Prime Video’s Lord Of The Rings TV show’s most mysterious character got some screen time last night.
Prime Video’s Lord of the Rings TV show is here, and, based on its two episode premiere, it’s swinging for the fences. After two solid hours, we got to meet a whole fleet of characters both new and familiar to Middle-earth. There were Elves, Harfoots, Dwarves, sea monsters, flashbacks to time immemorial–you name it. There was also, unsurprisingly, the explosive introduction of a character known only as The Stranger.
Now The Stranger’s existence isn’t a surprise–he’s been teased in promotional material since the show’s promotional cycle started. Guesses about his identity and existence have been swirling for months. And we shouldn’t expect to get any solid answers any time soon–actor Daniel Wayman told GameSpot directly that “we don’t know what his intentions are going to be and we don’t know how that’s going to impact the world around him.” So, yeah, that’s about as mysterious as a person can get.
However, we did get to spend a significant amount of time with him over the course of the first two episodes, which has helped shed enough light to start getting some theories brewing in our heads. Some of these are, admittedly, stretches, while others are beginning to feel much more likely. We can continue to refer back to Tolkien’s texts as we start to conjure up ideas, but we must also remember that Rings of Power–while clearly following the blueprint of the Second Age, is making some major adjustments and changes along the way, so it’s critical we don’t take anything for granted.
No idea, at this point, is totally off the table. But, with any luck, we’ll start getting more concrete ideas as the show progresses with new episodes each week.
This one gets points for being both the most obvious though maybe not the most likely. It’s difficult to deny the fact that The Stranger’s whole design is clearly intended to make us remember Ian McKellen’s Gandalf–the texture and colors of the fabric, the beard, the make-up and prosthetics. It’s all there. There’s also the fact that his meteoric arrival lands him smack dab in the middle of Harfoot country, and the first people he meets are Nori and Poppy–Rings of Power’s clear parallels for Sam and Frodo. There’s a lot of evidence stacked up here–which, actually, makes us think that it might not be the case. Given the amount of mystery surrounding the character, it all feels a bit too simple and a bit too convenient to have this be the ultimate reveal. Or maybe that’s just what they want us to think.
Over the summer, a clip from the trailer went semi-viral with people pointing out that a new character–presumed to be Sauron–looked a whole lot like early ’00s Eminem. They were not wrong. However, they may have been wrong about the Sauron part. Or perhaps partially wrong. Sauron can canonically shapeshift, meaning that his appearance in the show doesn’t have to be consistent. We have yet to see or learn anything about the buzz cut blonde from the trailer, so we can’t discount him outright, but we did get to see some pretty ominous stuff circulating around The Stranger. His mumblings were directly connected to Largo twisting his ankle, and the fact that the fire surrounding his impact crater wasn’t hot tied directly back to a line about evil sapping the heat from flames. There are plenty of implications that this man may not be a very good dude. Does that mean this is a form of Sauron? We can’t be sure.
Another Valar or wizard like Gandalf is Radagast the Brown, a pretty minor character from the books who got some added development and screen time in the Hobbit movies. The evidence to support this particular theory is very similar to the Gandalf evidence–aesthetics, plus an added (apparent) affinity for animals. The real question would be why Radagast would be important to add to the story at this point–but, his relative lack of development in the texts could provide ample wiggle room for some cool new ideas.
4.) Tom Bombadil
In that same vein comes an even less likely idea: Tom Bombadil, an infamously enigmatic figure for Tolkein fans. Is he a Valar? A god? An author self-insert? A folk hero? We just don’t know. The real advantage of introducing Tom Bombadil into a story like this is his overall ambiguity–he actually never took an open stance against Morgoth, despite the fact he didn’t seem to be an evil guy himself. That same ambiguity seems very present in The Stranger so far, and it would be pretty neat, if very risky, to offer some development to a character who famously leaves more questions than answers.
5.) Eru Iluvatar
If we want to go bigger than a wizard, there’s always a literal god, right? The deities within Tolkien’s mythology are a bit more complicated than just gods and demi-gods, but Eru Illuvatar is the closest thing Middle-earth has to a capital-G God, the head honcho in charge of every other powerful “angelic” or mythical figure. Does this identity guess make a ton of sense for the show? No, probably not–it would make The Stranger a very, very literal Deus ex Machina which wouldn’t be the best way to resolve some of the stories and pave the way for the next season. But, even with that in mind, we simply cannot discount the possibility. Afterall, it would technically (emphasis on “technically”) be more in keeping with canon timelines to not have a valar around for the Second Age.
6.) A brand new Valar or Maiar
This might actually be the most likely guess of the bunch, even if it is the one we have the least support for. While it’s true that, in the canon timelines, the valar weren’t present in Middle-earth during the Second Age, there’s still a lot about the Second Age we just don’t know. And, given the way Rings of Power has shown a clear preference for inventing new characters rather than changing or reinventing old ones, it is entirely possible that they’ve found a way to create their very own wizard to toss into the mix in a way that won’t conflict with any of the canonical wizard’s histories.
7.) One of the blue wizards
This is only slightly different from guess number 6, but critically it wouldn’t involve making a new character but expanding upon a mysterious existing one. Like Tom Bombadill, the blue wizards are figures in Tolkien’s work that we know very little about and have been subject to much speculation and academic study over the years–there’s even some text to support that the blue wizards actually did show up in Middle-earth around the Second Age near the forging of the rings. If this is the case, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a second Stranger-type character arrive at some point, too. We do need to note here that there are potential rights issues with introducing the canonical blue wizards, however–they don’t appear in the texts Amazon has rights too–so that might be a strike against them.
8.) Morgoth himself
Like Eru Illuvatar, this one isn’t very likely at all but we’ve got to bring it up just for the sake of argument. Morgoth’s defeat is a tricky and ultimately ambiguous thing–he’s not the sort of thing you can just kill and bury, obviously, that’s kind of Galadriel’s whole point in the show. So, while, yes, it would be pretty absurd to bring a physical embodiment of Morgoth back into the picture for the show, it isn’t entirely impossible–and, hey, maybe that’s the most shocking reveal they could do. We just don’t know.
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