The Rings of Power‘s premiere ended with Galadriel refusing to abandon her mission on Middle-earth for an eternity of peace at her former home of Valinor. She likely wouldn’t have survived the journey back, though, had she not come across Halbrand and the wreckage of his ship. Together the two avoided death inside a monstrous sea worm. Halbrand also saved Galadriel from drowning, and he defended her before the royal court of Númenor. But who is Halbrand on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and how did this mysterious man end up lost among the waves? What is Halbrand running from and why? As Halbrand said, “looks can be deceiving.” He might be a new ally with a troubled past looking for redemption. Or The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand might be the very evil Galadriel has sworn to destroy.

Whatever the answer, The Rings of Power certainly wants us to think Halbrand might really be The Lord of the Rings‘ Sauron. But is he? Let’s find out.

Jump to: Where Does Halbrand Came From? // What Is the Meaning of Halbrand’s Necklace? // Is Halbrand a Hero or Villain? // What Is Halbrand’s Identity on The Rings of Power? // Finale Verdict on Halbrand and Sauron
Charlie Vickers as Halbrand on The Lord of the Rings floating on his wreckage at sea
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Where Does The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand Come From?

Charlie Vickers’ Halbrand hasn’t exactly been hiding the fact he’s holding back important information about himself. That’s not how you maintain secrets. Especially not someone as smart and cunning as Halbrand. No, on The Rings of Power, Halbrand wants Galadriel to know he’s hiding something vital. And since everything he does and says seems to be intentional, everything we “know” about him might be a lie. But at minimum, even if he’s not being honest or only telling half-truths, that still reveals something about who he is.

Halbrand says his people have no king. They no longer even have a home in the Southlands where he comes from. Orcs drove them away and left his home in ashes. ( Orcs are doing just that all over the south.) That would explain why Halbrand knew something no elf, not even Galadriel, realized—the “enemy” is in the Southlands, too.

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Orcs are hard to find throughout Middle-earth at this point in the The Rings of Power‘s depiction of the Second Age. They’ve been hiding from the sunlight and their foes for hundreds of years and only recently started terrorizing the world again. The closer a man’s home is to the hidden sanctuary of evil, the more likely they are to encounter them. But that also means they’re more likely to have once fought alongside orcs.

Where in The Lord of the Rings‘ World Were Halbrand and His Ship Going?

Elves sail west to reach Valinor. The only Lord of the Rings location men sail towards in that direction is Númenor, where Elendil ended up taking Halbrand and Galadriel.

That’s the island the Valar created specifically for the men who helped defeat Morgoth the Dark Lord during the First Age. It’s the greatest kingdom of men during the Second Age when the show takes place.

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On The Rings of Power, Halbrand hasn’t confirmed he was sailing to Númenor. But it’s the most logical place for any men to run to after orcs destroyed their home. It’s also a place he’s in no rush to leave. As Halbrand said, the island is “a paradise rife with opportunities.” It also’s a safe haven, far from the homeland he swore never to return to. Not even a jail cell has diminished Halbrand’s resolve to stay. When he spoke with his new fellow prisoner Galadriel in episode four, he asked her to “cease trying to convince” him to leave the island.

Halbrand, despite everything, wanted to remain in The Lord of the Rings‘ city right up until the moment he finally relented and joined Galadriel and the Númenóreans on their journey back to Middle-earth.

What Is the Meaning of Halbrand’s Necklace?

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Halbrand’s necklace contains a pouch holding a vial likely full of liquid. In Middle-earth that unknown concoction could be a form of sustenance. (Elves, orcs, and ents alike have their own.) But while the pouch’s contents remain a mystery, The Rings of Power‘s third episode revealed what the necklace’s metal tag represents for Halbrand.

Galadriel found a drawing with the same symbol in the Hall of Law, which Númenor’s first king, Elros created. Elros also helped defeat Morgoth and his allies, which included some men.

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Galadriel believes the symbol on Halbrand’s necklace is that of the Southlands’ king, the person who united tribes of men during the First Age. Galadriel also said the symbol reveals why Halbrand has no king and what he is hiding. Halbrand is the Southlands’ lost king in The Rings of Power. (Same as Aragorn will one day be Gondor’s.) Halbrand hasn’t denied any of that, but he did say he took the necklace from a dead man.

