘Shit, yeah. I’m back. It’s happening.”
What his specific plans are in Mordor — and his archenemy Adar — are questions season 2 can answer, but we know one thing that’s definitely on his mind.
“We’ve now had this idea of the Rings, we can put this [power over flesh] into jewelry and I’m going to enact that. That’s now my new intention,” Vickers explains of Sauron’s motivation in season 2. “But in order to do that, some things have to happen for me. And the first thing is it’s down in Mordor and we see [that] pretty early on next season.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.