Main menu


Everyone loves the bad guy, but maybe we shouldn't in "Rings of Power"

featured image

Never trust anyone.

Prime Video’s new fantasy series “The Rings of Power” features clue after clue about the identity of Sauron, the familiar villain from JRR Tolkien’s popular novel “The Lord of the Rings,” for eight exciting—if sometimes overwritten—episodes. gave in and left. Viewers Guess Who? every week. After an early faking in the Season 1 finale “Alloyed,” we finally learned the truth: He was Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) all along.

Thoughtful and mysterious, massive and contradictory, it’s written in such a way that guaranteed audiences are instinctively drawn to it.

Halbrand, a mortal man whom Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) encountered while swimming on a piece of wreckage in the Sundering Seas, eventually – and quite reluctantly – left Númenor at Galadriel’s request to join him in his quest to find and stop him. It’s really funny when you think about it. But if we must hate Sauron – and whatever, I hate him because we already know how bad he is and the danger he poses to the inhabitants of Middle-earth – perhaps the show’s writers shouldn’t have tried so hard to endear Halbrand to us.

For most of the fantasy series’ opening season, the character played like the show’s version of Aragorn (memorably played by Viggo Mortensen in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy). Thoughtful and mysterious, massive and contradictory, it’s written in such a way that guaranteed audiences are instinctively drawn to it. While her perceived role as the show’s reluctant protagonist is naturally appealing, her apparent incomprehensibility aims to draw us in and make us want to know more about her.

So when Galadriel identified him as the heir to the Southern Lands—without a single piece of evidence beyond a piece of jewel Halbrand claimed to have taken from a dead man—part of us wanted to believe that he was the hero-king that was promised. But at the same time, another part of us had to wonder if he was just an illusion, perfectly designed to make us fall in love with him (casting a handsome guy to fool us is something Hollywood has to do) so that his true identity is and we are shocked and emotionally devastated when their nefarious motives are finally revealed (this is a fairly common metaphor).

Charlie Vickers as Halbrand in “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” (Main Video)It turned out to be the latter. Not only were all the fans shocked by the big reveal of the finale; There were hints throughout the first season that Halbrand was secretly Sauron, including the character’s interest in blacksmithing. Moreover, given the many years that TV has spent not only loving the honest villains, but obsessed with the morally gray antics of anti-heroes, most viewers were likely not emotionally devastated by this new information. If there’s one thing we do know, it’s evil chicks with questionable intentions (see also: Netflix’s “You”). However, it must be admitted that is is a bit unfortunate, that’s how things turned out.

Introducing the main antagonist of one of pop culture’s most popular and best-known fantasy epics as an attractive, contradictory man opened up the possibility that we would never quite see Sauron as the serious demonic threat we all know. In fact, it can make viewers sympathize with him. And while that’s true, this entry doesn’t deviate more largely from Tolkien’s work – Sauron appeared in the guise of the beautiful elf Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, to impress the Elves and make the Rings of Power – Halbrand was ready to stay in Númenor, so his deception in the show is more calculated and deliberate, only to cast Galadriel and Celebrimbor (Charles) Edwards), but also to fool the fans.

“If cheating is an important part of the journey, we wanted to preserve that experience for book readers as well,” co-creator Patrick McKay told Vulture after the Season 1 finale. “The idea that shadow can take many forms was part of what attracted us.”

It is also no longer possible to completely hate Sauron.

That’s all well and good, but there are aspects of this particular decision that the writers may not have. completely Like Vickers and Clark’s chemistry, it was conceived after Galadriel’s refusal to join Sauron when they decided on this plan of action, leading to an army of Galadriel/Halbrand transporters whose purpose was to live the rest of their lives drowning in fanfic. Rule Middle-earth. Of course, theirs wouldn’t be the first pairing to follow this path – pop culture is seemingly built on the backs of complex ships (see: Hermione/Draco, Caroline/Klaus).

And that’s part of the problem, because canonical or not, these pairings can challenge the idea that people who do bad things can eventually get away with it if we try hard enough, whether they want to or not. Draco was a product of his upbringing. So was Klaus. Both survived. But Sauron cannot be saved. There is no salvation anymore as Galadriel unwittingly drags him into Middle-earth and opens the way to power.

Shadow and BoneBen Barnes as The Darkling/General Kirigan in “Shadow and Bone” (David Appleby/Netflix)Yet it is no longer possible to completely hate Sauron. His time as Halbrand, which has been described as the “regret phase”, has made him a troublesome favorite, as have The Darkling of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels adapted into Netflix’s fantasy series “Shadow and Bone.” In the popular book series, as in the series, the character is introduced as a powerful Grisha with the ability to manipulate matter in its elemental form. She briefly fills the role of potential love interest for Alina Starkov, the series’ protagonist who, in addition to being the leader of the Second Army and the second-in-command of the Ravka country, has the ability to summon and control light. It is the clear yin of the Dark King’s yang, as he has the equally rare ability to control shadow and darkness.

Bardugo’s novel follows familiar tropes while making the deep cut of The Darkling’s ultimate betrayal by introducing the main antagonist as a friend (or lover) rather than an obvious foe. But it also lets doubt slowly creep in – maybe not beyond salvation, maybe still salvageable. Darkling is an extremely controversial and tragic character, and it’s all by design. He is the product of a world where Grisha is threatened by persecution, his relationship and connection with Alina reveals a deep loneliness and a desperate longing for someone to see and understand him. But he is also a wannabe tyrant, corrupted to the point of no return by power.

There are shadows of this in the uncreated Halbrand, and the similarities between The Darkling’s desire to rule to save Ravka and Sauron’s desire to rule Middle-earth supposedly to do the same are impossible to miss. But the difference between “Shadow and Bone” and “Rings of Power” is that we’ve known for nearly 70 years how this epic ended. And on the heels of audiences thirsting for Evan Peters’ notable serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in Ryan Murphy’s misguided “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” (the nearly 4,000th show about serial killers), we’re sure we need another I am not. a means of discovering how or why a person (or someone perceived as male) has become completely evil.

Want a daily summary of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Yes, “Rings of Power” is clearly fiction. Yes, it’s more interesting with a complex, nuanced villain. And yes, Sauron’s relationship with Galadriel strengthens both the characters and the overall narrative. However, given that we are already intimately familiar with Sauron as the primary enemy, I’m not sure the right course of action is to give us an origin story and make us love him as the sympathetic Halbrand. Sometimes it’s okay to let cruel villains become cruel villains. There’s still a lot of fun in this.

Read more

About this topic