He also said he’s “not the hero” Galadriel seeks because his ancestors “swore a blood oath” to Morgoth. “Lord” Halbrand also told her he’s done terrible things to make it thus far. In the meanwhile, Halbrand has decided to lean into the necklace and its meaning. When Bronwyn recognizes the symbol she acknowledges Halbrand as King of the Southlands, and he accepts. Of course, a wrench, or is that a planned move, is thrown into Halbrand’s plan, as the Southlands become Mount Doom.

Those are not the only signs he might not be a great hero, though.

Is Halbrand a Hero or a Villain in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power?

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Thus far, Halbrand has been presented as the Second Age’s version of a famous J.R.R. Tolkien character. The Lord of the Rings had its own dark-haired man who kept important secrets, Aragorn. And l ike Halbrand claims, Lord of the Rings‘ Aragorn was a man without a home who hated orcs and the forces of evil. But Aragorn, the lost king in hiding, was unquestionably a hero. He would never have done what Halbrand did to survive the seaworm. Halbrand abandoned “his companions to death” because he’s “the sort who knows how to survive.”

Halbrand’s also a thief and fearsome warrior not opposed to using violence. And he deceives not to hide his identity but for personal gain. He’s cunning and resourceful, capable of charming others to his will. The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand has a silver-tongue that he employs to manipulate others with lies and half-truths, just as Morgoth once did. And so far, he hasn’t used any of his skills for noble reasons. Yes, he agreed to fight with Galadriel, but since we know so little about him for sure, we can’t yet trust his reasons for departing Númenor or fighting for the Southlands are honest and good.

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But Halbrand not only allowed Galadriel to come aboard his wreckage, he dove into the sea to save her from drowning. He also spoke up on her behalf before the rulers of Númenór. He doesn’t want to leave, but joined the fight anyway. And even from a jail cell, he helped Galadriel realize the error of her ways in dealing with the Queen Regent. Galadriel has only convinced Númenor to go to Middle-earth with her because of Halbrand’s aide. If he were a villain, would he repeatedly rescue and help an elf who won’t stop prying into a past he’s hiding from? Would he help reunite elves and men?

He might if he’s the villain Galadriel is searching for on The Rings of Power—Sauron.

Is The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand Really Sauron in Disguise?

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The Lord of the RingsSauron is a shapeshifter who takes on other forms and identities so he can covertly spread evil throughout the world. He thrives by earning the trust of others with good counsel, that way, he can later plant malice in their minds. Sauron is dangerous because he slowly manipulates the will of others to his own goals, like Halbrand seemingly does. The Dark Lord can even control the deadliest creatures to do his bidding, creatures like a giant sea worm. If anyone could cause an attack at sea and also survive it, Sauron could. Just as no one else could smile before his enemies in Númenor without being discovered or stand beside Galadriel without her realizing who he really is.

Sauron also knows the power of Númenórian kingdom poses a major threat to his own dreams of ruling Middle-earth. And, like Halbrand, The Lord of the Rings’ Sauron knows the “enemy” resides in the Southlands because that’s where he’s building his tower in Mordor.

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Telling Lies By Telling the Truth: Sauron and Halbrand

If Halbrand is Sauron— whose own king (Morgoth) fell long ago, who is already building his own fortress near the fires of Mount Doom by this time, and who in The Silmarillion was briefly a prisoner of Númenór before becoming one of its most trusted councilors—in disguise, almost everything he has said carries a totally different meaning. It’s the kind of double-speak that would reveal why Sauron’s deceptions flourished—because he told the truth.

“The tides of fate are flowing. Yours might be heading in..or out.”
“Looks can be deceiving.”
“I suspect finding safety won’t be that easy. Especially not for you.”
“My people have no king.”
“I have been searching for my peace far longer than you know.”
“Be careful elf, the heir to this mark is heir to more than just nobility.”
“I am not the hero you seek.”

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Halbrand’s Deceptions on The Rings of Power

Even Halbrand saying he wanted to “set history aside” so as not to antagonize the Númenóreans takes on new meaning if he’s secretly Sauron. The Númenóreans helped defeat Morgoth and are the reason Sauron and his “people” have no king. But The Rings of Power‘s Halbrand would be kind to both them and Galadriel so he can build trust if he were Sauron. That lets him get close to his enemies so he can destroy them from within. And since everything Halbrand is saying would still be technically true if he’s actually The Lord of the Rings’ Sauron, his lies are harder to recognize. And that’s because they aren’t lies at all. They’re just hidden truths.

That includes even saying he’s sorry to Galadriel about her brother, whom Sauron killed.

