World of Warcraft (WoW)

Thematic Parallels: Thrall’s potential Shadowlands Arc about Redeeming the Horde

It’s possible that Thrall will take a much more centralized role in 9.1. And that really got me speculating about the possibilities of Thrall’s future plot in Shadowlands. I remembered that Garrosh was teased in the Revendreth Afterlives cinematic and we know he’s been used as a “workhorse” in Revendreth because he refuses to repent. And that’s right, Gul’dan even makes a comment about the ‘son of Hellscream’ not caring about redemption when he has thoughts on the Horde’s redemption and that’s what Thrall’s arc will ultimately boil down to: The Horde’s Redemption.

I know a lot of people criticize Battle for Azeroth for being terribly written, but it’s a possibility that Battle for Azeroth was simply misunderstood. Partly because it was a continuation of themes that were set in motion in Warlords of Dreanor but because WoD was so unpopular and underwhelming that many people missed these important themes.

I was re-watching the Nagrand ending of WoD the Mok'gora between Garrosh and Thrall, and although I've never been a Garrosh fan or supporter, I felt some sympathy for Garrosh in his final moments, the emotions that are coming out of Garrosh are really important. Garrosh is a terrible guy, he was a terrible Warchief but listen to what he says: his anger at Thrall for abandoning the Horde and leaving him to pick up the pieces is real, his emotions of being let down by Thrall are real.

Thrall” “You must answer for your crimes Garrosh.”

Garrosh: “All I did, i did for the Horde!”

This is interesting that Garrosh believes that he had the Horde’s best interest at heart when he was committing crimes against the Horde. Because those same words will be said in Battle for Azeroth by Saurfang. This entire belief that the ends justify the means as long as the means serve the Horde is again something we also pick apart when Sylvanas does it later on in Battle for Azeroth.

Thall: “You failed the Horde!”

Again those same words, are used by Saurfang in the Mok’gora against Sylvanas; “You failed to kill hope at Teldrassil. You failed to turn us against eachother at Lordaeron. You just keep failing!”

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Garrosh: “You made me Warchief, you left me to pick up your pieces. You failed me!.”

It’s easy to empathize with Garrosh here in the same way it’s easy to empathize with Sylvanas in Before the Storm when she curses Vol’jin and his Loa for making her Warchief because being Warchief comes with all this hidden baggage to pick up the mess of the past and galvanize that into a “New Horde”. But the concepts of “New Horde” and “Old Horde” is what divides the Horde not what makes it stronger. I do strongly believe that Sylvanas wasn’t a bad Warchief, i have tones of meta on my blog about it if you want to read why I think this way. And maybe the pressures to be Warchief are just too much and that’s what lead Thrall to abandon the Horde. Because Thrall did abandon the Horde, that’s part of this plot.

Garrosh: “You never had the strength of a true warrior.”

It’s interesting that Thrall’s eyes flash with red and he is able to summon the elements and he becomes unremorseful for what he did to Garrosh. This same feeling was felt when Sylvanas unceremoniously overpowered and killed Saurfang, only Thrall was there to watch firsthand what he did to Garrosh. This is important because it confirms Ill’gynoth whisper “He gets his strength from the Earth, our Earth, our strength!” is about Thrall. The Old Gods and the Elemental Lords have long been allies, so this is a theme that could come back to play in any future Old God related content. Maybe Thrall in this moment didn’t have true strength, only strength bestowed by the Old Gods to crush a pawn that didn’t play out in their favor. In this moment a lot of the fandom was turned off by Thral, this was not the hero they remembered. Many people who claimed that “Garrosh did nothing wrong” were put off by the way Garrosh was unceremoniously ‘taken care of, the scared timber in his voice as Thrall squeezed the life out of him, He died cowardly, and weak, and as someone who sympathized with Sylvanas in Battle for Azeroth I understand how that can feel like Blizzard writers were just throwing his character under the bus to elevate Thrall. Thrall has had mixed reviews from the fandom since this moment. To some this is the moment his character was ruined forever. And plotwise in Shadowlands these parallels between Thrall and Sylvanas will become huge points of interest as Thrall grows as a character.

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Thrall” “No you choose your own destiny!”

Reading the forums there seems to be a lot of people who debate this idea that we have a lack of free will and that wow villains' most notably, Arthas, Garrosh, Illidan and Sylvanas must be held accountable for their own choices and not to blame their poor life choices on “fate” or destiny. Garrosh chose to blow up Theramore, Sylvanas chose to burn Teldrassil. The horde chose to follow Gul’dan and drink the blood of Mannoroth. Those choices are what makes the Horde irredeemable and no amount of pandering to the concept of lack of free will will change some people’s minds on that. But we can't ignore that from Garrosh to Thrall there is hints to Old God corruption and manipulation and maybe free will is an illusion. Garrosh was manipulated by the heart of Y’Shraaj and it’s very possible that upon smashing her body on saronite spikes, Sylvanas became manipulated by Yogg-saron, in N’Zoth’s visions Thrall does become corrupted and he does so because his view of the Horde is corrupted. His desire to protect the Horde is twisted into killing anyone who is a threat to the Horde.

So how does this set up a Redemption for the Horde?

Well, Thrall’s has had a lot of free time between WoD and BfA to contemplate The Horde, his role in the Horde, how he possibly failed the Horde and the cycles that lead ultimately the to same pattern repeating between Saurfang and Sylvanas. I know some are already speculating on how this could be forshadowing Thrall to return as the Warchief of the Horde, only this time with a council but i think this story requires more complexity and nuance than that because it’s not really addressing the problem with the Horde, it’s leadership and the expectations placed on the Warchief that might lead them to make poor choices. Also this has to be leading up to a confrontation between Thrall and Sylvanas, in a similar vein as his confrontation with Garrosh in Nagrand only this time it will be different.

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Maybe he will give Sylvanas over to Tyrande as a way to redeem the Horde through bloodshed (although I highly doubt this will be a satisfying outcome) or he kills her outright because she made her choices… or, just maybe, this is the stepping off point for Sylvanas’s redemption and her own arc when it comes to not feeling like she has control over fate. It's not Tyrande's responsibility to confront Sylvanas about using the Horde for her personal agenda, it's Thrall's. But it's also Thrall's responsibility to take accountability for leaving the Horde to unstable people.

At the very least at the end of the day, I hope this will open a path for talking about the Horde’s redemption. Because it’s not going to be an easy road to get to that point but baby steps in the right direction are still steps in the right direction.

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