Questions I Still Have about the Themes in “The Rings of Power” after the Season 1 Finale

Themes in Season 1 of Rings of Power

If you’ve been following my blog or my tweets, you’ll know I’ve been somewhat on the fence about The Rings of Power throughout season 1. It has some amazing moments . . . and then a lot of weird or confusing ones. I plan to do one final review of episode 8/the season as a whole, but in this post, I want to focus on what might be the longest contributing factor to my disappointment with the series: the confusion the writers seem to have over the themes they are trying to convey. Here are some inconsistencies I noticed and questions I still have (in no particular order).

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1. What is up with the flip flopping of Elendil’s faith?

Viewers agreed that the writers pretending Isildur died in episode 7 when anyone who knows anything about Tolkien must be aware he’s not dead was a bizarre choice. The explanation everyone came up with to make it make sense was that it’s for character development: it’s the catalyst that moves Elendil from being a staunch supporter of Galadriel/the Elves and aiding Middle-earth to questioning the role of Númenor and demanding his people just go home.

So it’s bizarre that in episode 8 that Elendil and Miriel have an entire conversation about how being one of the Faithful is hard and sometimes high prices must be paid to do the right thing. And Elendil recommits to his decision to aid Galadriel and Middle-earth. Whatever doubt he had seems to have lasted about two minutes of screen time. So what are his beliefs? And why are the writers still pretending Isildur is dead? (I hope, if nothing else, Isildur has something important he’s doing alone in Middle-earth in season 2!)

2. And is helping Galadriel the correct thing to do or not?

Elendil recommits to the idea that he made the moral decision when he chose to pull Galadriel out of the sea instead of leaving her there to die. Helping the Elves is the right thing. Following Galadriel is the right thing.

Yet the point of the entirety of season 1 boils down to: Galadriel has good intentions, but her decisions lead directly to Sauron’s coming back into power. If Elendil had let Galadriel (and Halbrand, obviously) die in the water, season 1 wouldn’t have happened. Even if Halbrand had survived or been reincarnated, but he hadn’t been with Galadriel, he might not have regained power, as he directly credits Galadriel with allowing him to believe in himself to pursue his ambitions and giving him access to specific resources, like the Elves of Eregion.

3. But Galadriel has already rejected evil and dominion over Middle-earth?

So this all comes to a head when Galadriel realizes Halbrand is Sauron and confronts him, and he gets into her head and proposes. (I’m so confused the writers doubled down on this Galadriel/Sauron romance, but here we are.) And because the Rings of Power writers love callbacks to Peter Jackson’s works, they write a whole scene mirroring Galadriel’s rejection of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. Sauron gives her the option of having dominion over Middle-earth, being terrible as the sea, etc. And she says no.

That’s right. Here, in the Second Age, Galadriel says no to Sauron and the exact type of power she would get from Sauron’s Ring in the Third Age. Her rejection of Sauron’s work has already happened. So why must she reject it again in the Third Age and say that then she has passed the test?

I suppose one could argue she doesn’t pass the test entirely because she still goes ahead with the forging of the three Elven Rings, which was largely Sauron’s idea, but . . . meh. I think the writers got too excited paralleling Peter Jackson and undermined their own message here.

4. Are the three Elven rings actually slightly evil???

And this leads me to the question of whether the Elven rings are actually evil, at least a little. Obviously, Sauron has a hand aiding Celebrimbor in the book, but Rings of Power suggests that the power used to create the rings might be a forbidden one. Adar, Sauron, and Celebrimbor talks about having a power over flesh and powers of the Unseen World. Those phrases by themselves don’t necessarily have to imply the power is evil, but the show certainly wants me to think they are, by associating them specifically with Sauron and then showing images of Elves who were tortured and mutilated in the pursuit of this power. I think the show went too far with suggesting that whatever was used to create the rings is itself bad; it’s not just that Sauron can corrupt the rings depending on whether or not he’s personally involved in their creation.

