’The Rings of Power’ Episodes 7-8 Spoiler Discussion
Quite a lot went down in the final two episodes of The Rings of Power, which will now go on a two-year hiatus as filming and post-production of season 2 takes place. Spoilers ahead for this discussion!
Over the first season of the series, showrunners Patrick McKay and JD Payne presented the audiences with a few mysteries in the story, something I always appreciated. The identity of The Stranger and the location of Sauron were the main two, though there were a few others along the way. By far, they were the two most talked about topics regarding the show, and by the time episode 6 ended, there were a lot of options that had been crossed off.
As far as Sauron goes, it was pretty clear that it was either going to be Halbrand, or someone we hadn’t met. Halbrand being the Dark Lord would have explained a few things (why were his companions suddenly gone on the raft, or why was he so violent in the third episode?), but there were a lot of other open questions. Why would he save Galadriel? I always thought Halbrand being Sauron was a possibility, and there were some possible clues indicating in that direction, but I was of the opinion that he eventually becoming the Witch King was a far more attractive path for the character. (That being said, massive hats off to the elf-eared Reddit users that noticed Halbrand’s theme being Sauron’s theme in reverse.)
After episode 6 ended, I was quick to call the race. Halbrand was given the choice of either killing Galadriel or Adar, and he chose the latter. That was it for me, though I was obviously not paying close enough attention — just a couple of minutes later, Adar would reveal that he and Sauron had once been at odds with each other, easily explaining why, if Halbrand was Sauron, he would have gone after Adar.
By the end of episode 7, though, the writing was on the wall for me and I thought the showrunners were now making it pretty clear. Halbrand was mysteriously hurt (off-camera) from an injury that had him lying in bed, incapable of moving until it was time to visit the elves… By that point, he was ready to walk to his horse and subsequently ride off into the sunset (as we found out at the beginning of episode 8, for six days without rest), all of that without ever addressing “his people”. It was also quite clear they were headed to Eregion. Why is that important? As Tolkien fans might know, Celebrimbor was the one who forged the Rings of Power, and he did so under the guidance of an elf named Annatar, who was none other than Sauron himself in disguise.
It’s always been clear that the show would be taking some liberties in adapting Tolkien’s writings. Perhaps one of the most complicated tasks the writers faced was how to keep those who had read the books, and those who hadn’t intrigued. If Sauron was to give himself the name Annatar, they would have let the audience know right away this was Sauron, so that everyone was on the same level (much like in the fourth episode they already teased the downfall of Númenor) — otherwise, he would have to infiltrate the elven ranks as someone else. Halbrand was a perfect solution to that problem, and the door is still open for Annatar to appear in the show, though probably with a different purpose.
In the eighth episode, three rings were forged. This part actually surprised me — after Celebrimbor said that they would be making an object of circular shape, perhaps a crown, I thought that they would actually go that way, and then in season 2 realize that it wasn’t enough, and they needed something different. Three rings. They jumped ahead, and I actually liked how they did it. The forging of the three rings was quite beautifully done, with each of them given the necessary gravity that they required. There were also plenty of visual callbacks to the Fellowship of the Ring prologue, which I appreciated a lot.
We know that there are seventeen more rings to be forged. Seven to the dwarf lords and nine, nine Rings were gifted to the race of Men. And there is, of course, the One Ring to Rule Them All. It’s still unknown if Halbrand/Sauron has the capability of making that Ring now, or if he will have to go back to Eregion and consult with Celebrimbor, perhaps as the other rings are made.
All in all, I was a bit disappointed at first that Halbrand was indeed Sauron, like many had predicted, but I appreciated very much how the reveal was done, and how it tied back all the loose ends from the previous episodes — mainly, his relationship with Galadriel. In fact, probably the best shot of the entire season was when the camera showed the reflection of the water of Sauron & Galadriel ruling over Middle-earth together. “In place of a Dark Lord you would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn!” That was an outstanding way to foreshadow what’s to come thousands of years later, and explain one of Galadriel’s biggest question marks from the Peter Jackson trilogy. In fact, the very first season of the show could be seen as the character set up for that very scene.
This also sets up the main plot of season 2. The elves have now forged three rings that essentially lift their power over the rest of the races in Middle-earth. How will the Númenóreans, the dwarves, and the rest of the people of the country respond? I’m definitely dying to find out.
Speaking of set ups for the second season, Gandalf. Yeah. The other big mystery of the first season was finally resolved, with the showrunners essentially breaking the fourth wall to tell us, “Hey, this character with a funny sense of smell, is your beloved wizard!” I must admit, I geeked out when he said “There’s a sweet smell on the air this way”. Rewinding, though, there was already one shot that foreshadowed the reveal:
Going further back, we see the Sauron cultists in episode 7 again, and they are quite mean. The Stranger has at this point parted ways with the harfoots, and Nori, when trying to protect his friend, sends them off in a different direction. However, that didn’t work very well for her — in one of the most hobbit-like moments of the season, the entire tribe was very excited to have “found” so many apples (enough for two breakfasts even!). That didn’t last long, though, and Nori and company are now going after their new friend after they realize he was more important than they thought. It was quite clear that the women in white were convinced The Stranger was Sauron, so the cold opening of episode 8 made a lot of sense — the writers wanted to get that out of the way fast, but they didn’t want it to distract from the Halbrand reveal.
