Sauron Stuns In New “Rings Of Power” Season 2 Teaser

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER SEASON TWO AHEAD!

Specifically targeting those viewers who couldn’t make it through The Rings Of Power‘s slow-paced first season, the teaser trailer for the epic fantasy series’ upcoming second season promises high-octane action sequences, thrilling drama, and stunning visuals that the most expensive show in the history of television has to be able to deliver consistently (and probably shouldn’t need to convince anyone that it can). The drastic shift in tone is due at least in part to the fact that, in-universe, the character of Sauron is out in the open now and The Rings Of Power can finally employ him in its marketing campaign, instead of having to conceal their charismatic antagonist behind various red-herrings.

Charlie Vickers as Sauron in The Rings Of Power, wearing a black long-sleeved robe with ornate gold embroidery and a wide gold belt, standing surrounded by long-haired Elven warriors wearing armor and holding swords to his throat.  He has long blond hair.
Sauron | youtube.com

Charlie Vickers returns as Sauron’s “fair form”, casting off the drab and filthy rags he wore while disguised as the human Halbrand throughout season one, donning new and more richly-embroidered garments of black and gold, with long golden-brown hair and pointed ears to fit the part of an Elf. There are several shots and lines of dialogue in the trailer that seem to indicate the writers are trying to follow the story as sketched out by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Silmarillion, in which Sauron posed as an Elven emissary from Valinor named Annatar to gain access to the powerful forges of Eregion and seduce the great jewel-smith Celebrimbor. In The Rings Of Power‘s non-canonical version of events, of course, Sauron (as Halbrand) already weaseled his way into Eregion and assisted Celebrimbor in making the Three Rings before Galadriel made him leave, so unless Elves are just totally face-blind, it’s hard to believe that the new hairstyle and fit will fool everyone in Eregion. Even if they don’t realize he’s Sauron (because Galadriel kinda left that part out when she told everyone that Halbrand was gone), surely they’d question how Halbrand turned into an Elf overnight?

Or maybe not. There’s a shot in the trailer of Celebrimbor, in his forge, shielding his eyes as a figure strides toward him through parting clouds, silhouetted against a bright white light, which I initially interpreted as the sunlight breaking through a hole in the wall, with the clouds being the smoke of war. But rewatching the footage, I feel that the imagery is heavily evocative of how The Rings Of Power depicted the light of Valinor, and of the cloud-wall surrounding the Undying Lands to the Uttermost West that rolls back to allow the grey ships of the Elves through. I would go so far as to bet that this scene is from the very first episode of the second season, and demonstrates how Sauron will get away with his ruse, by appearing only to Celebrimbor as an angel (for lack of a better word, and because that’s essentially what Sauron is, or was, before his fall). Remember, Celebrimbor was quite taken by Halbrand, and benefited greatly from their brief partnership, so Sauron may choose to keep the man’s face specifically for that reason. Maybe he doesn’t even have to set foot in Eregion to continue his corruption of Celebrimbor. Imagine your guardian angel secretly trying to lead you to your doom, now that’s the kind of dirty trick at which Sauron excels.

I am most intrigued at what Amazon apparently doesn’t consider a spoiler – you’d think that the shot, near the end of the trailer, of Sauron standing amidst the ruins of Celebrimbor’s forge, still wearing his fair form, but encircled by sword-wielding Elves in armor (including Celebrimbor himself, who appears to be missing his left hand), would be giving away a major plot-point, but if it’s not, that means that the writers might still have a few tricks up their sleeves, and maybe all is not as it seems. What is plain to see, however, is that the kingdom of Eregion is under siege by Sauron’s forces, and the aforementioned shot, as well as one of Celebrimbor frantically dumping rings (presumably the lesser Rings of Power) into the flames where they were made, strongly implies that their defenses will not hold.

The city of Ost-in-Edhil in Eregion. It is night. Flaming missiles are being launched from catapults set up on side of a river at the walled city on the other side.
The Siege of Eregion | youtube.com

Before then, we can expect to see Eregion’s craftspeople reach the pinnacle of their creativity and innovation under Celebrimbor’s guidance (and Sauron’s instructions, whispered in his ear), with two more sets of great Rings, seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone and nine for mortal Men doomed to die, forged alongside the Three, which are safely – and secretly – situated on the hands of King Gil-galad of Lindon, the Lady Galadriel, and Círdan the Shipwright (the latter a character we have not met in any prior adaptation of Tolkien’s works). We catch a quick glimpse of Peter Mullan’s King Durin III holding what is very likely the Ring given to his clan, inset with a rough blue gemstone. No sign of the Nine, that I could find anywhere in the trailer or in the accompanying behind-the-scenes feature released on YouTube, but it may be that Sauron will come into possession of a great many Rings and then begin distributing them amongst Men in the third season.

