The Latest Rings Of Power Episode Gave A Nod To All Those Sauron Fan Theories

Spoilers follow for the fifth episode of "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power."

When it comes to the villain behind the overarching narrative, "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" is slowly cultivating a mystery to rule them all. Despite his presence lurking beneath the surface, the Dark Lord Sauron has yet to make his return to Middle-earth on the streaming series — well, maybe he has. Theories have been flung out relentlessly since the premiere episode on who could be portraying the pinnacle antagonist, ranging from the Stranger (we think he's someone else) to the rightful heir of the Southlands, Halbrand. But one name remained the popular choice: Adar, the corrupted elven leader of the orcs. At least until the latest episode, that is.

Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) makes another appearance in the latest episode, this time learning just how wrong he was about Sauron's impending return. When he convinces the people of his town to bow down to the evil forces that threaten their survival, Waldreg confronts the very person in charge of them. Assuming Adar to be Sauron, the barkeeper gets some karma for spreading false information. We called this a while back, FYI.

A fan theory gets slammed, literally

Like many fans watching the show, Waldreg was convinced that the person in charge of the orcs was Sauron himself. Of course, "The Rings of Power" does not make the mystery that easy. Upon reacting to Waldreg's assumption, Adar (Joseph Mawle) picks him up and slams the lowly barkeeper to the ground. Without saying a word, Adar makes it clear that he is offended by the notion that he could be the Dark Lord Sauron. Moreover, Adar seems repulsed by the fact Waldreg is so wishy-washy with his loyalty.

In order to swear his fealty to Adar, Waldreg is tasked with murdering a fellow human and Southlands native. Although "The Rings of Power" does not elect to show it happen, we can pretty much assume the barkeeper is desperate enough to do so.

This sequence not only tells of Adar's character, but also overtly ridicules the (logical) notion that he could be the insidious villain foreshadowed since the first episode. In a meta moment, the show recognizes how it was misleading the audience with its corrupted elf.

Another kind of enemy

While we know the Dark Lord is indeed set to return to Middle-earth at some point during "The Rings of Power," the first season seems to be concerning itself with an individual that is actually not as evil as we might think he is. Well, Adar did enslave a bunch of elves in the first few episodes, and then forced a human to kill to prove his loyalty. But that's beside the point — if we can get past it for a moment, we might see someone deeply motivated by ambition and personal strife. The leader of the orc army could very well be Sauron, but the signs point to other possible answers.

In the fourth episode, we saw Adar mourn the loss of an orc in a shockingly deep manner. The army he commands refers to Adar as "father" for a reason, it seems. Though Adar possesses lofty ambitions to become a god-like power ruling over Middle-earth, there seems to be nuance beyond the hefty scars and grim attitude. I'd gander that Adar formed part of the first experiments in the creation of the orcs, which originated from the elf race before being transformed by the darkness that powered Morgoth and his successor. He is clearly not an orc himself, but his motivations seem rooted in his personal journey and not the actions of someone following a greater power in Sauron.

No matter the case, I expect the actions of Adar and his army to inadvertently bring about the creation of Mordor and all the nastiness that comes with it. The inevitability of Sauron only makes for more rapid speculation every week, but I think the door can be closed on Adar, for now. Waldreg learned that hard way — let's be wiser than him.