Season 1 of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power waited until the very last moments of the finale to reveal some powerful rings, and it wasn’t even the rings anyone familiar with the Tolkien universe was expecting. The Amazon series has a five-season plan to lay out the conflict between Sauron and Galadriel in the Second Age, and it looks like the first season tackled the “Where is Sauron?” of it all, and—unexpectedly—the founding of Mordor. Looking ahead, the war between the elves and Sauron should be the next large conflict on the timeline, though there are significant gaps between what we know about the creation of the rings and what we think we know about Tolkien history. Primarily, the show skipped over the rings for the dwarven lords and the rings for men—so where are the missing rings?
Season 2 of The Rings of Power is currently shooting in the United Kingdom. The details on what the season will focus on have yet to be leaked, so it’s back to the books in order to make a wild guess: Halbrand, who was revealed to be the Dark Lord Sauron, will take the elven city of Eregion with his forces. There’s lots of ground to cover before the show can realistically get to the beginning of this major battle, after which there will be no doubt that Sauron has returned to Middle-earth. To call our shot now: By the time Season 2 is over, Eregion will be under siege, if not outright conquered. That would mean some rings will need to be created in ways that differ from the Tolkien texts. By the time the three rings for the elves are created, there are already supposed to be 16 other rings in existence, as Fiona Apple reminded us while singing Bear McCreary’s “Where Shadows Lie” during the finale’s credits. But what about the characters and peoples of Middle-earth that we’ve met throughout The Rings of Power so far? Inferring from what we know from the source material as well as the show’s modest deviations, here are some rough ideas about what lies ahead in Season 2:
What’s going to happen to the Númenóreans?
The second season will likely see the Númenóreans remain on their island to sort out their own problems. King Palantir is dead, having mistaken Isildur’s sister Earien for his daughter Miriel and letting her look into the palantíri to see … something? We don’t return to that setting this season; did something with the palantíri cause the king’s off-screen death? Earien, meanwhile, is a show-created character who seems against the alliance with the elves. Miriel and Elendil returned from Middle-earth worse for wear after losing the first battle of Mordor, but the season finale goes a long way to establishing that these two remain part of “The Faithful.” These are Númenóreans who want to restore the relationship between the island people and the elves. But this political faction is unable to solidify that bond in time, according to the text, as the final Númenórean king, Pharazon, seizes power and prioritizes his own people in a fraught quest to achieve immortality.
We have several seasons to go until, without spoiling too much, Númenor truly enters the spotlight, so the second season will probably be a mini House of the Dragon–style succession conflict. Miriel’s position is weakened by her blinding and her defeat in the Southlands, while Pharazon, mournful over the old king’s death, makes a play for control of the island and its people. Eventually Númenor will answer the call for help sent out by Gil-galad once Sauron attacks, but the show hasn’t definitively established whether that is part of Pharazon’s play for more power, or the fulfillment of Miriel’s pledge to Galadriel in Season 1.
Where are Bronwyn, Arondir, and Theo?
The humans who are not from Númenor were absent during the season finale after losing the Southlands to Adar, thanks to the eruption of Mount Doom. The last we see of them, Bronwyn says they’re headed to Pelargir, an “old Númenórean colony,” where they’ll reside as refugees from Mordor. Pelargir will end up becoming the main port city of the Kingdom of Gondor, the last and greatest stronghold of men in the Third Age. Gondor is founded by Isildur (currently MIA on The Rings of Power) and his brother Anárion (also MIA) after certain events go down in Númenor. In the current timeline, Pelargir is just a town on the River Anduin where some of the Faithful have created a settlement outside of Númenor.
It looks like the show is going to have some friendly faces present in Pelargir before it becomes Gondor proper. It’s very likely that Bronwyn and Theo will find other members of the Faithful here, because the Southlanders are bringing Arondir with them, and Theo is in possession of Galadriel’s elven sword, immediately establishing their bona fides as elf friends. Expect these three to set up in their new home and meet more ex-Númenóreans who aren’t opposed to the elves.
