The Rings Of Power’s finale is almost as knotted and twisted as the lore’s titular jewelry that finally makes an appearance in the episode. Titled “Alloyed,” season one’s last outing brings together many threads for a mostly satisfying conclusion. It stays one step ahead of the viewer while providing a payoff for its month of mysteries, even if it gets a little too bogged down in the plot at times. Sincerity is painfully out of vogue these days, and having Amazon foot the bill on a billion-dollar TV show doubtlessly puts people on their heels. Yet at every turn, showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKaye’s vision for Middle-earth has erred on the side of compassion and love. It has an overwhelming faith in goodness, and across these eight episodes, strived to forge connections not between metals but between characters.
Tolkien is always about the journey, and The Rings Of Power was smart to focus on the characters’ enjoyment of Middle-earth rather than simply rattling off plot points. The show has more than justified its place within the Tolkien mythos, creating a Middle-earth that feels tactile, lived in, and inhabited by characters that are willing to fight for it. “Alloyed,” however, is in a bit of a rush to wrap those things up. Suddenly the show that took its time felt a little under the gun.
The episode opens with an instant reveal: The weird sisters, credited as The Ascetic (Kali Kopae), The Nomad (Edith Poor), and The Dweller (Bridie Sisson), catch up to the Stranger in the dripping forests of The Greenwood. Thinking he’s chasing after Nori, The Stranger is ambushed by The Dweller, who does one of many shape-shifts this episode, and The Ascetic declares him Lord Sauron. It was surprising, but it makes sense. Paired with the season’s opening lines, “Nothing is born evil,” The Stranger being Sauron would make a poignant connection for the character. But the twists aren’t over.
We jump over to Galadriel, who carries Halbrand on horseback to the Elvish healers at Eregion, where Elrond tells Celebrimbor that the Elves are screwed on the mithril front and need to leave Middle-earth. When Galadriel comes rushing in, Elrond can barely process it. Both are harboring shame over past mistakes; Elrond for sending Galadriel away, while Galadriel over whether it was a good idea to rescue Halbrand (Spoiler: It wasn’t). But things end on a nice note, choosing to allow bygones to be bygones. The war within doesn’t need to come home, too.
Meanwhile, Halbrand takes quite an interest in Celebrimbor’s forge. He sweet-talks the compliment-thirsty Elf and finds his way to becoming his apprentice. He even gives Celebrimbor a great idea: They can alloy the mithril with another ore, giving the Elves enough of that unseen world power to keep them alive. “Call it a gift,” says Halbrand of the suggestion. And why shouldn’t Celebrinbor? After all, we already know that he’s not Sauron. Back in Eregion, Celebrimbor tries his best to convince Gil-galad that he should wear a mithril crown, and that would be enough to power the Elves’ life force. Gil-galad refuses, rightly asserting that there should be no one ruler of Middle-earth and that their time is up. They must leave before the final leaf of the Great Tree falls.
Still, Celebrimbor is obsessed with crafting the power “not of the flesh, but over flesh,” something Adar said a few weeks back, and Galadriel noticed. She asks an archivist to scour the catacombs for any information on the lineage in the Southlands. Halbrand and Celebrimbor get back to forging when they realize that what they need to do is not force the ring into existence but allow the metals to come together. The show’s Stranger fakeout works until Halbrand enters the forge. He’s positively beaming with excitement. When he talks to Galadriel, his power becomes clear.
Morfydd Clark has done heroic work this season, complicating Galadriel while maintaining her arch demeanor, allowing subtlety to break in through her eyes, posture, or a crack in her voice. When Halbrand thanks her, Clark looks almost weightless, like she was floating. It’s when he touches her that things feel off. Director Wayne Che Yip taps the brakes on the earlier Sauron-related revelation, sharpening Halbrand and softening the Stranger.
When we return to The Greenwood, the weird sisters catch “Lord Sauron” up to speed, teaching him to talk and putting him to sleep when he shows off his power. That’s when the Harfoots arrive and pull a little Ewok Adventure to rescue their friend. Nori comes to the Stranger’s side and hands him a staff fit for a wizard, bringing their arc to a beautiful close. “You’re here to help,” Nori reminds him. He picks up the staff and unloads on the weird sisters, who realize that he’s not Sauron, he’s “the other, the Istari” (or wise one or wizard, as The Stranger will later translate). “I’m good,” The Stranger says as he sends them back to the shadow. You are good, The Stranger.
