Season 1 of Amazon’s mega-budget adventure, The Rings of Power, debuted with a two-episode opener that featured dazzling VFX, some great new characters, a couple of familiar characters and a wonderful tour of Middle-earth. It also left plenty of room for fans to wonder and theorize as they wait for Episode 3 to debut on September 9th. We breakdown the biggest unresolved questions.
Episode 1 concluded with the very Superman-like entrance of a character known so far only as The Stranger. The Stranger comes into the care of the adventurous Nori Brandyfoot and the entirely unadventurous Poppy Proudfellow and by the time Episode 2 concludes, only three things really seem clear about him. He is incredibly powerful, he has arrived with a purpose (though he can’t confer his purpose to the Harfoots) and he seems to siphon energy from his surroundings, as seen not only by the fireflies dropping dead around him but also the lack of heat radiating from the flames at the site of his arrival.
But who is The Stranger? Nobody really knows just yet and the showrunners are doing just enough to make fans’ minds march through myriad possibilities. From what we know so far, he certainly seems to be a Maia, one of a group of wizards who were sent to Middle-earth to help its people in their fight against Sauron. So the arrival of a Maia in the first two episodes, which go to great lengths to prove that “the enemy” has not been vanquished just yet, wouldn’t be out of line. If The Stranger is indeed one of the Maiar, it would be in line with The Rings of Power’s introduction of a young Galadriel and a young Elrond to have this wizard be a younger version of a familiar character.
Is he Gandalf? His firefly whisperer routine is certainly (and intentionally) reminiscent of Gandalf’s ability to commune with the animal life of Middle-earth as seen in The Lord of the Rings films. However, Gandalf’s Doctor Doolitle routine hasn’t been known to kill the participants. Still, if this is Gandalf, he’s new to Middle-earth and clearly not fully in control of his energy siphoning abilities just yet.
Is he Saruman? Like Gandalf, Saruman was a Maia sent to Middle-earth to protect the people against the growing threat of Saruron. Unlike Gandalf, Saruman’s “moral flexibility” made him much less of an ally to the people of Middle-earth and more of a wild card. So far, The Stranger seems a bit wild card-ish.
But is The Stranger either of those two known wizards? Unlike The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films, The Rings of Power is not directly adapting any novels. It is, instead, drawing inspiration from a chapter in The History of Middle-earth which is really more of a collection of Tolkein’s thoughts on how things may have worked out chronologically, in this case in the Second Age. And Tolkein didn’t write about Gandalf and Saruman hanging out in Middle-earth during the Second Age. From what’s known, it seems Gandalf and Saruman didn’t come to Middle-earth until after the forging of the One Ring. However, other wizards seem to have been there.
Is The Stranger one of The Blue Wizards? In The People’s of Middle-earth, the twelfth volume of The History of Middle-Earth, it is explained that two Blue Wizards arrived on Middle-earth in the Second Age year 1600. And that seems to be close to about where The Rings of Power is set. In fact, it seems to be about 100 years or so after the setting of the first two episodes. How do we know? SA 1600 saw Sauron build Barad-dur in Mordor; the first two episodes seem to hint that Sauron must have a new stronghold somewhere and it just hasn’t been found yet. SA 1500 saw Celebrimbor being working with the dwarfs of Khazad-dum to build rings under the guidance of Annatar, a being who claimed to be an ambassador of the Valar (the immortal creators and rulers of the world). Episode 2 saw the beginnings of this relationship as Elrond and Durin’s reunion will eventually lead down this road. So it’s certainly possible that the showrunners played a little fast and loose with some already flexible timelines and decided to introduce the Blue Wizard(s) about 100 years early.
Of course, there are other options, too. The Stranger could be Sauron. He could be another wizard previously unnamed and unknown. He could be something else entirely. But as Daniel Weyman, who plays The Stranger points out, the hope is that fans have fun trying to figure out who he is, so they may hang onto his identity for quite some time.
What’s in The Box?
Showrunner Patrick McKay believed that mystery was at the heart of Tolkein’s writings and the first two episodes made very clear that The Rings of Power was going to be filled with mysteries. Episode 2 ends with a big one as the two Durins debate whether or not Elrond’s visit was connected to whatever treasure resides within their mystery box.
The foremost theory about what’s in the box connects to another of Tolkein’s posthumously published collected works, The Simarillion. It’s possible the box holds one of the elven Silmarils, jewels that contained within them some of the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, which were seen in a trailer for The Rings of Power and whose presence reaches well beyond their destruction which happened well before the events of the series. If the dwarves are hiding one of these gems from Elrond, it should cause quite a stir.
Sauron’s Scary Sword
Not much to think about her, but Theo’s attraction to the very spooky sword of Sauron is of great concern. Not as concerning as Theo’s haircut, but he has to hide those ears somehow.
As things looked very bleak for Galadriel and Halbrand, a mysterious figure on a ship full of other mysterious figures arrived to presumably save them. Plenty of options exist, but given the fact that the rescue was at sea, it’s highly likely the ship hails from Númenor, an island nation of men who helped the elves defeat Morgoth. Númenor has been seen before in The Lord of The Rings films and if the Rings of Power is going to Númenor (sppiler: it is), it will show it at the height of its power and, eventually, show it’s fall. And someone we’ll meet there will be an ancestor of one of the great heroes of the Third Age, Aragorn.
With five seasons planned for The Rings of Power and over 1000 years to cover before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, don’t expect all these questions to be resolved in Episode 3, but after two episodes they certainly seem to stand out as questions that, when resolved, will drive the plot.