Pelargir will also find itself as part of the same large conflict that sees Sauron advance on Eregion. It’s then when the elven King Gil-galad will ask for aid from the Númenóreans, who eventually send two forces to oppose Sauron: one with the elves of Lindon in the north, and another fleet that sails up the Anduin to cut Sauron off at the south. This second force will land in Pelargir and serve as a convenient way to get Bronwyn and Theo back into the scrum. Arondir may also attempt to rally the men of Pelargir to Eregion’s aid, as Eregion is an elven city and—presumably—the Faithful would not take kindly to Sauron’s large assault. It would take some rushing through the timeline to get Pelargir involved with Sauron by the end of the second season, but we’ve seen timelines compressed greatly on this show already.
What happens to Galadriel and the elves?
The forging of the three elven rings—Vilya, the sapphire Ring of Air Narya; Narya, the ruby Ring of Fire; and Nenya, the white, adamant Ring of Water—means the elves are going to be able to hold back the rot that threatened to fade them from Middle-earth. With some hints from Halbrand, Celebrimbor was able to loop the magical light trapped in the mithril back upon itself. We know these rings, and their mithril alloys, will keep the light of the Valar pumping into the elven race well into the Third Age from the Lord of the Rings books and movies—but now what?
The next time the elves are brought into direct conflict with Sauron will be when the burgeoning dark lord returns to Eregion to claim the remaining rings, rings we did not see made or mentioned in the finale of the first season. In the Tolkien text, the first 15 rings were forged in a 300-year period when Sauron was working with Celebrimbor and the elven smiths. There’s even an aside from Elrond in the finale where he says the smiths have three weeks to do three centuries of work, nodding toward the time-dilation the series is applying to the lore. Did the elves and Halbrand make a series of practice rings, or is this future much darker than Tolkien suggested? Let me explain:
After Sauron and his forces conquer and sack Eregion, Sauron tortures Celebrimbor into returning his rings, with the exception of the three elven rings Sauron does not have power over. Upon regaining most of the rings, Sauron murders Celebrimbor with his own smithing hammer and strings up the body to be used as a war banner flown in front of Sauron’s forces: violence that would be more at home in Westeros. Since we don’t see those rings on the show, it’s possible that Sauron’s capture of Celebrimbor will lead to the forging of the other rings of power in the second season of the show. Sauron could use the knowledge extracted from an unwilling Celebrimbor to forge more rings so that we get up to our full count of 20 by the end of Season 2.
As for the rest of the elves, they have some negotiating to do before all of that can happen. Presumably, they will need access to more mithril to make more magic rings, which means a deepening of the relationship between the elves of Eregion and the dwarves of Khazad-dûm. Would Gil-galad alone be foolish enough to craft more dwarven Rings of Power in exchange for mithril? It would be slightly canon-breaking to have the seven rings for the dwarf lords be forged by elves without the interference of Sauron, but we also don’t have much textual basis for how those rings affect the dwarves who wear them. The dwarven race is hearty and was proved to be “incorruptible,” meaning Sauron didn’t have as much control over the dwarven rings as he did over the nine rings given to men that turn them into Nazgûl.
If the elves are indeed foolish enough to craft more rings in exchange for more mithril, that leaves Galadriel in a difficult spot, narratively. The version of the elf that has appeared in The Rings of Power is a bit of a warmonger, always pushing to oppose Sauron. Now, she’ll be armed with a Ring of Power that gifts her the light of the Valar. That would be a bad magical object to take into battle, as its existence allows the elves to persevere in Middle-earth. Considering Galadriel’s husband, Celeborn, has a part to play in the battle of Eregion (he and Elrond lead an army to try to stop the city’s destruction), we’d first need to meet him, and he’s been missing since the First Age in the show’s lore.