Still geographically removed from Middle-earth’s problems but not far enough to protect them from the fallout, Númenor, the greatest kingdom of Men in Middle-earth, is seen in the throes of religious strife following the death of the old king and the return of his daughter Míriel from a crushing defeat on the battlefields of the Southlands with wounds to both her body and her pride. Míriel remains faithful to the traditions followed by generations of Númenórean monarchs before her, but there are many, even in her own court, who believe that the time has come to shrug off the burden of their old oaths to the Elves and the gods in Valinor. An Eagle of the West, regarded by the Faithful as heralds of the god Manwë, alights in the Court of the Kings, and Pharazôn, Míriel’s advisor, approaches the bird with sword unsheathed. Míriel is tortured by visions of a leviathan, some Lovecraftian horror with the face of a goblin shark and the body of a squid, rising up from the depths to swallow her and the island nation whole (I was deeply disappointed with the sea-monster in season one, so this, whether it’s a real creature or merely a metaphor for Númenor’s impending demise, is the shot that got me most excited for the new season).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the map, Elanor Brandyfoot and the Stranger trek through the lands of Rhûn, trying to piece together a more accurate picture of where the Stranger came from and where he’s supposed to be going by following the trail of the Mystics, the only three people in Middle-earth who knew who he was. Though the Stranger incinerated their flesh-and-blood bodies in the first season using his magic, and they evaporated into a swarm of butterflies, it seems we’re not done with the Mystics just yet, or perhaps, with the organization of which they were a part. A woman with bloody hands, wearing similar clothes to the Mystics we’ve seen already, is seen standing in a temple with sandstone pillars, while butterflies swirl around her. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I remain convinced that the Stranger is not Gandalf but one of the two enigmatic Blue Wizards, and that the Mystics are disciples of the other, who arrived in Middle-earth long before him. I say this because one of the very few descriptions Tolkien left behind of the Blue Wizards mentions that they founded “secret cults and magic traditions” in the East, which aligns so perfectly with everything we know about these Mystics, it’s aggravating to think that there are actually other alternatives.

Charles Edwards as Celebrimbor, wearing a dark red velvet gown, walking down an ornate flight of steps into a room of his forge, filled with smoke and a hazy golden light.
Celebrimbor | youtube.com

Something fascinating that The Rings Of Power is doing (and not getting enough credit for) is diving into these corners of Tolkien’s lore that no one else has dared to touch, and expanding the general audience’s understanding of what Middle-earth can be. Don’t get me wrong, the writers have made their fair share of choices and changes, some of which have rubbed me the wrong way, but it’s that exact willingness to think outside the box that makes The Rings Of Power so enjoyable for me, because I genuinely never know what to expect. A wizard falling out of the sky into a nomadic tribe of proto-Hobbits, hints of romantic tension between Galadriel and Sauron, apocryphal origin stories for mithril, and now the rumor around town is that Tom Bombadil could show up in season two – yes, that Tom Bombadil, the same singing, dancing, bright yellow boot-wearing character who’s been cut out of every previous film adaptation of The Lord Of The  Rings because he would have been too bizarre and random for people’s minds to process. Whether they can pull that off is anyone’s guess, but you’ve got to respect that a show this expensive, whose creators have every incentive to stick to played-out stories, is still taking the path least traveled and not once apologizing for it.

Trailer Rating: 9/10

10 Things To Get You Excited For The Rings Of Power Season 2

It’s not official just yet, but I think it’s pretty safe to assume that 2024 will be the year that Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power returns for its second season – filming had already wrapped prior to the SAG-AFTRA strikes that shut down much of Hollywood, post-production is now well underway, and there probably won’t be anywhere near as lengthy a marketing campaign as there was for the first season of the epic fantasy series, which kicked off with a Super Bowl teaser trailer months ahead of its September release to drum up anticipation for Amazon’s expensive venture into Middle-earth. Reception to the first season was mixed, with many critics and viewers praising the grand scale, breathtaking visual effects, and brilliant score, but criticizing the series’ large number of underdeveloped characters and disparate subplots, while hardcore fans of the source material, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Appendices to The Lord Of The Rings, complained of just about any divergence from the text, but in some cases understandably: certain changes came across as both needless and potentially damaging.

Benjamin Walker as Gil-galad and Robert Aramayo as Elrond in The Rings Of Power, standing side-by-side in an autumnal forest glade. Gil-galad has long brown hair worn loose, and wears a shimmering gold mantle and gold fabric bandolier. Elrond has short brown hair, and wears a dusty-green cloak and long-sleeved tunic.
Gil-galad and Elrond | looper.com

With all that said, I remain optimistic about the second season for a few reasons. Firstly, because I’m a huge fan of The Lord Of The Rings, so I will go into nearly any adaptation of the work wanting it to be good, and hoping for the best. Secondly, because the showrunners have had time and opportunity to take all of our feedback into account, and there are indications that the second season is focused on the characters and stories that fans wanted more of, including Celebrimbor, Sauron, and the Rings of Power themselves. Thirdly, and perhaps naively, because I had similar feelings about The Wheel Of Time‘s first season, and then season two came along and was just phenomenal. Thus, I present you with the ten things I’m most hyped to see from The Rings Of Power season two.

