I wasn’t convinced Prime Video’s The Rings of Power could develop beyond gorgeous fantasy landscapes and a handful of gifted performers. The first two episodes sent for review didn’t show enough meat to form any real opinions. However, the Rings of Power Episode 3 felt different. For the first time, I wasn’t just thinking everything was stunning.
I was engaged in the plight of the still grimy but growing on me Harfoots and their shaky human friend. Additionally, I was mesmerized and then heartbroken by Arondir and his increasingly dangerous situation and more than a little obsessed with Halbrand. The numerous plots and characters have started to gel, and I’m fully invested. With the introduction of Númenor, all of the pieces are set for one of the greatest battles of Tolkien’s great works. Here are all the important takeaways and what it means for the future.
All of the different timeline changes in The Rings of Power
Of the many ways, The Rings of Power is seeking to differentiate itself from Tolkien canon is by using key events and characters from the books in unique ways. Those pivotal events have been altered to offer familiarity for nerdom while taking a fresh approach. One of those is the destruction of an ancient tree by Arondir, who has been imprisoned with other elves in a work camp by the Orcs. The Orcs have been ordered to cut their way through the countryside, searching for something unknown. I’m confident we can all say they are looking for the materials to make the One Ring To Rule Them All that the elves get tricked into creating.
The Elves were ordered to cut down the tree, and when they refused, one of the elves was brutally slain. Hoping to prevent more bloodshed, Arondir offers to cut the tree down himself. This is important because it foreshadows a pivotal moment to come. The Elves revere trees. The sacred beings were so crucial to the Elves they created the Ents to protect Middle Earth from those who would want to cut them all down. Although the tree Arondir cut down wasn’t the White Tree or Nimloth the Fair as he was also called, it foreshadows the terrible fate that befell that important being in Numenor which we not so coincidentally got an extended look at in The Rings of Power Episode 3.
The White Tree was cut down and burned in the Temple of Morgoth in Tolkien canon. This effectively marked the beginning of a war between the elves and the Númenóreans. In Tolkien’s timeline, the tree was saved by Isildur, who rescued a fruit of the tree, and it later grew into the White Tree of Gondor. He is also the person who cuts the finger with the One Ring off Sauron, leading to Sauron’s fall. Isildur could not destroy the ring, however, and he was eventually killed, and the ring was lost in the River Anduin. This, of course, led to Sméagol finding it and turning into Gollum.
Why was Númenor important?
The island stronghold was a gift from the Valar to Men. It has five distinct points, like a star. The Númenóreans were gifted mariners, farmers, and animal keepers. They were also closely aligned with the Elves until Sauron’s shadow fell on them, and they began to resent the Elves’ oversight. Most of the Númenóreans wanted immortality. They already lived much longer than normal humans, but they wanted the promise of the Undying Lands.
They fought with the Elves and were instrumental in Sauron’s fall, but when he appeared to them as a man, he was able to gain access to their leader Ar-Pharazon. Over time he persuaded him that Morgoth could give them the immortality they wanted. Sauron manipulated them into building a temple for Morgoth and making sacrifices to the evil spirit. Eventually, they sailed for the Undying Lands and were quickly defeated by Eru Iluvatar. Númenor was sunk with only Elendil and his two sons, Isildur and Anárion, spared. They became kings of two different locations, Gondor and Arnor. The Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn is a decedent.
In The Rings of Power Episode 3, we meet Elendil, his son Isildur and a daughter Eärien. However, Sauron’s influence is already being felt. Although their ruler is currently Queen Regent Míriel, her rule will be short-lived. Her current advisor is Pharazon, who should take the throne and, along with the King’s Men, lead the attack on Valinor and consequently cause the destruction of Númenor. The one good thing that came from that tragedy was Sauron losing his physical form, although his psychological reach was still great.
We expect to see more of the island realm in the episodes and seasons. We will likely see the fall of the last true ruler and the emergence of Sauron, who first gets imprisoned on the island. This could hint at an even more exciting theory about Halbrand.
Halbrand hints at being Sauron in The Rings of Power Episode 3
While many were speculating the Stranger camping out with the Harfoots was Sauron, a more intriguing and plausible idea is that Halbrand is Sauron. We know Sauron presented himself as a man and was initially imprisoned in Númenor. From the castle’s bowels, he began asserting his influence over Ar-Pharazon and convinced him to empower the King’s Men and overthrow the crown. Once entrenched as the leader, he emboldened Númenor to colonize far into Middle Earth and try to take Valinor.
Although Halbrand appears charming and attractive, he may not be the partner Galadriel needs. He dispatched the soldiers with ease in savage efficiency and seemed equally adept at manipulation. His charisma gets him out of a lot of trouble, and he admits lying about who he really is. Halbrand has a darkness about him, and it would certainly be interesting if he were Galadriel’s foe instead of her ally. Maybe he is the Balrog we have been promised? It would fit with his gray morality. Morgoth and Sauron corrupted Balrogs. Perhaps he wants to fight his nature but has a tough time doing it. A nasty betrayal and good internal conflict would be fun to watch and allow this vast storyline to play out with massive consequences. Also, who doesn’t love a sexy bad boy?
The Stranger is a Blue Wizard
The Stranger gave every appearance of being someone evil, or at least not pure-hearted, early on. Even if he isn’t Sauron, others insist that he is a Balrog which creators have confirmed we would see in Season 1. There is an ugly little ghost of a dude who has yet to be introduced, and I’m guessing that unfortunate creature is the Balrog. The events of The Rings of Power Episode 3 paint the Stranger in a kinder light. It also debunks one of the clues Internet sleuths have used to prove the Stranger is Sauron.
When the Stranger first emerged from the fire, he was relatively unscathed. Sauron was said to be so evil even fire could retain no warmth. In The Rings of Power Episode 3, The Stranger accidentally reveals himself to the Harfoots when his scroll catches fire, and he panics. This should not have happened if he was immune to fire.
I’m doubling down on the nervous but sweet man being one of the Blue Wizards. The Blue Wizards were 2 of the five Istari or Maiar spirits sent to Middle Earth to defeat Sauron. They are two of the least known wizards, and in keeping with what we know about Amazon’s desire to distance itself from the movies, they would be a good fit. The two wizards, Alatar and Pallando, arrived during the Second Age, which tracks with the series’ timeline.
One of the few things known about the Blue Wizards is that they created a cult of magic in the Middle East. If he were shaken from his time there or is arriving for the first time, it would account for his confusing behavior. His growing size and increasing shadow also are reminiscent of Gandolf. It would stand to reason the five wizards sent to Middle Earth would share talents and abilities. We know the Balrogs and the Wizards share spiritual DNA. Could it be that at some point in the series, the Stranger will sacrifice himself for the greater good and be killed by a Balrog? That could help explain why so little is known about him later.
There’s a lot to unpack, and more will unfold over the season. New episodes release at midnight CST every Friday.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.