One of the hardest things for any story, including Rings of Power, is creating a convincing villain. The main antagonist of any story needs to be sinister, cunning, and above all else, evil to the point where the audience can thoroughly dislike them. There are so many challenges when creating a character like Tolkien’s Sauron, who is cruel and malicious to the core, and represents all the darkness and the fear that exists within Middle Earth.


Even more challenges present themselves when it comes to showing him in physical form. The directors and creators of the show take Sauron out of the other-worldly, abstract form in which the audience’s own worst thoughts and fears can conjure up terrors in the mind, and put him into a concrete, real-world body. In doing so, he begins to lose some of his malevolence.

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This is a challenge that Peter Jackson faced in the scene in the Lord of the Rings where Aragorn battled Sauron at the black gates. This scene was subsequently removed from the film because the director felt it diminished Sauron’s power and might, rather than enhancing it. However, this is actually a real strength of the Rings of Power series, because it manages to depict the physical form of Sauron in surprisingly successful and effective ways.

By focusing on the psychological aspects of Sauron’s character, and enhancing all the ways he is able to manipulate and deceive those around him, the series created a powerful version of this well-known character. This version is both a representation of all the worst traits of humanity in his physical form of Halbrand. Yet, he still shows unbelievable strength that helps the audience to see how he will later become the omnipotent eye of Mordor in Middle Earth that infects the whole world with his war and greed.

Sometimes, a villain can blend in, and actually appear as a compassionate, brave, loyal, and loving human being. This is what makes them all the more threatening in the long run, because it insinuates that evil exists within anyone and everyone. Before the audience discovers that Halbrand is Sauron, Halbrand has shown all the traits it takes to make a Tolkien hero. What’s more, Galadriel has already spent the entire series believing that Halbrand is a trusted friend. He has fought alongside her, supported her in the face of adversity, and helped her achieve all of her ambitions, just as a genuine ally would. At one point, it even looks as though the two might have found love in different circumstances. Halbrand has managed to ingratiate himself so far into her life, to the point where his influence is becoming toxic and harmful. This is why, when he traps her inside her memories and tries to convince her that he actually wants to heal the world, she almost wants to believe him. He is the ultimate villain at this point. The audience has actually grown to admire and trust him alongside Galadriel, until he swept the rug from under her.

In combination with this very earthly toxicity and manipulation that earned him the name ‘deceiver’ in the first place, he also demonstrates the god-like wrath that he later becomes known for in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. When he and Galadriel fight during her memory of the Sundering Sea, his pupils dilate to a snake-like sliver. The water becomes tempestuous, and the sky above them darkens to a charcoal storm color. The scene serves as a chilling reminder to the audience that Halbrand/Sauron is more than the human form in which he chooses to appear. His power is actually capable of changing the fate of Middle Earth and of destroying worlds, which he very nearly does a thousand years later.

This lethal combination of allure, wit, and trustworthiness, paired with his true intentions of total domination, is what makes him genuinely scary. He has already shown that he has the ability to corrupt and influence even the most morally righteous of elves, like Galadriel.

In fact, many real-world criminals, like serial killers, are described as charming and friendly before they commit their crimes. After all, this is how they draw their victims in. This is also the same tactic that the One Ring uses later. It assumes a sort of charm in order to lure people into its snare, and tempt its wearer towards committing evil atrocities. By showing Halbrand in this mundane vessel, but hinting at the deadly and overwhelming evil that is barely contained within, the Rings of Power presents Halbrand as the very tip of Sauron’s iceberg. It allows for amazing character development from the growing villain at the start of his journey, to the immeasurable and indescribable overlord that he will become.

MORE: Rings of Power: What Awaits The Heroes In Rhun?

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