Is the Evil Sword Just a Red Herring?
We think there are a couple of deliberate misdirection in this scene, though, as the show aims to stretch out its mysteries for as long as possible. The old man mentions the “starfall” that brought the Stranger and says that it “means his [Sauron’s] time is near,” presumably encouraging the audience to think that the Stranger might be Sauron. But note that he doesn’t actually say it was Sauron who fell, so the Stranger’s arrival indicating that Sauron is coming doesn’t imply it is the Stranger’s fault that Sauron is coming any more than it’s Galadriel’s fault that her washing up on Númenor is a sign of its impending doom. And we still think the Stranger is most likely Gandalf anyway.
There’s another possible misdirection at the end of the scene. The old man tells Theo to be ready and “save your strength, you’ll need it for what’s coming.” Then we cut to an Orc telling the Orc leader Adar that “they found it, it’s in the tower.” This could mean that the mysterious weapon the Orcs are looking for is the sword, and that the Orcs chasing Theo saw him carrying it and they now know it’s in “the tower,” i.e. the watchtower that Theo and the other refugees are staying in.
But there is another possibility, which is that the “weapon” they’re looking for is actually one of the palantíri. These ancient seeing stones can be used as weapons by showing people visions that lead them astray, and Galadriel touching a palantír in the tower in Númenor may have revealed to the Orcs told where it was. That’s perhaps a bit of a stretch, and it may yet turn out that they did simply mean Theo’s sword, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Who Does the Evil Sword Belong To?
But what is this mysterious sword anyway? Sauron was seen wielding a mace in the movie adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, in a tribute to his master Morgoth who also used a mace, and for most of the time after that he sits around in his tower looking around with his great big eye and having others do the work for him. Unlike many of his enemies, the Dark Lord doesn’t have much of a connection to a special sword in Tolkien lore. So why is there a fancy sword giving people his mark in the land that will become Mordor?
Some have speculated that the sword is Gurthang, a sword originally forged by a Dark Elf in the First Age and used by First Age hero Túrin to kill himself after he discovered his wife was also his sister (some of Tolkien’s legendarium is more similar to Game of Thrones than you might expect!). The old man’s description in episode 4 seems to make that less likely, though, as he implies strongly that the sword was made for Sauron by Morgoth.
Another theory is that this is the sword that will later belong to the Witch-King of Angmar, the leader of the Ringwraiths, with which he stabs Frodo on Weathertop in The Fellowship of the Ring. However, there are a few issues there. One, on a very basic level, it doesn’t look like that sword, the hilt is completely different. We also think that Halbrand is far more likely to turn out to be the Witch-King of Angmar than Theo, as the men who became the Nazgûl were warriors and leaders.