The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power showrunner Patrick McKay confirms that the events of episode 6 are a new twist on the origins of a key Middle-earth location. Amazon’s prequel series to The Lord of the Rings explores the events of Middle-earth leading up to the creation of the One Ring. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power began airing weekly on Prime Video on September 2, debuting to high US viewership figures.
In episode 6 of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, « Udûn », audiences were treated to the Battle of the Southlands, which saw Galadriel (Morfydd Clark) and the armies of Númenor stand with the people of the Southlands against Adar (Joseph Mawle) and his legion of orcs. Despite holding back the onslaught of orcs, the Númenor/Southland alliance fails in preventing the lands from being claimed by darkness, as Waldreg (Geoff Morrell) betrays his fellow villagers, casting Sauron’s broken blade into the lake and causing Mount Doom to erupt, warping the Southlands forever. Following episode 6’s premiere, one of the series’ showrunners has confirmed that the episode’s devastating scene puts a new twist on the origin of a key Middle-earth location.
In an interview with THR, McKay confirmed that the eruption and subsequent devastation did in fact show the origins of Mount Doom and the land of Mordor. Wanting to convey J.R.R Tolkien’s themes of environmentalism versus industrialization as a core theme of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the showrunner explained that they wanted to show Mordor before it came under Sauron’s influence through the series’ early episodes before introducing it as the wasteland viewers are familiar with. Tying into both the series’ themes and the wider lore of Middle-Earth, McKay hoped to take audiences by surprise with the reveal.
“A huge theme in Tolkien is the environmentalism and the way machines and industrializations destroys the land. We wanted that to be central and core all the time. It’s a thing that comes up again and again throughout the show. So in the writers room, we asked: What if Mordor was beautiful? All bucolic like Switzerland. And then what could happen that could transform it? We talked about the poisoning of the land — which starts in the first episode with the cow. Then you find out about the tunnels being dug and sulfur is going up into the air. It all builds toward this geologically realistic way of igniting the mountain, which now blacks out the sky for a very practical reason — Adar, our villain, sees the Orcs as his people and they deserve a home where the sun doesn’t torment them. We’re hoping it will take people by surprise.”
Sauron’s presence has been teased throughout The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, through Galadriel’s mission to fulfill her brother’s quest, the rise of Adar’s orc forces, as well as the three mysterious white-robed figures in search of the Stranger (Daniel Weyman) who fell from the sky. Alongside teases of Sauron, the series has also introduced figures who have close ties to the character, such as Isildur (Maxim Baldry), the man who would eventually vanquish him, and Celebrimbor (Charles Edwards), the elven smith who will forge the titular Rings of Power for the Dark Lord. With Elrond (Robert Aramayo) and the Dwarves assisting Celebrimbor in building a new forge and the Southlands now twisted into the scorched lands of Mordor, Sauron’s plans may be further along than they appear, meaning the villain may step out of the shadows by the end of season 1, firmly establishing him as the show’s overarching villain.
While The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power has condensed the events of the Second Age of Middle-earth into a shorter timeframe, the series has still made sure to treat Sauron’s rise with the amount of mystery and tension in the build-up to his inevitable reveal. As such, the Southlands’ sudden, fiery transformation into Mordor is a pivotal, world-changing moment in the series so far, as it firmly establishes the true threat that the Dark Lord is and what is at stake, even before he acquires the One Ring. As the peoples of Númenor and the Southlands are left to grapple with this devastating loss, audiences are left to wonder how Sauron could expand his influence next.