Spoiler alert again, we’re taking a deep dive into Episode 8 of Rings Of Power! In fact, in the season one finale of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, two true identities were revealed: Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who actually turned out to be Sauron, and the Stranger (Daniel Weyman), who turned out to be Sauron landed in Middle-earth with a meteorite.
As for the Stranger, while we’ve gotten a lot of new information, we’re still going out with a small question mark in Season 2: We now definitely know that he is one of the five Istari, i.e. a magician. But which of them? The mystics who previously mistook him for Sauron seem to know. But before they can say the name, the word is cut off from them: “He is not Sauron. He is the other. The Istar. He is…”
Did one of the women in white actually mean to say Gandalf? In fact, after the season finale, we consider it very possible that the Stranger is Gandalf – and we didn’t think so. Because: In the works of Tolkien, the wizards Gandalf, Saruman and Radagast only came to Middle-earth in the Third Age. “The Rings of Power” takes place long before that in the Second Age. So were the showrunners allowed to take more liberties with the original footage than we thought?
The hints that the stranger is actually Gandalf are spread more clearly than ever in episode 8. And since Halbrand turned out to be Sauron, and has been for most of the season to obviously hinted at, we know that the series isn’t necessarily adept at setting false leads. Rather, clues are probably really meant to be that: clues. And there really are quite a few about Gandalf.
In the episodes so far, the friendship between the Stranger and the Harfeet has been a bit suspect – Gandalf later becomes very good friends with the hobbits, it was reasonable to assume that this would start here. In addition, the stranger sees with his beard and his kind eyes also a bit like Gandalf, at least as we know him from The Lord of the Rings movies, where he is iconic portrayed by Ian McKellen.
In episode 8, the clues became much more specific. When the stranger “dissolves” the mystics with his magic power, their forms turn into moths that fly away. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf communicates with moths. In addition, the Mystics say to the stranger that he can command fire. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf says to the Balrog, he is a servant of the Secret Fire and lord of the Flame of Anor. The Secret Fire is something like the omnipotence of Tolkien’s god, Eru Ilúvatar, whose servant Gandalf reveals himself here – and “Flame of Anor” means “Flame of the Sun” in the Elven language Sindarin.
The clearest clue comes at the end of episode 8, however, when the stranger says to Nori (Markella Kavenagh), with whom he is discussing adventures (much like he would with the hobbits Frodo and Bilbo Baggins in later times): “When in doubt, Elanor Brandyfoot, always follow your nose.” That’s pretty much exactly what Gandalf said to Merry in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
So it does indeed all point to Gandalf – but we also want to examine the other possibilities. Because as I said, if we actually have the wizard Seeing Gandalf in the Second Age (and as a wizard already, and not simply as Maia Olórin, as he may in fact have visited Middle-earth in the Second Age) would be a marked departure from Tolkien’s original.
There are five istari, meaning wizards or literally “the wise ones”, in the world of The Lord of the Rings: Gandalf the grey, Radagast the brown, Saruman the white, and the two blue wizards Allatar and Palando. And there’s still a chance the stranger might turn out to be one of the blue wizards – for these actually came to Middle-earth as early as the Second Age. And they went east, to the land of Rhûn, to which the stranger now also goes to learn more of his destiny. So that would fit very well. But then what about all the Gandalf clues?
Even less likely, the stranger could be Saruman. In Tolkien’s case, this too only comes to Middle-earth in the Third Age, but at least travels east several times. Or, if we want to get really far out of the window, there is still a sixth wizard being invented for the series…
But who the meteorite man is definitely not: Tilion. We previously suspected that he could be that character that moves the moon across the sky in Tolkien and then crashes in the series. Like the Istari, Tilion belongs to the Maiar gods, but not all Maiar are magicians. That seems to exclude Tilion. Or maybe the people in charge of the series are turning Tilion (or a character inspired by Tilion) into a magician?
That would at least explain why the stranger landed in Middle-earth with a meteorite of all things. We’ll probably get more details in Season 2 of “The Rings of Power‘ experienced, as well as final confirmation of the stranger’s identity. The second season could come to Amazon Prime Video in 2024.