It has to be said that The Rings of Power offered many twists, turns, and reveals in the finale of the LotR prequel series' first season.
As well as establishing many new characters and settings, the show introduced several mysteries concerning some of the plot and characters throughout the series. Including the identity of The Stranger, the existence of the Balrog beneath Khazad-dûm, and the most prominent of all, Halbrand's reveal as the dark lord Sauron.
Although the Sauron twist still came as a surprise to some viewers, many fans feel that maybe his reveal was delivered a little too early.
Some may be surprised to learn that Galadriel's big moment in the last episode when she finally uncovered Halbrand's secret, was not the first indication of Halbrand's true persona.
Producers and writers for the show, J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay, recently admitted in an interview they had purposefully included several teases to his identity as soon as his character was introduced. Payne and Mckay even stated they thought the hints were so obvious they didn't think it would have been a big shock for the audience.
Reviewing some of the now-disclosed teases throughout the season, there were clearly many more than most fans likely picked up on. For one, there were a few hints during Halbrand's entrance in episode two, when Galadriel is rescued by a group of shipwreck survivors with the disguised dark lord lurking among them.
Even the very first shot of the character sees Halbrand peek over his shoulder upon Galadriel's arrival, focussing on his singular eye as a reference to his identity. The clues only continue from there, as the first sentence he utters is close to a direct copy of what Galadriel says to Frodo after she refuses the One Ring offered to her. "The tides of fate are flowing".
A handful of less direct teasers were also scattered throughout the character's appearances. His sudden violent nature exposed in Númenor, his obsession with forging, the mention of his sworded past, and even his fairly obvious confession of "looks can be deceiving".
Listing all of these subtle references demonstrates how obvious Payne and McKay intended to make Sauron's reveal on the show. However, some of the RoP fans on Reddit feel it was a mistake to allude to Halbrand's identity so early into the series.
One thread in the r/LOTR_on_Prime community discusses how although the reveal was presented very well, the lack of surprise made it seem ultimately pointless. Redditors among the thread even suggest alternative approaches to Halbrand and Galdriels' connection the show could have continued to include had the reveal not happened so prematurely.
One fan points out that Sauron's corruption of the elves was far too short to how they ever imagined it in the lore. Something they felt only lasted twenty minutes in the show but should have been a lot longer overall. Others feel that the reveal as a whole was rushed altogether. Being packed into the last episode of the season. Whereas the story between Halbrand and Galadriel could have been played out more in-depth before the truth was realised.
If more time had been spent building the friendship between the two in the second season, divulging his identity later on could have made for an even bigger moment.
Overall, Sauron's ongoing story and his connection with Galadriel is sure to continue to be a big part of the second season's plot. Whether fans were either surprised by Halbrand's unveiling or they saw it coming all along, arguably it may have been part of the story that was best left for later in the series.
Although there are some secrets still to be brought to light within the show, it will be hard for Payne and McKay to keep any further hidden truths from their audience. Especially now that viewers are aware of all of their hints and tricks. Considering season one made its character's misdirection a big draw for audiences, it's hard to know what its second season will focus on with little left to expose. Hopefully, the RoP's showrunners still have a few big reveals planned for the show's future.