This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
Where is Sauron? Is the Stranger actually our beloved wizard Gandalf the Grey? When will The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power introduce some actual magical rings?
These were some of the questions on the minds of fans awaiting the season one finale of the prequel series, which chronicles the events of the Second Age, the era before the J.R.R. Tolkien books and Peter Jackson movies you know and love. Fortunately, the finale addresses many of the show’s biggest mysteries, and in captivating fashion. While some questions have been left hanging for season two to deal with — what’s up with the Balrog now awake inside Khazad-dum? — it’s safe to say we get more than our fair share of answers.
For example, after weeks of theories, rumors, and speculation, the veil has been lifted on the true identity of the supposed King of the Southlands. Galadriel discovers once back with Elrond and Celebrimbor that Halbrand’s claim to the throne of the Southlands is a false one, a lie conjured up by the man who is actually the Dark Lord Sauron in disguise. We learn in the episode that Halbrand/Sauron has been playing Galadriel since the very start of the season, manipulating her to become his queen and help him rule Middle-earth. While some fans saw this twist coming from Halbrand’s very first scene in the Sundering Seas, the shocking reveal has nonetheless completely altered the playing field.
Through his machinations, Sauron has not only brought about the destruction of the Southlands and the creation of Mount Doom and Mordor but also set the Elves on the path to create the Rings of Power themselves, which he’ll later use to control all of the races of Middle-earth. In fact, by the end of the episode, Celebrimbor, Elrond, and Galadriel have forged the first three rings, the ones destined to be first worn by Galadriel, High King Gil-galad, and Cirdan (who is set to make his debut in season two) in Tolkien lore.
Still, it remains to be seen when the rest of the rings — the ones for the Dwarves and Men — will be constructed, especially now that the Elves know the truth about Sauron’s return. At the very least, you can expect some drama from the Dwarves when they find out the Elves have Rings of Power but they don’t…
Elsewhere on Middle-earth, the finale picks up the story of the Stranger, who at the very opening of the episode is also “revealed” to be Sauron…but how can that be? Well, the three witches in white simply mistake him for their resurgent Dark Lord while he’s walking around the Greenwood (later known as Mirkwood in the Third Age). It’s a silly error they soon come to regret when the Stranger chooses to save Nori and the other Harfoots from being burned alive by the Dweller. It’s at that moment that we learn that the Stranger is actually the Istar (wizard) who was sent to Middle-earth by the Valar to combat the rising darkness. And by the time the Stranger tells Nori to “always follow her nose,” as they set out on their next adventure, it’s pretty clear that we’ve been watching the Gandalf origin story all along.
In other words, this is The Rings of Power episode you’ve been waiting for all along. Here’s what other Lord of the Rings fans thought about the episode…
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.