While the fight scene was good enough for me, what I appreciated the most, once again, were the tie-ins with Fellowship of the Ring, especially with the scenes with Gandalf in Bag End. The Stranger could have never been Sauron because he was not inherently evil. I always thought it was pretty clear that whoever was able to win over his heart, would be able to tip the balance to their side. It was also very clear that he would be a wizard, though I was mostly fascinated by the idea that he would be one of the blue wizards, two characters that Tolkien himself didn’t write a lot about. It’s always possible they will pop up in future seasons, and in retrospect, I love the idea of bringing Gandalf into the show, especially the way they did it — we are now fond of this character, instead of judging the casting from the get-go because of the gravity that he brings, and because, well, he’s not Ian McKellen.
Gandalf and a hobbit (harfoot) going on a quest together is yet another massive Lord of the Rings nerd moment. While the harfoots storyline was my least favorite of the first season, I can confidently say I am very much looking forward to seeing this subplot in the second season — I am also fascinated by the idea of exploring Rhûn, a land we haven’t seen much of in live-action. That being said, though, I wonder what the future of the harfoots is — with the Stranger out of their trail, will season 2 focus at all on them? While we are semi-attached to a few of those characters, it’s not like the show can sacrifice screen time from the other storylines to focus on them. I wonder how they will factor into the new season.
Before I move on from Gandalf, I must say that I was a bit disappointed that he recovered his ability to speak so quickly. I get that he’s got most of his powers back now, but it honestly felt very convenient. However, because I liked the overall execution of the reveal, I will give them a pass for that and note that the alternative of Nori interacting with a wizard who can’t put three words together wasn’t exactly appealing going forward.
The season finale, with good reason, spent plenty of time on these two subplots, but there is a lot more going on in this show. The Númenóreans have suffered their biggest defeat yet, and their ending was perhaps the most heavy-handed of them all. Eärien finds the palantír, Míriel is now blind but doesn’t reunite with his father, who has now deceased, Elendil is now essentially Míriel’s guide, and Isildur is nowhere to be found. There are many reasons to be excited about all of these storylines, but instead of wrapping up this season’s journey and getting us ready for the next one, they all seemed like a “To be continued…”
Eärien will seemingly find out that Númenor is doomed to sink into the ocean, and might be a proponent to move to Middle-earth. I am fascinated by this character, who was created for the show, and who I am convinced will end up designing Minas Tirith. But there is a long way to go until that. We didn’t get the father-daughter reunion we were hoping for, and it’s possible that she will bring up Isildur as a reason to go back — if there is no body, then there’s reason for hope. We find out about Tar-Palantir’s death because of the black sails on Númenor’s ships, which Elendil, unlike Míriel, is able to see. We cut to the King’s body in bed, with Pharazôn by his side. There is a civil war about to start — Pharazôn must be pleased with his uncle’s death, as their political views did not align in the least, especially when it comes to Númenor’s relationship with the elves. We shall see how Míriel responds to that now that she’s been to Middle-earth. (I also think that she might end up recovering her sight, perhaps thanks to elven medicine.) There are fascinating political prospects to come in the second season of The Rings of Power as far as Númenor is concerned.
As far as Isildur goes, he is definitely going to cross paths with Adar and the orcs. There is a huge opportunity for the writers here to set up the moment in Fellowship of the Ring where he won’t throw the One Ring into the fire. Maybe he was corrupted after spending a lot of time in Mordor by himself. Frodo was probably the second most pure-hearted character in Lord of the Rings after Sam, and he was also unable to throw the One Ring into the Fire. By that point, Frodo had spent twelve months carrying it around, so it’s possible Isildur went through the equivalent of that in Mordor, at the beginning of the second season.
All in all, I thought the first season of The Rings of Power was a massive win. While I was a bit disappointed by the final episode being quite predictable, I enjoyed the execution of the reveals very much, and I actually am excited about what they mean to the future of the show. I cannot wait for the second season.
A few additional notes:
- If it took ten minutes for the elves to find out that the Royal Line of the Southlands was broken a thousand years ago, how come the people there were convinced there was someone who would one day return? There is probably an easy explanation for this, but the writers definitely decided not to include it, even though it would have made the season much more cohesive.
- We didn’t get a lot of Arondir or Bronwyn in either episode. I don’t have a lot of ideas for their storylines in the second season, but thankfully they are away from Mordor and will probably start getting the Men there ready for what’s to come.
- Theo is definitely destined to be an important character, though I think he’s too young to be one of the Ring Wraiths. However…
- The show will definitely have to make a time jump in later seasons and recast some of their characters, much like House of the Dragon did mid-season. Isildur, by the time of the Battle of the Last Alliance, is much older than he is in the show, and there is a lot that must happen between now and then for it to happen in the span of just a few years. (Elrond is also much older, though I doubt they will recast that part, as Galadriel, when she puts on her Ring during the prologue, is also Cate Blanchett.)
- I am also very intrigued about how they will handle Gandalf. Judging from the scenes in Rivendel in Fellowship of the Ring, he and Elrond hadn’t met at that point, so it’s very unlikely he will cross paths with the rest of the storylines of the show. However, he must have a reason to be there. So what will that be?
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.