The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power - The Stranger and Halbrand character posters

(Photo by Prime Video)

Throughout the first season of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the exact nature of the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) and the location of the unrevealed Sauron comprised the most mysterious elements of the series. At times, the “who?” and “where?” seemed as though they might be the same question, as the Stranger’s supernatural powers both seemed to promote life and snatch it away. But when treated separately, the identity of the Stranger and the whereabouts of the eventual Lord of the Rings left engaged viewers searching for answers.

Spoiler alert: The following reveals major plot details of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power season 1 finale, “Alloyed.” If you haven’t watched the episode and wish to avoid spoilers, stop reading here.

One answer definitely presented itself in the season finale with Sauron revealing himself to be — not the Stranger. In fact, the wandering Mystics even mistake the amnesiac for their missing master when they come upon him in Greenwood the Great, while Sauron weaved a new manipulation further west in Eregion, all the while disguised as the seeming Man called Halbrand (Charlie Vickers).

Nevertheless, the two still seem connected as, the Mystics realized — to their horrors — they found an Istar. Later in the episode, the Stranger reveals to Nori that the word means “wise one” or “wizard.” It is a word typically reserved for the Five Wizards sent to Middle-earth to help the Free Peoples organize against Sauron in later conflicts (most notably, the War of the Ring).

Weyman and Vickers sat down to chat with Rotten Tomatoes about the finale revelations, the nature of their seemingly common heritage, and (in Vickers’s case) what might be next for the Lord of the Rings.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power - 108

(Photo by Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

First, though, was a shared sense of relief that, finally, the secret was out in the wider world.

“It’s been a long time that I’ve had to keep this to myself,” Vickers said. “And even some really close friends and family, I haven’t been able to tell.”

As it happens, he was still under the impression he was playing a Man who might walk a dark path when the series shot its first two episodes. But just as the company was preparing to film the third episode after a very long hiatus, he was finally told the true nature of his character. He added that he now better understood the pressure Kit Harington must’ve been in when his Game of Thrones character, Jon Snow, teetered between the living and the dead during a season hiatus.

Weyman, meanwhile, is enjoying the fact that “everybody’s up-to-date with where I’m up-to-date — now, I can talk about it all. It’s really great. It feels celebratory.” Curiously, though, being up-to-date comes with a certain caveat: the Stranger is still a step behind.

“What he’s left with, especially after the moment with the Mystics in episode eight, is this sort of vision of [something] really cracked, fragmented,” the actor said of his character’s memories as he and Nori (Markella Kavenagh) head into the East of Middle-earth. “Is it a window pane? Is it a mirror in his mind? It’s still set against this blackness, and there are little hints of light glinting off bits, but he can’t tell where they come from or where they’re leading.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power - 108 Charlie Vickers (Halbrand)

(Photo by Prime Video)

And, to an extent, the darkness overall seems to have more clarity. At least, that seems the case with Sauron, who may not have spent the season trying to get Eregion, but had an objective in sharing a journey with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark).

“[J.R.R.] Tolkien talks of him having fair motives until his intentions become the sole object of his will and he is just hellbent on achieving what he wants,” Vickers said of the character, who has been on off-screen presence or shadow more talked about than seen up until now. But Sauron’s apparent clarity in purpose means he is ready to use lies and the truth to reach his aims.

“The seed of that is always there,” Vickers said.

That means viewers are left with two equally possible views of the character as he presents himself in the finale.

“We know he’s in the spirit of repentance. Tolkien talks about that. The question mark is whether or not this repentance is genuine,” he explained. Sauron admits his ill-deeds in the immediate aftermath of Morgoth’s defeat, but shies away when told to return to Valinor and receive judgement — possibly to work out a way to atone on his own.

“So, you can see him as someone that is genuinely trying to be a good guy and all the stuff he’s saying to Galadriel is the truth,” he continued. “But you can also look at what he says to Galadriel as all just manipulation and what he thinks that she needs in order for him to achieve his goals.”

While Vickers chose one of those options in his performance, he also thought “it’s great to leave it open because it’s completely subjective as to how you interpret the scene.”

Daniel Weyman (The Stranger) in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Ben Rothstein/Prime Video)

Subjectivity also matters to the Stranger as he may still not be an Istar.

“I don’t know how many people took [the Mystics] at their word when they told him he was Lord Sauron,” Weyman said. “But they’ve made a mistake once before; how do we know they’re not making a mistake now?”

Of course, the displays of power and visual grammar surrounding the character suggest the Stranger is at least kin to the Istari, in that he also appears to be a Maia from Valinor whose power is cloaked the form of a frailer, older Man. Presuming a connection is there, Weyman said he has done his research on the Five Wizards and some of the other Maiar Tolkien wrote about in his wider legendarium.

“When you look at the Maiar as a whole, that group of sort of — if I call them demigods, the somewhat lesser gods than the Manwës and the Aulës and Yavannas — they have a whole set of really interesting characteristics and seriously exciting storylines from the beginning of time.”

