**Warning: spoilers lie ahead for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power episode four, “The Great Wave”**
At the end of its third episode, The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power introduced us to Adar, a shadowy figure in the Southlands who seems to be commanding the Orcs in their pursuit of some hidden power. It’s pretty clear from that episode that Adar, and the Orcs who serve him, are basically living out the secret origins of Mordor in the Southlands. But what’s less clear is who Adar himself actually is, and his role in what’s to come this season and beyond.
Episode four of The Rings Of Power, “The Great Wave,” preserved quite a bit of that mystery. We get a closer look at Adar, and at least some idea of what he wants, but so many more questions remain.
Following up on the teaser at the end of episode three, “The Great Wave” picks up Arondir’s (Ismael Cruz Córdova) story with the moment when he finally meets Adar (an Elvish word for “father”), played by former Game Of Thrones star Joseph Mawle. Though Arondir asks some pretty straightforward questions of the scarred, Elf-looking figure, Adar offers no easy answers. Instead, he teases that Arondir has been lied to about the way of things his whole life, offers vague clues as to his intentions by musing that he’s not a God “yet,” and finally sends the Elf away with a message for the people of the Southlands: surrender or die.
So, who is this guy, why do the Orcs call him father, and what’s his role in the battles we know are still to come as Sauron’s rise continues? We don’t know for sure, and the area of history the show is exploring is just murky enough to keep us guessing. That said, we do have some ideas. Here are four theories that could explain Adar’s presence in pre-Mordor Middle-earth.
Let’s start with the Occam’s Razor (Morgoth’s Razor?) approach to this whole thing and just go with the simplest and most straightforward explanation: Adar is Sauron, or at least some aspect of Sauron, prior to the forging of the Rings of Power that will grant him such might and terror in Middle-earth later in the Second Age. He speaks like he’s been around a long time (Sauron was born as one of the Maiar, and as such has existed since before time itself), he’s got a cool Mordor-looking gauntlet on his hand, and the Orcs clearly revere him. Plus, we know from episode three that the strange symbol Galadriel’s been tracking is actually a map to draw Orcs to the Southlands, where Sauron eventually makes his home. By the end of the Second Age, he’s already made the One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, so it’s easy to imagine this is a slightly less powerful version of Sauron getting an early start on his building projects, specifically by digging for a relic of Morgoth that could help him rise again.
Of course, it’s very easy to dismiss this idea as too simple, particularly when the aspiring blacksmith Halbrand is off being handsome all over Númenor (where, according to Tolkien, Sauron eventually appears in a very handsome guise to deceive the Númenoreans). So maybe Sauron isn’t in the Southlands yet. Maybe Adar is more like his herald, or a top lieutenant, which brings us to…
Traditionally, the Witch-king of Angmar is seen as a human leader who was corrupted by one of the Nine Rings and eventually transformed into the leader of the Ringwraiths, Sauron’s enforcers and the horrifying hunters of the One Ring. But we know The Rings Of Power is taking certain liberties with Tolkien lore, particularly where things get murky, and the good news there for the show is that we really don’t know all that much about who the Witch-king was before he became the Witch-king. Maybe in this version of the story, he was an Elf first. Maybe the way he looks now is part of his ongoing corruption, or there’s a larger story at work that we don’t fully understand. When you think about Sauron’s best captains, his name almost always comes up, and it’s easy to imagine a world in which he’s inserted into Mordor’s origins. That said, the Rings of Power don’t exist yet in the world of the show, and you could argue that the Witch-king is a non-entity until that moment. So perhaps…
If you’re not familiar with Tolkien works like The Silmarillion, you might not know the name Maeglin, but he’s a fascinating figure in the world of Middle-earth, because he’s basically the only Elf who was ever corrupted to darkness by Morgoth (that we know of, anyway). The nephew of an Elven king (and somewhat removed cousin of Galadriel), Maeglin was both a respected warrior and a highly skilled smith, capable of making some of the strongest weapons known to Elf-kind during the First Age. Sadly, he was also in love with his first cousin, something his fellow Elves weren’t keen to indulge him on. Deeply resentful because he couldn’t have what he truly wanted, Maeglin was ultimately seduced by Morgoth (Sauron’s mentor and the original Dark Lord, remember), and agreed to betray the hidden Elven city of Gondolin in exchange for a leadership role and the hand of the woman he loved. Gondolin fell, and according to Tolkien’s writings, Maeglin fell with it.
So, the evil elf is dead, right? Well, according to The Silmarillion, Maeglin fell down into flames (remember those burn marks on his face) during the Fall of Gondolin, which suggests death but doesn’t necessarily guarantee it, particularly if you’ve got the forces of darkness on your side. Plus, Adar talks to Arondir about the lost region of Beleriand, where Maeglin was born. It’s possible The Rings Of Power has dug deep into Tolkien lore to pull out an ace in the hole for Sauron here, an Elf with evil in his heart who also happens to be really good at making weapons. Throw in the idea that Orcs might be former Elves corrupted by Morgoth himself, and it all seems to line up.
Of course, maybe we’re overthinking this. Maybe…
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is a show that delights in being able to show us earlier versions of familiar places and people, from the Dwarven mines of Moria to beloved figures like Elrond and Galadriel. But the show has taken almost equal delight in giving us new faces to root for, from the Elf trying to survive in the Southlands to the Harfoots dealing with new mysteries. It’s entirely possible that Adar is a new player on the Middle-earth map, a guy created because Sauron needs some top henchmen, and there aren’t all that many to choose from. So, we get a new baddie, a mini-boss before the Big Bad emerges, who also happens to have some ties to the history of Morgoth and Sauron to smooth out some of the gaps in the lore. Guessing games are fun, but sometimes the answer really is “Hey, we made him up.” Whoever Adar is, we’ve got four more episodes of The Rings Of Power season one to unpack him.