Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
In its third episode, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power doesn’t mince words. Presenting the epic island kingdom of Númenor, where Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and her unlikely accomplice, Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), find uneasy sanctuary after being rescued at sea, isn’t enough for the most expensive TV series of all time. . Alongside the beautiful realm of Númenor, the series also begins to establish the arrival of one of the most dangerous and terrifying places from the story of The Lord of the Rings: Mordor. And it’s all centered around what some viewers may have assumed was a new location for the series, the Southlands.
What are the Southlands?
It is a great episode for the Southlands. Although the place was shown momentarily in the first two episodes (when Arondir and Bronwyn went to explore the strange darkness that grows there), episode 3 takes Arondir to what appears to be the infamous slave camps by Lake Núrnen. We are also given a bit more information about Halbrand and his connection to the area, as Galadriel reveals that he thinks he is the king of the Southlands who has abandoned his people after the orcs decimated his lands and many of his relatives disappeared. Why are the Southlands so important?
The rarely mentioned Southlands are located on the series’ extensive map in a place that many eagle-eyed fans recognized as sharing a geographic area with what would become the nightmarish realm of Mordor. The first time we noticed it was thanks to an Amazon video that placed the name of the Southlands right in the place where fans knew Mordor was. This fits with the canon of the books, since we knew that the Dark Lands were in the Southern regions.
With the arrival of Arondir at the orc-filled slave pit, it seems that the foundations of Mordor are already being built. Whether or not this is Sauron’s fortress remains to be seen. But it’s probably connected, since in the books the slave camps near Lake Núrnen lay just below Mordor. This construction could explain why darkness is spreading over the Southlands and where the missing inhabitants are going: they are being kidnapped by orcs to help rebuild Mordor. How could Sauron know? Well, their former king, Morgoth, had ruled from there.
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What is Mordor?
Do you remember the terrifying smoke-filled skies of Sauron’s realm that was under the watchful eye of Mount Doom? that’s Mordor. It may have been difficult to make the connection between the devastated landscape and the natural sights here, but thanks to its location on the map and the fact that we see orcs using enslaved people to dig deep into the earth, we know which is about the early days of what will become the Dark Lands of Sauron. Add to that the decimated forest land and the spreading darkness.
Although the episode ends by introducing us to a strange figure who seems to lead the orcs (known until now only as Adar (Joseph Mawle)) the introduction of Mordor and its creation confirms Galadriel’s theory that Sauron has returned. And though she has not yet traveled to the Southlands, as she has been held in Númenor, she discovers vital information about the Southlands that reveals Sauron’s plan.
The truth behind the seal of Sauron
In Númenor, Galadriel and her new comrade explore the Hall of the Law, aided by the extensive archives, which they met with Elros, brother of Elrond and first king of Númenor. It is here that, with the help of the extensive archives (which we learn were put together by Elros) he learns the truth about Sauron’s seal. The mark that has haunted her since the death of his brother in the First Age is actually a map of the Southlands and of the area that will become Mordor.
When Galadriel and Elendil realize the true meaning of the mark, the first one also discovers a message in “black language” and it does not bode well for anyone. “It speaks not only of a place, but of a plan. A plan by which to create a realm of its own where evil would not only endure but thrive. A plan to be carried out in the event of Morgoth’s defeat, by the successor of the”. It seems that Sauron is preparing to build Mordor and this episode seems to confirm it..
Will we see the Southlands become Mordor in the first season of The Rings of Power?
Considering that we’re almost halfway through the season’s eight episodes already, that seems unlikely. But hopefully a newly founded Mordor, the return of Sauron, and the building of Barad-dûr, also known as the Dark Tower, will play a significant role in the series going forward.