So here we are, at the end of the first season of Amazon Prime Video’s most expensive show yet, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. A season that has made us weep (not with joy) more times that it has left us in awe. And after seven episodes of less than stellar storytelling, we finally get an episode that makes the story move forward.
As far as finales go, ‘Alloyed’ is far, far better than what one could have expected from the show, giving us two big reveals, the forging of the titular rings and enough openings for Season 2 to take off from. But once again there is much to be said about the pacing and the failure to better adapt what has been known to us for ages. Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to going off-canon to make the story stronger, but to completely negate what we have known so long when it could have been definitely avoided is very annoying.
(Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t watched the episode or read any of Tolkien’s written materials.)
The big reveals
To give The Rings of Power its due, it fanned the raging fan theories about ‘who is Sauron’ all through the show and the two who emerged best contenders were The Stranger, who fell from the sky, and Halbrand, the King of the Southlands.
The finale opens with what seems to be confirmation of The Stranger being the most likely candidate, given that the three mystical beings following basically call him Lord Sauron and tell him that they had come to serve him. Money must have exchanged hands here for all those betting on The Stranger.
We quickly move to Eregion where Galadriel rides in with a wounded Halbrand (who seems to have made the journey from Mordor in just six days) just as Elrond and Celebrimbor debate how to tell Gil-galad about their failure to secure Mithril. And either there is a very badly executed time jump or the Elves knew how to fix a wound so grave in 24 hours, because we immediately see a recovered Halbrand wandering into Celebrimbor’s workshop fan-boying about his craftsmanship. He gives Celebrimbor the idea of creating an alloy (how it doesn’t occur to the greatest craftsman on Middle-earth is beyond comprehension) and tells him to consider the suggestion a “gift”. He might as well have winked when he said it. And dammit, money has to change hands again because anyone who knows Tolkien lore knows that Sauron helped forge the Rings of Power in the guise of Annatar, the Lord of Gifts!
The wise one
The Stranger has no clue what the mystics are saying but loses control over his powers forcing them to tie him up till they reach Rhun. But the Harfoots arrive to rescue him and throw a spanner in the works. When the mystics start attacking the Harfoots, Nori convinces The Stranger that he is not a bad person and he rises to the occasion, using the staff of the mystics to obliviate them into… butterflies or moths (Hint one).
But before they bite the dust, the mystics call him “the other one” and Istari. There you have it folks, the wizards have decided to visit Middle-earth half an age early! But which of the five is he? We might have an answer at the end after all.
That itchy feeling
When Celebrimbor talks about the power of flesh, Galadriel’s (non-existent) radar tingles. After Celebrimbor fails to combine metals with Mithril and Galadriel asks them to take a break, Halbrand convinces them to approach it differently and even suggests crafting of rings. Galadriel’s finally observant brain then asks for records of the Kings of the Southlands and realises that the line was broken 1,000 years ago. Oops! So, basically, according to the show, Galadriel is the one who makes the forging of the rings possible. Seriously. I have no words.
Anyway, once Galadriel confronts Halbrand about his identity, he quickly drops the act and all but confirms that he is Sauron. The way he enters Galadriel’s head and tries to manipulate her is very Sauron. At least screen Galadriel shows some sense finally and resists. In Tolkien lore, Galadriel meets Sauron in his Annatar avatar and doesn’t seem to like him too much, so literary Galadriel seems to be less daft. Thankfully, Elrond is smarter and seems to figure it out on his own (I once again reiterate that the show should just make Elrond the lead).
But the idea that seeds of Galadriel’s speech to Frodo in the Fellowship of the Rings about why she shouldn’t have the One Ring might have come from Sauron is a nice touch. And wait, the screen Galadriel isn’t done making stupid decisions yet, so she decides not to tell Elrond about her suspicions about Halbrand, even as she suggests making “three rings for the Elves under the sky”.
One bet is still open for call
I love the Harfoots, I do. Just like I love the Hobbits. But do we really have to have those extended emotional goodbyes? Nori, who learns that Istari means ‘wise one’ or ‘wizard’, has not had enough adventure yet and decides to accompany The Stranger (are we still calling him that or are we calling him Wizard?) to Rhun for more information. Hence the long goodbyes. Poppy (she’s the best) hugs and cries about Nori’s departure but one wonders why female Sam couldn’t have joined female Frodo for the journey.
But wait, this scene is insignificant other than The Stranger’s advice to Nori to “follow the nose when in doubt”. Well, if that doesn’t seal the deal about The Stranger being Gandalf, I don’t know what does. But why is Gandalf here half an age prematurely? Why is he going to Rhun when we know Gandalf hasn’t been there? Gandalf doesn’t meet Galadriel or Elrond before the Third Age, so how is that going to be avoided? So maybe this is not Gandalf at all.
Yes, there are so many questions, not least about the other 16 rings, because the three Elven rings we see being forged at the end of the episode — Narya, Nenya and Vilya — were forged after all the other rings which were helped forge by Sauron. Sauron actually had nothing to do with the forging of the three Elven rings. Uggh!
I guess this is one way of making sure audiences come back for the second season… figure out how they undo all that they mixed up this season. Oh and the Numenoreans do nothing of any consequence in the episode, so we have left them out of the review, just like the show should have left them out of the narrative.