Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first season of The Rings of Power.
Ever since the first episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, fans have been asking one question: Who is Sauron? The end of the first season finally gave us the answer. But it was not as simple as first thought. The ending took a few twists before really revealing the big villain of the season. So let’s break it down, talk about that false opening and of what all this means for The Rings of Power.
Who is Sauron?
What the series wants you to believe when its opening re-introduces the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) is that he is Sauron. We find it in the lush landscape of Eryn Galen the Green Forest, also known in Tolkien lore as the Black Forest. It is here that he finally meets the Dweller (Bridie Sisson) disguised as Nori. And in the moments before the episode’s credits roll, the trio of female wizards tell the Stranger that they are there to serve him as he is “Lord Sauron.” If it seems to you that The Rings of Power revealed his big question incredibly soon, don’t despair, as the truth is not that simple. As the three creepy cult leaders try to remind “Sauron” who he really is through strange magic and peer pressure, we begin to get to know some very suspicious truths about the alleged King of the Southlands (Charlie Vickers).
While the ending answers the question of Sauron’s identity, which we’ll get to right away, it also seems to open up a whole new mystery. Back in our first big breakdown of The Rings of Power, we suggested that the Stranger looked similar to Gandalf. But there’s a big problem with that theory: in Tolkien’s timeline the Istari (wizards) didn’t fall from the sky until 1000 years after the Third Age. The series is set in the Second Age, between 1500 and 1701, so it wouldn’t make sense. But in the last episode of the first season, The Rings of Power add fuel to the fire again. As the Stranger protects the hairies from the Dweller and her evil companions, the trio realize it is not Sauron. They then state that “he is the Other” and one of them whispers “Istari”. So what does all this mean? Well, at the very least it means that The Rings of Power is moving things around and seemingly introducing a wizard ahead of time. As we’ve already mentioned, there are some serious discrepancies with the timeline that we know of. Not only are wizards not supposed to show up for millennia, but Sauron is also delayed a bit as we meet him this week. In the books he was supposed to have shown himself to the elves in the year 1075 of the Second Age, but instead he appears to them here. The series has played fast with canon and timetable, but this is without a doubt the biggest change from what we know so far and that leads us to the identity of the Stranger.
Although they never say the word Gandalf, the further we go in the episode, it becomes clearer that this is the idea they want us to have. In fact, when the Stranger heads to Rhûn with his new friend, he tells her, “When in doubt, Elanor Brandipie, always follow your nose.” This is word for word what Gandalf says to Merry in The Fellowship of the Ring. So at this point we’re pretty sure it’s who they want us to think it is.
So Halbrand is Sauron?
Remember our ranking from the last episode? Well, it turns out we were right. Number one on that list was none other than Halbrand, a character we were told was newly created for the series, but who in reality it was just another disguise of the Dark Lord Sauron. Although this is not confirmed until the middle of the episode, there are some important clues that appear when Halbrand and Galadriel arrive again in the elven realm of Lindon. After being healed, the very cheerful Halbrand seeks out Celebrimbor and charms him with flattery. He also convinces the old elf to tell him about Mithril and soon “gives” him advice on how to forge it. Yes, it seems that Halbrand is a reimagining of Annatar the Giver of Gifts. In a very short time, he teaches Celebrimbor how to forge the rings and gains his deep trust. It is here that readers of the book probably realized what Galadriel was slow to understand: Halbrand is Sauron.
He confirms it to his travel companion while proposing something shocking: Galadriel should reign alongside him. Together, the two of you can balance the dark and the light. Galadriel obviously has nothing to do with this, but she is also reluctant to tell anyone that she brought Sauron into the heart of the home and realm of the elves. So she doesn’t. It looks like that will end badly.
Wait a minute, the Rings of Power have been forged in this episode?
Bueno, three of them were. The mighty elven rings that (in the canon of the books) were never touched or corrupted by Sauron, were forged by good old Celebrimbor after the departure of Halbrand/Sauron. It was Galadriel who suggested making three so that they could not fight each other, and Celebrimbor and Elrond agreed, claiming that this would create a certain balance. This seems like a big change from what we know from the books, as the elven rings were the last to be forged there. Considering that Halbrand and Celebrimbor only conversed for a short time, it seems unlikely that the other rings that would eventually be given to dwarves and men were forged at all. So maybe we’ll see this in later seasons. As we leave Halbrand arriving in Mordor, we can assume that he is about to forge the One Ring that will rule them all as soon as he arrives in his homeland. We wonder how Adar will feel about it.
This is where we leave the cast of The Rings of Power, as the season comes to an end. We’ll have to wait until next season to catch up with Bronwyn, Arondir, Theo, and the rednecks. As for what happened to Isildur, your guesses are as good as ours. But since he has yet to cut off Sauron’s ring finger in the coming ages, we assume he will come back next time. However, as the second season has just entered filming, the wait may be long.