About this episode
– Episode 8 (of 8)
– Written by Gennifer Hutchinson, J.D. Payne, and Patrick McKay
– Directed by Wayne Che Yip
Full spoilers follow for The Rings of Power episode 8.
After a few bumpy, slow-paced episodes, The Rings of Power has found its feet in the last few weeks. The two entries preceding the season 1 finale – Udûn and The Eye – have been electric, dramatically shocking, and action-packed affairs. So much so, in fact, that season 1 of the high fantasy Prime Video series could’ve peaked early, leaving its eighth and final episode feeling like a damp squib.
Delightfully, The Rings of Power episode 8 is anything but. The season 1 finale is as satisfyingly revelatory, if not more so, than its predecessors and packs lots of fascinating lore – and a few historical revisions – into its runtime. Some of those source material deviations are likely to frustrate diehard Lord of the Rings fans. For most viewers, though, The Rings of Power episode 8 will be a thrilling, surprising, and devilishly fantastic final entry in the Prime Video show’s first season.
A dark lord misdirect
Breaking with series tradition, episode 8 actually opens with a Stranger-starring scene before the title credits roll.
It’s an unusual decision for the writers’ room to have made, but it works well in the context of this opening gambit. Not only does it make the season 1 finale feel novel among its contemporaries, but it also begins the episode’s dalliance with multiple misdirects about who Sauron really is.
Alone after parting ways with the Harfoots in episode 7, The Stranger comes across some Hobbit-like creatures during a storm, who make off with the apple Nori gifted to The Stranger after he drops it. Catching up with these individuals, The Stranger is delighted to find that it’s Nori – except it’s not. It’s The Dweller masquerading as Nori, who has have lured The Stranger to a meet and greet with her fellow Mystics.
So, why have they been searching for him? Long story short, they think he’s Sauron – and now, so do we.
Post-title credits, we join Galadriel and an ailing Halbrand, who have rode for six days to seek medical assistance at Eregion. Halbrand is carted off to have his wounds tended to, while Galadriel emotionally reunites with Elrond. The pair bond over their respective season 1 journeys, with a teary Galadriel vowing not to keep any more secrets from Elrond following their last conversation in episode 1. Remember this for later, dear reader, as it’s important.
Days go by – yes, we get more time jumps between scenes – and a surprisingly fast recovering Halbrand, who’s searching for Galadriel, stumbles upon Celebrimbor’s forge and the elven smith himself. Halbrand learns of the elves’ unsuccessful quest to mine mithril from Khazad-dûm. Without vast quantities of the miracle ore, they’re doomed to die like every other race.
But Halbrand has a striking suggestion – and it’s a scheme that shifts the balance from The Stranger being Sauron to him. Since the show’s two-episode premiere, fans have speculated Halbrand isn’t who he claims to be, and what transpires next only adds further fire to that fire.
A skilled blacksmith, Halbrand proposes Celebrimbor combine the mithril with other metals. Sure, it’ll dilute its power, but it’ll produce an alloy that might just save the elves from extinction. It’s odd that an elven smith of Celebrimbor’s expertise wouldn’t have thought of this before. However, it’s a small plot device we can overlook in the grand scheme of things, given that it catapults Halbrand back to the top of the ‘who is Sauron?’ list.
Unfortunately for Celebrimbor, High King Gil-galad isn’t enthused by Halbrand’s idea. Despite Celebrimbor – with Elrond and Galadriel’s support – suggesting they can combine the mithril with other materials to forge a crown that Gil-galad can wear, the elven king declines the offer.
For one, he’s suspicious of Halbrand, an outsider who’s suddenly shown up and given Celebrimbor an idea that’s too good to be true. Secondly, though, the elven smiths don’t have time to experiment with creating a mithril-imbued crown. Lindon’s great tree is dying off at a frantic rate; its decay accelerated by Mount Doom’s eruption in episode 6. If more mithril can’t be mined immediately, the elves’ fate is sealed.
I am no man
Meanwhile, The Mystics seemingly convince The Stranger that he’s Sauron. That’s based on his extremely powerful abilities, not to mention he fell from the sky in a meteor. Oh, and the fact that The Nomad has a shield marked with the same star constellation seen on The Stranger’s note. Seems ominous, right?
As the group continue to butter The Stranger up, though, he begins to tap into his otherworldly powers, which seems to startle them. So The Dweller knocks him out and ties him up so he can’t use his abilities. Go figure.
