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The big mystery in Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings show that I want to see answered in Season 2

Published Jul 8th, 2024 9:52PM EDT
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power on Prime Video
Image: Prime Video

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Like many of you, I slogged my way to the end of the first season of Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power — which, as you can probably tell by its 38% audience score, wasn’t exactly an easy feat. In a six-word-long tweet, some of you may recall, Elon Musk famously dismissed Prime’s prequel series, set thousands of years before the events depicted in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies (“Tolkien is turning in his grave”). I wouldn’t go that far, but I was certainly very disappointed by the time I finished the season.

The show certainly looks fantastic. The young version of Galadriel is by far the most interesting character, but both she and the show as a whole were hampered, at least in the first season, by some atrocious writing. That said, I’m resolved to give the sophomore season a chance when it hits Prime Video on August 29. It’s partly because I’m invested now, but also because that big reveal towards the end, that [spoiler] is actually Sauron, piqued my interest.

I’m also going to be expecting a clear answer to one of the biggest unresolved mysteries from Season 1: Just who the heck is “The Stranger”?

That’s how everyone refers to the mysterious, tall, and unkempt character who falls from the sky via a meteor. He doesn’t say much, he clearly has powers, and he also has this weird look on his face a lot of the time — such that you can’t really get a strong read on who he is. Viewers have speculated, almost as soon as he appeared in the show when it hit Prime Video back in the fall of 2022, that The Stranger is one of the Istari — the wizards sent to Middle-earth by the Valar.

There’s also a case to be made that he’s one of two very familiar wizards: Either Gandalf, or Saruman. The moment that really perked my ears up and suggested a clue toward his identity is when The Stranger tells Elanor Brandyfoot that whenever she’s in doubt, “always follow your nose.”

That, of course, harkens back to a line that Gandalf originally told Merry in the original Lord of the Rings movie (“If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose”) as the fellowship journeys into the Mines of Moria.

With that in mind, let’s now turn to an interview between The Rings of Power co-showrunner JD Payne and Collider, in which he also nods to the theory that I posed above. He, too, is teasing that The Stranger might very well be either Gandalf or Saruman. “There are several possibilities of what that [phrase] can end up meaning,” Payne said. “Could that mean that The Stranger is Gandalf and that he says that, then he says it later on? It could definitely mean that.

“Could it also mean that The Stranger is Saruman, and you realize that later on Saruman said that (phrase) to Gandalf and then Gandalf said it? You know what I mean? There are always ways you can sort of, like, pinball it. There could be delightful paths that could come out of either eventuality. So, we like to keep those doors open. It’s fun to engage with the story and think of the possibilities.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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