An unexpected journey

Who is “Istar”? Why Rings of Power's biggest twist isn't what you think

Let’s take a closer look.

Flames bursting around  a body lying on the ground, a scene from 'Rings of Power'

There are two huge character reveals in The Rings of Power’s Season 1 finale, but only one feels definitive. And while fans seem convinced that a certain wizard has arrived in Middle-earth, the word “Istar” isn’t as conclusive as you might think. Here’s why it might still be too soon to get excited for the introduction of Gandalf in Rings of Power.

Major spoilers ahead for The Rings of Power Episode 8.

What happened — In the Season 1 finale, those three spooky witches find the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) and reveal to him that he’s actually Sauron. However, that’s not quite right. When the Harfoots show up to help their friend, the Stranger turns against the witches. As he transforms them into a swarm of white moths that fly away, the witches scream “He’s the other one!” before naming him as “Istar.”

Combined with some very Gandalf-esque line readings in the scenes that follow, fans have taken this to mean that the Stranger is in fact Gandalf the Grey. But is he really? Let’s take a closer look.

What is an Istar in Lord of the Rings?

Two of the Istari in Lord of the Rings.

New Line Cinema

Istar is not a person, it’s a race. Like Elf, Dwarf, or Hobbit. Sort of. The Istari were the five wizards sent to Middle-earth. They are Maiar (primordial spirits) given the form of old men and tasked with aiding in the fight against Sauron with mixed results.

So it makes sense that the witches are upset when it turns out the Stranger is one of the Istari. However, this doesn’t mean he’s Gandalf specifically. After all, there are five to choose from: Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, and the two Blue Wizards.

According to Tolkien canon, Gandalf and Saruman didn’t even arrive in Middle-earth until the Third Age (Rings of Power is set in the Second Age). The same goes for Saruman. The Blue Wizards arrive in the Second Age, but we know very little about their story.

Of course, it’s possible Rings of Power could be messing with the timeline to tell an interesting story, but there’s one more reason to believe the Istar we met in Season 1 isn’t Gandalf.

Is the “Istar” Gandalf?

Daniel Weyman in Rings of Power.


In an interview with Collider, Weyman declined to confirm his character’s identity (despite the best efforts of the interviewer). Compare this to several interviews in which Halbrand actor Charlie Vickers proudly confirms he’s Sauron.

So while there’s no proof the Stranger isn’t Gandalf, we don’t know for certain that he is either. It’s possible not even Daniel Weyman knows the true identity of his character. Although after the Rings of Power finale, at least he knows for sure he’s not playing Sauron.

The Rings of Power is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.

Related Tags