The (excellent) Rings of Power series on Prime Video has been overshadowed by one question: Who is Sauron? Though “Alloyed” did provide an answer to that question, it also provided us (and the characters within it) with a lot more to consider.
The season has done an excellent job of establishing this period in Tolkien’s stories not only making lavish use of the billion-dollar budget but also giving us time to relax and appreciate the character arcs that will make Peter Jackson’s cherished films that much more rewarding to watch.
There was a lot to explore whether you were just getting started in this world or had read every piece of canonical literature. Before Season 2 arrives in a year or two, let’s savor the five best parts of the season finale (even though the entire show was great):
1. The Sauron Fake Out
The Season 1 trailer teased an answer after a season of hints and theories, saying that the mystics we’ve seen following the Harfoots would reveal Sauron. Yes, to a certain extent they did.
They saw the Stranger’s power and thought he was the reborn Dark Lord. Yet it became immediately apparent that he was in fact “The Other One,” a good and powerful wizard who would aid in the defeat of Sauron. In the meantime, he easily dispatched the mystics and ultimately saved the (dubious) Harfoot family.
The show’s brilliant use of the “you are Sauron” speech as the cold open reveal, followed by backtracking reveal that never felt like a troll was the perfect combination of these two techniques. Both the Stranger and Sauron are active but in ways that the Fellowship did not anticipate. It was a great day of truth for all the theorists.
2. The Sauron Reveal
Now that we know that Sauron has been disguising himself as Halbrand, everyone on the H=S train can feel canonically vindicated. There are countless clues throughout the season but even the most skeptical viewers couldn’t miss Halbrand’s forge boner with glee.
The majority of the season has seen Halbrand portrayed by Charlie Vickers as an Aragorn stand-in: stoic, conflicted and a little roguish but ultimately choosing to ally with our heroes. Our Southlander King, however, really came to life in “Alloyed.”
His eyes sparkled (burned?) with excitement to be working with Celebrimbor, feeding him ideas and “gifts” about how to forge the tricky Mithril. All of this will eventually matter thanks to the accumulated might of the One Ring, but for now, it serves as a delightful introduction to the story’s ultimate antagonist.
Even better, once Galadriel confronted Halbrand/Sauron, he shifted into a higher gear. The expert manipulator tried everything from charm to threats to trickery to win her over to his side.
This was the moment when he let her and us see him for who he is and it was awesome. Halbrand used Sauron’s full array of powers to make a final play to ally with the elf warrior, and Vickers’ performance had to have convinced even those on the fence about the H=S reveal.
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3. Galadriel Rejecting Sauron and Coming To Terms With Her Mistakes
That Galadriel’s struggles to resist Sauron’s seductive offers of power mirrored her speech to Frodo in Lord of the Rings about the corruptive nature of the rings was the best part. The fact that H=S is a rough reckoning for Galadriel is, however, one of the reasons many people initially disliked the concept.
She lured the one she’d been tracking into the elves’ lair and gave him the control he’d been seeking. If anything you do this week makes you feel like a dummy, remember that you haven’t done anything as bad as Galadriel.
Even so, it was only natural that she not rush to alert Elrond and Celebrimbor to her discovery. It was indicative of her pride and her pragmatism (the elven rings did need to be forged to save her people), and it fits perfectly with what we’ve learned about her this season. After being exiled for her fixation on Sauron, Galadriel is already on shaky ground.
This would make things even more difficult for her. The reveal that Elrond was the one who put everything together at the end and gave her a hard side-eye was a juicy setup for Season 2. (And, you know, hit me up if you know of any good alternative universe fic featuring a Halbrand/Galadriel ship).
4. “Follow Your Nose”
It has already been established that the mystics made a major error in their search for Sauron when they presumed that he was The Stranger. Again, the clues are there even though “Alloyed” did not reveal The Stranger’s true identity. The term “Istar” was used, so we know he is a wizard.
A friend also wisely pointed out earlier in the season that despite all the Eastern allusions, the show’s big wizard reveal was never going to be “the blue wizards we don’t know anything about.”
Though I was hoping for the reveal of Saruman, it was refreshing to be reminded of Gandalf’s endearing simplicity and power once The Stranger’s “veil” was lifted. Again, his name is never mentioned in the final act but he does quote Gandalf by telling Nori to “follow your nose.”
The next chapter of his story, if there is one should be quite intriguing. While Gandalf is traditionally sidelined until the Third Age, the timeline and lore of Rings of Power have been manipulated quite a bit, so we shall see how long we explore his time in Rhun and what else that reveals/where that leads.
5. Halbrand Walking Into Mordor
Adar is one example of a character who has dominated his screen time. The mysterious dark elf gives the orcs and their struggle depth as they view him as a “father.” Adar hoped to build a place where they would be safe and free but by the end of “Alloyed,” we learn that Halbrand/Sauron has other ideas. No one, not even Sauron would dare to simply stroll into Mordor.
It will be interesting to see how the show deals with the forging of the final rings in addition to a showdown between Sauron and Adar. Although Sauron does not have a direct hand in forging the elven rings, his influence is sufficient to corrupt them once the One Ring is forged, as we saw in the show.
In the lore, Sauron appears to the elves in another form (“Annatar”) and works alongside Celebrimbor to make rings for the dwarf lords and for the men he will ultimately control. What about the other rings and the uncorrupted people now that Halbrand has been exposed as a version of that?
For now, it is sufficient to say that the exceptional finale that was both satisfying and galvanizing was capped by the sight of the Dark Lord’s arrival on the outskirts of Mordor with the reflection of Mount Doom in his eyes. In the eyes of an elf, two years is nothing but for us mere mortals, Season 2 of Rings of Power cannot come soon enough.
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