10: Celeborn

Look, I have no doubt that Bridgerton‘s Calam Lynch will be a truly endearing Celeborn, or that his romantic chemistry with Morfydd Clark’s Galadriel will be absolutely magical. But he is still playing Celeborn, who I know as the vaguely xenophobic, almost curmudgeonly character he had become by the time the Fellowship of the Ring rolled up to Caras Galadhon and met him and Galadriel at the end of the Third Age. Granted, that’s roughly three-thousand years after the events of The Rings Of Power, which is set during the Second Age, but even then, in Unfinished Tales, Celeborn is recorded as having traveled over the Misty Mountains to and from Lórien while Galadriel took the much shorter route through the underground Dwarven kingdom of Khazad-dûm, because he couldn’t stand Dwarves. Sure, his resentment towards them goes back to the Sack of Menegroth and the murder of his cousin Elu Thingol, but Thingol was denying payment to his Dwarven workers who were being commissioned to turn one of their own ancestral heirlooms, the Nauglamir, into a piece of pretty jewelry for the Elven-king. Anyway, I’m just saying that The Rings Of Power will have to actively work to make Celeborn less of a jerk, because it’s one of the few personality-traits Tolkien ever gave him (he is, essentially, what Peter Jackson’s films made Elrond out to be).

9: Politics In Khazad-Dûm

Speaking of the Dwarves, the last time we checked in on their subplot in the first season, Crown Prince Durin IV and his wife Disa were plotting to transform the isolated kingdom of Khazad-dûm into the flourishing hub of trade and commerce we know it will become, if only briefly. As long as Durin’s stalwart father Durin III is seated on the throne, they can’t do much, but that’s where I think the legendary Dwarven craftsman Narvi (to be played by Shadow And Bone‘s Kevin Eldon) will enter the picture in season two, as an influential ally to the Prince and Princess. Tolkien tells us that Narvi became a close friend of Celebrimbor and with his help designed the password-sealed doors that would protect Khazad-dûm’s secrets for many centuries after their deaths and the kingdom’s destruction from within. I think it’s highly likely that in the show, Narvi will also assist Celebrimbor in the forging of seven Rings of Power for the Dwarves, and in their distribution to the great lords representing each of the seven Dwarven clans. But it will be the ambitious and forward-thinking Durin IV on whose finger he places a Ring, the very Ring that would later be passed down to Thrór, the father of Thorin Oakenshield, and ripped away from him after much torment in the pits of Dol Guldur, to join the bouquet of stolen rings on Sauron’s hand.

8: Mithril

Mithril is a bit of a controversial topic in the Tolkien fandom nowadays, thanks to The Rings Of Power‘s bizarre invention of an admittedly apocryphal, plothole-ridden origin story for the precious metal, involving a Silmaril, a Balrog, an unnamed Elven warrior, and a tree growing in the Misty Mountains. Don’t even ask. It’s a hard sell, but I’m ready to accept that mithril (in the show; this is nowhere implied in the books) contains a reflection of the purifying light of a Silmaril, and could therefore slow or halt the erosion of Elvendom for a time. Obviously not forever, because, well…we know it doesn’t, but maybe the Elves could scrape by for a few extra years by adorning themselves and their abodes in mithril. So that’s what I want to see. I want the paranoid obsession with this metal’s supposed death-defying properties to have fully set in, and for Elven lords like Gil-galad and Celebrimbor to be pleading with the Dwarves to supply them with more, threatening them with war or blockade if they do not. The light of the Silmarils inspired in the Elves an insatiable lust that drove them to defy the Valar and chase Morgoth halfway across Middle-earth – the effects of mithril will have to be almost as ruinous if I’m to believe they’re one and the same. Also, I just don’t want the costume designers to miss the opportunity to dress all the Elves head-to-toe in mithril‘s radiance.

7: Pelargir

Jumping across the map for a moment, the Númenórean outpost of Pelargir is mentioned near the end of the first season as the next destination for Arondir, Bronwyn, Theo, and the displaced citizens of the Southlands, now Mordor. It’s one of the oldest cities of Men in Middle-earth, predating Osgiliath, Minas Anor (later Minas Tirith), and Minas Ithil (later Minas Morgul). The city sits at a literal and figurative crossroads between the lands of Harad and Khand in the southeast, Númenor in the distant southwest, Mordor in the east, and the lands of Elves in the northwest. It’s going to be a very different environment than what Bronwyn and her son Theo are used to, and I strongly suspect that they’ll end up entangled in the burgeoning conflict between the Númenórean colonizers and the oppressed “Low Men” of Middle-earth. And Sauron’s human form, Halbrand, still believed to be the rightful “King of the Southlands”, will almost surely waltz in at some point and drop the match that starts a firestorm.

