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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has finally debuted on Prime Video with the first two episodes of season 1. The prequel series adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s many, sprawling stories about Middle-earth goes back in time thousands of years to explore life during the Second Age, when Sauron has disappeared and many populations of the continent were enjoying periods of relative peace and increasing prosperity.
It’s during this time the series picks up with a young Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), a character first seen in Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, who has been on the hunt for any remaining traces of evil. In addition to many other characters, audiences are also introduced to a handsome stranger named Halbrand (Charlie Vickers), who finds himself stranded with Galadriel, as well as High King Gil-galad (Benjamin Walker), who has his own concerns about Galadriel’s mission.
The three actors of the season 1 ensemble cast break down key moments from the first two episodes, including what’s driving Galadriel’s instinct to stay behind in Middle-earth and what Vickers thinks of those Aragorn comparisons. [Warning: Spoilers for the first two episodes of The Rings of Power.]
Galadriel’s Instinct to Stay Behind
After first opening with a very young Galadriel in the First Age and a backstory about how the elves came to Middle-earth, the premiere jumps forward to the Second Age with Galadriel on the hunt for Sauron. While many believe that he’s gone for good, she’s certain he’s still out there.
And just when she finds the mark of Sauron, she’s forced to turn back and return to Lindon, where King Gil-galad tells her that she’ll retire and leave for the Undying Lands. While she initially accepts her fate, Galadriel finds herself suddenly unable to shake the sense that something is amiss that her search for Sauron is not over.
“She knows, from some sort of Spidey, elfish instinct, that there is evil rising. And she doesn’t feel that she could possibly, with good conscience, go and kind of lounge and be joyful in Valinor without that being challenged and defeated,” Clark says, explaining that “everything she does is also kind of fogged by grief” over her brother, who was killed by Sauron.
She adds, “I think lots of the decisions Galadriel makes on the surface might not seem kind of totally rational. But once you remember that grief is involved, it all kind of makes sense.”
So, at the last minute, just as a meteor streaks through the sky, Galadriel abandons her ship for Valinor and is left swimming through the sundering seas as she searches for land. That’s when she eventually comes across a group of stranded humans, including Halbrand.
As for Galadriel’s decision to disobey orders from the king, Clark warns, “She’s broken one of the biggest rules of elves. And she’s done something spiritually unforgivable. So, there will be consequences for her.”
Halbrand’s Similarities to Aragorn
In the second episode of the two-part premiere, audiences formally meet Halbrand, one of the humans stranded at sea who helps Galadriel to safety. The two end up riding out a storm together before being picked up by ship headed to Númenórean.
While the two are at sea, Halbrand reveals he’s from the Southlands, where orcs destroyed his village and reveals the creatures are spreading through that part of Middle-earth. He also takes time to conceal a token worn around his neck, while dodging questions about his own past.
The reason he’s at sea, Vickers says, is not because he’s “running away from his past as he’s chosen to leave it behind and he’s moving on somewhere else.”
Based on some of Halbrand's cryptic answers, and the fact that he says “my people have no king,” the character is giving off lots of Aragorn vibes. When asked about comparisons to the would-be king, Vickers says, “There are definitely similarities to Aragorn.”
The actor notes that the difference is over “the type of responsibility” Halbrand’s avoiding. “He maybe has a destiny that he’s refusing to face, I guess, at this point in his life,” Vickers says, adding that “there’s also similarities to other characters in Tolkien's Legendarium and not just Aragorn.”
As for what’s to become of Halbrand and Galadriel, after their initial standoff encounter to helping each other survive until the two are rescued and taken to Númenórean, their dynamic will change over time. “It’s an interesting dynamic,” Vicker teases, not wanting to get into “many specifics around how it changes or how aligned they are or how much we see of them together as the rest of the season unfolds.”
Gil-galad’s Concern Over the Sauron Search
While Galadriel is initially resistant to the king’s demand to end her search for Sauron, he explains it’s because he’s worried that her search for him might inadvertently draw him out. “What’s going through his mind is, ‘Galadriel, do what I told you,’ because part of the issue is that she is exacerbating the problem,” Walker says.
“We see Middle-earth in the beginning of the series in a time of peace and we know Gil-galad has experienced so much in terms of war and destruction in the First Age that, I think, he finds peace very unsettling,” the actor continues, explaining that “while everyone’s at a party, he’s laying in bed, staring at the ceiling.”
At the end of the day, when it comes to the king’s relationships with Galadriel and Elrond (Robert Aramayo), “he approaches it like a loving parent,” Walker says, explaining “that you let your kid climb to the top of the tree and you’re there to catch ‘em if they fall. But you expect them to figure out how to get their own way down.”
He adds that Gil-galad’s main responsibility is to “shepherd Middle-earth and also bring out the best in his subjects.”