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The big Rings of Power season 2 questions, answered

Sauron, Earien, Galadriel, the Stranger inch closer to The Lord of the Rings proper

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Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) standing and holding a stake in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Image: Prime Video
Zosha Millman (she/her) manages TV coverage at Polygon as TV editor, but will happily write about movies, too. She’s been working as a journalist for more than 10 years.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power wrapped up its first season with seismic shifts and room for expansion. The billion-dollar show, which has already been greenlit for five seasons, found room for explosive moments and almost-shocking revelations, and even a reworked map of Middle-earth. But it was still table-setting — the Lord of the Rings we know is still far down the timeline.

With the first season finale released to the world, here are the major questions about what exactly happens next in season 2 and beyond. And thanks to The Rings of Power writer Gennifer Hutchison, we already know a little about where Sauron, Galadriel, and the Stranger are headed.

Is the Stranger actually Gandalf?

Since the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) showed up his identity has been a mystery, spurred on by the cast and crew of Rings of Power making reference to him as a “familiar” character to fans.

After eight episodes the answer seems to be… maybe. Though the finale gives some compelling evidence: The White Robes decide he’s not Sauron, and instead call him “Istar,” which Tolkien fans will recognize as a singular form of Istari, the elven word for the wizards of Middle-earth. He turns them into swarms of moths — a move certainly associated with the Gandalf of the Peter Jackson movies. He picks up a staff to do this magic (or whatever we’re calling it), which seems to evoke a certain type of gray and later white wizard. And now that he can speak in full sentences he’s certainly sounding more like Gandalf, even cribbing from a lot of stuff Gandalf said in the Jackson movies.

Where are the Stranger and Nori headed?

The Stranger standing and gesturing to three women in white robes Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

After confronting the White Robes, with the Stranger deciding that he is absolutely not Sauron, he decides it’s time to go east to Rhûn to discover more about himself. Nori, ever eager to get off the harfoot path, decides to go with him while Poppy stays behind.

In Rhûn they’ll be able to see the constellation the Stranger has been chasing all season, which is called “The Hermit’s Hat,” and hopefully get the answers the Stranger’s been seeking all season about his identity, powers, and what he should actually do in this world.

What happens in Númenor now that the king is dead?

Without getting into spoilers about what happens to the Númenóreans canonically, suffice it to say the island nation is in a tricky place. Queen Míriel and Elendil have returned home to enlist the country in a fight against the orcs residing in the newly created Mordor (not that anyone can call it that), to find that the king has died. Pharazôn is continuing to rally the residents on a more conservative future of Númenor and fear of outsiders/elves.

What will Eärien do with the palantir?

Before Númenor’s king dies, he lets Eärien into the secret passage with the palantír. While we don’t see what happens after — whether she makes it to the room or touches the crystal ball — but considering what Míriel has seen with the palantír, it seems like whatever happens to Eärien in that room could have consequences for Númenor. And when we spoke to Rings of Power writer Gennifer Hutchison, she agreed completely.

While Eärien’s father, Elendil, is aligned with those faithful to the elves, Hutchison said via Zoom, she’s the member of the family who represents the more isolationist Númenórean point of view. “She’s been left behind,” said Hutchison, “and introducing her into that very intimate space with the king allowed for us to hint at how there might be some conflict, which we’ve been building so much in Númenor — and to make it more intimate, with characters that are directly part of the story.”

Is Isildur dead?

A closeup on Isildur looking out at the horizon Photo: Prime Video

Listen: No. He very much shows up later in the canon in a big way. But for now, no one in the show knows that except for his horse. Godspeed, horse!

What does Galadriel do with the knowledge that Halbrand is Sauron?

Halbrand got his final bit of manipulation in the eighth episode of The Rings of Power as he convinced Celebrimbor to make some rings (maybe even of power), and it was right about this time that Galadriel finally realized what many have theorized and known for weeks: Halbrand is Sauron.

Though she rejects him and his offer of power, Galadriel does not reveal to anyone what she knows, essentially following the guidance laid out by the Finrod in her vision (slash the Finrod that Sauron put in her vision) to do nothing to stop Sauron’s plan. So with Halbrand/Sauron’s ring plan moving forward (with the crucial — maybe? — addition of a third ring) and Galadriel looking like a goober at having palled around with her sworn enemy for all this time, it’s not a great look. Though it certainly sets up some tension for season 2, especially since...

What does Elrond do now that he knows Sauron is Halbrand?

Celebrimbor standing at his forge looking at Elrond, with other people standing behind them Photo: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

Though Galadriel doesn’t share her news, Elrond is suspicious and wanders out to find the genealogy scroll that leads him to figure out that Halbrand is Sauron. Unfortunately, he finds this news too late, arriving back at the workshop just as the elven rings (the rings of power) are being completed.

Elrond has spent much of this season running around trying to more directly help Celebrimbor and Gil-galad figure out how to save the elves, harness the power of mithril, and generally do good in the world. The question that remains is: Will Elrond keep his promise to trust Galadriel and not reveal what he knows?

Hutchison said that the challenge of Galadriel and Elrond’s friendship was framing a strong connection, even when the characters shared so little screen time.

“When they come back together [in this episode] it is such a such a big moment for them —he sent her away, and now she’s back. He’s between his guilt, ‘I should have trusted you,’ and he’s also just so happy to see her. It’s been a hard time, now your friend’s back. We tried to really invest that in that scene with the two of them, talking together about what’s happened. Luckily, those actors are so wonderful and incredible that I feel like they can really play those subtleties.”

That dilemma was among the important pillars of the episode. “I think it’s pretty clear at the end that there’s a bit of conflict in that moment,” Hutchison said. “She’s made a big ask of him. We really did want to have that. ‘This is the true test; you said you’ll trust me.’ We really wanted to make sure that came through.”

What happens to Durin IV and his dwarven succession?

Something we all know is that dwarves rule and there should be more of them in the world. Durin’s plot to (maybe) overthrow his dad, King Durin III, so he could keep mining for mithril. Sure, there’s a balrog in the mix there too, but I care more about watching dwarves rip and generally bring the party.

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