5. What exactly is causing the decay of the trees in Lindon?

This is still unclear to me. Gil-galad implies it’s some vague sense of evil in the world, especially as the decay is happening faster now that Mount Doom has been woken up. But, um, why? This is as wishy-washy as Peter Jackson’s version of Arwen fading as the One Ring becomes more powerful. It just makes no sense.

6. If the Elves don’t need mithril anymore, how are the Dwarves getting their redemption arc?

I, along with many viewers, was disappointed in episode 7 when it turned out that the plot line that Elves need mithril not to fade was not, in fact, a lie made up by Sauron but actually true.

But then I, and other fans, pivoted again and said, “Ok, well the mithril thing helps the characterization of the Dwarves because now they will mine for mithril to help the Elves, not out of pure greed, so they will be compassionate and not a one-dimensional race simply obsessed with treasure.”

This theory no longer works if the Elves don’t need mithril, so are the Dwarves just going back to digging out of ambition and greed?

7. What is Gandalf’s purpose in the Second Age?

I called early on that the Stranger is Gandalf, and I kind of like his character (plus the actor is great), but I have no idea what he is doing in this show. Gandalf is not mentioned as being involved in the matters of the Second Age at all in Tolkien’s work. So the writers are going to have to get clever to create a plot line where 1) Gandalf is actually important, since Nori keeps highlighting that he’s super important and it was clearly her destiny to help him achieve this awesome thing and 2) he’s not actually involved with the main plot of the show. I have no idea how this is going to work.

So what did you think?


11 thoughts on “Questions I Still Have about the Themes in “The Rings of Power” after the Season 1 Finale

  1. Krysta says:

    I, too, was disappointed by Elendil’s flip-flopping faith, which just read as poor characterization since he changes his mind several times very suddenly with little explanation. It would have better to show him having doubts and struggling, but choosing to go forward in spite of it. Not having him throw a little temper tantrum because his son was lost. He went to war. He allowed his son to go to war. He knows war results in dead soldiers, but this whole storyline makes it look like Elendil is okay with allowing other people to die, as long as it doesn’t affect him personally. As soon as it does, he turns his back on his comrades and his queen. That was painful to watch.

    I also am confused if the show is implying the Elven rings are evil. I believe Tolkien indicated that the Rings allow the Elves sort of to stop time, so to speak, and that can create its own problems because they’re stuck in a nostalgic past. However, I think his vision suggests that the Elven rings were uncorrupted/good and that it’s more the Elves’ desire to remain as they were and not move forward that creates the complications.

    Also confused why the show is so invested in suggesting Galadriel is doing the wrong thing and could turn evil with a little nudge. Just make her a heroine who does her best and sometimes makes mistakes. No need to try to make her morally gray. I don’t want that. Does anybody want that?

    I don’t know what Gandalf is doing in the Second Age. He’s going to Rhun to…learn things? The show almost made me think he has to attend wizard school, lol.


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      In my mind, I feel as if someone thought they were making the show and characters “nuanced,” but they didn’t succeed. It’s more like a character believing A suddenly and then B suddenly and then A suddenly instead of being in a gray area or struggling. Sometimes I even feel as if there must have been two writers who had two different visions for the show and they were arguing trying to make their vision happen and nothing ever melded together!


    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah… I tried really hard to like it, but it has issues. The showrunners know it, too, because they keep saying they are taking feedback into account for season 2. Which, great, but I think it’s weird to tell someone to sit through all of season 1 and eventually it will get better. Same with people saying it’s great if you binge watch it as a rewatch after your first watch. Ok?? I don’t have that kind of free time. I watch things once. I am not watching all 9 hours in a row a second time to finally like it??? It should just be good the first time.

      I will still watch season 2 to see what’s up though lol. I can’t stop myself!

      Krysta is writing a whole post about everything she hated about this season.


      • theorangutanlibrarian says:

        Yeah it’s pretty unusual for showrunners to tell you to sit through a rubbish season so that they can improve on it- the public aren’t your test audience 😅 and I’m not gonna be sold on something I have to put a great deal of commitment into trying to like. I have about 10 minutes of patience in me for watching most TV 😅


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