That Sauron Reveal on The Rings of Power Finale Explained by [SPOILER], Plus a Preview of Season 2
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you haven’t watched the Season 1 finale of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” now streaming on Prime Video.
After much speculation and enough fan theories to fill a dwarven mine, “Rings of Power” fans finally got their answer on Sauron’s true identity in the prequel series — and it’s Halbrand (Charlie Vickers). The episode starts, however, with a fake-out from the three mysterious, white-cloaked witches claiming that the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) is actually Sauron. Later in the episode, it’s revealed that he’s not Sauron, but actually a powerful wizard known as an Istari, like Gandalf and Saruman from “The Lord of the Rings.”
Vickers and Weyman both spoke with Variety about the major reveals with Halbrand and the Stranger, now that they can finally spill on their true identities.
But first, a recap of the seismic events in the finale: Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) first becomes suspicious of Halbrand’s true identity after he becomes very interested in Celebrimbor’s (Charles Edwards) smithing project. Halbrand offers suggestions on combining the precious mithral with other metals to stabilize it into some kind of small, wearable shape — perhaps, a ring of power? With Halbrand quickly becoming thick as thieves with Celebrimbor upon his first day in Eregion, Galadriel does some research into his lineage. She discovers he’s lied, and he’s not the heir to the Southlands as he’d claimed. When she confronts him, Halbrand’s true Sauron identity is revealed, and he forces his way into Galadriel’s mind, giving her visions of her dead brother and their first meeting on the raft. He proposes that Galadriel join him to rule and “heal” Middle-earth, but she refuses. There’s a brief reflection of Halbrand in his Sauron armor, and when Galadriel awakens, he’s disappeared. We later see Halbrand/Sauron walking into Mordor in the final shot of the season.
Elsewhere in Middle-earth, the Stranger is off on his own, and stumbles upon the three witches who have been following him, thinking he’s their lord Sauron. They take him captive, and attempt to restore his mind and powers, but Nori (Markella Kavanagh) and her crew of harfoots help free him. The witches realize the Stranger is not who they want, and he defeats them with his elemental powers, which he has slightly more control over. The heroes lose Sadoc (Lenny Henry) in the fight, and they all return to the harfoot community so Nori can say goodbye to Poppy (Megan Richards) and her family before setting out on a journey with the Stranger to learn more about his wizard kind.
In the interview with Variety, Vickers and Weyman also reveal a few hints at where we’ll find the characters in Season 2.
Did you know that Halbrand was actually Sauron from the very beginning?
Charlie Vickers: It was revealed later. The show went on a hiatus after the second episode because of COVID. With a couple months to go, the showrunners told me. Prior to that I had some suspicions. I auditioned with a couple of monologues, one as Richard III and the other as Satan in “Paradise Lost,” so I had I had a feeling that there was going to be a dark twist to the character, and I was suspicious of it being Sauron.
There’s a shot where Halbrand’s reflection in the water is briefly shown as Sauron in his armor. Were you fitted for his costume?
No, I wish. That is amazing CGI work. In the first episode’s prologue, when Sauron walks down the stairs, that’s not me either. Hopefully, one day I get to be fit.
What’s the first step of his plan as he walks into Mordor?
I think that’s the important thing: He has a plan. Going back into Mordor is the first stage of that plan. I’m not going to spoil it, but it doesn’t take long to find out in the second season. We find out pretty quickly. He definitely has a plan, and that’s where it begins, with those first few steps back down. I’ve started filming; we’re well underway in the second season. I’ve read a few scripts and am very much immersed in that world now.
What’s the biggest difference in playing Halbrand from Season 1 and Sauron in Season 2?
We’re at a different stage of Sauron’s journey. Halbrand represents his repentant phase. But the question lingers whether that repentance was genuine. I have an answer, but I leave that open so people can interpret the first season how they will. That’s what Halbrand’s journey is; it’s him in that stage when he’s being brought low and very slowly rebuilds himself. By the start of the second season, he is rebuilt. He still has a way to go, in terms of reaching the power that he gets to in the end. We’re seeing him getting back to being really powerful. You really get to see that progression and I’ll get to play that this season.
Which cast member do you most want to have a scene with in Season 2?
I would love to share some scenes with the dwarves, because it’s such a rich and beautifully written world. There’s so much there, and it’s so far removed from my storyline so far. I would love to share scenes with that, so we’ll see — maybe, maybe not.
When Halbrand was trying to convince Galadriel to join him, were those mind games or did he think he could actually convince her?
He believes he can. He has a huge amount of belief in his own power by this stage. When he says, “Join me as a queen,” it’s not to be misinterpreted as romantic. Morfydd taught me the word “shipping” the other day, which I had no idea about. I think it’s awesome that people have been reading into it, but my view on this scene is that it’s for his own gain. He’s thinking in this moment, “If she joins me, it’ll help me to enact my plan and it’ll happen faster.” When she resists him, it angers him, but it’s not the end of the world. I don’t think of theirs as a romantic connection, but as a cosmic connection. There must be something thrilling for him in meeting someone that’s close to his level in terms of power and age and aura that must get his blood pumping. Inevitably, it brings him back toward his darkness and Galadriel doesn’t realize it at the time, but she draws the lust for power out of him again.
Who poses the greatest threat to Sauron?
The Stranger probably, because the Stranger is also Maiar. Sauron is probably the strongest of the Maiar, in the same way that Morgoth is the strongest of the Valar. Meeting someone with control over magic would be a real threat. Elves together and in force are threatening, but they’re not on the same level as someone that is literally a demigod.
Did you know from the beginning that the Stranger was actually a wizard?
Daniel Weyman: I wouldn’t say that I always knew that. In any scene that I was playing, I felt I had all the information I needed to play that scene truthfully. When you start with a blank canvas, you cannot worry too much about what is going to come in the future. The showrunners know their arc, but I’m not necessarily privy to that yet.
How much longer will we call him the Stranger instead of his real name?
I am as up-to-date as the audience now. I haven’t started filming Season 2 yet. Those conversations and learning about character arcs haven’t come to me yet. The short answer is, I don’t know.
How much more power is waiting to be unleashed from within him?
We started off with very broad strokes of him not understanding how to use this power or even knowing that it was him doing this creating. He’s become aware that he has a relationship with nature and the elements. He definitely has a longing to understand his part in how that power courses through him. In the first season, it’s less about him trying to ignite this power, and it’s more about him channeling energies that are present, whether it be in the wind or in fire or somewhere more ethereal above the stars. That’s a journey he is nowhere near working out. In that moment with Nori at the end when he’s holding the staff, he’s working hard to use the energy in the way that he wants it to be used and for it not to come out of his control as it has before.
Which cast member would you want to share a scene with?
There are so many characters who are so exciting, I can’t pick anyone in particular. Maybe there will be a point where we all cross and have a dinner somewhere and then go our separate ways.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.
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