Is Halbrand Sauron? ‘The Rings of Power’ Cast Reacts to Fan Polls

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Fantasy
TV Fantasy

If there’s one thing you can count on fans to do, it’s discuss favourites and theories. A glance at Fandom’s The Lord of the Rings community discussion boards reveals a number of polls and posts inviting fans to share their thoughts on Prime Video’s new LOTR prequel series, The Rings of Power. We took the results of some of these polls — which canvassed users on favourite characters and locations as well as opinions on the true identities of the show’s more mysterious names — to the The Rings of Power cast members Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Benjamin Walker (King Gil-galad ), and Megan Richards (Poppy Proudfellow), to discuss the fan reaction.

Favourite Character

First up, a wiki poll asked who the favourite character is, so far into the series. The options were Galadriel, Elrond, Durin, Elendil, or Other. Who does the cast think Fandom users picked?

“I mean, Galadriel is an apparent choice,” says King Gil-galad himself, Benjamin Walker. “But [I’m going to go with] ‘Other’ because I think individuals love Disa. [And] come on, Halbrand. You’ve seen him when he puts his hair back and he’s all wet. What’s not to like about him?”

Megan Richards, who plays Harfoot Poppy Proudfellow, guesses Durin, with 60% of the vote: “I love the character of Durin, I just think he’s great.” Baldry also guesses Durin.

The answer is (drum roll) Durin — with a 25% share of the vote at the time of the interview. The voting was split relatively evenly across all choices.

“I love that,” says Baldry. “I love the Dwarves. There’s something so heartwarming about their world and I think if I could be another character in the show, I’d love to be a Dwarf. I’d love to sit down and have dinner with Durin; really open up, have a heart-to-heart. I feel like he’s the type of guy to do that.”

Walker guesses 90% voted for Durin but is happy to learn that the spread is even.

“That’s very reassuring, actually,” he says. “Because the goal was for it to be an ensemble world and that seems to be translating. That’s a good statistic.”

Dinner With Durin

Dwarf prince, Durin, dines with elves including Elrond, Celebrimbor, and Gil-galad in a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Dwarf prince, Durin, dines with elves including Elrond, Celebrimbor, and Gil-galad in a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

So why does Walker think Durin is edging it?

“Because he is really funny. And he also brings, ironically, a humanity to Durin. The fact that he is this powerful prince, but he’s sowever got daddy issues; and he also has this responsibility, but has this beautiful marriage. He’s such a well-rounded character in terms of his storyline, but also in terms of his humanity and Owain [Arthur who plays him] does that beautifully. He’s very funny and then a second later you’re getting weepy because he’s laying into Elrond for missing his wedding. It’s charming and moving at the same time.”

In Episode 5, Gil-galad hosts a dinner for Durin in Lindon also attended by Elrond and Celebrimbor, and there’s a lot going on that’s unsaid. We know as the audience what’s going on story-wise but what’s underneath their interactions in this scene?

“Well, Gil-galad is always playing the long game of the preservation of Middle-earth,” says Walker. “That scene is really kind of a fantastical poker game, where they’re all sitting around the table, and no one’s saying what’s actually happening. But we’re all trying to figure out what cards the other individuals are holding. There is an underlying tension. I mean, not only between the races, but also they both have an big secret that they’re trying to tease out of the other. That’s dramatic storytelling at its best. What they don’t say, is just as interesting as what they do say, I think.”

And what about that table? It transpires in the episode that Durin is spinning Gil-galad a tall tale about the preciousness of the stone from which the table is made. His yarn leads Gil-galad to create a gift of it to Durin. But did Gil-galad actually believe Durin’s story?

“No! But he’s impressed by it,” says Walker. “I mean, he’s been in politics for thousands of years. He’s seen this trick before, but never with such grace. They both have to save face at the same time. And it’s an interesting pivot, because they both pivot to ‘We’re going to do the right thing, and we see the honour in each other’. They’re both grinding… their nails are sticking into their thighs under the table but above the table, they’re raising a glass to one another. And that’s one of the matters Owain does very well.”

Duck acting, as Walker calls it: “Above the water he is really funny and smooth. But under it, a lot is going on.”

Favourite Location

Númenor brings everything to the table.

The next poll we asked the cast about was on the favourite location so far seen on screen. The options were: Númenor, Tirion, Khazad-dûm, The Southlands, Eregion, and Lindon.

“Númenor,” says Baldry, without hesitation. “I’d say it’s an overwhelming percentage I’m talking in the 60s – 60 per cent.”

He adds, “Númenor is at the peak of its civilization. You’re seeing sets, you’re seeing harbour, you’re seeing coastline — you obtain everything you perhaps want in one location, and you know what? You’re seeing superhumans. And you obtain to see Isildur in that.”

According to Tolkien lore, Númenoreans were gifted their island kingdom by the Valar as a reward for fighting alongside the Elves during the War of Wrath when Morgoth was vanquished at the end of the First Age. They were also given long life, greater height, and greater wisdom.

Benjamin Walker guesses a different selection over Númenor as the fan-favourite location.

