1.08 The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power—Alloyed (Season Finale)

Thank you, @Eickerlyc and @Ian Forty-two. It is a lot of work, because it's hard to just summarize. So much depends on what is actually said between the characters. (For which reason I am very grateful that Eickerlyc took up half the burden. Though the fact that he did it so well put me on my mettle, and prevented me from even considering getting lazy.) One good thing about doing the synopses was that it made me attentive to many things that may not have seemed important at the time, but that did figure into the last episode, and I was able to appreciate how so many of them fell into place at the end.

so I have no inkling how far stretching Sauron's powers are.
Well, neither do I, and I think neither does anybody else. His powers were formidable and various, but Tolkien left a lot to the imagination. Sauron is a spirit that has literally existed since the dawn of creation. He was originally good, or at least neutral, since he hadn't yet been tempted to do anything evil. As one of the maiar—the lesser angels, as it were—once our world had been created, if he wanted to visit it and interact with those who lived there he was able to create a fleshly body for his spirit to inhabit. When in that body he could be killed—but not, as I might put it killed dead, since his spirit still lived and could eventually build itself a new body and become incarnate again. Though these bodies were hard to kill, because among his other abilities he was not only a shapechanger, but one who could easily slip from one form to another.

If Adar actually killed one of those bodies, as seems increasingly likely, he must have taken Sauron by surprise. And note that he didn't just stab him in a vital organ or anything like that. Adar says he split him open, which sounds like extensive and serious damage. The body could not be repaired just by changing shape, and apparently Sauron left it and set about the task of making a new one. But making a new body is different from changing the shape of one a maia already has. It takes time, sometimes years, and the oftener Sauron is obliged to do this the longer it takes, and once it is done there is a period where that body is weak in mind and power. (This is also apparently what happens to any maia when they create and inhabit a new body—as demonstrated by what happened to our friend the wizard.) I think we can assume that if Adar's story is true, then when we first meet Sauron as Halbrand, he is not in possession of his full powers, though I believe he grows stronger as the series goes on. Also, at the end of the First Age, with the defeat of Morgoth, Sauron supposedly repented and reformed—at least, as much as he was capable of repenting and reforming, which is not so much like what the rest of us might mean by those words. He did want to create a perfect world, one that was peaceful and organized, one that lasted forever in the perfect form that he would create. And to accomplish that last, of course, he had to do away with all that messy free-will that Men and Elves and Dwarves and other intelligent species had. I think when we meet him he is near the end of that period of "repentance," his better (you note that I don't say good) intentions were wearing thin, but what he says when he is trying to corrupt Galadriel is all the truth—as he sees it, anyway.

The way Celebrimbor listened to this upstart of a low man's smith was laughable.
I agree. Or it would be laughable if it wasn't so sinister. There is no way that an elf of Celebrimbor's pride would have listened to such a person as Hal appeared to be. There had to be some "magical" mental manipulation going on. (I put that word in quotes, because magic is something mortals may practice, but maiar and elves and the like apparently do something else, that only looks like magic to us poor benighted mortals. And since we haven't been provided with any other words for it, beyond innate power, which is too vague, I intend to use magic for convenience. ) This was Galadriel's first clue that something was very, very wrong. Of course there were others, more obvious, that followed. It seems stupid—or maybe just arrogant and over-confident—of Sauron to think that he could get away with it with Galadriel looking on, since at that point he doesn't seem to have tried any magical manipulation on her just yet. He is depending largely on his ability to manipulate and deceive in ordinary ways.

The confrontation between Halbrand/Sauron and Galadriel was the best part of this episode.
I agree with you and @svalbard about this scene. In fact, I'll go farther and say that their confrontation made the episode for me. I knew that there was absolutely no way she would forgive what had been done to her beloved brother, yet I was on the edge of my seat, because he was so convincing and so masterful in his manipulations. He knew her so well. (Except for the part where she was never going to forgive him for what happened to Finrod. That was his one mistake.)

He starts with the words that every girl or woman who ever fell for a bad guy and was convinced that she could reform him wants to hear. (The stuff of thousands of romance novels, but I've spoken with many women who have really fallen for this kind of thing in real life. These women don't lap up this kind of story because it is more romantic and exciting than their own lives, but because it validates the lives they live. One of these days, they are sure, their creepy husbands WILL change.) But Galadriel isn't and never was and never would be one of those women. She's already in love with somebody else—though I don't think Sauron knows about her marriage to Celeborn—a very different type of person.

