Count me among the Rings of Power fanboys. I think the series deserves the same consideration as the movies did, in terms of being free to depart from the text and embrace the medium. The only valid canonical complaint in my opinion would be a discrepancy between the show and the movies because I want them to be the same canon, which isn’t technically necessary. All of the characters are mythic in scope and the series could be considered to be a version of events as told.
As an aside, since this series is aired at the same time as that Other Show – I find Rings of Power thematically superior to House of the Dragon. One is a grand sweep of good vs evil and the other is a dirty crawl through the sewers of human nature. At this time in my life, I find that the former is what I need.
“Hope is never mere, Elrond … even when it is meager. When all other senses sleep, the eye of hope is first to awaken, last to shut.”Gil-Galad to Elrond, Rings of Power Episode 5
The compression of the timeline is a brilliant device in my opinion to bring the racial histories of the Second Age into alignment. This narrative decision also fuels the central question of who/where Sauron is, by raising the stakes for all the races of Middle Earth at once. Unlike the current speculation on The Stranger, Halbrand, Adar, or even Bronwen (lol), I think it is extremely unlikely we will see Sauron until after the resolution of the Mithril storyline and the completion of Celebrimbor’s forge. Understanding who Sauron is requires, I believe, a review of the textual timeline, whether or not the text is being strictly adhered to or not.
Here, in order, are the events in the text (and I am purposely omitting year) pertaining to Sauron’s whereabouts and actions. (source)
- Sauron arises in Middle Earth after Morgoth’s defeat
- Sauron deceives Celebrimbor into forging the rings of power, and secretly forges the One Ring to rule them all. At roughly the same time, Sauron finishes building his fortress of Barad Dur and establishes his domain in Mordor.
- War between the Elves and Sauron. This goes badly, with Rivendell besieged and Eregion destroyed. Until…
- The Numenorians arrive and save the day, destroying Sauron’s forces and causing him to flee to Barad Dur. Then they go back.
- Much later, the Numenoians return under Pharazon, defeating Sauron and taking him captive back across the sea.
- Sauron corrupts Numenor, leading to their downfall and destruction, and the breaking of the world.
- Elendil and his sons escape and found Gondor. More warm ending in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, Sauron’s defeat, and the One Ring being cut from Sauron’s hand. Thus ends the Second Age.
So, in a nutshell, Sauron first deceives the Elves to create the Rings of Power and the One Ring, and uses that power to establish his dominion. War begins, and the Numenorians help defeat him. Sauron goes as a prisoner to Numenor and then returns with Numenor destroyed. War continues, and the Elves and Men defeat him.
From the above, I think we see that Sauron’s appearance in the narrative doesn’t make a lot of sense until after Celebrimbor’s project is finished. I predict that there won’t even be any mystery around it. The series will probably introduce him openly as Annatar in Season 2. That’s my prediction, let’s see if I’m right a year from now 🙂