**Warning: Spoilers lie ahead for The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power episode six.**
Several major storylines converged on The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power this week, as the conflict in the Southlands finally came to a head and Galadriel’s (Morfydd Clark) weeks-long mission to take the fight to the Orcs finally bore fruit. It was an episode full of big developments, ending on yet another major cliffhanger, and after a few weeks of mystery, it finally gave us some clues as to what’s been going on in the land that will become Mordor.
But of course, with those clues come more questions, so let’s dig a little deeper and take a peek at what the future holds for this dark realm, as well as Adar (Joseph Mawle), and soon enough (probably), Sauron.
There were several theories to attempt to explain Adar, the mysterious elf-like creature the Orcs of the Southlands called “Father,” and it turns out one of the simplest happened to be true. As Galadriel reveals during her interrogation of Adar, he was indeed an elf who was corrupted and tortured by Morgoth and transformed into one of the “first orcs.” Because he has retained much of his Elven wisdom and the ability to walk in sunlight, he has apparently taken it upon himself to serve as a leader for his “children.”
But that’s not the most important revelation here. Adar does not deny what he is, but he does deny what he should be viewed as going forward. According to him, Sauron pushed for a very long time to get the power to bring “perfect order” to all of Middle-earth, a power “of the unseen world” that would grant him the ability to do what Morgoth could not and unite all the lands through his own twisted version of “healing.” What Galadriel found back in episode one in the Northern Wastes were the remnants of this effort, an effort that, according to Adar, led to the deaths of a great many orcs along the way. So, fed up with his would-be master’s win-at-all-costs efforts, Adar “killed Sauron” and moved his people south, where he sought to make a new home for them in the Southlands.
This is a fascinating reveal for the series, because it accomplishes several things at once. Galadriel, still full of hatred for all things even partially associated with Morgoth, believes immediately that Adar is lying, and condemns all orcs as “a mistake,” not a race worthy of dignity and peace because of their birth in corruption and war. It doesn’t matter to her that Adar has just claimed to be the enemy of her enemy, or that Sauron might have more troubles to face than her own efforts to defeat him. What matters to her is that all orcs die, regardless of allegiance. It lays bare something dark and poisonous in her determined nature, something that mirrors Sauron’s own will to win no matter what, and it will no doubt have a major role to play in the struggle going forward.
But what about Sauron? Well, we know he’s not dead; not entirely, anyway. The eventual Lord of the Rings “dies” or is defeated in some form several times throughout Tolkein’s Middle-earth saga, only to replenish his spirit and find a way to fight back. It may well be that Adar thinks he killed him, but Sauron is one of the Maiar, like Gandalf, and isn’t so easily wiped away from existence. He will be back, in some form, which leaves the question of how and where. In Tolkien’s lore, Sauron manages to get his hooks into both the elves of Eregion (where Celebrimbor and Elrond are hard at work on their super-forge, remember) and the men of Númenór, exploiting both for his own gain and eventually engineering the creation of the rings of the show’s title.
That part of the lore seems destined to make it to the screen more or less intact, but what’s fascinating about this episode is its ability to add depth to Sauron’s struggle by showing us that he doesn’t have automatic loyalty from the orcs. For a long time, particularly by the Third Age, that’s something of an assumption, but just as we see beings like Saruman attempting to engineer their own kingdoms behind Sauron’s back, so too do the orcs of the Second Age seem eager to make their own way in the world. We know, thanks to the events of The Lord Of The Rings, that they won’t entirely get their wish, but their struggle to prove it’s something worth fighting for anyway adds a whole other dimension to the multi-front war that’s coming in the series.
And finally, in this episode, there’s the issue of what that cliffhanger ending does to the Southlands itself. We finally learned what the black hilt Adar was looking for all season opens, and it turns out it’s Mount Doom itself. Morgoth, or one of Morgoth’s lieutenants, built a chain reaction into the land that would make the mountain erupt and envelop the countryside in ash and shadow, thereby making it a nice, gloomy home for orcs and their ilk. This is what Adar seemingly wanted, but there’s another wrinkle here that he perhaps didn’t count on. That dark knowledge that Sauron spent all those years and all that blood seeking in the far North? The secret ingredient to his all-encompassing power that he couldn’t quite find? Tolkien tells us that Mount Doom is that secret.
Sauron needed the fire at the heart of the mountain to eventually forge the One Ring, giving him the power that he sought. That’s why, in The Lord Of The Rings, the Ring can only be destroyed in Mount Doom itself. There’s something different about the energy there, something that’s key to the whole story from now until the end of The Return Of The King. Though he may not know it yet, Adar has unlocked that energy, paving the way for Sauron to return and eventually subdue the home the father of orcs is trying to build for his people. That’s both tragic and a great indication of the long game The Rings Of Power is playing with its narrative. A key ingredient to Sauron’s rise is now in place. All that’s left is for him to find some willing pawns in his new game.