“The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”‘s first season features a pretty huge mystery that it finally reveals the answer to in the season finale. The first episode ends with a giant meteor sailing over Middle-earth and landing not far from where the Harfoots have made their camp. Nori Brandyfoot (Markella Kavenagh) and her friend Poppy Proudfellow (Megan Richards) travel to the site where the meteor crashed out of curiosity. There, they’re met with a strange sight: at the center of the broken flaming meteor is a very tall man, played by Daniel Weyman.
As the girls learn, he doesn’t seem to speak the same language as them, has a hard time understanding what’s going on, and isn’t quite sure where he’s from. In some ways, he seems silly and fun, but at other times, he can be imposing and quite terrifying. He also has magical powers — and it doesn’t seem like they’re solely a force for good. The show implies that something he does leads Nori’s father, Largo (Dylan Smith), to badly break his ankle. And near the end of the second episode, the mystery man uses fireflies to re-create the constellations from where he’s from, which is — for a moment — a magical, enchanting sight. But when he’s done, the fireflies all die.
In episode three, Nori and her family accept the mystery man into their lives, as he can help them keep up with the Harfoot caravan. But there’s more evidence that the meteor man spelled trouble. In episode seven, he does incredible magic to bring plants to life — but he’s also being chased by mysterious figures. That seems like the ultimate sign that he’s evil, but it turns out a lot of these clues are actually red herrings. We’re breaking it down ahead.
The Meteor Man Is Not Sauron
For a while, it seems like the meteor man is going to be Sauron. Sauron is not just the main antagonist of the Lord of the Rings books and movies; he’s also going to be the main villain on “The Rings of Power.” The series does reveal who Sauron is in the last episode of the season, but it isn’t the Stranger.
A major red herring that the Stranger is Sauron comes in episode four. When an old man confronts Theo about Sauron’s sword, he reminds Theo about the meteor and that it’s a sign of Sauron’s return. And in episode five, he uses magic to save the Harfoots, but he also hurts Nori with his powers. In episode seven, he’s chased by mysterious figures in white cloaks who burn down the Harfoots’ homes.
But in episode eight, when those same figures find the Stranger, they think he’s Sauron and say they want to serve him. But eventually he figures out that he is not Sauron, unlocks more of his powers with the Harfoots’ help, and proclaims, “I’m good.”
There is some evidence against this theory earlier in the season, too. In episode five, Nori explains to the Stranger the concept of “peril.” “I’m peril,” he says. He seems pretty upset about that, which doesn’t exactly fit what we do know about Sauron.
The Meteor Man Is the Wizard Gandalf
Fans of the original movies know the wizard Gandalf the Grey (later Gandalf the White) is essential to the defeat of Sauron and the destruction of Frodo’s ring. And visually, there’s a lot of similarity between Gandalf and the tiny Hobbits and the Stranger and the small Harfoots. So some viewers immediately thought the Stranger is a wizard or even Gandalf himself. In the season finale, they’re proved right.
After they defeat the trio, the Stranger tells Nori he’s “Istar,” which he tells her means “wizard.” But the reason we’re pretty positive this person is Gandalf is becaise he tells Nori later on in the episode, “Always follow your nose.” Gandalf says the same thing in “The Fellowship of the Ring.” So unless that’s a common wizard saying, it looks like we’re getting a Gandalf origin story in season two.
One reason why fans weren’t sure the Stranger would turn out to be Gandalf or a wizard is because it’s an enormous change to the lore of The Lord of the Rings. In J.R.R. Tolkein’s writings, wizards don’t arrive in Middle-earth until the Third Age. “The Rings of Power” is set in the Second Age. We’ll have to wait for next season to find out the ramifications of Gandalf’s arrival.