This Lord of the Rings article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power.
There was plenty to unpack in The Rings of Power finale. The jam-packed episode not only answered many of our biggest questions but also set up key events that will lead to the saga of The Lord of the Rings books and movies we know and love. “Alloyed” even introduced some actual Rings of Power — the three for the Elves that will soon be worn by Galadriel, High King Gil-galad, and Cirdan. Finally!
But there was one big reveal in the episode that eclipsed all others: Halbrand, the supposed rightful king of the Southlands, has been Sauron all along. In the final minutes, Sauron confesses that he’s been manipulating Galadriel since they first met — using her as a way to get back to Middle-earth to fight back against his enemies in the Southlands and indirectly form the land of Mordor but also to get closer to Celebrimbor and the Elven smiths. And as the first rings are forged, Galadriel knows just how far she’s gone to unknowingly aid the Dark Lord’s return to power. Surely, this won’t come back to bite her and the Elves in season 2?
It wasn’t just betrayal on Sauron’s mind in the finale, though. Using his sorcery to transport Galadriel back to the raft where they first became acquainted, Sauron makes his season-long companion a surprising offer to be his queen, a Dark Lady “stronger than the foundations of the earth” (a surprising nod to Cate Blanchett’s famous scene in Fellowship of the Ring). In the end, Galadriel rejects his proposal like any Elf warrior hellbent on slaying Sauron would.
Yet, for some viewers, Galadriel’s decision contradicts the very clear chemistry that these characters shared on screen throughout the season. And once the show teased that she believed her husband Celeborn to be dead, it seemed like a “Galadriel x Halbrand” romance plot was a foregone conclusion. Even after Halbrand revealed the truth, some on Twitter are still shipping Galadriel and Sauron.
So could it ever actually happen? Is there even a small part of Galadriel that wants to accept Sauron‘s offer (despite the disastrous consequences this decision would have for Middle-earth)? This is the question we posed to Galadriel actor Morfydd Clark when we caught up with her about The Rings of Power finale and what might be ahead for her character in season 2.
“I feel there is a tiny part of her [that wants to say yes],” Clark reveals. “But she is now aware that that tiny part of her is so powerful.”
Indeed, on the raft with Sauron, we watch as Galadriel faces the same type of temptation as in the Fellowship scene where she fantasizes about accepting the ring: “Instead of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Tempestuous as the sea, and stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!” More than just a callback to the Peter Jackson movies, The Rings of Power shows that Galadriel has long struggled with her inner dark side, and Sauron’s long game is to exploit that.
But ultimately, Clark believes Galadriel’s choice in the finale is true to who the character is and what her journey has been so far on the show. Galadriel has been so obsessive in her search for Sauron that she’s particularly wary of becoming what she hates the most.
“I think because she took such risks and it cost so much, she won’t take those risks again,” Clark says. “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 even if she does harbor feelings for who she thought Halbrand was, things are far more complicated between Galadriel and the Dark Lord than a “will they/won’t they” relationship, according to Clark.
“I think that romance just doesn’t kind of cut it for them. It’s cosmic and it would be a Middle-earth shattering relationship should they enter into it,” Clark explains.
When we ask Charlie Vickers, who plays Sauron, the same question, he gives us some insight into what the Dark Lord is thinking at that moment. Sorry to disappoint the Galadriel x Sauron shippers in Lord of the Rings fandom, but the villain isn’t actually all that interested, according to the actor.
“I love the idea that people think it’s romantic, and it’s really cool and interesting if somebody would think that, but I personally don’t think it is,” Vickers says.
Sauron wants Galadriel to become his queen because she’s useful, says Vickers. As he’s already shown, Sauron can accomplish his objectives much more quickly when he has a highly regarded Elf warrior to get him into places like Numenor and Eregion (where Celebrimbor lives).
“He feels a connection to her. Since the First Age, he hasn’t met many people that operate on his level. But he is on the raft, making this pitch to her, and in saying ‘you could be my queen’ [because] she binds him to the light and the good,” Vickers explains. “He thinks with her, he can affect his designs more quickly. With her by his side, he has the ear of the Elves, he has a way in. It comes from a place of selfishness.”
The season ends with a victorious Sauron descending the mountains that border the newly formed land of Mordor, and he seems to be cutting a path straight to Mount Doom. It’s possible he’s on his way to forge the One Ring inside the volcano’s fiery depths — or perhaps to pay his enemy Adar a visit. Whatever he’s up to, Vickers tells us we’ll get to see what’s next for Sauron “pretty early on next season,” and those plans don’t seem to involve Galadriel anymore.
“W.H. Auden wrote an essay on good and evil in Tolkien. He talks about [how] evil comes back to hope or fear of personal gain, rather than affection. I think that’s what it is with Sauron and his relationship with Galadriel here,” Vickers says. “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 by no means the end of the world.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.