6: Númenórean Imperialism

On that note, let’s talk more broadly about the subject of Númenórean imperialism in Middle-earth. Now, one major downside to The Rings Of Power compressing the timeline of the entire Second Age into the span of a single human character’s lifetime, as I’m sure I’ve talked about before, is that we lose the profound sense of the massive scale of Númenor’s empire-building efforts; how long it took them to become a superpower and how long they clung to that power through increasingly brutal methods as successive generations of kings and queens, each one more fearful of death and resentful of the immortal Elves than the one before, took out their anger on those they deemed inferior to themselves just to assure themselves they still could. In The Rings Of Power, all of this history and nuance will have to be crammed into the space of a few years at most, and it gives the show an excuse I hope they don’t take to place the blame for Númenor’s degradation squarely on Ar-Pharazôn, rather than on Númenor itself. Ar-Pharazôn is a symptom of the problem. The problem is Númenórean exceptionalism and racism – which is never treated, and reemerges in the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor that sprang up after Númenor’s eventual downfall. I’m not particularly confident that The Rings Of Power will address these subjects directly, but I would be ecstatic if it did, and did so well.

5: The Faithful vs The King’s Men

Trystan Gravelle as Pharazon striding ahead of Leon Wadham as Kemen through a courtyard with stone pillars. Pharazon is wearing a dark red cape over a dark blue robe with a large gold belt and sash made of gold metal discs. He has long graying hair and a beard. Kemen wears an orange cape over a light-brown robe, and has short brown hair.
Pharazon and Kemen | comingsoon.net

Something I know will be addressed is the divide within Númenor between the followers of Ar-Pharazôn, named the King’s Men, and the so-called Faithful led by Elendil and Tar-Míriel, who wish to reestablish ancient bonds of friendship with the Elves and assist them in their fight against Sauron. I will say something possibly controversial here and point out that while the King’s Men are very much pro-imperialism, the Faithful aren’t exactly anti-imperialism, and ultimately take a very similar approach to dealing with the Men of Middle-earth as the King’s Men, but that’s a whole separate topic and I seriously don’t trust The Rings Of Power to touch on that idea at all. Elendil and Míriel’s joint struggle is not about grappling with the fact that the Faithful are no better, but about accepting the incalculable sacrifices that the way of the Faithful demands – which is also a valid central theme for this subplot, and vaguely more religious.

4: Rhûn

One of the earliest promises made by Rings Of Power showrunners Patrick McKay and J.D. Payne was to more fully explore the lands of Middle-earth that bleed off the sides of the map J.R.R. Tolkien drew and to which he generally constrained the scope of his stories – the lands of Harad, Far Harad, Khand, and Rhûn. Everything that Tolkien wrote about these places and their inhabitants, even combined, is barely enough to fill a single page, as well as being vague and carrying some racist undertones (the question of whether Tolkien was racist has been debated for decades in fandom and academic circles, and is probably impossible to answer definitively – but what is inarguable is that he had the blind-spots typical of even the most well-intentioned Western European white man born in the 19th Century whose primary literary influences growing up would have been mostly other Western European white men). Anyway, I can’t wait to see Rhûn for the first time onscreen alongside Elanor Brandyfoot and the Stranger in season two. The places they visit and the people they meet there will obviously have to be entirely original inventions of the writers, but this is one area of Tolkien’s legendarium that is long overdue for expansion and some revision in the process.

3: Nine Mortal Men Doomed To Die

It’s ironic, given how significant the Rings of Power are to the overarching story of Middle-earth’s Second and Third Ages, that we know so little about most of the Ringbearers. The Three Rings, as we all know, were given out to the wisest and most powerful Elven lords; Gil-galad, Galadriel, and Círdan the Shipwright (who could have been a whole separate entry on this list). The Seven Rings, as mentioned previously, were distributed amongst the mostly unnamed leaders of the seven Dwarven clans. And the Nine Rings were gifted to just about anybody. Okay, so canonically we know they were given to human kings, sorcerers, and warriors, three of whom were Númenórean lords (probably governors of Númenórean colonies in Middle-earth). One was from Rhûn and was named Khamûl (but that name only appears in Unfinished Tales, so Amazon probably doesn’t have permission to use it). The foremost among them was a powerful sorcerer, and probably one of the three Numenoreans, who would go on to become the Witch-king of Angmar (possibly, but not necessarily, indicating a prior connection to that northern region of Middle-earth, which was never a Númenórean colony as far as I’m aware). As these Ringbearers were all personally selected by Sauron with the intention of corrupting them, it is very likely they were chosen for their unique susceptibility to the Shadow. So who among the ensemble cast of The Rings Of Power is a future Ringbearer and Nazgûl? Ar-Pharazôn’s non-canonical, weak-willed son Kemen is a particularly strong candidate, as is Bronwyn’s angsty son Theo – and frankly, Bronwyn herself. Some fans would predictably throw a fit over one of the Nazgûl being a woman, but the Ring-verse refers to Galadriel as an “Elven-king”, and Tolkien used the capitalized word “Men” as an umbrella term for human men and women, so the loophole is there if the writers want to exploit it.

