Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Trailer Breakdown: Sauron, Balrog, and Palantir

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The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is set to be one of the biggest TV spectacles ever. Prime Video is sparing no expense in bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision of Middle-earth’s Second Age to its stream, with the first season’s budget already clocking in at nearly half a billion dollars. Surely, such an ambitious undertaking warrants an equally ambitious presence at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con? It would seem that Prime Video agrees.

Today in Hall H, roughly 6,500 fans were treated to 90 revealing minutes of The Rings of Power‘s massive SDCC panel. Late Show host and Tolkien super fan Stephen Colbert served as master of ceremonies as showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay and 21 members of the show’s ensemble cast discussed the new series, set to premiere on Sept. 2, 2022. There were plenty of tidbits dropped, sneak peeks revealed, and even the presence of the show’s composer Bear McCreary, who provided the audience with an orchestral performance of the show’s score.

More importantly than all that, however, there was also a new trailer. And it was a big one. Take a look below to check out the fullest look offered yet at The Lord of The Rings: The Rings of Power.

In addition to being an epic three-minute clip befitting the return of an in-person SDCC event, the trailer is surprisingly not stingy with revealing references and callbacks to the classic Lord of the Rings saga. Though The Rings of Power is an original concept, based on Tolkien’s Middle-earth history outlined in The Simarillion and other texts, the writers behind the show have clearly made it a priority to highlight recognizable LOTR faces and artifacts.

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Here are a few of the biggest Lord of the Rings callbacks and why they’ll matter for The Rings of Power.

Galadriel and The Palantír

The Lady of the woods of Lothlórien, Galadriel, features prominently here. That makes plenty of sense as the current elvish warrior and future elvish queen is one of only a handful of characters in The Rings of Power who is also known to casual viewers of The Lords of the Rings films (in which she was portrayed by Cate Blanchett). In this trailer we see the younger Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) as she places the last empty elvish helmet into a massive pile of them signifying the ugliness of war.

“We thought the war, at last, was ended. We thought our joys would be never-ending. We though our light would never dim,” Galadriel narrates as we see imagery of an uneasy, yet unmistakable piece. Flowers bloom, rivers babble, and Galadriel herself receives a royal honor from Elrond’s (Robert Aramayo) predecessor in Rivendell. Of course, as another literary classic once intoned: nothing gold can stay.

In a wide, ominous shot, Galadriel approaches a sphere known as a palantír. A palantír is one of Seven Seeing-stones (though there were eight of them) known as the palantíri created by ancient elves known as the Ñoldor. In the time of the Second Age that The Rings of Power is covering, the elves of Middle-earth gifted these black, perfectly smooth spheres to the faithful men of Númenor. Later on in The Third Age that we see in Lord of the Rings, the stones are placed by societies of men across large distances to communicate with one another.

The reason why the presence of a palantír is a little disconcerting here is that it is an immensely powerful magical object and can be used for nefarious means by a properly powerful magic-user. In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron was able to corrupt and/or manipulate Saruman, Denethor II, and almost Pippin via the palantiri.

But there’s no reason to worry, right? Galadriel is a strong lady elf and Sauron was the Third Age’s problem, right? Well about that…

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The Many Faces of Sauron

Galadriel isn’t the only familiar name to pop up in this new trailer. Fittingly, the introduction of that “other guy” is teased by Galadriel herself when she says “Evil does not sleep. It waits.” This mirrors a similar line in The Fellowship of The Ring when Boromir (Sean Bean) says “There is evil there that does not sleep.” Boromir is primarily referring to the evil that resides in the center of Mount Doom in Mordor. As fate would have it, Galadriel is likely referring to the same entity: Sauron.

The Dark Lord appears in the flesh in The Rings of Power trailer. This marks the first time viewers have gotten to see a humanoid Sauron and not merely a figured cloaked in black armor or an imposing eye lingering over Mount Doom. Think you missed him? You probably didn’t because it’s this dude:

That’s right: your mans is blonde. Like many other “creatures” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s canon, Sauron’s appearance can be quite fungible. Similar to beings like Gandalf and Saruman, Sauron is a celestial spirit called a Maia (the singular of Maiar) that helped the Valar create the world. Sauron in particular was a pupil of the Vala Aulë. In true Luciferian fashion, he became a lieutenant of the Dark Lord Morgoth and then ascended to the title of Dark Lord himself during the Second and Third Ages.

In The Rings of Power, Sauron will have only just begun to amass his true power and begin his demonic plan of binding the Rings of Power to the One Ring. To that end, he will adopt the guise of the elf Annatar a.k.a. The Lord of Gifts (the blond fellow you see above played by actor Anson Boon). The appearance of Sauron as Annatar is not only canonical to Tolkien’s writings but it allows The Rings of Power to have its big bad emote with more than just one big eye.

The Balrog

Speaking of evil creatures…hope you stayed through to the very end of the trailer! After The Rings of Power title card and release date, Prime Video provides one more look at an old friend. It’s a Balrog! Or perhaps even THE Balrog as pop culture has come to know him.

Balrogs, also known as the Valaraukar, are Maiar who were seduced and corrupted by the first Dark Lord. The Balrog that many Lord of the Rings viewers are familiar with is the one in the Mines of Moria that the Dwarves accidentally awoke deep beneath the kingdom of Khazad-dûm. This particular balrog, known as Durin’s Bane, scrapped with Gandalf before it was finally slain.

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What’s interesting about the balrog’s presence in this trailer, is that no particular balrogs are mentioned as being active during the Second Age in Tolkien’s many appendices. Given that the balrog has become such an iconic movie monster, it’s understandable as to why The Rings of Power would want to bring one back though. Whether this guy is Durin’s Bane or another cranky demon just trying to nap the centuries away remains to be seen.

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