Since the first moment The Rings of Power introduced us to its mysterious man from the Southlands, we’ve been asking the same important question: is Halbrand really Sauron in disguise? As much as Galadriel believes in him, every week, The Rings of Power provides more clues Halbrand is secretly the Dark Lord she seeks. And yet, the show’s sixth episode also made clear Halbrand might really be the Second Age’s answer to Aragorn, a reluctant dark-haired king returning from exile to lead men against the forces of evil. So that begs the question, who is The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand really? Is he a hero or a villain? Neither? There’s a strong case both for and against Halbrand. But no matter the answer, the fact we’re not sure proves Sauron is already winning.

Is Halbrand Really a Hero? A Look at The Lord of the Rings‘ Aragorn

Aragorn had a beard in the Lord of the Rings movies, will Isildur have one in Amazon's LOTR show Rings of Power
New Line Cinema

The Lord of the Rings‘ Aragorn was the rightful heir to Gondor, which had no king (only stewards) during the Third Age. The realm lost its leader when orcs murdered the king who helped defeat Sauron. (That future king is an important character on The Rings of Power. But we won’t name him in case you’re wholly new to the story and unaware of how the Second Age ends.)

None of the king’s descendants returned for Gondor’s royal seat for thousands of years. But despite the long absence, there was no question Aragorn was Gondor’s rightful ruler when he finally relented and claimed his ancestral seat. He carried Narsil, the reforged sword of his royal ancestors. It broke during the defeat of Sauron, but the sword’s remnants passed from each rightful heir over millennia.

The shards first went to the elf realm of Rivendale—ruled over by Elrond—before the dead king’s son took them. From then on, the broken sword was passed down through the ages to each rightful heir. So when Aragorn returned to Gondor with Narsil—reforged by elves into Andúril—there was no question that both the sword and Gondor’s throne belonged to him.

The Similarities Between Halbrand and Aragorn

Like Aragorn, who was a wandering Ranger of the North, Halbrand began his story without a home. Orcs drove him from the Southlands, whose tribes had once united under a single king.

Unlike Aragorn’s ancestors, however, the Southlands’ king fought for evil during the First Age. That legacy is a big reason why The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand initially refused to claim his ancestor’s royal seat. This too is actually a similarity between Halband and Aragorn, though. Aragorn’s shame over his ancestor’s inability to destroy the One Ring made him reluctant to claim his royal throne.

Prime Video

Galadriel learned of Halbrand’s royal secret in Númenor’s Hall of Law, which Elrond’s brother built after defeating Morgoth. She found a dark parchment from the First Age that contained the symbol of the Southlands king.

Halbrand’s Necklace and His Claim to the Southlands on The Rings of Power

The symbol Galadriel found in the Hall of Law is the same as the one on Halbrand’s necklace, imbuing him with royalty. Like Aragorn with Narsil, Halbrand’s pouch serves as a token of his royal heritage.

Shortly before Mount Doom sprang to life (after Halbrand helped defeat Adar’s orcs), Bronwyn recognized the significance of the necklace and what it represented. That’s when Halbrand finally admitted he is the Southlands’ returning king on The Rings of Power.

Prime Video

But there’s an obvious difference between Halbrand’s pouch and Aragorn’s sword that calls into question if Halbrand is really who he claims to be.

The Unreliable Story of Halbrand

Ageless elves like Elrond could confirm the authenticity of Narsil and the many men who carried it. When Aragorn wielded it, there was no question he really was Gondor’s lost king. But no one has any way of knowing if Halbrand—who says he’s no hero and has done terrible things— is who he says he is. And no one can vouch for the authenticity of his necklace. Galadriel simply found the same symbol on an old dark parchment.

Prime Video

Unlike Aragorn and Narsil, Halbrand did not inherit his necklace with any formality or witnesses on The Rings of Power. He himself even said he took it from a dead man’s body. Whose body? Where? How did that person die? And what—if any—relationship did Halbrand have with the individual who carried the royal necklace initially?

Narsil was tangible, irrefutable proof Aragorn was Gondor’s long-awaited king in The Lord of the Rings series. But there’s no such recorded chain of custody for Halbrand’s necklace on The Rings of Power. His entire claim to the Southlands relies on people thinking something and Halbrand saying they’re right, he’s a secret king.

Prime Video

And since the Southlands are no longer a realm for men, and we know who will soon rule over Mordor, we’re back to asking the same question we’ve always had about Halbrand.

Is Halbrand Really Sauron in Disguise on The Rings of Power?

Sauron is a shapeshifter with a silver tongue able to charm anyone. He’s also a great smith and warrior who preys on his enemies’ fears so he can manipulate them. We also know during the Second Age, he becomes a prisoner of Númenor who then offers Pharazôn counsel, all before becoming king in the Southlands.

All of that part of Sauron’s story is also true about Halbrand so far on The Rings of Power.

Prime Video

And, if Halbrand really is Sauron, everything he did in The Rings of Power‘s sixth episode makes sense. On the surface, his actions seem heroic, same as the noble Aragorn. But like Morgoth before him, Sauron spreads evil with deception and half-truths.

Pretending he doesn’t want to be king until moments before Mount Doom springs forth from the ground? Acting as though he wants to kill Adar—who organized orcs destined to serve Sauron and is needed to keep orcs in line until Sauron assumes command over them—before saving Adar from Galadriel? And claiming the men of the Southlands who served Morgoth as his own people? That kind of evil genius, which uses truth to hide lies, is exactly what we’d expect from Sauron and what we get from Halbrand.

Prime Video

Even Halbrand asking Adar if he remembers him makes sense in the context of his being Sauron. First. Halbrand would be testing the veracity of his own disguise. If Adar, who served with and for Sauron in the First Age, can’t recognize him as Halbrand, no one can. But that line would also be mocking Adar for not truly serving Middle-earth’s new Dark Lord. Adar is working on his own behalf to free orcs from Sauron’s enslavement. But Sauron would continue to benefit from letting Adar live for now. Adar can keep the orcs in line while Sauron as Halbrand continues to operate in the shadows on The Rings of Power.

Why, then, would Halbrand let Galadriel, Sauron’s biggest enemy, live? Because anger has blinded her to the truth, making her an unwilling servant of evil. No one on The Rings of Power has done more to legitimize Halbrand as a trustworthy person and rightful heir to the Southlands more than Galadriel.

Galadriel Touches the Darkness

Prime Video

“It would seem I’m not the only elf alive who’s been transformed by darkness. Perhaps your search for Morgoth’s successor should have ended in your own mirror.”

Adar explained exactly how Galadriel could be blind to Halbrand’s true identity. She is lost in anger and darkness. The very evil she wants to destroy consumes her. Galadriel carries the hatred that gave Morgoth power, the same power Sauron now wields.

Prime Video

That’s why she shouldn’t be surprised if Halbrand turns out to be Morgoth’s successor. Galadriel knows “sometimes to find the light, we must first touch the darkness.” And if Halbrand is Sauron on The Rings of Power, before she frees her heart of hatred, she will have come into direct contact (both literally and metaphorically) with the darkness that is spreading throughout Middle-earth.

It’s a darkness that has us questioning if Halbrand, who has so much in common with Aragorn, is really a monster in hiding. If he is, his deception will be a testament to enduring strength of evil. Only time will tell who Halbrand is, and Sauron is, for that matter, on The Rings of Power. But if Halbrand really is just a flawed man trying to right past wrongs, the fact we’re questioning his identity is also a testament to Sauron’s treachery.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at  @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.