All hope seems lost for our superpowered friend. That is, until Nori and company show up. Marigold and Poppy lure two of The Mystics away, allowing Nori and Sadoc to reach The Stranger to rescue him.
But it’s another bait and switch from The Dweller. The incapacitated Stranger is in the undergrowth, with The Dweller taking on his appearance to lure the Harfoots into a trap. The Nomad seriously injures Sadoc in the ensuing skirmish and, despite the Stranger coming around and doing his best to protect the Harfoots, he’s quickly overpowered by The Dweller, who subsequently torches the surrounding landscape to trap them.
Read our Rings of Power recaps
It’s a suitably tense sequence of events and one that makes it seem like none of our heroes are getting out alive. However, after Marigold and Poppy cause The Dweller to drop her staff by lobbing pears at her – yes, it’s silly but effective – Nori tries to convince The Stranger to use it. He refuses, saying he’ll hurt Nori again like he did in episode 5. Movingly, Nori tells him he won’t and that he’s a good guy, giving The Stranger the belief to fight back.
Grasping the staff, The Stranger channels his powers, which stops The Dweller from using hers. The Mystics tell the so-called Sauron to stop but, buoyed by Nori’s empowering words, he embodies Eowyn’s “I am no man” speech from The Return of the King. “I’m good”, The Stranger says, as he uses his powers to reveal The Mystics’ true wraith-like form and destroys them.
It’s a crowd-pleasing moment, but one that’s quickly replaced by a scenario tinged with sadness. Sadoc’s bleeding heavily from his wound and, despite Marigold’s attempts to convince him to head back to camp with them to get treated, he declines, choosing instead to watch one last sunrise. Nori, Poppy, and Marigold join him as the Stranger watches on before Sadoc emotionally takes his last breath.
Returning to the Harfoot camp, Nori and The Stranger agree that another parting of the ways is inevitable. He must travel to the land of Rhûn to search for the constellation, while Nori admits she’s had enough adventures to last a lifetime.
As they prepare to say goodbye, Nori queries The Stranger about the word that The Mystics used to describe him – Istari – when he saved her and the other Harfoots. It’s here where The Stranger confirms a long-standing fan theory: he’s a wizard! Huzzah! Unfortunately, we don’t learn which one he is. Boo and hiss.
After seemingly saying farewell for the final time to The Stranger, a brief reunion with her family sees Nori handed a backpack filled with provisions. Confused, she asks what’s going on, only to be told she should go with The Stranger. Cue a number of moving but slightly drawn-out goodbyes between Nori, her family, Poppy, and the Harfoot community before she sets off with giant friend for Rhûn.
The king is dead, long live the queen
Over in Númenor, and with King Palantir on his deathbed, Pharazôn assembles the best Builder’s Guild staff – apprentice Eärien included – to spend an hour apiece with the king to sketch his likeness. The best portrait will be used to sculpt a monument to Palantir to honor his legacy once he passes.
During Eärien’s stint, Palantir wakes up. Believing Eärien to be his daughter (and Queen Regent) Míriel, he tells her that Númenor must unite and begin to fully follow the Valar again. Opening a secret passageway, Palantir sends Eärien to a hidden room where she comes across the palantír, the seeing stone Míriel showed to Galadriel in episode 4. That’s not good but, given she’s been sidelined for much of season 1, here’s hoping Eärien’s discovery of the palantír sets up a bigger and more ominous season 2 arc for Elendil’s naive daughter.
Speaking of Elendil, he’s still on his way back home with Míriel and the remaining Númenoreans following episode 6’s tentpole battle. Elendil and Míriel only appear in two brief but drama-laced episode 8 scenes, but they’re fairly significant ones. The first shows how close they’re becoming and that Elendil reaffirms his commitment to being faithful to the elves (and the Valar) despite apparently losing Isildur after Mount Doom’s eruption.
The second is more sombre. As the Númenorean ship winds its way towards the island kingdom’s main harbour, black flags are seen flying half-mast across the marina. Palantir has died, much to Pharazôn’s sadness. Well, potentially apparent sadness anyway. With Palantir dead, could Pharazôn make a play for Númenor’s throne, particularly once he learns of Míriel’s blindness? The season 2 plot thickens.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky
Back in Eregion, two of The Rings of Power season 1’s biggest reveals are eventually revealed.
