'The Hobbit': Four Burning Questions About 'There And Back Again'

After a killer cliffhanger in 'Desolation of Smaug,' there are a few things we'd like cleared up before it's all over.

Spoiler warning if you haven't read "The Hobbit" or seen "The Desolation of Smaug"

First of all, we'd like to apologize for what you had to go through at the end of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." After a surprisingly conclusive ending to "An Unexpected Journey," Peter Jackson slammed audiences with several major cliffhangers wrapped up in one, arguably a first for the series.

So now that the yearlong waiting game for a return to Middle-earth has once again commenced, we thought we'd pass the time by diving deep into some of the questions left at the end of "The Desolation of Smaug."

Who's Going To Save Gandalf?

Don't say the eagles, because we're really hoping that it isn't the eagles again. What's most likely to happen is that the White Council, that PTA meeting of powerful Middle-earth people that we saw in "An Unexpected Journey" including Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman, will show up just in the nick of time. In the appendices of "The Lord of the Rings," the White Council (with Gandalf not captive) arrives as Dol Guldur to find that Sauron had already cleared out and taken to Mordor, where we find him at the start of that trilogy. So don't worry; Gandalf is going to be just fine.

What Will Sauron's Role Be?

It will be interesting to see how the Dark Lord will factor into the events of "There and Back Again" because, as we mentioned above, he just kind of runs away once the White Council knocks on his door. We don't know about you, but that doesn't sound to us like too exciting of an ending to that story.

It's not hard to imagine that PJ and his screenwriting team would want to spice up Sauron's role in the conclusion, and the clue to what that may be could lie at the beginning of "The Desolation of Smaug" in that flashback where Gandalf meets with Thorin. The wizard pushes the dwarf to take back Erebor because he fears that Sauron could eventually use Smaug in a push to reclaim his power. Involving the Dark Lord in the conflict at the Lonely Mountain, perhaps in disguise, could be a way to see that storyline through.

Will Tauriel Die?

There are a number of strong factors that hint at the badass elf's demise. Hers is the only fate that hasn't been spelled out already in the book, since Jackson and company created the character specifically for "The Desolation of Smaug," to make it less of a sausage fest and give Kili a more compelling story.

It's that particular dwarf's fate that also has us worried about Tauriel. During the Battle of Five Armies, a number of the dwarves from the original company, including the handsome Kili, die. (Yes, things are going to get dark.) The tragic end for Kili makes us think that Tauriel might go down with him in some kind of ultra-romantic sacrifice.

How Big Will The Battle Of Five Armies Be?

Are we talking Helm's Deep here, or are we looking at another Pelennor Fields (minus ghosts)? The fight between the goblins and the combined forces of men, elves, dwarves and eagles (surprise!) is the big battle of the trilogy, and as is the tradition in the Jackson films, you've got to go big. There aren't too many events left to pull from the book, so we expect something on the scale of the two climactic scuffles from "The Lord of the Rings."

"The Hobbit: There and Back Again" opens in theaters next December.