Saving Galadriel
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That’s why Halbrand saving Sauron’s sworn enemy Galadriel makes sense if he’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Dark Lord. What better way to earn the trust of all elves than to rescue their most dedicated general? Rescuing Galadriel would blind even her to his real intentions. Which would make Galdriel’s comment to Halbrand—“Bind yourself to me.”—meaningful in a way she didn’t realize. They’re already bound in hatred, and their fates are intertwined. (All of which would explain why Sauron’s symbol flashed in Galadriel’s eyes when Halbrand mentioned orcs.)

Halbrand in Númenor
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Halbrand being Sauron would also make Galadriel’s comment that Halbrand is “more than [he] claim[s]” just as true in a different way. Just as it would make his advice to both her and Pharazôn much more sinister.

In The Rings of Power episode four, Halbrand told Galadriel to “identify what it is that your opponent most fears.” Not to exploit it, but as “a means of mastering it, so that you can master them.” That’s exactly what Sauron will do to Númenor, whose people have grown jealous of the eternal life the Valar grant to the elves.

And his advice Ar-Pharazôn to let Galadriel escape so she can speak to the old king might soon prove one Sauron’s master strokes. That council, given in bad faith for nefarious purposes, might be what divides the people of Númenor, many of whom remain skeptical of elves. All of this will lead to the “great wave” that is coming for the island, which Queen-Regent Míriel sees in her prophetic dreams and through Númenor’s palantír or Seeing Stone.

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Sauron and Halbrand Are Both Smiths in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

And as if all of that’s not enough, Halbrand is a great smith, just like Sauron. The Dark Lord, who will soon forge the rings of power, learned from the Valar’s greatest smith. And unlike all other smiths Galadriel has known, Halbrand can also handle a sword like a skilled warrior. Sauron is one of the few smiths who could also fight.

Halbrand and Adar

Halbrand almost kills the orc-father Adar on The Rings of Power. While he claims it’s because Adar and the orcs hurt him deeply, it could also be because he is Sauron, and Adar not only betrayed his commands but tried to kill him. Killing Adar would rid him of a possible foe and continue to convince Galadriel that he is on her side. However, perhaps keeping Adar alive, as he ultimately does, serves an even greater purpose on The Rings of Power, convincing Galadriel that Halbrand is worth of her sympathy, all while having someone to distract from his presence and actions. Interestingly, Adar’s actions on The Rings of Power inadvertently made Halbrand the king of Mordor, a.k.a. Sauron.

Final Verdict: Who Is Sauron on The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power?

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The Rings of Power scenes will play very differently on rewatch, because The Rings of Power‘s finale revealed to us that Halbrand is, indeed, Sauron. Everything we’ve detailed above is actually as we said. Sauron dealt in truths to manipulate and managed to get all the way into the elven city of Eregion, where he coyly drove Celebrimbor toward the forging of the Rings of Power. After being confronted by Galadriel about his true identity. Halbrand, who we know now is Sauron, flees. We last see Sauron heading to mount doom.

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But even if Halbrand was nothing more than a flawed man desperate to survive a world of growing evil and his family’s own heinous acts, the fact we questioned his real identity and motives for so long is what’s really important. As is the fact that the show itself is begging us to think Halbrand is Sauron.

The Coming of Sauron and Identifying Evil

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Halbrand’s real identity as Sauron in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power matters. But what matters, even more, is that Sauron’s presence looms over everything and everyone. As The Rings of Power concludes, it’s difficult not to remember Halbrand instead of Sauron. And this reminds us that evil can lurk anywhere. Charlie Vickers notes in an interview with Nerdist:

What’s so unique and amazing about him as a villain is that he has to gain trust and he has to manipulate his way through. It’s different to other villains that have this slightly unhinged quality, whereas maybe there’s elements of that in Sauron, occasionally. But for all we know, in his interactions with people and in gaining their trust, he’s a really nice, sweet, kind guy. And that’s terrifying if you have that and you have him being genuinely open and nice and caring.

It is terrifying. Because if anyone can be the Dark Lord—even an ally who saves you from death—merely identifying the forces of evil will continue to be a great battle on Middle-earth. We will have to wait and see what Halbrand’s Sauron brings us in season two of The Rings of Power.

Jump to: Where Does Halbrand Came From? // What Is the Meaning of Halbrand’s Necklace? // Is Halbrand a Hero or Villain? // What Is Halbrand’s Identity on The Rings of Power? // Finale Verdict on Halbrand and Sauron

Originally published on September 1, 2022.

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.