The Rings of Power Season 1 Finale Forges Far Too Fast

S1E8, “Alloyed”

Sauron and Galadriel in a misty distance
Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime

The following contains spoilers for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Season 1 Finale, S1E8, “Alloyed” (written by Gennifer Hutchison & John D. Payne & Patrick McKay and directed by Wayne Che Yip)

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Season 1 finale (S1E8, “Alloyed”) was not as dark as the penultimate episode, nor as explosive as the one before that, but it did finally bring some answers to the long-simmering questions that had been surrounding the series.

The answers to the two key questions of the season came relatively early in S1E8. Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) is indeed Sauron and the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) is a Wizard, though he is still not confirmed to be Gandalf. This led to an episode that, like most of the season, was incredible in individual moments, but spent most of its time meandering. Halbrand actually being Sauron was one of the least surprising reveals possible, for most of the season he has been dropping hints about his dark and deadly past.

Thankfully, it does seem like showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay also realized that the character should be at least somewhat truthful with what he had been doing so far. This version of Sauron is not purely evil, he does honestly believe in the goodness of his intent to “heal Middle Earth.” But his inherent fascism is at the heart of how he thinks he can do that. He cannot tell the difference between “healing” and “ruling,” which is the source of his ultimate failure.

Galadriel and Halbrand in Eregion
Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Sauron is also actually in love with Galadriel (Morfydd Clark); well, love is probably the wrong word, he can see his obsessive lust for power fulfilled in the warrior elf. Sauron had been Morgoth’s right hand, and it seems his thought is that he can be that for Galadriel. He wants her to rule, and even to rule from the light, as long as he can be there by her side, raking in the rewards. Sauron just wants to serve someone, though the electric chemistry between Vickers and Clark gives the whole storyline a much more sexual dimension than one would expect from a Tolkein tale (and one which Vickers himself has rejected).

Galadriel of course does not accept Sauron’s dark proposal to rule the world with him. She became suspicious of him immediately after they arrived in Eregion and pretty quickly discovered that Halbrand was not the king of the Southlands after all. Why she couldn’t realize this earlier, or why S1E8 didn’t allow Halbrand and Galadriel to have some time in Eregion before things go badly is indicative of the major issue the show has had all season. The pacing of the storylines is off, things move much too quickly and then too slowly.

Similarly, the progression from Halbrand on his sickbed to the creation of the rings to the reveal that he is Sauron really seems like it should have taken more time to allow each moment to simmer. In The Rings of Power Season 1 finale, Galadriel brings the injured Halbrand to Eregion. She meets up with Elrond and Gil-Galad and they have about 20 seconds each to express their elation (Elrond) and dismay (Gil-Galad) that she has returned. Both of those meetings could have been intense and meaningful, instead, it seems once again like various characters make decisions and then immediately backtrack on them.

Galadriel stares at the camera holding her dagger
Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime

In this case, Galadriel has no time to think it was the right choice to bring Halbrand to get help. She immediately hears him say some—admittedly creepy—things that they both heard from Adar, and starts to suspect him. Then a single scene later she gets confirmation (and I know elves live much longer, but if there hasn’t been a king in the Southlands in a thousand years, maybe she should keep up with the passing millennia before bringing in people to rule).

These conversations and the resulting attempts at making various magical artifacts seem like something that could have taken at least an episode, if not an entire season, to really give the audience and the characters a chance to understand the meaning and impact of what is happening. Galadriel almost immediately regretting bringing Halbrand here also invalidates half of her decisions for the season up until this point. Once again the characters seem to make decisions and then immediately regret, or even retract them. Then, after Sauron has left, we get some very long and detailed scenes of the actual forging of the rings, which move much too slowly and without any character-building additions.

Sauron coming to Eregion and convincing Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) to do his bidding could and should have been a climactic moment for the show. This is the main villain coming back into his power and the event that kicks off the creation of the titular “rings of power.” And Edwards has played an interesting version of Celebrimbor, he is a character who can easily be corrupted, you can tell he craves power for himself. As it is presented it feels more like an afterthought, a way to set up the much more interesting in-show moment where Sauron tries to recruit Galadriel as his queen. Everything that happens inside of her mind while he is doing that is incredible, but it feels like there could have been much more.

Elrond and Celebrimbor stand in front of the forge
Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime

Back in Numenor, the King Tar-Palantir (Ken Blackburn) finally dies, but not before accidentally pulling a Viserys and mistaking Eärien (Ema Horvath) for his daughter, sending her to look into the Palantir in his attic that will probably show her the destruction of Numenor and cause incredible pain and destruction. Just after the king’s death, the ships with Elendil (Llyod Owen) and Queen Regent Miriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) return home in defeat. Elendil is still mourning due to Isildur’s supposed death and Miriel is blind, so they have some major issues, though they pledge themselves anew to the cause of the elves and each other. This has things set up for the next season to focus on a succession crisis between Pharazon (Trystan Gravelle) and Miriel with the fate of the entire island culture in the balance. Hopefully, the whole storyline will feel more essential to the show than it did in this first season.

With the Harfoots, the showdown between The Stranger and Nori’s (Markella Kavenagh) little group and the Cultists finally happens, and, while our heroes win, it costs the life of Sadoc Burrows (Lenny Henry). The Cultists use dark magic and try to convince The Stranger that he is Sauron, and interestingly, this almost works. Heyman is able to convey the real fear and confusion the character feels and it seems for a moment like he will give in to this call to the dark side. But then they attack Nori and the power of friendship overtakes The Stranger, she gives him a staff and he declares himself “good.” The Stranger overwhelms the Cultists and turns them into moths. He then later tells Nori to “follow her nose” so the “The Stranger is Gandalf” vibes are strong in The Rings of Power Season 1 finale, but it is not yet confirmed.

In the end, Sadoc dies watching the sunrise hoping to once again see his wife on the other side—leaving us with one last great Lenny Henry moment and sad that this wonderful performance is now gone from the show. The remaining group reunites with the rest of the Harfoots who must continue their migration. After some back and forth, Nori realizes that she needs to go with the Stranger and he travels east to Ruhn. Surprisingly, Poppy (Megan Richards) does not decide to go, so Nori and Poppy part ways with Poppy leading the Harfoots on and Nori and the Stranger heading off into adventure.

Nori and Poppy holding arms in front of a grassy hill
Photo Courtesy of Amazon Prime

The Rings of Power Season 1 finale, like the whole season, has incredible moments and gorgeous production design, but suffers from a seeming inability to commit to the story being told. The season was interrupted and shortened due to COVID and had to hold some cards close due to trying to keep the nature of both Halbrand and the Stranger secret. Season 2 will hopefully be free of that and we can return to the moments the show does best (like anything with Durin IV and Disa) and actually spend the time we need on the stories.

Written by Clay Dockery

Clay Dockery is an actor, author, and impresario extraordinaire. They are the co-editor of Why I Geek: An Anthology of Fandom Origin Stories and was the co-head organizer and creative director of MISTI-Con, Coal Hill Con, and The West Wing Weekend fandom conventions. They live in New York City with their girlfriend and their two chonky cats.

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