**Warning: spoilers lie ahead for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power episode three, “Adar”**
After brief glimpses of the creatures in the two-episode series premiere, episode three of The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power finally gave us some quality time with the show’s version of Orcs, the foul creatures who serve darkness, hate sunlight, and have apparently been busying themselves with a series of elaborate tunnels in the Southlands for quite some time now. So, what are the Orcs up to, and what does it tell us about the next steps for the bad guys in the series? Let’s take a closer look.
Through the eyes of Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova), who was taken prisoner by the Orcs near the end of episode two, we learn a large and fairly well-organized contingent of the creatures has not only taken up residence in the Southlands, but also started some kind of major construction project, using the slave labor of their captives to keep tunneling their way through the land, decimating the forests as they push on. Seeing the woodlands falling so carelessly is, of course, devastating to the nature-loving Elves who were just days ago preparing to go back home to Lindon. But all the digging is clearly about something more than just destruction. The Elves surmise that the Orcs are looking for something, but what, and who is the mysterious figure known as “Adar” who seems to be leading them?
At the beginning of the series, Galadriel was on the hunt for Sauron—Morgoth’s top lieutenant who may have survived the War of Wrath centuries ago—in the Northern Wastes, and believed that a mark she discovered there was proof that she was on his trail. In “Adar,” thanks to documents in Númenor, she discovers that the symbol was not just a mark of progress for Sauron’s acolytes, but a map pointing right to the Southlands. Now, if you’ve spent any amount of time looking at a map of Middle-earth, you know that the Southlands in The Rings Of Power are right where Mordor is by the time of the Third Age, so it’s pretty easy to conclude that Sauron is out there somewhere, telling all of his minions where to meet up for the next big fight.
That next big fight is where things get especially interesting, particularly when you consider that a lot of people only know the story of the Rings of Power as objects from the prologue to Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship Of The Ring. That prologue, while effective, has a tendency to make it seem like the Rings were made, it turned out they weren’t great to have around, and then Sauron showed up with his secret One Ring to Rule Them All and started laying waste to everyone. But it’s not quite that simple.
Though J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t leave behind nearly as much detail about the history of the Second Age as he did about the Third, we know from his son Christopher’s careful collection and annotation of his writings that he believed Sauron settled in what would become Mordor about 1,000 years into the Second Age. He picked the spot, in part, because the volcanic Mount Doom (which was created by his old master, Morgoth) was there, and he wanted its fiery power for use in his schemes. Then came the forging of the Rings of Power, which mostly happened in Eregion under the supervision of Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards) with help from Sauron in a beautiful disguise, claiming to be an emissary of the Valar themselves. That’s what Celebrimbor seems to be gearing up for with his plans for a tower that will contain the greatest forge in Middle-earth, though we haven’t seen the beautiful, disguised Sauron (known in his more angelic form as “Annatar”) yet. Or have we?
So, we’ve got Sauron pulling his acolytes into Mordor, we’ve got the Elves building forges, and we’ve got something shady going on in the Southlands, all of which suggests that the forging of the Rings is what will come next, but that doesn’t mean that we’re then going to jump straight into the legendary War of the Last Alliance from The Fellowship Of The Ring prologue. According to Tolkien, before that happened, a conflict known as “The War of the Elves and Sauron” broke out, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Sauron was revealed as a deceiver of Celebrimbor and decided that if he couldn’t control the Elves by playing nice, he would just take what he wanted. That meant an all-out assault on the land West of the Misty Mountains that would, in time, reshape the landscape of Middle-earth years before the War of the Last Alliance would usher in the Third Age. If you were watching this show, wondering how Amazon was going to fill up five seasons of storytelling, this is it. This is the war Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) has been warning everyone about, the war that Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker) hoped would never come. It’s a brutal, extremely consequential conflict, and it’s only the beginning of the many ways in which the Second Age will change things.
Of course, we still have to get through a few other things before that war actually breaks out, and the episode left us with more than a few questions to ponder. What are the Orcs digging for? How soon will we see the Rings of Power forged? How will Gil-galad react when Galadriel proves she was right? And perhaps most importantly, who is “Adar?”
Well, there is no character with the name “Adar” in Tolkien lore, at least not directly, but the word does have a meaning. It’s Sindarin (one of the Elvish languages) for “father,” and that meaning, coupled with that clawed gauntlet and the way the Orcs deferred to his presence, would certainly suggest that we’re about to get our first taste of Sauron or one of his chief lieutenants on this show. Mordor is rising, and it’s only a matter of time before it erupts.