The most interesting thing to do from a television standpoint would be for Galadriel to find Celeborn as a twisted dark-elf version of himself that she could ease or reverse with the power of her ring. It would be extreme for Galadriel to need to pull her husband back from the brink of being an uruk, but it would lean into the show’s running theme with Galadriel that darkness must be touched in order to find the light.
Are Durin IV and the dwarves doomed?
Although Durin IV and his wife, Disa, ended the first season imagining what the kingdom of Khazad-dûm would look like under their rule, the next big event Tolkien mentions in the appendices is the dwarven attack on Sauron from the rear as Elrond and his army attempt to retake Eregion. At that point, Durin III (the old one) has a Ring of Power that was given to him by Celebrimbor, which lines up with the theory that the dwarven rings might be made without Sauron’s contribution in this version of the story. The dwarves were not thrilled that Sauron had taken the elven city closest to an entrance to Khazad-dûm, so after attacking Sauron and helping the elves push the evil forces out of Eregion, the dwarves seal the entrance we’ve seen Elrond use to enter the dwarf kingdom. That entrance wouldn’t be opened again until Gandalf and the Fellowship unlock it by speaking “friend” and use it to enter the mines of Moria.
After helping the elves, the dwarves retreat into the mountains, mostly keeping to themselves as they dig for more mithril. In The Rings of Power, it’s not just a fancy metal, but it has magic inside, which could motivate the dwarves to mine it faster than originally outlined by Tolkien. The Balrog we saw in Season 1, the monster that will eventually be known as “Durin’s Bane,” isn’t supposed to be unleashed until the early Third Age by Durin VI. We’re up to only the fourth Durin in the series, and the show also seems to be setting up Durin IV and his family to be the emotional heart of the dwarves. Considering the show already condensed three centuries of ring-making into three weeks, it would be surprising if Khazad-dûm is locked up by the end of the second season, essentially forcing the dwarves to sit out the rest of the series. It’s more likely that Season 2 will see the dwarf lords get their Rings of Power and resist the pull of evil as a people.
Also, in The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo that all of the dwarf rings were lost, some of them destroyed by dragon fire. Sure, we’ve been teased with a Balrog endgame for our dwarves, but maybe there’s room for some dragons in this other prestige fantasy series.
Where are the Wizard and Nori going?
So that’s Gandalf, right?
When the Istari and Nori head off on their adventure, the Wizard decides to follow his nose (this is the same advice Gandalf gives in Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring), and we don’t actually get a name for “the Stranger” by the time the season is over. He has declared himself “GOOD!” in no uncertain terms, but has not been named.
There is very little reason for this not to be Gandalf, as The Rings of Power has already proved it’s not beholden to the timeline set out by Tolkien. Anyone familiar with Tolkien’s wizards knows there are five in total, and Gandalf was supposed to be the last that appeared. We had one whole season with Morgoth-worshiping Mystics following the wrong person before we learned that the Stranger was an istar. Now he’s off with a harfoot companion on a journey to the land of Rhûn, somewhere we never got to go in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
If this wizard is Gandalf and he’s not the first wizard to land in Middle-earth but rather the fifth, like Tolkien wrote, then there’s a good chance there are two or three other wizards in Rhûn. Instead of Gandalf being the last wizard to come to Middle-earth, he could just be the final wizard who realizes what his true mission is, or the final wizard to receive a name. Depending on how the timeline is being compressed on the wizard front, there are two blue wizards and maybe Saruman the White chilling over in Rhûn, trying to ferret out where the Dark Lord Sauron is hiding. Rhûn is very far east on the map, and given that we last see the Stranger and Nori in the forests that will eventually become Mirkwood, they have a straight shot east over a lot of unexplored territory. They can safely get to Rhûn without crossing into Mordor, but what they’ll find there is anyone’s guess.
