The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Episodes 1 and 2 left us with more questions than answers, and theories about where the show goes next are everywhere. The characters are spread all over Middle-earth, with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) leading the charge against Sauron – the sorcerer and right-hand man to Morgoth, the evil god who waged war on the Elves and pushed them from Valinor to Middle-earth. Galadriel is convinced that Sauron is still hiding in the shadows, despite the fact no one has seen or heard from him for a few hundred years.
Galadriel is validated by the end of the first two episodes. Sauron is definitely back and gathering forces, but by the time a good chunk of people realize it, Galadriel is lost at sea and entire human villages are being destroyed by orcs in the Southlands. Those that haven't caught on to Sauron's increasing presence are up to their own sneaky business, like the Dwarves at Khazad-dûm keeping secrets from Elrond (Robert Aramayo), Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) being ready to risk it all to build his ominous forge (it looks like a great place for a giant eye to hang out later, just saying), and magical strangers landing in Harfoot backyards via comets.
We asked the executive producers and members from The Rings of Power's very large cast to break down the pivotal moments that had us scratching our heads in wonder, and elaborate on what to expect from the Lord of the Rings prequel.
There are some secrets being kept in Khazad-dûm, and the biggest one is being kept in a secret box guarded by Durin (Owain Arthur) and his father King Durin III (Peter Mullan). All we know for sure is that the mystery object is very shiny and the Dwarves are not keen on the Elves finding out about it – and that includes Durin's buddy Elrond (Robert Aramayo). While the cast and creatives were very hush-hush about what's in the box, TV Guide has a theory about what the Dwarves are hiding.
The most ominous object that appeared in the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has to be that scary-looking sword Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), the son of Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniad), found. The sword seems to bear the sigil of Sauron, and when Theo's blood drips onto the sword at the end of Episode 2, some type of menacing bond forms. Muhadifin thinks his character does not know too much about the sword's origins. "I think he found something cool. He has some questions about the thing that he found," Muhadifin said. "As the season progresses, he finds a little bit more about the sword."
Co-showrunner J.D. Payne also expanded on the significance of Theo finding the sword. "He's young, and his people are saddled with a lot of baggage in terms of their history," Payne said. "This is the people who in the war of the prior era, fought on the side of evil, and because of that, they have been taken down a couple pegs in the grand context of Middle-earth." The showrunner said that Theo in particular has a lot of pent-up anger from his father leaving when he was young, and from the village's response to his mother's relationship with the Elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova).
"He finds an outlet in this mysterious object that he finds. It is sort of a representation of all of those things that came before and all those poor choices that his ancestors might have made," Payne said. "It's sort of a struggle for his soul as he is going to be tempted with power and decide which way he's going to go."
By the end of The Rings of Power's first two episodes, the character we know the least about is arguably the Stranger (Daniel Weyman). He arrived via meteor near the Harfoots' camp in Episode 1, and Elanor "Nori" Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) is determined to help this mysterious magical being. But who exactly is this man? "Magic is a powerful force in Middle-earth," co-showrunner Patrick McKay told TV Guide when asked about the Stranger. "And we know that magical beings we've seen in Tolkien's novels can go bad or good." At least from the show's premiere, it's unclear which way the character — and those who come into his path — will go. "We know from first couple episodes that Nori is a character who's breaking the rules of what she's supposed to do in her society, but those rules exist for a reason," McKay added. "You'll have to see as the series goes on, whether that bodes for well or ill."
The Internet has plenty of theories about the Stranger's identity: some think he's Gandalf, some think he's the wizard Radagast, some think he's Sauron himself. And while it may take a while for us to find out more, Weyman, the actor who plays the Stranger, told Entertainment Tonight that he knew who the character actually was. "While we were working, I, at each point in the story, knew exactly where the character was and who he was and what he was going through," Weyman said.
Weyman also said this about the Stranger to TV Guide at San Diego Comic-Con: "He's driven by a source of purpose deep inside him ... It's so deep and primal, this feeling that he has, that's where the character starts."
The premiere does not reveal too much about Celebrimbor's (Charles Edwards) project. All we know so far is that High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) assigned Elrond (Robert Aramayo) to help out Celebrimbor, and that Elrond is seeking out the Dwarves' help. Those familiar with Tolkien's work know that Celebrimbor is the forger of the Rings of Power, though it hasn't been confirmed whether that is what he's working on in the series right now.
"We felt that he was sort of the da Vinci of the Elves," McKay told TV Guide. "He's a visionary and he's sort of got the anxiety of influence of his ancestor who made the Silmarils, which is the most powerful object in Middle-earth history up to that point." The showrunner said Celebrimbor likely wants to leave a similar legacy. "Celebrimbor, I think, wants to get his own name in history books, and create something beautiful and powerful in his own right," McKay said. "And that might lead him to be vulnerable to temptation."
Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) is hell-bent on finding Sauron and avenging her older brother in the opening episodes of the series. On her journey for revenge, she comes across Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) while they are both lost at sea. After a harrowing encounter with a sea worm, the two end up sharing a dilapidated raft, only to find themselves sailing directly into a giant storm. When Galadriel is thrust into the sea by the waves, Halbrand bravely jumps into the turbulent water to save her, which is the complete opposite of his behavior with his former raftmates when the sea worm showed up.