2: Celebrimbor

We didn’t get to see much of him in season one, but I’ve warmed up to Charles Edwards’ characterization of the Elven-smith Celebrimbor. In personality, physical appearance, and demeanor, he’s certainly not at all like the Celebrimbor I picture in my head while reading, but he’s valid, and I actually like him quite a bit now that I think I get what the show is going for with him. That being said, we do need more of him. The story of the Rings of Power is as much his story as it is Galadriel’s or Elrond’s, more so even than either of those characters, and yet the adaptation currently has him relegated to drifting in and out of the peripheries of the tale. I hope that Celebrimbor is spotlighted in season two, because it’s not just that he deserves it, as the literal maker of the Rings of Power, it’s that the show is speed-running through the events of the Second Age so fast that, uh, we may not have much time left with him after this season…if any. There’s a lot to get through, the distribution of the Three Rings, the forging of the Seven and the Nine Rings, the partnership with Narvi and the alliance with Khazad-dûm – and on top of all that, we still don’t actually know Celebrimbor very well in the context of the show, so it would be nice to have some flashbacks or even exposition that gave us more insight into his motives.

1: Annatar

Aerial shot of Sauron and Galadriel's reflections in clear water, silhouetted against the pale sun. Sauron is taller, wearing armor and a crown. Galadriel's hair is unbound, and she wears a white long-sleeved gown. Their faces are shadowy.
Sauron and Galadriel | nerdist.com

You knew he had to be number one, didn’t you? After taking the form of a scruffy human man named Halbrand throughout the first season, the shapeshifter Sauron will reportedly return with at least two different actors jointly playing the part – Charlie Vickers reprising the role of Halbrand, and Gavi Singh Chera, according to Fellowship Of Fans, appearing in both flashbacks and in Eregion alongside Celebrimbor as the “ethereal”, presumably more Elven-looking original form of the character – which I will go out on a short limb and say is very likely The Rings Of Power‘s amalgamation of Sauron’s angelic first form, Mairon, and the similar fair form he took while dealing with  the Elves of Eregion, named Annatar. The latter name only appears in Unfinished Tales and other books to which Amazon does not have the rights, but is apparently being used in some capacity on the series, whether only behind-the-scenes or in dialogue (it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve managed this somehow; they used the name Armenelos in season one, despite it only appearing in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales). Not only am I excited for the Annatar storyline to play out, even if it is heavily abbreviated, in general I’m just extremely hyped for another actor’s interpretation of Sauron. The character’s shapeshifting was something I was missing in the first season, and while I’m not familiar with his work, Gavi Singh Chera definitely has the looks and the poise.

The Rings Of Power is such a massive series that I could honestly keep going and going (I didn’t even get to talk about Adar! Expanded storylines for the Orcs! The Mystics! Isildur stranded in Mordor! Aldarion!), but I limited this list to just ten entries. Anyway, I want to hear what’s on your lists now. Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Remember Gollum? The Game’s 1st Trailer Is Finally Here

I had to dig through my site’s archives to find the first post I wrote about Gollum, but even so I was shocked to discover that it’s been over two years since the first footage from the game was revealed to the public. I can just barely remember feeling disappointed with the titular character’s unexpressive face and janky movements at the time, but it seems I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, because Daedalic Entertainment has spent the last two years reworking the game. I would have probably forgotten about it entirely, were it not for a new full-length trailer for the game released on Thursday that tentatively hints at a 2023 release date and urges gamers to add it to their wish-list now.

Gollum, from the game of the same name, a pale, bony, vaguely humanoid creature with big eyes, wearing tattered trousers. He is glaring over his shoulder at the viewer while etching the symbol of a ring into a rock.
Gollum | nintendoeverything.com

Gollum follows the character’s circuitous journey across Middle-earth in pursuit of Bilbo Baggins during the sixty-year interlude between The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings, a journey that takes him from the Misty Mountains to Mordor, where he is detained in the dungeons of Sauron and tortured until he reveals who took his precious Ring, and then to Mirkwood, where he is detained in the dungeons of Thranduil and tortured until he reveals what he revealed to Sauron, and then back to the Misty Mountains to continue his long-delayed original mission, only to unexpectedly run into the Fellowship of the Ring led by Bilbo’s nephew Frodo Baggins and begin hunting them. The game promises to flesh out these events with new material and original characters to keep Tolkienites and casual gamers alike on their toes, but Gollum’s goal, the player’s goal, is the same – survive, and find the Ring.

