In the season finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, two of the biggest questions from the series so far are revealed. If you need to catch up on episode 7,.
Otherwise, you’ve been warned: Spoilers ahead.
Mistaken for strangers
ERYN GALEN –The stranger is making his way through the woods alone. It’s rainy. He looks like he probably smells like damp wool. He’s being followed, though. There’s some other hooded thing out there. The Stranger goes after it– it looks like Nori but it’s actually the main one of the creeps in the white robes. The others turn up and one speaks, dropping a bomb on us a whole 4 minutes in: “We serve you, Lord Sauron.”
As they kneel down, he looks a little confused. Personally, I smell a fake out coming. So maybe don’t collect your bets just yet.
Later around a campfire, they tell him about something called the hermit’s hat — stars only visible in one place. It’s a big round metal thing. Have they really been lugging this around? As they start telling him about how he’s going to rule everything, all the wind and leaves and whatnot start stirring and honestly, it’s not a good look for our pal here. One of the creeps has to blow something in his face to get him to stop swirling crap around. They decide they have to tie him up until he can control himself. Oh, and if you’re wondering where the Harfoots are, they’re watching all this from a few yards away wearing their best shrubbery.
But even the best shrubbery isn’t enough to fool the creeps. When the Harfoots try to untie him, they realize one of the creeps has shapeshifted into the stranger. What’s worse? Another one of them throws a knife and nails Sadoc right in the stomach.
Right as Nori is about to get carved up herself, the actual stranger wakes up and, to borrow a line from the closed captions, the whooshing intensifies. This part is full of surprises, including that Sadoc isn’t dead yet. Also, the creeps beat the ever living crap out of the stranger, which feels rude, considering who they think he is.
The woods are on fire — more stuff burning! Quelle surprise! — but the creeps did something to the stranger and now not only does he know who he is, but he can speak in full sentences. Nori is trying hard to roust him and, you know, save her friends from acquiring a nice smokey char. He snaps to and it’s around then that the creeps are like, oooooh wait, maybe he’s not Sauron after all.
And here it is folks: He’s a Wizard. There you go. Hope you’ve got your bets in writing. Bless him, the stranger proclaims, “I’m good!” (At least he didn’t say “I’m Iron Man.” That would have been weird.) And then it’s so long, creeps.
Are Wizards supposed to be in Middle-earth in the Second Age? No. But here’s the thing: You just know someone in some board room was like “OK, we can’t make a Lord of the Rings show and not have a Wizard in it.”
Now that all that’s settled, Sadoc’s still been stabbed. He’s a lot more serene about the fact that he’s about to die than I would be. Pour one out for Lenny Henry, who won’t be collecting anymore Rings of Power checks.
Later, the stranger and Nori talk. He tells her he’s still a little fuzzy but he’s got to go to a place the creeps mentioned, Rhûn. Nori is bummed he’s not going to stay and Harfoot around with them. But alas, the Harfoots are packing up and moving again. Surprisingly, her parents have made her a backpack so she can go troop off with the stranger, despite the fact she just said she’d had all the adventure she could handle. So after a big group hug and some emotional goodbyes, she sets off. The stranger decides which way to start walking by smelling the air, a thing Gandalf did in the mines of Moria. So. Add that to your evidence pile.
A bummer of a homecoming
NÚMENOR — The king is almost dead and Pharazôn is talking to a bunch of guild folks about capturing his likeness in stone. Among that group is Eärien. While she’s sitting there sketching the almost-dead guy, he wakes up and starts chattering away thinking she’s Míriel. The island will fall if the old ways are not restored. Eärien looks like she’d rather not be there. He even gets out of bed and unlocks a chamber housing one of the seeing stones — a palantir. And Eärien goes in.
Elsewhere, the gang is sailing home. Míriel is trying to memorize how to navigate the ship without her sight. She tells Elendil that it would be OK if he wanted to take leave since he lost Isildur and he’s basically like, nah. They’re both committed to seeing this whole mess through despite all the loss. I swear for a second I thought he was about to smell her hair, but that might be the midnight Diet Pepsi I’m drinking warping my brain.
When they get back to Númenor, all the ships in the harbor have black flags. No, Númenor hasn’t embraced piracy. The king died. Damn. This is like the second dead king in a fantasy series this week.