"I think it's interesting because it's the way you can interpret it two ways. And some people have said to me there's quite a heroic moment when he does that," Vickers told TV Guide of the scene. "But I actually look at it another way because I think that he saves her in order to save himself because I think he needs her companionship because he doesn't know what's coming and it's pretty dangerous out there. So I think he saves so to ultimately help himself in that moment."
The internet has an even more compelling theory about why he saved her: Halbrand is actually Sauron. We find out in the premiere episodes that Halbrand is from the Southlands, where the remaining Middle-earth ties to Morgoth and Sauron are the strongest, but he otherwise stays vague about where he's from. He doesn't realize — or pretends not to realize — who Galadriel is outside of being an Elf, but if he is Sauron then gaining her favor would allow him to get crucial information about the Elves and their plans before he continues his siege on Middle-earth.
The idea only gets more intriguing when you read what Clark had to say about the potential for Halbrand and Galadriel's relationship to turn romantic. "The relationship is definitely very significant. we'll let you wait and see," she teased. We think that if Galadriel allows herself to trust Halbrand and he turns out to be her greatest enemy masquerading as a friend, that would certainly count as significant.
If you were not feeling the romantic tension between Halbrand and Galadriel, you definitely had to feel it between Arondir and Bronwyn, an Elf and human healer living in the Southlands in a state of romantic entanglement. The premiere episodes made it clear there is definitely a connection between these two, but it's unclear how far they've gone towards a forbidden relationship. The Elves would see it as Arondir dating below his race, and the humans – particularly in the Southlands – resent the Elves for enslaving and keeping watch over them generations after Morgoth's ardent followers have died. No matter the tension between their peoples, Arondir and Bronwyn can't stay away from each other.
"They're warriors, they're passionate, and they're led by love. There's no obstacle that will make them shrink," Cordova explained. "These two beings from far corners of species meet, and there's a curiosity that bonds them. And when you meet them, it's that moment where you start to, if you've ever been in love, is that first time that you feel that spark. You miss them, you want to know everything about them, you want to fuse, but then we can't. It's completely forbidden. And I think that's where they start and I think that as it progresses, that's the thing that they want to return to and that's their guiding light, their North Star, including [Arondir] protecting [Bronwyn]."
Boniadi added that even the actors were not immune to shipper woes themselves as they waited episode by episode for Bronwyn and Arondir to act on their obvious feelings. "There's such a deep bond between these two, that yes, it's a forbidden romance, but it's sizzling and then it's evolving," the actress said. "And I feel like hopefully if our experience has anything to do with it, it will be mirrored to the audience as 'Come on, man, kiss! Come on, just get on with it.' And you know, we felt that. We kept asking, like, 'So when is this gonna happen?'"
There is definitely love brewing between these two, but we'll have to keep watching to find out when they act on it. Fingers crossed a freakin' orc doesn't interrupt when they finally get to it.
King Gil-galad (Ben Walker) is a beloved character within the Tolkein universe, but in the premiere episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, we had to question whether the allegedly noble king was up to something shady. Galadriel was sure that Sauron was planning a comeback, and had a winter orc corpse to prove it. However, when she tried to convince Gil-galad that they needed to up their enforcements and dig deeper into the Sauron search, he attempted to send her away to Valinor, or essentially Elf heaven.
"In the pilot, where he says the same wind that seeks to blow out a fire may also cause its spread – he sees someone as passionate as Galadriel is, and is as convinced and dedicated to finding evil as she is, and believes that there might be a risk in keeping [her] around," executive producer and co-showrunner J.D. Payne explained.
"If he's right, her not going away could be very dangerous," Payne's showrunning partner and fellow executive producer Patrick McKay added.
By the end of the premiere, it is obvious even to Gil-galad that Galadriel may have been on to something, but that doesn't mean he regrets his choice to send her away. According to Walker, Gil-galad is thinking several steps ahead, and his premiere actions and decisions about what's to happen in Lindon while Galadriel is gone may not make sense to the audience for seasons to come.
"If you look at the source material, he has this unique gift of prescience," Walker said. "He's always ahead of the curve on knowing when evil is slithering in the shadows. And he's an interesting politician. He plays his cards very close, and he also plays the long chess of preservation of peace. So there are things in the first few episodes that aren't going to pay off for seasons to come. In terms of Galadriel, we'll never know because she didn't do what I told her to do! A lot of his job is like herding cats in Middle-earth. These are the elves that have chosen to stay and not return to Valhalla of Elves in Valinor. "They've chosen to stay on this disgusting dirty rock where all the creatures want to kill each other and these Elves. He sees himself trying to keep them out of harm's way."
Executive producer Lindsey Weber agreed that Gil-galad is playing a long game, but assured that he's not up to anything nefarious. "Gil-galad is among the wisest of the Elves and takes a long view of things," she said. "He believes what he's doing is in the best interest of his people."
Is what Gil-galad believes actually good for the Elves, though? The shadow of Sauron's impending reign creeping through Lindon at the end of the premiere is giving us significant doubts.
The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power Season 1 continues with new episodes dropping at 12 a.m. ET on Fridays.