With everyone and everything in Middle-earth out to get you, this goal can only be achieved by being strategic about when to lean into the character’s violent tendencies as Gollum and when to unlock their deeply suppressed better qualities as Sméagol, something that is sure to be one of the game’s most interesting and unique features. Reinforcing the idea that Gollum stands in the middle of the rift between Middle-earth’s cosmic forces of light and darkness, the character’s potential allies come from both sides of the conflict, including an Elven woman named Mell who appears to hail from Mirkwood and Shelob, a monstrous demon in spider-form.

Even though many of the game’s characters are recognizable by name to even the most casual Tolkienite, including Shelob, Gandalf, Thranduil, and the Mouth of Sauron, their designs are remarkably…original, borrowing far more heavily from the bizarre, whimsical Rankin/Bass 1977 animated adaptation of The Hobbit and Ralph Bakshi’s borderline-psychedelic 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings than from either of Peter Jackson’s hyper-realistic film trilogies or Amazon’s The Rings Of Power. Gollum‘s Elves, for instance, are sinuous, reed-thin creatures with hooded eyes, drowning in layers upon layers of voluminous fabric and enormous, ornate headdresses. It’s the kind of game where a Tom Bombadil cameo wouldn’t seem entirely out of place, and that’s saying something.

Gandalf and Thranduil from the game Gollum. Gandalf, gray-bearded, wears a heavy fur shawl and pointed hat, and carries a staff. Thranduil, thin with gaunt features, is draped in heavy green robes and wears a crown of branches and dense foliage.
Gandalf and Thranduil | rockpapershotgun.com

Whether the gameplay matches the quality of the visuals remains to be seen, but I’ll leave that to professional gamers to determine: for me, as a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works who simply enjoys analyzing new adaptations and debating the thematic consequences, great and small, of making changes to the source material, the main appeal of Gollum is the agency it gives to the player to make choices that will decide Gollum’s ultimate fate. I don’t know yet if the game allows you to go running off in any direction, with alternate endings depending on how you choose to play, or if it eventually forces you back on the path that leads Gollum to his canonical confrontation with the Fellowship of the Ring, but I’m excited to see how the developers at Daedalic have integrated the character’s internal struggles into every aspect of their game from the narrative to the actual gameplay.

Trailer Rating: 7/10

Who Will Become A Ringbearer In “The Rings Of Power” Season 2?

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR THE RINGS OF POWER SEASON TWO AHEAD!

New year, same niche interests.

Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since its epic season finale, which saw the human Southlander Halbrand revealed to be the Dark Lord Sauron in one of his many fair-seeming forms. With his plan to conquer Middle-earth unknowingly set in motion by the characters of Adar, Celebrimbor, and Pharazôn, the stakes are higher than ever – and the only thing standing between Sauron and his ultimate goal is Galadriel, to whom Sauron’s ambitions were made terrifyingly clear when he offered her a place at his side in the new world he intends to build from the old one’s ashes. Heading into season two, the Three Rings forged by Celebrimbor will come into play, giving the Elves an apparent advantage over Sauron that the Dark Lord will seek to circumvent by approaching Celebrimbor in a new disguise and persuading him to create more Rings with his help; Rings through which he can control the other Free Peoples, Men and Dwarves.

The Three Rings of Power made for the Elves in The Lord Of The Rings, arranged in a triangle on a brown stone slab, viewed from above.
The Three Rings of the Elves | nerdist.com

With a grand total of nineteen Rings of Power floating around in season two (minus the One Ring forged by and for Sauron alone), audiences can look forward to appearances from the future owners of the Seven Rings made for the Dwarves and the Nine Rings destined to enslave Men. On top of that, the first season came to an abrupt end before the Elves gathered to witness the forging of the Three Rings could decide who among them should wield these precious artifacts, leaving open the possibility that multiple high-ranking Elven-lords and ladies will vie for a Ring of their own before they inevitably come to rest on the hands of Galadriel, High King Gil-galad, and Círdan the Shipwright. The books and posthumously published writings of J.R.R. Tolkien are largely unhelpful for theorists, offering only a vague account of how the Rings of Power were distributed – which means there’s no predicting how Amazon’s adaptation of this story will play out.

At one point, Tolkien toyed with the idea that the Rings of Power had originally all been made for Elven wearers, and that it was Sauron who later went amongst Dwarves and Men, handing out the sixteen Rings he had stolen from Celebrimbor’s forge when he sacked the city of Eregion. I can easily believe that Men, with their short lifespans and shorter memories, would fall for that trick, but it’s never made much sense to me that the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm, who promptly closed their doors in Sauron’s face after Eregion was sacked, would reopen them for any mysterious stranger bearing Rings that could only have been made in Eregion. I’ve always preferred the account passed down by the Dwarves themselves; that Celebrimbor himself presented a Ring of Power to King Durin III, making at least one out of the Seven a true token of friendship between Elves and Dwarves.