EREGION — Elrond and Celebrimbor chat about how High King Gil-galad is about to arrive expecting a solution to the whole elves-going-kaput thing. Apparently they have none. Embarrassing. Elrond is ready to pack it all up and leave Middle-earth. Just then, Galadriel pulls up on her horse. Halbrand is in bad shape.
Elrond apologizes to Galadriel for being an ass-hat and sending her off on the ship. She is more forgiving than I would be. She says she didn’t jump from the ship to drown, and she won’t let him drown either. When he asks what they’re going to do, she says “swim,” which is big Dory from Finding Nemo vibes.
Meanwhile, Halbrand has revived and is wandering around unsupervised. He ends up in Celebrimbor’s workshop, where the elf himself has decided to start referring to himself in third person. Always charming. They have a chat and Halbrand is putting his hands on everything and asking too many questions, but dadgummit, that beautiful weirdo starts talking about alloy metals amplifying an ore’s qualities and whatnot and Celebrimbor is like, excuse me what? Clearly someone slept through chemistry class.
When Gil-galad arrivies, Elrond, Celebrimbor and Galadriel talk to him about this wild idea with the mithril. Maybe they could make an item that would do the amplifying. Celebrimbor suggests a crown, and Gil-galad looks like he likes the sound of a new accessory for a hot second. But really, he’s super skeptical about placing all that power on one person. Literally. In any case, Gil-galad thinks it’s too late. He’s also a bit incredulous that the idea came from the lowly Southlander, which feels a little classist, but hey. My guy is casually wearing gold laurels.
In trying to convince Gil-galad, Celebrimbor starts saying something about the power of the unseen world and power over flesh and immediately Galadriel’s internal alarm bells start going off. He acts like a complete sketchball when she asks him where he got that phrasing from. She’ll probably let it go, right?
Elrond won’t let the alloy idea go and does manage to convince Gil-galad to give them three more months to work on the idea. As Halbrand and Celebrimbor start collaborating, Galadriel observes, and also puts in a request for Halbrand’s 23andMe. Meanwhile, he’s trying to play bumpkin with Galdriel. Gollygosh, I can’t believe I’m here, oh shucks.
Later, work on the alloy plan is going poorly, to the tune of a shit exploding.
So, Galadriel gets the report back about Halbrand’s ancestry. Before the audience is in on it, Halbrand turns up all stoked because they’re not just going to make one thing, they’re going to make two things — and they’ll be smaller than a crown.
You see where this is going, right?
She’s like, look, you need to tell me what your game is, dude.
Turns out, there’s no king of the Southlands. The last guy to bear that crest died more than a thousand years ago. And this is exactly why my old journalism professor used to tell us, if your mother tells you she loves you, double confirm it.
Galadriel is screaming internally. Halbrand is Sauron.
“I have been awake since before the breaking of the first silence,” Halbrand says. Morning people always have to rub it in your face.
As she tries to stab him with her brother’s dagger, she falls into some weird daydream (Halbrand is in her head) where she’s back in Valinor with big bro Finrod. Of course this fake Finrod is all pro-Sauron. We all have that relative.
Then boom! She’s on the raft with Halbrand. He’s being super manipulative. He starts tempting her, offering to make her a queen — it’s definitely a call back (forward?) to when Frodo offers her the ring in The Fellowship of the Ring. He’s like, together we can save Middle-earth. She asks if he means save or rule and he’s very much like, ¿por qué no los dos?
She’s not taking the bait, though, and he quickly turns into that nice guy from Tinder who tells you you’re ugly when you decline a second date.
Anyway, she comes to and Elrond is like R U OK. She goes running off to the workshop to find Celebrimbor. Halbrand’s taken off. She won’t tell them exactly what happened, but she tells them they have to make three of the, ahem, “things” for balance. (You know we’re talking about the rings, yes? And also, this is all a huge deviation from the lore, but whatever.) She donates her dagger to the forging. The drama is undercut by my cat noisily climbing into a tote bag in the background.
As Elrond drops the mithril chunk into the hot metal, it sure looks a lot like the eye of Sauron for a second. Seems inauspicious. Later, Elrond is pacing around like the leftover takeout didn’t quite settle with him. He goes to where he’d found Galadriel and retrieves the scroll, which of course reveals what Galadriel probably should have mentioned earlier. But the rings are done and everyone sure seems to think they’re purdy.
Back in Mordor, we get a closeup shot of Halbrand’s — or should I say Sauron’s — eye. He’s standing looking out at Mount Doom and he seems to know about the rings. And he is smug as hell.