The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 Finale: Sauron Revealed!

Series stars Morfydd Clark, Markella Kavenagh, and Charles Edwards spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about the season 1 finale, rings, relationships, and the new Dark Lord.

by | October 14, 2022 | Comments

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After a season of wandering, swimming, crawling, and riding across Middle-earth and a nearby island, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has reached its first season finale. The prologue is well and truly complete with characters in the right place, certain mysteries revealed, and a special set of artifacts appearing in the world. Of course, there’s still plenty of story to cover — fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings know just how much ground remains to be covered in its nooks, crannies, and appendices — and plenty to discuss as we await the program’s second season.

Actors Morfydd Clark, Markella Kavenagh, and Charles Edwards spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about the season’s concluding chapter and how its big revelation changes viewer’s appreciation of the characters.

Spoiler alert: The following reveals details about the plot of the season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. If you have not watched the episode and wish to avoid spoilers, stop reading here. 

Three Rings for the Elven-Kings Under the Sky

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(Photo by Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

As seen in the episode, Celebrimbor (Edwards) — with inspiration from a person we’ll discuss later — finally began his great work: turning the mithril shard into objects of power. Initially thinking he might forge a crown from the material, he instead makes three rings, the Three referenced in the Ring Poem.

No matter their numeric significance, they are the objects the Elvish smith hopes will prevent his people from diminishing in Middle-earth, which will either force them back to Valinor or to perish (after a fashion). According to Edwards, the diminishing was something Celebrimbor and High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) were discussing for some time, possibly even before the first leaf in Lindon fell. “I like to think that Gil-galad goes to Celebrimbor every now and again with problems and quandaries,” the actor said.

Of course, as established in his episode 2 conversation with Elrond (Robert Aramayo), Celebrimbor’s ambition in crafting something powerful enough to halt the diminishing of the Elves has a personal dimension: attaining the renown of his grandfather, Fëanor, the Noldor craftsman who created the Silmarils. In that regard, Edwards thinks Celebrimbor regards the Rings forged in the finale as “a new kind of power [and] that he’s on the road to something which excites him. It may not be for everybody’s benefit in the long run, but currently he’s excited by it … He’s pursuing it with a zeal that perhaps is unwise.”

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In terms of the actual forging, it arrives in a way some may not have expected – even in comparison to the brief glimpse of the moment in the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films. Edwards mentioned a piece of fan art often seen online, perhaps inspired by the same Finnish tales that inspired Tolkien, of Celebrimbor using a huge hammer and tongs to pound a Ring of Power into existence. The depiction in the series speaks more to the finer touch this version of Celebrimbor would seek in his art.

“You need delicacy. You need nimble fingers. You need detail,” Edwards explained. “And the apparatus that was created I just thought was wonderful because it in itself it was a thing of beauty, and Celebrimbor probably designed it himself.” Indeed, Celebrimbor devising the Rings — and the contraption to make the alloy — independent of a certain person’s aid is a key part of the lore maintained in the episode. “And the tweezers that are needed to put the jewels in place, and then you’ve got to gently tap them all around, all that, it’s micro work,” he added.

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(Photo by Prime Video)

The notion of a more delicate process for these Rings makes sense. They are the Three for the Elven-kings under the sky after all.

One thing we did not get to discuss with Edwards is the change in lore their creation as depicted here brings into existence: the Three are said to be last of the Rings made before Sauron crafts his Ruling Ring, and because they were made without his direct guidance, they evade his direct control even if they are still bound to him. In terms of the story being told here, crafting them first makes sense as they seemingly answer the Elves’ problem and make their access to the Unseen World a purer pursuit. Although, this later aspect is something to consider for season 2.

Nine for Mortal Men Doomed To Die

Ema Horvath is Eärien in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Prime Video)

Throughout the first season, Eärion’s (Ema Horvath) role in events has been up for debate. Initially, it appeared she might come to represent a portion of Elendil’s (Lloyd Owen) family who side with the King’s Men. But thanks to a surprise visit with Tar-Palantir (Ken Blackburn), we predict a new role for her: Queen Míriel’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) eyes. This is entirely based on the king’s words she happened to intercept and, presumably, her decision to gaze into the palantír at his urging. Combined, it suggests she will come to share in the vision Míriel, Galadriel (Clark), and Tar-Palantir have all seen in the stone. If that will change her political affiliation is anyone’s guess, but being told by the king to return to the old ways should be a pretty powerful motivation.

Perhaps more surprising was Míriel and Elendil choosing to rededicate themselves to the Faithful as they approached the bay in Armenelos, Númenór’s capital city. Their cautious faith in the old bonds between their people and the Elves has already cost them so much. In fact, we would have gladly accepted a season 2 Elendil throwing in his lot with the King’s Men until swayed back by absent son Anarion or, perhaps, the reappearance of Isildur (Maxim Baldry) as a response to his losses. But, somehow, watching these two support one another in their beliefs was more satisfying and, we think, the first glimpse of the sort of king Elendil might make some day.

But it is also interesting that, in this episode, we see only Men of Númenór and not any of the “low men” we’ve come to know across the season. For even Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) proved false in that regard.

One for the Dark Lord on His Dark Throne

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Charlie Vickers is Halbrand

(Photo by Prime Video)

While we always kept Halbrand on our suspect list, and even suggested he was the will of Sauron, the moment of revelation still proved to be unexpected and moving. Sauron was indeed hiding as the false-Aragorn, twisting everything he told Galadriel across the season into, surprisingly, an unending string of dark truths. He did steal the king’s crest from a dead man. He did evil things. And we’re even willing to accept his claim as the true king of the Southlands considering the only other viable claimant to that title was cast out of the Door of Night at the end of the First Age.

