Following Your Nose

Rings of Power ending explained: Sauron is [SPOILERS] and 2 other huge reveals

Identities were revealed and weapons were forged at the end of the Lord of the Rings prequel series. Here’s what we discovered.

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Three were given to the elves. Now, Tolkien fans can see it happen for themselves.

In the epic Season 1 finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, true identities are revealed and seismic events once only spoken about in J.R.R. Tolkien’s saga unfold before us.

While there are some breaks in canon that purists will take issue with, it doesn’t stop the show from completing its goal: To tell the story about the Rings of Power and how they were forged in the Second Age.

Because Rings of Power drops several narrative bombs, we’ve broken down the most important revelations. Naturally, there are spoilers.

No, seriously: Spoilers for The Rings of Power Season 1 finale ahead.

Who is the Stranger?

Let’s start with a biggie. The mysterious giant who fell from the sky and has been known simply as “The Stranger” (Daniel Weyman) is finally unmasked. Kind of.

The finale opens on the mysterious white witches who, when we last saw the trio, bullied the poor Harfoots by burning their crops. They’ve been after the Stranger for some time, and they finally corner him in the finale.

The Dweller (Bridie Sisson), Ascetic (Kali Kopae), and Nomad (Edith Poor) reveal themselves to be servants of Sauron, and they identify the Stranger as their master. Knowing that Sauron wouldn’t be at full strength or even fully aware of his identity, the witches offer to take the Stranger under their wing. This “revelation” dangles over the episode for most of its run time, as other narrative threads are untangled.

The Stranger is first revealed to be Sauron. But as the episode unfolds, we learn he might be someone much... wiser.

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Later, the witches learn they were wrong. With the encouragement of the kind Harfoot, Nori (Markella Kavenagh), the Stranger learns he isn’t destined to be the embodiment of evil. No one is ever forced to be who others say they are. With those words, the Stranger learns to properly harness his magical powers and fight back against the witches.

By the end of the episode, The Rings of Power hints that the Stranger is none other than Gandalf. Hang on, Tolkien fans screaming that he wasn’t around in the Second Age. We’ll get there.

There are two big hints that the Stranger’s identity is Gandalf, or that he’s at least a wizard. The first is the utterance of the word “Istar,” which the Stranger identifies as an elvish word meaning “wise one,” or wizard.

The second is a reference to Peter Jackson’s movies. When the Stranger and Nori embark on their own journey, they’re confused about where to go next. With a sniff of the air, the Stranger finds a fruity smell. He tells Nori that when in doubt, always follow your nose, which is advice Gandalf gave in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Is Daniel Weyman’s role on The Rings of Power actually Gandalf? Or are the two characters simply related somehow?

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Is the Stranger actually Gandalf?

What makes these hints confusing is that Gandalf, according to Tolkien’s writing, isn’t present in the Second Age. Most of the wizards aren’t, actually. Tolkien is contradictory here, but the two little-discussed Blue Wizards do, according to some of his work, show up in the Second Age. Either way, Gandalf is one of the last wizards to arrive in the Third Age, landing in the Havens of Mithlond.

The Stranger has obviously arrived in the Second Age. Nor did he crash in an Elven port, but in a Harfoot field. The Stranger may be a wizard who’s part of Gandalf’s order, but not Gandalf himself. At the same time, Gandalf’s history has only been told in broad strokes, which affords Rings of Power wiggle room to reinterpret events or find loopholes to sneak the beloved wizard into their series, even if it doesn’t cleanly fit Tolkien’s established canon.

For now, we’re led to believe the Stranger might be Gandalf. Whether he actually is remains to be clarified. But he’s certainly not Sauron, because...

Never trust a handsome man you meet when you’re lost in the Sundering Seas.

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Who is Halbrand?

The handsome stranger Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who meets Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) at sea, has also been hiding a secret. A dark one.

As revealed in the final moments of Season 1, Halbrand isn’t actually the king of the Southlands. After Galadriel digs into the archives, the fair elf discovers that Halbrand’s supposed lineage ended thousands of years ago. Viewers soon learn the truth: Halbrand is Sauron, having taken the form of a dead man to charm and manipulate the elves.

Halbrand’s story mostly follows what Tolkien wrote of Sauron during the Second Age. The difference is that Sauron took the form of Annatar, or “Lord of Gifts.” Halbrand does come bearing gifts in the form of advanced smithing knowledge, which compels the elves to forge the dwarven mithril into the Three Rings. (More on that in a moment).

From a more myopic point of view, there is perhaps some heartbreak for Galadriel. Galadriel is married to Celeborn, but his whereabouts are unknown. Meanwhile, Tolkien’s recurring theme of love between races was echoed in Halbrand and Galadriel’s growing bond.

But if there were such feelings, they were one-sided, as “Halbrand” was only trying to get close to the elves. And with Galadriel knowing that her “friend” is actually Sauron, her steely exterior has only strengthened. Maybe she’ll never let herself get so close to a stranger again.

It must have been nice for Sauron to get out of all that armor for a bit.

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Is Halbrand actually Sauron?

Unlike the Stranger, The Rings of Power is unambiguous about Halbrand’s true identity. He’s Sauron, case closed. You can tell because of the way he simply walks into Mordor.

The Forging of the Three Elven Rings

The end of The Rings of Power Season 1 breaks from Tolkien's canon in a huge way.

With the mithril obtained from Prince Durin IV’s mines, the craftsmanship of the elves, and Halbrand/Sauron’s quick pro-tips, the elves forge the first set of the 20 Rings of Power: The Three Rings, given to the Elven-kings under the sky.

The tri-color rings of Narya, Nenya, and Vilya are distributed amongst the elves Gil-galad, Elrond, and Galadriel. Strangely, the rings were originally going to be forged into a crown, but everyone decided it would be inconvenient to make one under a tight timeframe. So rings it is.

While Halbrand/Sauron’s influence has allowed the Three Rings to be forged, they’re not directly under his control.

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Tolkien fans know the Three Rings are the last of the Rings of Power to be made before Sauron forges his One Ring. They’re also still bound to the One Ring’s influence because of Sauron’s semi-direct involvement, but they’re free from Sauron’s direct control. It’s here where The Rings of Power diverges from Tolkien’s canon, as the Three Rings are now the first to be forged. The dwarves have yet to receive their seven, and the leaders of men have yet to receive their nine (and transform into the Nazgûl).

Purists may be peeved, but for the story the show is telling it still works as a monumental turning point. Where Rings of Power goes next is anyone’s guess. Heroes and villains have been revealed, and incredible power lies between them. The Rings of Power is only just heating up.

The Lord of the Ring: The Ring of Power Season 1 is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

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