And yet, believing herself widowed, she has allowed some sort of attraction to grow between herself and Halbrand, some sort of chemistry, though I think it is more friendship and companionship than love. But it is plain that she IS attracted to power. In The Fellowship of the Ring when she goes into her scary speech about what she would be and do if she accepted the Ring from Frodo ("all shall love me and despair") though she doesn't fall to the temptation, it is at least pretty clear that she has previously thought about what she could do with Ring if it ever came her way ... probably thought about it a lot. And her whole reason for being in Middle-Earth has to do with a desire for power. She didn't join the flight of the Noldor because she cared about the Silmarils or meant to go to war with Morgoth. The Silmarillion tells us that the lure for her was the dream of ruling broad realms.

And then he goes on to playing on her sources of pain. The way she has been treated by her own people: her company of warriors in the frozen north, her King, and even her best friend, Elrond. Back when the show had only aired a few episodes, I read a conversation—I don't remember where, Facebook maybe—between women who were wondering why all the male elves acted like such jerks to Galadriel. (Only that is not exactly the word they used. It was not a plural form of jerk, but of a slightly longer word, one that did end in K though.) Now I see that this treatment was woven into the story to make her more vulnerable to Sauron when the time came.

Actually... A (big) part of me now wishes this was an elseworld tale set in the Tolkien universe and Galadriel had chosen to marry him. I wonder what a Sauron/Galadriel alliance would have done for Middle Earth.
A similar thought occurred to me. I would have been outraged if they had actually gone that way in this episode, but I did briefly think "Wow, what a story that would make. If only ..."

(And I felt a disturbance in the Force, as of countless ROP fan-fic writers stampeding toward their keyboards.)
Me again. I had to take a break because my lunch had arrived.
Why did the Mystics think the Stranger was Sauron? What clue did they follow? Did they follow the falling star? It seems so, but makes no sense when Sauron is walking ME already for millennia. Besides, they way they treated the Stranger, thinking it was a confused Sauron, didn't show much respect or awe.

Except for the fact that one of them had shape changing powers and a terrifying command of fire (but she was never the one who did any of the talking—maybe she couldn't, because of a vow of silence, or because she was mute, or whatever) I thought the Mystics were kind of ditzy and confused. Like drug-outed hippies who had read one or two (poorly-written) books on paganism and magic, and cobbled together a religion and a mission out of the bits that appealed to them. Although in this case, instead of paganism I assume that they, or perhaps whatever cult had sent them, had been playing around with an imperfect understanding of Morgoth-worship. (Maybe with some encouragement from Sauron before Adar killed him and he had to spend a big chunk of the last few centuries disembodied or incarnate but weakened.)

And the more they spoke, the more I subscribed to this personal theory, and the less I expected them to make sense. But I liked their scene with the Wizard (whichever one he is), because they were just so weird that at times they made my skin creep, and because I think that Daniel Weyman, who played the Stranger/Wizard did such a great job all through the series, and especially in that scene. Since the beginning, he has expressed more just with his face and body language than other actors do with reams of dialogue. And I loved what he did with the butterflies.

While we are on the subject of the Wizard, his last line was obviously intended to make us think he is Gandalf, because Gandalf said much the same thing to Merry in FOTR. And for all I know, the producers intention is that he is Gandalf, or at least Olórin in an early visit to Middle Earth. But if he is Gandalf, he shouldn't be. Gandalf arrived with at least two other wizards on a boat from Valinor during the Third Age. The Blue Wizards may or many not have made a fourth and a fifth in that party. They did in one version that Tolkien wrote down, and then wandered off to the east where they disappeared, and he speculated that they might have founded mystery cults. But in another, I believe later but I could be mistaken, version he speculated that the Blue Wizards may have arrived in Middle Earth during the Second Age, went to the east, and did much to disrupt Sauron's plans in that part of the world.

So the "big fella" ought to be one of the Blue Wizards. (Either one will do.) And the reason why this makes sense, is because he is going to Rhûn, which is in the far east of Middle Earth, where in both versions Tolkien said that the Blue Wizards did go, and Gandalf specifically said in LOTR "to the East I go not." Also, there is a gentleness that the actor playing the role projects that is not in character for any version of Gandalf that we have seen before.

