The third episode of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power introduces what might be this season’s Big Bad: a menacing figure named Adar.
If you’re a massive Middle-earth aficionado but find yourself flummoxed at this most recent development, don’t fret. Adar is not a character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s works — he’s an entirely new creation for the show. He appears in one of The Rings of Power‘s wholly original plot lines, which follows the Silvan elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) as he investigates an evil growing in the Southlands of Middle-earth.
As Arondir discovers, orcs have been building tunnels through the Southlands in order to escape detection by humans and avoid sunlight. His companions think they might be searching for something — a weapon, perhaps. Could they possibly be looking for the blade that Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) stumbled upon?
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On top of potentially searching for a weapon, the orcs’ tunneling appears to be part of some larger plan that Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) learns of in the Númenórean Hall of Law. Turns out Sauron’s sigil is no ordinary symbol at all, but instead it’s a map of the Southlands. There, the orcs will make a realm for themselves “where evil would not only endure but thrive.”
Based on the distinctive mountain ranges surrounding the Southlands, their location in the southeast of Middle-earth, and the orcs’ devastation of the landscape, it looks like we’re witnessing the birth of Mordor. And who is supervising the Mordor-ification of the Southlands? None other than the orcs’ new leader, Adar.
What do we know about Adar?
The orcs love him.
Credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video
Even though Adar is a new character and we only get a blurry glimpse of him at the end of the show’s third episode, we still know a little bit about him. First things first: He’s played by actor Joseph Mawle, who you may know as Benjen Stark from Game of Thrones.
In the casting call for The Rings of Power, the character of Adar (then going under the pseudonym Oren) was described as:
A villain who can also evoke a deep sense of pathos and wounded / fallen nobility. Must possess a certain degree of physicality. Should seem middle-aged, though must also project a sense of timelessness.
Based on the descriptions of timelessness and nobility, it sounds like Adar is an elf. His elvish nature is seemingly confirmed in episode 3, when Arondir wonders why the orcs refer to their leader by an Elvish word. According to Parf Edhellen, an online dictionary for Tolkien’s languages, “Adar” is Sindarin for “father.” Perhaps the orcs have come to revere Adar not just as a commander but as a father figure too. This is particularly interesting given that in The Silmarillion, Morgoth (then known as Melkor) creates orcs by corrupting enslaved elves. Some of Tolkien’s other writings explore a different, non-elvish origin story for the orcs, but for the show’s purposes, Adar might be one of the first elvish orcs — their father, if you will.
Now let’s dive into the “fallen” aspect of Adar. An evil elf in league with the forces of darkness would be new territory for a Tolkien adaptation. In The Silmarillion, you can read about some of the elves’ more dastardly deeds, such as Fëanor’s kinslaying and Maeglin’s betrayal of Gondolin to Morgoth. However, those particular wrongdoings were awful means to justify selfish ends, not acts of fealty to Morgoth. If Adar is a fully turned elf, this would be yet another instance of The Rings of Power forging its own path — although it could very well be drawing inspiration from the formerly mentioned acts.
So, is Adar Sauron?
An orc on the way to serve Adar… who may or may not be Sauron.
Credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video
We’ll most definitely see Sauron’s return in The Rings of Power; after all, he’s the entire reason the rings exist! However, we don’t know how he’ll appear. Sauron is a shapeshifter, and as one of Arondir’s elven companions notes in this episode, he used to go by many names. Could Adar be a new alias?
Adar could be Sauron, but he likely isn’t. For one thing, we’re only three episodes in to a show that might as well be subtitled “Spot the Sauron.” I doubt The Rings of Power would reveal its biggest bad so soon. For another, a huge part of Sauron’s evil is his trickery and deception. In the Second Age of Middle-earth, he resurfaces as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, and gains the trust of the elves. He does this not with an army of orcs, but with a fair appearance and offers of aid. Adar, with his spiky armor and conspicuously evil vibes, is the total opposite of that.
So who else could Sauron be? Before the show’s release, fans speculated that shipwreck survivor Halbrand (Charlie Vickers) could be the Dark Lord in disguise. However, after episode 3’s reveal that Halbrand is a lost king of the Southlands, that theory seems much more unlikely. It does open a new door, though: If Halbrand reclaims his title, he would be a King of Men. And you know what nine Kings of Men get later in the Second Age? Some very powerful rings, with very intense consequences…like becoming a Nazgûl.
While Halbrand and Adar are likely out of the running to becoming Middle-earth’s next top Dark Lord, there’s still an entire world full of options. As we do our best to spot the evil before it’s too late, it might be useful to bear in mind some wisdom from The Fellowship of the Ring: A servant of evil — or perhaps even the evil itself — will likely look fair but feel foul.