Towards the end of the episode, The Stranger and Nori are off on an adventure of their own to find his strange stars, choosing their direction based on scent, which feels like confirmation that this is Gandalf (but I refuse to keep making predictions about his show). Nori’s goodbyes to the Harfoots, particularly Largo and Poppy, were right in the pocket of what this show does best: Having friends and family express their love and admiration for each other. Lord Of The Rings is about people working together. The first season of Rings Of Power was an earnest and passionate attempt at returning that optimistic light to fantasy television. So if the Stranger isn’t Sauron, that must mean…
Yes, if you guessed that Halbrand was Sauron, please come to the front desk to collect your prize. While this may have been obvious to some, the last-minute reversal with the Stranger took the pressure off the episode and made the final twist a little more exciting. When Galadriel inspects the lineage, she learns that the line was broken. Galadriel spent the whole season bringing Sauron to Eregion, where he could teach Celebrimbor how to forge the rings of power. The scenes where Galadriel and Halbrand face-off were exceptional. Sauron takes Galadriel back to Valinor so she can speak with her brother again, bringing the season back around itself. (Dare I say, it made a ring of the narrative.) It was especially nice to spend a little more time with Finrod (Will Fletcher). Fletcher seems to have so much fun letting the heavenly Finrod get a little devilish.
Galadriel’s resolve is too strong. She denies this offer from Sauron, so he moves their confrontation to the seas where they met. As he did with Finrod, Sauron tries convincing Galadriel that, actually, he wants to heal Middle-earth and that he’d love to make Galadriel his queen—complete with a painterly shot of Dark Lord and Queen in the reflection of the water. He sees no difference between saving Middle-earth and ruling it. That is why Galadriel can never be on his side, and the true reason she’s still fighting. In a nice callback to the first episode, we get another shot of Galadriel staring right down at the camera; this time, not following the sounds of her calling but confronting her anger. Galadriel does not take the offer, stabbing Sauron with her brother’s dagger and touching the darkness with the end of her blade.
Now, here’s the part of the episode where it really feels like Payne and McKay are playing with fire. Galadriel rushes to Celebrimbor and commissions the three rings of power in what has to be one of the most expensive episodes of Forged In Fire ever made. She offers her brother’s dagger as the gold and silver from Valinor is the only thing that can bond with mithril. But Galadriel requesting the forging of the rings feels risky. The shots of Galadriel at the end of the episode seemingly tease another twist. Something shady is going on, and Elrond knows it—he’s seen the scrolls and knows his friend is keeping something from him. From one dark note to another, we return to
The Southlands, where Sauron checks out his new digs. The shadow has returned.
- When the Dweller turns to ash, a moth flies from her face. To my mind, this is a reference to Peter Jackson’s moth in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. I remember
- Both Sadoc’s death and Eärien’s discovery of the Palantir felt entirely too rushed. These were both supposedly big moments, but they didn’t really get the type of focus or care the show normally gives.
- Charles Edwards’ Celebrimbor is such a delight. I really hope we get much more of him next season and he gets more to do.
- The Greenwood is the future Mirkwood, so it appears as though we have a lot more geographical changes on the horizon.
- Bear McCreary’s character themes were worked into this episode so smartly, often intertwining with others, a lot like a ring forged.
- Those rings needed to be beautiful, and the props department didn’t disappoint.
- The MVP this season has to be Clark, but Robert Aramayo is a close second. He brings such a warm presence to the screen. Those scenes last week between him and Durin were utterly beautiful. It’s hard to imagine another show where two friends can just forgive each other, even when the stakes are high.
- The Sauron/Stranger mystery was never my favorite part of the show. I’m not even so sure that the show was as interested in it as some segments of the viewership. Generally, that kind of thing distracts from what I really like: Harfoots being friends. But overall, this episode did a fine job wrapping it up.
- That’s all for the first season of The Rings Of Power. It’s been such a joy writing about this show every week. It’s been just as fun reading your theories and thoughts in the comments. I’ve had a great time returning to Middle-earth and cannot wait for season two.