Also, when the Ascetic exclaims, "He is the other one. The Istar." I am sure that in that moment what we all heard was "He's not Sauron. He's the other guy, the wizard." But Tolkien always wrote of the Blue Wizards, little though he wrote of them at all, as though they were a pair. So what if one of them is already in the East, making trouble for the Morgoth cult, and for some reason it is known that he is expecting a companion to join him eventually? In that case, "He is the other one. The Istar." could easily be interpreted as "He's not Sauron. He's that other wizard." If there is a wizard in the east who's made himself a problem for them, and they know he is expecting reinforcements in the form of another wizard, then that would explain why they are so keen to seek out Sauron and enlist his help."

Or the showrunners don't care what Tolkien wrote about the wizards, and he is Gandalf. (However, I will say that the idea of the Stranger being one of the Blue Wizards has been very popular around the internet pretty much since the beginning, and I think that many viewers would be delighted to meet one of them. And for some other viewers, one wizard might be as good as another. Whereas an appearance by Gandalf in the Second Age might receive a very mixed reaction. Some viewers will be happy just to spend time with him again (and be pleased that they guessed his identity correctly). But many will be angry because Gandalf's not supposed to be there at that time, and he's certainly not supposed to go to Rhûn. If they want to satisfy viewers, I think the safer (and perhaps more interesting) choice for the viewers would be to establish him as one of the Blue Wizards as early in season 2 as they can.

Mind you, they can't introduce him as such directly, because there is no mention of Blue Wizards in LOTR, just a passing reference to there being five wizards in all. So Amazon doesn't have rights to those characters. However, with Christopher Tolkien's passing, the family—now led by his son Simon I believe—may have loosened up on what is allowed by the time that scripts for the second season were being written. Although even without that, a piece of blue anywhere about his clothing and a made-up name that isn't one of Gandalf's many names would serve just as well as literally identifying him as either Alatar or Pallandro. ( Not to mention if and when he actually gets to Rhûn if there is another wizard awaiting him.)

And to return to the subject of excellent acting, I feel I should mention the many roles convincingly played by Sauron in Eregion. And I do mean Sauron himself, not the actor Charlie Vickers, although of course I think Vickers did an excellent job of being Sauron as he slickly transitioned between those many different roles. From the wide-eyed backwoods smith, to Galadriel's grateful friend, to a brief glimpse of the rogue he was back in Númenor (that mischievous look when he said, "I told you I got it from a dead man."), to the revelation of the ancient being he actually is, and on to the arch-manipulator he was in his attempted seduction (not that kind of seduction) of Galadriel on the raft.

On the subject of Sauron and the rings, after I realized that I had not read of his disguise as "Annatar, lord of gifts" until years after I first read LOTR and The Hobbit, I made certain I was right about that by doing a search through an ebook of the trilogy, and sure enough, there was no mention of Annatar, no mention of Sauron disguising himself as anyone else. And as I tried some other search terms, I realized that there was very, very little about Sauron's time with the smiths of Eregion, or how he imposed on them to win their trust. So I understand now that the producers had to come up with a brand new disguise for him and a brand new back story. Whether or not we like the one they came up with, whether or not we think they could have done it better, it is at least certain that they could not use the one with which those of us who know the lore are familiar.

And something I picked up in reading articles around the web, interviews with the producers, they evidently came upon a bit in FOTR where Galadriel was talking about Sauron, how she knew his mind, and how he was trying to see hers but could not succeed, that led them to an idea that Galadriel and Sauron had some kind of history between them. It's not an unreasonable presumption, I guess—especially when they were looking for things from which they could extrapolate to fill out the scanty history of the Second Age. And so, between that and the fact there was no Annatar they decided to back-engineer a character and a history that would fit with that supposed Galadriel and Sauron interaction and also provide an identity and a way for Sauron to win his way into the graces of the Elven-smiths.

So there was a method to their madness, even if it was not a method that we might all agree with. The end result as far as the smiths went, I think the way Charlie Vickers played the role so convincingly did sell me on that part of the story, in part because by that point I didn't have much respect for Celebrimbor—which was totally the screenwriter's fault with their dumb mithril storyline and his machinations of Elrond to get the ore, but at least meant that the various parts did fit together in the end.

And it did bring us to that scene of Sauron and Galadriel on the raft, which I liked so much that it did reconcile me to a certain extent to some of the things that led up to it.

Really, though there were slow sections, and things I could have done without, I think this was my favorite episode to date. Which is not a bad way to bring a season to an end.

Whether by the time season 2 rolls around the scenes I remember fondly will have lodged themselves more firmly in my mind that the things I did not like ... well that remains to be seen. A year or two between seasons is a long time.
Yes. It basically forced the programme makers to go against the Tolkien canon. And thereby forced us as lovers of his books to get upset about it.
Did they actually want us to boycott the programme?

