This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Whether you love it or you hate it - and thanks to the nature of social media these days, there seems to be only one choice between the two - Amazon's Tolkien-inspired epic is making a splash around the world. Now, whether it's the epic crash of a wave on the Sundering Sea or the sad plop of the leavings of a patron at the Prancing Pony after a particularly raucous night, that's for you to decide. I for one, believe it is the former.
I couldn't be happier to be back in Middle-earth. It is truly an epic production, with scenery and music to match. Hats off to the showrunners, cast and crew. I can't wait to see what's in store!
Two episodes in and there are already plenty of fantastic fan theories swimming around out there. So, in preparation for Episode 3 dropping on Friday (09 September), let's put on our tinfoil hats and dive in!
1. The Stranger is a Balrog
Starting with a bang!
This is quickly becoming quite a popular one among fans and there are some tantalising nuggets to make you think that it could be true.
Firstly, Balrogs are Maiar - angelic beings, like the Istari, or wizards - but were twisted by the evil whisperings of Morgoth. So, it is not out of the question for them to take the form of a man at first, or to fall from the heavens (or Eä).
Secondly, the fact that the embers around his crater aren't hot, has an eerie similarity to Galadriel's line from early on in Episode one. When she and her company finally find a location with evidence of Sauron's existence she says: "This place is so evil, our torches give off no warmth."
Lastly, after using the fireflies from Poppy's lantern to show the two Harfoots a constellation of stars, the insects all lose their lights and die, hinting at a more devious side of The Stranger.
2. Halbrand is Sauron
Another internet favourite, many viewers pinned this one quite early. And can you blame them? There are simply way too many hints at the mysterious Halbrand being the Dark Lord Sauron.
For one, the first time we see him, his hair is hanging in his face, a popular TV writing trope used to foreshadow characters with dark intent.
Besides the follicular folly, he actively sabotaged the raft during the wyrm attack on the Sundering Sea to make it easier for a quick getaway for himself, almost certainly dooming his fellow castaways to death by fish-dragon.
"But wait, he saved Galadriel!" I hear you say though the internet. Yes, but of course he would save Galadriel, I would argue. She is definitely more useful to him alive as a potential tool of manipulation. So there!
3. Sauron has already met with Celebrimbor
In episode two, we learn that Gil-Galad has sent Elrond to Celebrimbor to assist with a momentous project: the creation of the largest Elven forge in the history of Middle-earth. A forge that can birth a flame as hot as a dragon's tongue and as pure as starlight, as Celebrimbor so eloquently puts it.
The key to this theory lies in one line said by Celebrimbor: "I need it completed by Spring."
Why the urgency? Why would this forge need to be created with such haste unless the creations it will make possible are needed by a certain Dark Lord, who has been convincing Celebrimbor behind the scenes?
4. Theo is Arondir's son
One can sense that the character of Theo is being strategically placed at the point of several converging storylines, making him the character of any theorist's dreams!
A clear favourite is that Theo is Arondir's son, which could be the main reason for his obvious disdain for elves - perhaps brought on by self-loathing.
Also, we've never seen his ears!!
5. It Wasn't One Meteor!
My personal favourite, and if true, would be a terribly clever trick on our perception as viewers.
At the end of the first episode - A Shadow of the Past - we see a meteor falling towards Middle-earth. Five times, we see this meteor from the perspective of several key characters. BUT, what if we aren't seeing different perspectives of the same meteor, and instead we're seeing five different meteors?
What if we are seeing the five Istari falling to earth, with The Stranger being just one of them?
It would also make his mission more clear, as perhaps the Istari all need to meet at one location beneath a single constellation of stars
This would mean that The Stranger would be one of the wizards of Middle-earth. It's clear that the showrunners are throwing strong hints that he's Gandalf, but I think it would be pretty cool to see Saruman the White's origin story!
And there we have it!
Five of my favourite The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power fan theories.
Watch this space, as I'll be keeping track on how accurate these are during the course of Season 1 and sharing updates as the theories evolve.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I truly appreciate it.