Galadriel, who has grown suspicious of Halbrand’s true motives – he’s since convinced Celebrimbor to forge two of the titular rings instead of a crown, after all – asks an elven historian for records of the Southlands’ royal lineage. Later, she’s presented with a scroll detailing the Southlands’ line of kings – and what she learns makes for the ultimate betrayal: Halbrand isn’t the heir to the Southlands throne. In fact, there’s been no Southlands monarch for a millennia.
A furious Galadriel confronts Halbrand but he claims that never actually misled her. Everything Halbrand has said up to this point hasn’t actually been a lie, but a series of misdirects. The duo engage in a fascinatingly suspenseful war of words, which culminates in the long overdue answer to a question we’ve had since The Rings of Power’s first trailer dropped.
Halbrand. Is. Sauron.
It’s a highly satisfying reveal. We’ve waited eight episodes to find out which character Sauron has been masquerading as, even though the show’s cast already knew his identity. Props to showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, as well as their fellow writers, for not making us wait until season 2 to find out who Sauron is. Oh, and cue numerous “I knew it!” comments from everyone who always believed he was.
With a dangerous cocktail of emotions flowing through her, Galadriel moves to cut Halbrand’s throat with Finrod’s dagger. It’s an understandable reaction to have. She’s spent centuries searching for Middle-earth’s eponymous antagonist, seeking revenge for Finrod’s death, and hoping to wipe Sauron’s evil from the world for good. How could she have been so blind to his true identity? And how could she have led him to where he’s needed to be at every turn?
Halbrand – should we just call him Sauron now? – stops her, though. Using his Maia-based powers, he traps Galadriel in a mind prison, forcing her to relive memories of Finrod and the time she spent on a raft with Halbrand on the Sundering Seas in episode 2. He tries to persuade her to join his cause to “heal” Middle-earth through tyranny, meaning she’d be the dark queen to his king. But Galadriel sees through his charming proposal – a clear nod to her own, dormant abilities that’ll soon come to the fore. Infuriated, Halbrand consigns Galadriel to live in the memory of her drowning in the Sundering Seas from episode 2.
Luckily, Elrond arrives to pull Galadriel from Eregion’s nearby river, which she was actually drowning in. Agonizingly, it’s here where Galadriel goes back on the promise she made to her fellow elf. She refuses to tell him about Halbrand, choosing instead to race to Celebrimbor’s forge to stop him from crafting anything with Halbrand’s aid.
However, Halbrand is nowhere to be seen. Even so, Galadriel sways Celebrimbor – and Elrond, who catches up with her – to forge three rings instead of two. As she notes, “one ring will corrupt and two will divide”. But, as Celebrimbor catches on, “three will balance”. However, the elven smith still needs a precious metal to stabilize the mithril if they’re to be successful in forging these items. It just so happens that Finrod’s dagger, which comprises Valinor gold and steel, holds the key. Galadriel is reluctant to part with her dead brother’s weapon. After all, she’s had it with her for centuries. For the greater good, however, she agrees to hand it over.
A somewhat foreboding but equally smile-inducing forging montage later – one interspersed with footage of Elrond discovering the Southlands scroll and that Galadriel is lying to him again – and, at long last, the first Rings of Power have been created. Say hello to Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, everyone. We’ll be getting acquainted with again soon enough.
As for Halbrand/Sauron, where’s he escaped to? Unsurprisingly, Mordor, with the grinning dark lord ready to make the newly founded hellscape his permanent home and workshop for all evil deeds. Adar and company better watch out.
The Rings of Power’s season 1 finale is a joyous episode that gratifyingly answers some of the show’s most pressing questions. It doesn’t answer every major fan query, and there are a couple of plot-based quibbles to be had with certain character decisions that play out. As a hugely important entry in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings, though, The Rings of Power episode 8 deserves all the plaudits it’s likely to get.
Diehard Tolkienites are sure to frustrated (or even angered) by and dispute some of its biggest reveals, including The Stranger’s wizard unveiling, how and when the elven rings are forged, and Sauron’s reveal. Most viewers, though, will get a welcome kick out of episode 8’s most revelatory content. Equally, there are enough plot threads left dangling, and intriguing lore drops in episode 7 and its successor, to ensure the show’s second season will be as keenly anticipated as its first.
As season endings go, The Rings of Power episode 8 is a terrific piece of television. It’s an engrossing installment that finds a superb balance between confirming some major fan theories, leaves other riveting questions unanswered, and sets up Middle-earth’s chess board and pieces for a potentially barnstorming next season. Now, how long do we have to wait for The Rings of Power season 2?
The Rings of Power’s first season is available to stream in full now on Prime Video.