If so, it's certainly worked in a lot of cases, as we can see from these threads and elsewhere.
And one thing I wanted to comment on, but I was so set on using my time to complete the synopsis and didn't before.

This is a ... somewhat compelling theory. We know that Christopher Tolkien hated the Peter Jackson LOTR trilogy, and can only imagine based on that, how much he must have loathed Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies. He can't have liked the cartoon versions that preceded these any better. (Who can forget the Rankin-Bass orcs singing, "Where there's a whip, there's a way.")

And yet until Amazon brought the Tolkien family in to consult on this series, there was not a thing that Christopher could do about any of the adaptations of his father's work, except to deny the sale of any rights that the family still possessed. Which he did. But the rights to LOTR and The Hobbit had been sold by his father long ago, and are owned by Saul Zaentz, who has proved himself willing to sell the rights he possesses to anyone willing and able to come up with enough money.

So maybe Christopher Tolkien did agree to this series, with the many awkward limitations imposed, in the hope that it would kill the franchise once and for all. If he was determined enough, and devious enough, I can think of no other way open to him that was as likely to succeed.

But so far I don't believe it worked. Some sources say the series was flop, some say it was a great success, and some say that it did OK. There are all sorts of other metrics that people write about to prove one point or another. But the thing is, Amazon Prime can leave Season One available to the public long enough to give it a chance to develop impressive legs, if it is ever going to do so. They have too much money invested in it to whisk it away prematurely, to make room on their streaming service for something else. Meanwhile, those of us who liked it have time to convince friends to try it. And ... perhaps a much bigger factor ... those who have waited for the whole season to be available, so that they can binge-watch over the course of some convenient weekend, have naturally not weighed in yet. The experience of watching it over the course of two or three days, will be a different experience, for better or worse, then watching it week-to-week. And a different experience, yet again, to watching it with family over a Thanksgiving weekend or other holiday. There is no saying what kind of word-of-mouth binge-watching the season might generate.

And Christopher Tolkien died a while back, and I've heard that the person heading the Tolkien estate is his son Simon. Simon is the one who went to New Zealand when Peter Jackson was filming LOTR, and reportedly he had a favorable reaction. If that was the case, he must feel more favorably about screen adaptations of his grandfather's work than his father did. So with him in charge of giving or withholding permissions—not to mention what other family members of his generation might think—the scripts written for the second season might not have such onerous restrictions. I don't say that this is how it will be—because how could I know?— but I think it's a possibility.
I started to write a reply to this but found I was just painting myself into a corner I really didn't want to be in.
My original post was more a flippant remark than a conspiracy theory.

I'll take this opportunity to give a BIG thank you to you, @Teresa Edgerton and to @Elckerlyc for your wonderful episode synopses, which have helped me understand things that passed me by while watching them myself. You can both have a rest now.
Thank you! Writing the synopses was entertaining, and I certainly enjoyed discussing the series with all of you!

But I now look forward to turning my time energies back to some of my personal projects.
Stellar work Teresa and wonderful patience and insights with your replies.

I am still sticking with Gandalf for the Stranger and I think one scene confirmed it. He says to Nori about what direction they should take 'follow your nose'. Those are the words of Gandalf in Moria to one of the Hobbits. Can't remember if it was in the books, but it is in Jackson's version.
I am still sticking with Gandalf for the Stranger and I think one scene confirmed it. He says to Nori about what direction they should take 'follow your nose'. Those are the words of Gandalf in Moria to one of the Hobbits. Can't remember if it was in the books, but it is in Jackson's version.
Nah. That's just a standard wizardry response. Freshmen stuff; "How to respond when you're totally clueless."
Stellar work Teresa and wonderful patience and insights with your replies.

I am still sticking with Gandalf for the Stranger and I think one scene confirmed it. He says to Nori about what direction they should take 'follow your nose'. Those are the words of Gandalf in Moria to one of the Hobbits. Can't remember if it was in the books, but it is in Jackson's version.
Thank you!

I am still hoping he will be one of the Blue Wizards, no matter how many Gandalf hints they provide. Of course I was hoping right up until the moment Galadriel confronted him that Halbrand would prove to be just a man with a past and a redemption arc. They were dropping so many clues, I couldn't quite believe that they would telegraph it so hard so early in the episode that Hal was Sauron. But I was wrong about that and I could easily be wrong about this.

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