There has been one question that has overshadowed the entirety of Prime Video’s (excellent) Rings of Power series: Who Is Sauron? “Alloyed” answered that, yes, but it also gave us (and its characters) so much more to chew on. The season has done a wonderful job of setting up this era of Tolkien’s stories, not only putting that billion-dollar budget to sumptuous visual use, but in allowing us to sit and enjoy character connections that ultimately serve to make Peter Jackson’s beloved films all the richer. Whether you were new to this world or someone who has read the lore exhaustively, there was so much to dig into,
As we wait for another year or two for Season 2 to arrive, let’s bask a little in the five greatest moments and reveals of the Season 1 finale (even though every moment was, in fact, excellent):
1. The Sauron Fake-Out
After a full season of hints and theories, the Season 1 finale trailer promised an answer: the mystics that we’ve seen following the Harfoots would reveal Sauron. And in a way, they did. Drawn to the Stranger’s powers, they believed him to be the Dark Lord reborn. But as became clear very quickly, he was actually “The Other One”—that is, a good and powerful wizard who would help defeat Sauron. Meanwhile, he made quick work of the mystics, and in doing so, saved the (questionable) Harfoots.
It was great that the show used the “you are Sauron” speech as the cold open reveal, and then backtracked on its later with the actual reveal in a way that never felt like a troll. The Stranger is powerful (and could choose how to wield that power), and Sauron is active… just not how they expected. And for all of the theorists out there, it was a great moment of reckoning.
2. The Sauron Reveal
Everyone on the H=S train can now feel canonically vindicated: Sauron has been masquerading as Halbrand. There are a million hints along the way through the season, but even doubters could not look past Halbrand’s gleeful forge boner in this episode. Charlie Vickers has played Halbrand as an Aragorn analogue for most of the season: stoic, conflicted, a little roguish but ultimately choosing to ally with our heroes. But in “Alloyed,” our Southlander king came alive. His eyes sparkled (burned?) with excitement to be working with Celebrimbor, feeding him ideas and “gifts” about how to forge the tricky Mithril. This will obviously all come into play later with the connected power of the One Ring, but for now, it was a delightful way to introduce our story’s ultimate villain.
Even better, Halbrand/Sauron went into another gear once Galadriel confronted him. The master manipulator deployed every mode to win her to his side: trickery, flattery, and ultimately threats. This is where he finally allowed her, and us, to see him as he truly is, and it was fantastic. Even those on the fence about the H=S reveal had to have been won over by Vickers’ performance, as Halbrand used Sauron’s full array of powers to make a final play to ally with the elf warrior.
3. Galadriel Rejecting Sauron… and Coming to Terms with Her Mistakes
The best part of Galadriel’s trials to resist Sauron’s seductive offers of power was how well it echoed her speech to Frodo in Lord of the Rings about the rings’ corruptive nature. But one of the reasons many did not like the idea of H=S to begin with is because it is a rough reckoning for Galadriel. She brought the very one she had been hunting into the elves’ home and gave him the power he was desperate to reclaim. Anything you do this week that feels like a fuck up, just know that it’s nothing compared to Galadriel.
And yet, it felt very right to not have her run to Elrond and Celebrimbor and tell them what she had discovered. It spoke both to her practicality (the elven rings did need to be forged to save her people) and her pride—we absolutely tracks with what we’ve learned about her over the course of the season. Galadriel is already on thin ice after she was cast out over her obsession with Sauron, and this… would be hard to come back from. Having Elrond appear to put the pieces together at the end and give her a real hard side-eye was also a juicy setup for Season 2. (And if anyone has read good alt world fic for a Halbrand and Galadriel ship, um… hit me up).
4. “Follow Your Nose”
As mentioned, the mystics also made a big mistake in their hunt for Sauron, expecting him to be The Stranger. Though “Alloyed” did not reveal The Stranger’s actual name, once again, the clues are all there. We know he’s a wizard (that was confirmed), specifically using the term “Istar.” And as a friend astutely pointed out earlier in the season, despite references to the East, this show’s big wizard reveal was never going to be “the blue wizards we don’t know anything about.” Though I was personally rooting for a Saruman reveal, it was actually very nice (once The Stranger’s “veil” had lifted) to be reminded of the charm of everyone’s favorite kindly—but still incredibly powerful—grey wizard, Gandalf. Again, his name is never mentioned in the finale, but he does tell Nori to “follow your nose,” which is a Gandalf quote.
What will be interesting is where the show will take his story next. Rings of Power has played around with timelines and lore quite a bit, so while Gandalf is canonically sidelined until the Third Age, we’ll see how long we explore his time in Rhun and what else that reveals / where that leads.
5. Halbrand Walking into Mordor
One character who has really stolen his scenes is Adar. The mysterious dark elf is also considered a “father” by the orcs, and gives dimension to them and their struggle. Adar wanted to make a home for them where they could be free, but at the end of “Alloyed” we see Halbrand/Sauron has other plans. One does not simply walk into Mordor… unless you are Sauron.
In addition to a Sauron vs Adar showdown, it will also be intriguing to see how the show addresses the forging of the final rings. 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 (he doesn’t have a direct hand in forging the elven rings, but as we saw in the show, his influence is enough to corrupt them once the One Ring is forged). Halbrand seemed like a version of that, but now that he’s been outed, what about the other rings and those left to be corrupted?
For now, seeing the Dark Lord arrive on the edges of Mordor with the reflection of Mount Doom in his eyes was enough to cap an exceptional finale that was both satisfying and galvanizing. Two years is nothing for an elf, but for us mere mortals, Season 2 of Rings of Power cannot come soon enough.
Allison Keene is the TV Editor of Paste Magazine. For more television talk, pop culture chat and general japery, you can follow her @keeneTV
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