The Rings of Power Season 2 Trailer Breakdown: Release Date, Annatar, Barad-dur

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 2 trailer is finally here and with it comes a release date as well as plenty of plot hints!

Screenshot from The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power season 2 trailer. Durin III holds a blue ring.
Photo: Amazon Studios

Prime Video has released the first trailer for season 2 of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and it looks like this season will be just as epic and just as much of a visual feast as the last one. Best of all, fans won’t have to wait very long to finally see what happens next in the lands of Middle-earth, as The Rings of Power season 2 is set to premiere on Aug. 29.

As you might expect, the trailer includes a few hints regarding where the second season is going. If you haven’t watched it yet, give it a look below:

Alright, now that you’re all caught up, here are a few things that caught our eye…

The Lord of Gifts – Annatar!

The most exciting parts of the trailer for book fans are probably the shots of Charlie Vickers as Sauron in the guise of an Elf with long blond hair, which we presume means we are finally going to see him as his alter ego Annatar, the Lord of Gifts from Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

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In this disguise he claimed to be an emissary from the Valar (who are basically Middle-earth’s gods) and tricked Celebrimbor into joining together with him to make 16 Rings of Power. The timeline of their forging is different in the show; in the books, Sauron and Celebrimbor together made the sixteen Rings that were given to Dwarves and Men, then Celebrimbor made the three Elven Rings by himself, then Sauron forged the One Ring by himself. In the show, the three Elven Rings have already been made at the end of season 1, with Sauron giving advice in his show-only disguise of Halbrand the human king of the Southlands. That said, the shot in the new trailer indicates that the Annatar storyline will be adapted in some form in season 2, presumably resulting in the forging of the other 16 Rings of Power.

Since this is clearly Vickers, this is hopefully a sign that the show will also drop its focus on mystery box storytelling, which primarily just annoyed viewers and especially confused book readers. Season 2 has the opportunity to lean more into the dramatic irony of the viewers knowing something some of the characters onscreen possibly do not, which is an equally enjoyable viewing experience and will be far more satisfying for book fans who expect to be able to recognize some of the story playing out in front of them.

Rings, lots of Rings

Unsurprisingly, there are lots of shots of Rings of Power in the trailer, including an intriguing image towards the end of Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor apparently throwing a whole set of rings into a fire. We also see Peter Mullen as Durin III pick up a very big-looking ring with a huge blue stone, presumably one of the seven Rings given to the Dwarf-lords, including him—which means that in this season we will see the forging of the seven Rings of Power given to the Dwarves and probably also the nine Rings of Power given to mortal men that eventually turned them into the Nazgûl, or the Nine Black Riders from The Lord of the Rings.

Taking centerstage, though, are the three Elven Rings and Sauron’s plans to forge the One Ring. The Elven Rings are shown off in all their splendor in a shot that deliberately echoes the very beginning of the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, with each Ringbearer holding out their hand to each other, with the ring on it. The Ringbearers of the Three Eleven Rings at this point in the books are Galadriel, bearer of Nenya the White Ring or Ring of Water, which is made of mithril and set with adamant; the Elven king Gil-galad, bearer of Vilya, the Blue Ring set with a sapphire; and Círdan the Elven shipwright, bearer of Narya the Ring of Fire, set with a ruby. We have not yet met Círdan in season 1, but we know he will be appearing in season 2, so this is our first glimpse of him, or of his hand at least.

Whether the One Ring itself will be forged this season, we don’t know. In Tolkien’s books, it was the last of the Rings of Power to be made, a response by Sauron to Celebrimbor’s forging of the three Elven Rings, but of course this will be changed slightly for the series. It’s possible that the forging of the One Ring will be the dramatic climax of season 2, and the trailer certainly seems to lean that way. Over a shot of a battlement or fortress of some kind in the dark, the words “Darkness Will Bind Them” appear across the screen. This line is, of course, a play on the poem from The Lord of the Rings that describes the Rings of Power, and particularly the lines that describe the One Ring and which are engraved on it using magic so that the words only show up when the Ring is placed into a fire:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them

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The appearance of these words after throwing Bilbo’s ring into Frodo’s fire was how Gandalf identified the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, so it seems a pretty clear indication that we are working up towards its forging this season.

Evil trees and a mysterious goo monster

Early on in the trailer, we see leaves swirl around mysteriously, almost like they’re forming themselves into a humanoid figure while we hear in voiceover the words, “He worms his way inside your mind.” This is followed by a shot of what looks like tree roots creeping out super fast across the ground that might almost remind you of The Evil Dead while the voiceover describes how “he slithers in.”