The identities of the other Ringbearers also eluded Tolkien, or else he never gave the matter much thought. It is generally assumed, for good reason, that the rest of the Seven Rings were given to the heads of the seven Dwarven clans (Longbeards, Firebeards, Broadbeams, Ironfists, Stiffbeards, Blacklocks and Stonefoots), but I do not believe that this is actually confirmed anywhere. It’s theoretically possible that two or more Dwarf-lords of a single clan each received a Ring, and that some clan leaders steadfastly refused to accept Rings at all. Seeing as the Dwarves were generally far more resistant to the corrosive powers of the Rings than Men or even Elves, it would not surprise me if that were the case. The names of the nine Men who became Sauron’s Ringwraiths were either lost to time or suppressed, all save one; Khamûl, the Shadow of the East, who was second-in-command to the Witch-king of Angmar.

That’s the story we’ve been told, anyway. Amazon intends to tell their own, and it seems to me that there are already a few original characters (i.e. characters invented for The Rings Of Power, who didn’t exist or weren’t named in Tolkien’s works) that have been set up in season one to become Ringbearers in season two, amongst them Durin IV and Disa of Khazad-dûm, Bronwyn and Theo of the Southlands, and Kemen of Númenor. The concept alone may offend some Tolkien purists, but allow me to lay out the argument for each of these non-canonical candidates.

(from left to right) Elrond, Durin IV, and Disa from The Rings Of Power. Elrond is the tallest of the three, dressed in silver robes. Durin has a long reddish beard, and wears red-brown armor. Disa is wearing a gray gown with gold jewelry, and her hair is down.
(from left to right) Elrond, Durin IV, and Disa | fantasytopics.com

Representing the prestigious Longbeard clan as the main Dwarven viewpoint character in the series, Prince Durin IV is the most obvious choice to receive the Ring of Power given to his father by Celebrimbor in the semi-canonical version of the story only sketched out by Tolkien. He is, at any rate, far more likely to accept the gift without questioning its origins than his father Durin III, who in Amazon’s retelling is deeply distrustful of the Elves and all their handiwork. The Ring, with its tendency to “inflame [the bearer’s] heart with a greed of gold and precious things”, would bring out the worst qualities in Durin IV, who unsuccessfully sought for six episodes to convince his father that the value of mithril (a precious metal coveted by the Elves, but only found in narrow crevices deep below the foundations of Khazad-dûm) far outweighed the dangers of mining it. With a Ring on his finger to assure him of his own infallibility, he would become insistent upon digging ever deeper in search of mithril, inevitably awakening the monster nestled in wait at the mountain’s roots.

I see these tragic events unfolding in Durin IV’s future as clearly as if they were already filmed, but whether his wife Disa make it out alive or not will depend entirely on whether she learns too late what Gandalf told Saruman in The Fellowship Of The Ring; that “only one hand at a time can wield [a Ring of Power]”, meaning that its bearer will soon become possessive of it and irrationally suspicious of anyone who offers to share it, even if only to ease the mental and physical toll it exacts. I fear that this once inseparable power-couple will break under pressure, and that while Durin is dragged down by the weight of his Ring to a dark and terrible place, Disa will be put in an extremely difficult position where she can choose to stick by his side, either for true love’s sake or in the naïve hope that she can make the Ring work for her too, or she can get out before she’s buried with him beneath falling monuments to their selfishness and greed, the only thing they ever truly shared.

We have yet to see any Dwarf-lords from the other six clans scattered across Middle-earth from the Ered Luin to the Iron Hills, and I doubt that The Rings Of Power will ever find the time or space to flesh out their stories anyway, but I imagine we’ll see the other Dwarven Ringbearers gathered in at least one scene, solely so that Amazon can replicate that iconic moment in the opening sequence of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring, where the seven nameless Dwarf-lords hold up their Rings as one. Personally, I’m hoping for a little more diversity in Amazon’s version, because if Galadriel can get grouped in with the “Elven-kings” in the famous Ring-verse despite being a woman (and explicitly not even equivalent to a king amongst her own people), then there can be some Dwarven-women among the “Dwarf-lords” mentioned in the next line.

That brings me to the next character I believe might be tempted to get her hands on a Ring – Bronwyn of the Southlands, a humble human apothecary who became unexpectedly crucial in deciding the fate of Middle-earth after leading her people to a victory against the Orcs that was only overturned when Orodruin suddenly erupted, forcing her to flee to Pelargir with her family and other refugees at the end of season one. Not only is she now acquainted with the Dark Lord Sauron (albeit in the fair form of Halbrand, long-lost king of the Southlands), giving her the means to obtain a Ring of Power, she also has the motive to want one: she’s in love with an immortal Elven warrior named Arondir who has been around since the First Age and will still be around long after Bronwyn’s great-grandchildren are dead, which is sure to pose a problem in their relationship as they start to wonder what’s next for them now that they’re comfortably settled down in Pelargir.