With that in mind, we’re left to ponder the new tales Sauron spun for Galadriel this week. Was Morgoth really a clenched fist at his throat? Legend tells that Sauron was swayed to the Dark Lord’s cause fairly early (although he did initially serve the Vala Aulë in the earliest days of the world), but how much of that was a magnetism Morgoth was known to exert on the Maiar even before the creation of the universe?

Another curious detail he offers to his companion: his intent to heal the world. According to Tolkien, Morgoth’s malice is in the very stuff of the world in the same way Sauron will eventually pour the greater part of his power into the One Ring. Presumably aware of that, is Sauron telling a dark truth once again by claiming a desire to fix what his old master broke? Even before he was seduced by Morgoth, Sauron (then called Mairon) was obsessed with order, and perhaps, there is a true intent in cleansing all things via access to the Unseen. Then again, despite claiming to feel the presence of The One (an allusion to Elvish concept of God) again, can Sauron even perceive what a benevolent order of light would look like after spending so many thousands of years in the darkness and corruption of Morgoth?

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Meanwhile, Galadriel must now live with the fact her quest of vengeance made her, in Clark’s words, “very vulnerable.” So much so, in fact, that the actor believes “she would’ve been very vulnerable to the One Ring during this season.” This made her particularly susceptible to Sauron’s trick.

“It was a mixture between grief and kind of the toxic blindness of vengeance that made her the perfect person for him to meet floating about in the sea,” she said.

At the same time, adventuring with Sauron also put her in “a much better place” than when she left Middle-earth. Clark also credits the opportunity to engage with people like Míriel, Isildur, and Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) with inspiring the ultimate change in her perspective.

“The colors are starting to come back to her where she can interact differently with people,” she said. “[Prior to this] she was alone. And I think no matter whether you’re an Elf, a human, or a Hobbit in Tolkien’s world, being part of a community is kind of the most important thing.”

Granted, she also conceded that Galadriel’s isolation was her own doing, even if it was in reaction to her grief over the loss (perceived or otherwise) of so many people dear to her during the First Age wars.

All that adventuring with Halbrand inspired something else among the fanbase: a community shipping the duo — some of whom continued to ship the two characters as a light-dark power couple even after learning Halbrand is Sauron.

Is it terrible i still ship Galadriel and Halbrand ? –Megan

Galadriel is a stronger she than me. One speech like that from Halbrand and I would be … forwarding all Amazon packages to Mordor. –Sylvia

Clark appreciated the response as it meant “we’ve done our job well,” but added that the relationship between the two characters was never meant to be a romance as such – particularly in the Tolkien tradition.

“He was so varied in his idea of what was an important relationship,” she explained. “And he wrote amazing romances, obviously, like Beren and Lúthien. But also, Sam and Frodo is one of the greatest relationships of all. So I’m quite glad that — and I think the writers did this quite cleverly — that there is ambiguity to how they’re feeling about each other. But whatever it is, it’s big.”

Whether or not that connection will appear again is a question for another season.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

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And with Halbrand revealed as Sauron’s ruse, the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) is still left without an identity, but now perceives a role as an Istar. As he subsequently explained to Nori (Kavenagh), the term means “wise man” or “wizard” in the common tongue and it is associated with the Five Wizards (or Istari) who venture to Middle-earth in subsequent days to aid the Free Peoples in their eventual war with Sauron.

Provided, of course, the Stranger is not one of those five himself. Considering the three wanderers name him an Istar, we can assume he is a Maiar like Gandalf, Saruman, or Sauron. But the question remains, is he a Maia Tolkien readers are familiar with? Considering his constellation can only be seen in the east Middle-earth region known as Rhûn, we are inclined to believe he might be one the Blue Wizards. As previously mentioned, Tolkien wrote few words about them beyond their names (both in Valinor and Middle-earth), their mission to the East, and their varying degree of success.

And now that he has some of his wits back, the Stranger is, indeed, headed East.

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(Photo by Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

He’s also not doing this alone as Nori will be his traveling companion. A role she not only wanted, but was encouraged to take up by friends and family; an astonishing thing considering how little the Harfoots wanted to do with outsiders or the wider world when the story began. Kavenagh was herself surprised at the turn events and still believes a part of Nori “wanted them to go, ‘No, stay. Please stay.'”

“It’s something she’s always wanted to do but she’s always been met with some kind of resistance,” she added. “And even though that’s been frustrating, it’s also been comforting in a way because she doesn’t actually have to do it and now, she’s doing it. There’s a part of her that’s even more terrified and definitely surprised but also so grateful to have that encouragement.”

Daniel Weyman in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power character poster

(Photo by Prime Video)

Also encouraging: the bond Nori forged with the Stranger.

“When they first met, she recognized a fear in him that she also feels and a loneliness that she also felt, even though she was surrounded by really close loved ones,” she explained. Through that, she was able to humanize the Stranger, but he also humanized her in a way. And now that he can speak the Harfoot language, “I think that will also make sure that their relationship reaches equilibrium in a way.”

But as Hobbits thousands of years after Nori will come known, adventure changes a person. Will this keep her from eventually reuniting with the other Harfoots some day?

“She wants her dedication of family and she wants her interest in adventure to be able to coexist,” Kavenagh said. “She hopes to see them again. But I think she’s also not oblivious, and she’s aware of the fact that it might not happen, at least for a very long time.” And, perhaps, at that point, her desire for family and adventure will also find equilibrium.

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