Tolkien was famously extremely fond of trees, but he did include some sinister trees in his stories as well as the good ones. Old Man Willow in The Lord of the Rings tries to eat the hobbits, and Fangorn (home of Treebeard), Mirkwood (where Thranduil rules), and even Lothlorien (Galadriel’s home by the time of The Lord of the Rings) have evil reputations among those who do not know them. Mirkwood in particular is an interesting case. Thranduil and Legolas are clearly Good Guys, but Mirkwood as presented in The Hobbit is really quite scary. It is described as a “terrible forest” and as “dark, dangerous and difficult,” it’s infested with giant man-eating spiders, and it’s full of enchantments that can ensnare someone forever. Sauron lived in Mirkwood as “The Necromancer” for many years in the Third Age, so the series might be taking that idea and moving it up to the show’s Second Age setting.

There’s also a mysterious goo monster who has yet to be identified. Surely, that’s no one pleasant?

The Creation of Barad-dûr

The series clearly aims to continue its theme of Sauron dramatically and magically changing the geography of Middle-earth for his own ends. We see a white explosion rip through the landscape at the end of the trailer, leaving behind a black tower that is presumably Sauron’s stronghold of Barad-dûr in Mordor.

The tower of Barad-dûr is one of five towers Tolkien considered identifying as the titular Two Towers for the second volume of The Lord of the Rings. The other four are Saruman’s home in the tower of Orthanc, the tower at the top of the city of Minas Tirith, the Tower of Cirith Ungol in Mordor near to where Shelob the giant spider lives, and the Nazgûl’s fortress, the tower of Minas Morgul—Tolkien eventually settled on Orthanc and Minas Morgul, although the Peter Jackson movies swap out Minas Morgul for Barad-dûr.

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We presume this is Barad-dûr because it obviously is not Minas Tirith or Minas Morgul, which was originally Gondorian before the Nazgûl took it over; it seems to be located on a flat plain and not next to a mountain like Cirith Ungol; and it doesn’t look like Orthanc, though it is clearly designed to remind viewers of the depiction of Orthanc in a ruined valley landscape at the end of The Two Towers film.

The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!

Yes, that Tolkien fan favorite is back—giant eagles! No confirmation yet about who they might be carrying around as Middle-earth’s taxi service, but it could be Trystan Gravelle’s Pharazôn, Númenorean Chancellor. We get a very pretty shot of Númenor followed by the arrival of a giant eagle at one its towers, and then we see Pharazôn standing in front of the Eagle and drawing his sword. The fact he has his back to a gigantic bird of prey suggests they are probably working together.

The first season ended with a strong hint that Númenor was about to go through a change in management after Queen Miriel decided to get involved in the battle in the Southlands, while King Tar-Palantir died back on the island. The Pharazôn of the books does of course usurp the throne, which eventually leads to the fall of Númenor, so we’re likely seeing the beginning of all that.

And seriously, just who is the Stranger?

While much of the trailer worryingly seems to have fallen prey to the current fashion for scenes so dark we can’t see what is happening in them, that is not the case for Daniel Weyman’s the Stranger’s current location. We see him plunging his staff into the ground in a brightly-lit, arid desert landscape, followed by a dramatic and windy sandstorm blowing someone off their feet. Did he cause the sandstorm? The answer could be really important.

The desert landscape is not too much of a surprise as we knew the Stranger and Nori were going on a long journey to parts of Middle-earth that haven’t been explored on screen yet, namely the land of Rhûn. But what has us sitting up and taking notice here is the ongoing question of who the Stranger actually is.

We’ve been presuming the Stranger is Gandalf based on his last line in season 1, when he told Nori, “When in doubt, Elanor Brandyfoot, always follow your nose.” Gandalf said exactly the same thing to Peregrin Took in the Peter Jackson film of The Fellowship of the Ring (and he expressed the same idea in slightly different words in the book). And we are fairly sure the Stranger is one of the Istari, a group of five Maiar (basically angels) who were sent to help the peoples of Middle-earth fight Sauron—Saruman the White, Radagast the Brown, Gandalf the Grey, and the two Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando.

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But this scene in the trailer has us guessing once again. We have never seen Gandalf perform any sort of weather-magic or call up a storm, he being more of a fire guy (by reason of ending up with the Ring of Fire by the time of The Lord of the Rings). But we have seen another of the Order of Wizards perform this sort of magic: Saruman. He magically called up a snowstorm to attack the Fellowship on the mountain of Caradhras in The Fellowship of the Ring. Does Gandalf have that power too, and we just didn’t see it? Is the Stranger actually Saruman? Or is the sandstorm just a sandstorm and we’re reading far too much into it? Whatever the answer, we really hope this issue is settled once and for all in season 2, so we can enjoy watching the story develop without constantly questioning what story we’re actually watching.

Still, despite all that, we have to confess we’re pumped. The Rings of Power may have had a mixed reception when season 1 came out in 2022, but there’s a lot of good stuff to enjoy in this show—it’s beautifully shot, action-packed, and it’s an opportunity to see parts of Tolkien’s world realized on screen that in some cases (Númenor) don’t even exist by the time of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We’re also going to see parts of Middle-earth that have barely been touched either on screen or even in the books, as the Stranger and Nori head out south and east towards the desert. We can’t wait to get back there and explore that world some more.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 2 premieres on Aug. 29 on Prime Video.