Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
The first two episodes of The Rings of Power, Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings prequel series, set the stage for a drama that will unfold over five seasons of television. Set in the Second Age, thousands of years before the birth of Frodo, the show will trace the rise of Sauron and the creation of the titular rings, including the one ring to rule them all. And already characters like Galadriel can sense that something evil is coming to Middle-earth.
Showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay introduce plenty of mysteries in the early episodes of the series. Evil-looking objects and sketchy dudes who fall from the sky abound. And of course, audiences are on the lookout for Sauron, who we know—from what author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in the appendices to Return of the King—disguised himself during this time period in order to trick the elves. The internet is already full of theories about whether the evil lord is masquerading as one of the supposed heroes of the show.
Here are the questions we hope the show answers before the end of season 1.
Who is the man who fell from the sky?
The magical stranger must be important. After he falls from a meteor at the end of the first episode, Nori and Poppy discuss who he might be. They eliminate the possibility of him being an elf (no pointy ears) or mortal man (men can’t wield magic). What does that leave?
One obvious answer may be wizard. Though Gandalf didn’t make his way to Middle-earth until the Third Age, according to Tolkien, it’s possible that showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay have found a way to write around that reality. Or the stranger may be another wizard entirely.
Alternatively, this stranger may be Sauron himself. When he collapses on the ground, the camera zooms out to show what looks to be a flaming eye, which is how Sauron manifests in Lord of the Rings.
What’s up with the evil Sauron sword?
Bronwyn’s son Theo is casually carrying around a broken sword that has Sauron’s symbol carved into it and—checks notes—oh yes, sucks blood out of people’s wounds. How on earth did Theo get his hands on this very evil weapon? And what is it?
I have some theories. The town where Bronwyn and Theo reside is home to loyalists to Sauron’s old master Morgoth. Elf soldiers like Arondir are patrolling the area to prevent a resurgence in evil. Their home also happens to be located quite close to Mordor, which can’t be good for property values.
So it’s possible Theo found this weapon on the ground one day. But I’m betting he either got it or stole it from his dad. We haven’t heard anything about Theo’s dad—whether he’s dead, alive, or an evil lord by the name of Sauron. OK, so I don’t think his dad is actually Sauron, but he could be a Sauron supporter who died wielding that now-broken sword.
As to the blade’s origins: I have no answers. To my knowledge, Tolkien never wrote about anything that fits its description. So this weapon may be an invention of the show. But it no doubt offers some clue as to where Sauron is hiding and what he’s up to.
What’s in the (dwarf) box?
In classic Pulp Fiction fashion, King Durin III and his son Prince Durin IV open a box toward the end of the first episode, and look in on a glowing object. King Durin III boasts that the treasure will be essential to the future of their subterranean kingdom of Khazad-dûm. So, what’s in the box?
My best guess is mithril, the precious and strong metal prized by the dwarves. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Fordo inherits chainmail woven from mithril from his uncle Bilbo. That special chainmail later saves his life.
Is Halbrand evil?
The showrunners and actor Charlie Vickers were rather elusive when I asked them about Halbrand’s background. Vickers did say that in order to get into character he thought what it would be like to never have been loved. That suggests Halbrand has a rather grim backstory—and perhaps a grim future?
Speculation is running rampant online as to Halbrand’s identity. Considering he is never mentioned in Tolkien’s writings, his arbitrary inclusion on Galadriel’s journey seems rather random. The prevailing theory seems to be that Halbrand is either Sauron or a Sauron stooge.
Where is Sauron?
Sauron is lurking around somewhere. Tolkien wrote that the villain disguised himself in a “fair” form and called himself Annatar to trick the elves. So, basically, we’re looking out for someone attractive—a hard ask in a show full of veryattractive people.
When the Comic-Con trailer for The Rings of Power dropped in July, some fans theorized that a blonde character with close-cropped hair was Annatar/Sauron. The internet dubbed the character “Slim Shady Sauron” because of the haircut.
Executive producer Lindsey Weber revealed exclusively to TIME that that unnamed character is played by Bridie Sisson (not Anson Boon, as the internet originally thought). While she didn’t reveal the character’s name, Weber did say she hailed from Rhûn, an eastern territory where Sauron likes to hang out.
In all likelihood, this is one of Sauron’s servants, not Sauron himself, because she looks too obviously evil. My guess is Sauron will arrive in the guise of a good guy. Which good guy remains to be seen.
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