“I would hope it’s Khazad-dûm,” he says. “And the reason I like it the most is because we’ve seen it in its downfall. And now we’re getting to see it in its prime. That’s one of my favourite matters about the show, we obtain to see the coming of age in Middle-earth.”

Richards, meanwhile, isn’t so sure. “I think it’s also going to be another close one. I love Khazad-dûm. And I love Númenor. But then I also love Lindon and Eregion. You see, this is difficult. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you!”

The result was Númenor, with 36% — 10% more than its closest competitor, Khazad-dûm on 26%. That’s a significant number.

“Okay, wow,” says Richards. “Númenor is beautiful. I remember walking into the city of Númenor, because it had been physically built, and that was such an amazing experience and so I’m not surprised.”

“Cool,” says Walker. “Because they’ve never seen it before. Númenor is pretty cool. We got to see the first three episodes a couple of months ago, and we saw it on a big screen — in the screening room where they take your phones away and, you know, put a bag on your head and throw you in a van so you don’t know where you are.

“But seeing that big, wide shot of Númenor, that was the one where afterwards I thought,‘I gotta obtain a bigger television, or I’m not going to be able to appreciate the scope of the show’. It’s gorgeous. I mean, down to… there’s a shot of Halbrand eating a mussel, and the size of it! Even the food they’re eating is indicative of the world they live in. And every detail is illustrated and celebrated, if it’s the kind of transition from Elvish architecture to the architecture of man [or something else], it’s all in there. I obtain it. I also went to that set. They built a harbour in a parking lot. It’s unreal.”

Is Adar Annatar?

We can’t quiz the cast on polls and not include some fan theorizing. There are some mysterious characters in the show who have either been created for the series or whose identities continue mysterious and this has fans guessing about these characters’ real identities. First of all, the enigmatic Adar who leads the company of Orcs we’ve met. Some individuals think he could be Sauron in disguise.

In the books, Tolkien writes that before adopting the fiery form we know him as in the Third Age, as depicted in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sauron had the ability to shapeshift. In the era that the story of The Rings of Power is charting, Sauron took the form of Annatar, a handsome and charismatic manipulator who wins over the Elves to craft his magic Rings. In Episode 5, one of the Southlanders, Waldreg, certainly thought Adar was Sauron, though Adar seemed to obtain a bit angry at this, leading the man to declare he’d follow him anyway whoever he is. But what the wiki fan poll asks is: Is Adar Annatar?

“Thinking Adar is Annatar… I think probably around 25%,” guesses Baldry.

“I would say a very low percentage,” says Walker who does not think Adar quite hits the heights on the attractiveness charts that Annatar scales in the books. “I mean, if you think Adar is the beautiful bearer of gifts, Annatar, you’re wrong. Maybe 10 or 11% of the fans would think that. Am I wrong?”

Richards, meanwhile, says, “I’m trying to think would it have been really close or not close at all? I’m going to say that individuals have said yes.”

The result, in fact, was a 50/50 split.

Is Halbrand Sauron or the Witch-king?

Charlie Vickers as Halbrand.
Charlie Vickers as Halbrand.

Onto Halbrand, a new character written for the series portrayed by Charlie Vickers. A character that the actor based partly on Boromir, partly on Aragorn, and partly on other Men from Tolkien lore, and the Man that Galadriel believes to be the rightful king of the Southlands. But fans aren’t so sure about his true identity, with numerous speculating he could be someone else entirely. One wiki poll gives fans another polarizing selection and asks if they think he’s Sauron or the Witch-king of Angmar, aka the Lord of the Nazgûl and Sauron’s second-in-command.

“I’m going to guess another 50/50 split,” says Richards.

“30% [think he’s Sauron],” says Baldry.

The answer is 31% so he’s pretty much spot-on.

“Good on Halbrand,” he laughs. “Okay, so they all think he’s the Witch-king. Interesting.”

“You asked me a 50/50 question,” says Walker in response. “And, you know, there are a lot of other options.”

Is The Stranger Gandalf?

Daniel Weyman as The Stranger in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Daniel Weyman as The Stranger in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

The idea that there are a lot of options is also true of our last poll, which asks for a yes or no response to if fans think The Stranger is Gandalf.

“I’m going to say another 50/50,” says Richards. “I think because if I was watching it I wouldn’t know. I would have absolutely no idea.”

“I think quite a lot of individuals said yes,” says Baldry, meanwhile. “We’re talking 60%.”

The result was actually 41% in favour of The Stranger being Gandalf. Which means that 59% think he’s someone else. Whether or not they are separating the earlier form of Gandalf – Olórin — from the one we know from the Third Age isn’t clear, though there’s some suggestion that this might be affecting the poll. But also, there’s plenty of hypothesis that The Stranger could be someone else – Sauron, for example, or a Balrog, or another of the Maiar. Or perhaps he’s just an entirely new character.

“There are a lot of options,” repeats Walker. “’Other’ [was] in the initial poll at the same sum so the flaw is in the poll.”

So there you go. That’s what Fandom users think, and that’s what the cast thinks of what Fandom users think! If you can extract any clues from anything they said, you’re a better Man/Elf/Orc/Dwarf than us!

For more exclusive interview content from the cast of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, check out the article and video below.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.