NOTE: This article contains spoilers for The Rings of Power episodes 1 and 2.
The Rings of Power burst onto our screen with a spectacular double-episode opener making us relish every new installment of this Tolkienian adventure.
Set 3,000 years before The Lord of the Rings, the opening episodes took us from the icy wastes of the far North to the elven city of Lindon and the great halls of Khazad-dûm to Vale of Anduin, where the Harfoots live in harmony with nature.
With new characters to meet and unknown kingdoms to discover, this was a fascinating introduction to the Second Age of Middle-earth, yet being the curious viewers we are, we have a few burning questions…
1. How did Sauron become evil?
“Nothing is evil in the beginning,” says Galadriel as the first episode of this epic series begins, which is surely a reference to Sauron, the archvillain of this tale and another famous Tolkien story.
Galadriel’s opening prologue tells us that Sauron was the servant of the dark lord Morgoth during the war that immediately preceded the start of this series. The Lord of the Rings Wiki also tells us he began his life as Maiar — like Gandalf himself —and was originally a force for good.
Apparently, Sauron’s greatest virtue was “his love of order and perfection and dislike of anything wasteful. However, this would also prove to be the cause of his downfall.” Believing Morgoth had the will and the power to help him dominate the minds and wills of Middle-earth’s creatures for what he perceived to be their own benefit, he joined forces with him, yet was eventually corrupted by him.
Will this backstory and Sauron’s fall be covered in the series? We certainly hope so.
2. How did Galadriel's brother die?
We meet Finrod in the opening scene of the whole series, as he offers his wisdom to his younger sister when her paper boat is cruelly destroyed. Later on, Galadriel tells us “my brother died while hunting the enemy. His task is now mine”. The ominous marks on his body certainly suggest he came to a nasty end, yet is there more to the Elf’s death than meets the eye?
The brother Galadriel refers to is widely believed to be Finrod, yet while he was killed by Sauron in Tolkien’s writings, he wasn’t hunting him.
Anyone who’s read The Silmarillion will know that Finrod owed a life debt to a human called Barahir and when Barahir’s son Beren needed to steal a Silmaril from Morgoth in order to marry his beloved Luthien, he called in his father’s debt. Beren and Finrod set off on a quest into enemy territory and when they were attacked by Sauron, Finrod laid down his life to save Beren. So Sauron was basically minding his own business when someone tried to burgle him...
In the prologue to this week’s first episode, we can clearly see Finrod joining a host of other Elves departing Valinor to join the fight against Morgoth. Yet while we see him in the heart of the battle against the dark lord’s forces, he seems to survive the war and sets off to find Sauron, although according to Galadriel “Sauron finds him first”. But how does Finrod meet his end and what information does he share with the dark lord before he dies? Hopefully, we'll find out more of his story as the saga unfolds...
3. What was Sauron doing in the Forodwaith?
Galadriel’s hunt for Sauron takes her to the Northernmost wastes of Forodwaith, where she discovers a place so evil that even her torch gives off no warmth (!!!) In those dark caverns, she uncovers the chilling remains of an orc that was meddling with the powers of the unseen world. Later she also unearths a mark left by Sauron centuries ago, as a trail for orcs to follow, which is identical to the one the dark lord left on her brother.
What "dark art" was Sauron trying to perform in the Forodwaith? Was he brushing up on his ring-forging skills, creating an army of Orcs or building an even more sinister weapon? And where is the secret trail that he left hidden in stone leading to?
4. How did Theo get a sword bearing Sauron's mark?
Amazon has teased the importance of this broken black sword in one of their promotional posters for the series and we learned a little bit more about it in the first episode of the series when Bronwyn’s son Theo shows it to his friend.
From what Theo says, it seems someone else hid the ancient weapon under the floorboards of the family barn — his mother or Arondir presumably — and he discovered it by chance, yet it clearly bears Sauron’s mark.
We know Morgoth’s forces colonized Haradwaith during the war that ended a few decades before the series began, with Arondir and a host of elves stationed in the area to keep an eye on the people who live there, in fear they could fall into darkness again.
Is it an old weapon left over from those dark days? Or did it actually belong to Sauron himself? How did Bronwyn and Theo get hold of it and does it have anything to do with Theo’s absent father? We need answers!
5. What's wrong with the grass in the Southlands?
When Arondir came to check in on the townsfolk of Tirharad the bartender mentioned someone had been "twottling" about poisoned grass and that only weeds would grow on his land in the East somewhere.
Later on, he encounters another farmer whose cow is producing black milk after wandering too far East. So what’s going on in the East? A quick look at the map of the Second Age reveals a ring of mountains that will become Sauron’s fortress of Mordor in the future, so is this a sign that he’s already set his eyes upon this area and is gathering his forces in this corner of Middle-earth?
6. Who is the Meteor Man — the Stranger who drops to Middle-earth?
Is he Sauron? Is he Gandalf? Is he a blue wizard? The Man in the Moon? Or is he someone else altogether? We have theories...
7. What happened to Horden?
The town was a smoking ruin when Arondir and Bronwyn arrived at the start of the second episode, but what or who destroyed it? The deep tunnel that ran between the town was clearly created for a dark purpose and could be an excellent way for Sauron’s orcs to travel around the area unseen.
The arrival of a terrifying orc in Bronwyn’s house was also probably no coincidence. We think the foul beast came looking for the broken sword that lies beneath the floorboards of Bronwyn’s barn and we wouldn’t be surprised if the decimation of Horden was also connected to that charred old weapon. Did Sauron send his dark forces to retrieve it and if so, why is it so important?
As we know from The Hobbit trilogy, old weapons that seem broken and past use can sometimes have a habit of summoning the darkest of forces, just ask Radagast!
8. Who is Halbrand?
After jumping from the ship that was transporting her to the Undying Lands, Galadriel was picked up by a raft. After surviving an encounter with "the worm," she meets a mysterious man called Halbrand, a non-canonical character (who doesn’t exist in Tolkien’s writings).
A ruthless man who quickly proved he would readily abandon his companions if it meant survival, Halbrand told of how he was chased from his home in the Southlands by orcs, but was his home Horden or somewhere far more grand?
Halbrand is clearly running from his past, but we feel this chance encounter with Galadriel could make him question where he’s come from and what the future holds.
Galadriel also noticed an impressive medallion hanging from his neck and asked if it was the mark of his people’s king. He quickly told her his people have no King, but that feels like a line we’ve heard in Tolkien before.
Just as Aragorn was a rugged ranger when we first met him, could Halbrand have noble blood running through his veins? We can’t wait to find out.
New episodes of The Rings of Power air every Friday on Amazon Prime.
More LOTR: The Rings of Power
- The Rings of Power episode 1 review: an intoxicating return to Middle-earth
- Meet the Rings of Power cast
- LOTR's Sophia Nomvete says the first female dwarf is a 'magical moment' for Tolkien fans
- Morfydd Clark — things you didn’t know about the actress playing Galadriel in The Rings of Power
- The Rings of Power to hit theaters for a one-night-only premiere event
- The best fantasy TV shows
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Sean is a Senior Feature writer for TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week, who also writes for whattowatch.com. He's been covering the world of TV for over 15 years and in that time he's been lucky enough to interview stars like Ian McKellen, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet. His favourite shows are I'm Alan Partridge, The Wire, People Just Do Nothing and Succession and in his spare time he enjoys drinking tea, doing crosswords and watching football.