One such Maia he referenced is Ossë, a servant of the Vala Ulmo, the Lord of Waters.

“[He] was tempted into turning against good and sort of siding with Morgoth,” the actor explained. This occurred in the earliest days of the world and Ossë soon repented, but “it was never quite possible to fully quell his insubordination, that slightly corruptible side of his personality.”

Although Tolkien meant for this interlude with Ossë to explain why the seas can suddenly rage, it also speaks to the precarious nature of the Maiar. They stand on the precipice, and should the Stranger turn out to be Maia — particularly if he is one we have not met elsewhere in The Lord of the Rings — his assertion to the Mystics that he is good may still be challenged.

Holding fast on the line between the darkness and the light often puts the Maiar in a seeming endless, and sometimes internal, conflict.

“The thing that makes the Maiar the demigods that they are is not that they are incorruptible, always on the right path, or that everything is easy for them,” Weyman said. Stuck between the Valar and the Elves, their path is seemingly uncertain, leading one, Melian, to live a life as an Elf for a time and many others to serve Morgoth as Balrogs.

Charlie Vickers (Halbrand) in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Prime Video)

But the most famous of Maiar to fall into darkness is Sauron himself. Known as Mairon when he served Aulë, the Vala smith who also fashioned the Dwarves, he quickly found his way to the Dark Lord of the era.

“I think he joins Morgoth because Morgoth knows how to affect his designs fast. And Sauron likes that because if he’s with him, Morgoth gets s— done,” Vickers said of that original seduction. “Morgoth is the most powerful of the Valar in the same way that Sauron is one of the most, if not the most, powerful of the Maiar.”

Nevertheless, the finale introduces an interesting wrinkle in the dynamic of the first Dark Lord and his chief lieutenant — the notion that it was abusive and that Morgoth held a “clenched fist” around Sauron’s throat. To this, Vickers referenced the tale of Beren and Lúthien, in which Sauron plays a part by capturing Beren, a mortal Man, and facing the wrath of the Elf Lúthien. As Vickers recalled the scene, Sauron is pinned to the ground by the great wolfhound, Huan, and she says something to the effect of “You can go whimpering back to your master and tell him that you’ve let me in. You’ve failed. You haven’t defended your kingdom.” Given the option to face his master in failure or let them escape, Sauron allows Lúthien, Beren, and Huan to depart.

“I read from that this thing that Morgoth is so powerful and so scary, that it would’ve meant consequences for Sauron. And there must have been an element to their relationship where Morgoth was someone he feared at times, or someone that would punish him when he failed,” Vickers said. Of course, since the “clenched fist” is Sauron’s own description and detail of his time with Morgoth, it must be interpreted through the prism of his relentless trend toward manipulation. Nevertheless, Vickers is sure “there must have been some truth in that line.”

Markella Kavenagh as Nori in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

(Photo by Prime Video)

A healthier relationship is the one developing between the Stranger and Nori. Now that the language barrier is gone, the two have an easier rapport and a certain cheery wholesomeness has appeared in the Stranger’s demeanor — something Weyman felt needed a season’s worth of uncertainty and communication difficulty in order to make their comfortable manner play so brightly in the finale.

Comparing the transition to watching the lower value rounds in an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, he said, “There’s something about going through the trials and the tribulations of the earlier incarnations that mean that when you get to that final place, it has more weight, it’s more important, we care more.”

It also has an effect of bonding the Stranger to the audience in a manner similar to his bond with Nori.

“It means that whenever we see the Stranger from now on in Middle-earth, the audience knows exactly the same as the Stranger knows about what he’s gone through,” he explained.

Part of that includes the challenge the Mystics present by trying to corrupt him and claiming him as Sauron. On the basis of his departure from the Harfoot migration in episode 7, Weyman is convinced they would have broken his spirit “unless Nori and the group came to rescue him.” Although their path going forward lacks complete certainty, Weyman is sure the star pattern “burning into him” will continue to guide their adventure for the time being.

“[It’s] the thing that is driving him, he has to find out the significance of that,” he said.

Joseph Mawle (Adar)

(Photo by Prime Video)

Sauron, meanwhile, has a full to-do list. The final shot of the season suggests wrestling control of Mordor from broken Elf Adar (Joseph Mawle) is an immediate concern. But he also needs to reestablish footholds in the very same East the Stranger and Nori are headed toward. And he needs to involve himself, somehow, in the forging of the remaining Rings before finally crafting his One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

With a breath signifying the work ahead, Vickers said, “He has a lot to do, [but] definitely, his plans are to go back to Mordor. He has a set-out plan for what he wants to do [there].”

Of course, conquering a land to directly rule may be a dual passion with forging those remaining Rings in the next season, which Vickers said is “high on his to-do list.”

“I think fans can be very excited about the potential of that happening in the future,” he added. “And I’m super excited about that because it’s such an iconic part of the lore, and I think that’s one of the really great things that we’re going to get in season 2.”

83% The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Season 1 (2022) is now streaming in its entirety on Prime Video.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.