Bronwyn and Arondir from The Rings Of Power, standing at a forge while Arondir holds a black sword-hilt. He is wearing gray armor made from wood, with a leering face emblazoned on his breastplate. Bronwyn wears a simple blue dress and a heavy gray coat.
Bronwyn and Arondir | express.co.uk

By a complete coincidence, the nine Rings of Power given to Mortal Men have the side-effect of extending their bearer’s lifespan long beyond its natural endpoint, something that sounds really appealing until you realize that the Rings can’t do anything to preserve your physical body or your mind, but will continue to puppeteer your undead husk for centuries until even that has crumbled away and finally all that remains is an overworked and exhausted soul tied to the world by the Ring on its nonexistent finger. If that fate awaits Bronwyn, it will be far worse than dying of old age, for death would come as a sweet release after an eternity of numbness.

Frankly, I’ve always felt that Middle-earth needs more women who are morally ambiguous in all the ways that men have always been allowed to be, so I wouldn’t necessarily object to Bronwyn becoming a Ringwraith, but I do have concerns that if her story goes down this route, it might gradually become the story of Arondir’s attempts to save Bronwyn from herself, rather than remaining focused on her – very relatable, and extremely Tolkienesque – struggle with the fear of death, so I’d like to hear opinions from women about how (or whether) it can be depicted without that happening.

Bronwyn’s son Theo has a rather more straightforward motive for desiring a Ring of Power. Ever since Waldreg stole the mysterious sword-shaped key that Theo had been using to stab himself so he could get high on blood loss and used it to activate Orodruin (why was the key shaped like a sword, anyway? I still have far too many questions regarding the key, the keyhole, and Sauron’s bizarre plan to anti-terraform the Southlands for there to ever be good enough answers), Theo has spoken about feeling powerless without it and wanting revenge on the Orcs to fill the gaping void in his life. While Sauron might not allow him to go that far, he can offer Theo something else – an even stronger drug that will silently kill off the parts of him that are good and innocent, reducing him to a vacant vessel ready to be filled with Sauron’s malice. The alternative, in my opinion, is that Theo becomes the King of the Dead, and either way he’s going to be trapped between life and death for a long time before getting peace.

Kemen, the weakly rebellious son of Pharazôn, is by far the least interesting and least sympathetic character who could potentially end up wearing one of the Nine Rings, but I have to believe there was a reason for writing him into the series, and this is the only one that makes any sense to me. Throughout the first season, in the few and far-between glimpses we caught of Kemen and his father interacting, we watched with second-hand embarrassment as the young man almost reluctantly matured – though only after his puppy-like attempts to please his father (“I was only trying to be clever”) were met with contempt. Kemen’s guilty anger emboldened him, and he thwarted his father’s imperialist agenda by blowing up a ship intended to set sail for Middle-earth, although he barely made it out of the conflagration alive. In season two, I expect Kemen to go to even greater lengths to sabotage (and at the same time, subconsciously impress) his father, and it would be most ironic if he only succeeded in enslaving his will to the Dark Lord.

Besides Kemen, it’s possible – though very unlikely, in my opinion – that another Númenórean, Eärien, will become a Ringwraith. I personally believe she will be lured to the dark side not by promises of power or eternal life, but by the opportunity to build the Temple of Morgoth in Armenelos where Sauron and Pharazôn will sacrifice prisoners-of-war and members of the Faithful arrested on false charges of treason, including Eärien’s own family. I will support her every step of the way, mind you, no matter what unspeakable crimes she commits to become the greatest architect in Middle-earth for one brief shining moment before it all comes crashing down around her, but for that climax to be truly satisfying I believe Eärien must surely die in the building she designed to last for centuries, like Thomas Andrews going down with the Titanic.

Earien from The Rings Of Power, a young woman with brown hair wearing a dark orange gown styled after Ancient Greek garments
Eärien | bt.com

With the cast of The Rings Of Power expanding in season two, there’s a very strong chance we’ll soon meet other future Ringwraiths from Númenor, Middle-earth’s Southlands, and the currently uncharted regions of Rhûn and Harad. But I don’t know anything about these characters, and Tolkien left nothing for me to work with, so this is where I must sadly end. Of course, there is one more Ring, one of which I have not yet spoken, but that One was made for the Dark Lord’s hand alone, and it was only by chance (which some might call the divine intervention of Eru) that it was cut from his finger and later lost in the murky waters of the Anduin, only to be picked up by a hobbit or something akin to one, anyway. For the record, however, I do believe the One Ring will be forged in the season two finale, concluding Sauron’s irreversible descent into darkness.

So…which of the characters I’ve mentioned will actually get their hands on a Ring of Power when all is said and done, and which will become corrupted, transforming into horrible Ringwraiths? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!