The people of Rhûn, like the Southlanders on the show, were once worshipers of the first dark lord Morgoth, and the blue wizards are sent there to seek out Sauron’s hiding place and to undermine any support for the dark forces in those areas. We don’t know much about the blue wizards (they’re not named in The Lord of the Rings), but Tolkien suspected they were good at their job. By the Third Age, Sauron’s forces in the East and South do not outnumber his forces in the North as they should, given the relative populations. That means there’s some good pockets of resistance among the oliphaunt-riding peoples we see in The Two Towers and The Return of the King.
The first season of The Rings of Power saw the most traveling from Galadriel, who went from the frozen castles up north to almost as far west as she could go, before gathering Númenóreans to head south, and eventually ending up in Eregion (kind of in the middle of the map). Now it seems like Season 2 will see a lot of travel from the Stranger and Nori. Again, we’re way ahead of the other story lines when it comes to the text if Gandalf is present, so expect this story line to remain largely separate from the war between Sauron and the elves.
What about Sauron/Halbrand and Adar?
The first season ended with Halbrand revealing himself to Galadriel as Sauron and helping Celebrimbor forge three elven Rings of Power. He is then shown being swiftly driven out of Eregion and heading southeast, toward the Southlands, which has become Mordor. The eruption of Mount Doom is going to give Sauron the location where he must build a forge that will make the One Ring, but Sauron has some obstacles standing in his way before that ring can be forged.
If Sauron is striding back into Mordor, he’s going to have to contend with Adar once again. We learned the once-elf was around for Sauron’s previous experiments with the powers of the unseen world, where the proto-dark lord used terrible magic to gain power over the flesh, creating the uruk (the orcs). The first season saw Adar unlock a flood with a magical sword and cause Mount Doom to erupt, covering the sky in ash and establishing a homeland for the uruk, who cannot be exposed to direct sunlight. Adar also told Galadriel that he had killed Sauron and taken control of the uruk. Halbrand didn’t seem to like this in “Udûn” (the sixth episode, where he came face to face with Adar) and the dark elf himself didn’t seem to recognize Sauron in his fair Halbrand form.
It looks like Adar and Sauron are going to have a power struggle over the new land, which isn’t explicitly referenced in any of the source material, but isn’t completely absent either. Before Sauron outright attacks the elves, he is said to be gathering power and followers in the East and in the South. We don’t know whether Sauron will attempt to battle Adar for control of Mordor or if Sauron will attempt to sneakily politic his way to the top of the uruk leadership structure, but Sauron will certainly retake the Southlands next season and build a force loyal to him. If Sauron has to best Adar in combat, this is going to be a tricky proposition. The better strategy would be to turn Adar against the elves, and what better way than to suggest the elves have magic rings that could cure or aid the uruk in some way.
If the elves happen to be smithing again to improve their political positioning with the dwarves, Sauron could convince Adar they actually are on the same side, and Adar can become the general to Sauron’s scheming fair form (which is ironically who we thought he’d be in Season 1). We’re told in the season finale that Sauron can’t tell the difference between healing and ruling, so can he convince the uruk that his rule will bring them peace? He does eventually conquer a lot of Middle-earth before the Númenóreans roll in to save the day, and we come across orcs near the shire (they’re called goblins or hobgoblins in The Hobbit, although Tolkien considered them to just be different types of orc).
There’s still the question of the nine Rings of Power that have to be forged for men before Sauron can make the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, but the series hasn’t specified whether these rings need to have sway over the light of the Valar that we’re told is inside mithril. Since the nine rings for men give power drawn from the unseen world and eventually corrupt those users into Nazgûl, it’s not impossible that a different alloy could be used to forge them—maybe whatever the sword key from Season 1 was made out of? Theo mentioned feeling like it had a certain power, and the sword was very resistant to being destroyed while also growing like a Morgul blade when fed blood. Gross, but that’s a powerful metal that Halbrand could forge using his new knowledge gained from the elves.
The Rings of Power has no problem breaking Ring canon, so maybe the nine rings for men are made outside of the elf forges we were expecting them to be formed in.