Yep. It’s one of those days.
I’m actually kind of excited about this one, though; having made a determined effort to chew through at least one expansion pack while it’s still current, I’m in a position where I might be kicking Garrosh in the face before Christmas, and that thought sets me thinking. While he’s been the victim of some distinctly hiccupy show-don’t-tell, half-the-truth-is-in-the-tie-in-novels-or-old-content storytelling, he’s also been a villain who’s generally made his own mistakes, for reasons which seem valid if you squint. Leaving aside the usual “every continent has a Cthulhu knock-off sleeping under it” non-revelation for a moment, Mr. Hellscream’s arc of development has actually been fairly plausible, and basically revolved around him genuinely misunderstanding the world that Thrall’s brought him back to and the Horde’s place in that world.
When we first meet Garrosh in Outland, he’s a sad, dejected adolescent; he’s been told, again and again, that he and his fellow Mag’har are not proper orcs, by orcs who are themselves minions of the Burning Legion – saturated with forbidden power and on a mission to conquer and enslave whole worlds. He’s been comparing himself to his father, a power-hungry warrior chief of legendary stature who is at the forefront of that Legion-fuelled conquest, and he’s ashamed of his father for submitting to temptation and drinking deep of demon blood. He’s complicated; on the one hand he looks up to his father for being a ‘proper orc’, on the other hand he knows, deep down, that Grom is nothing of the sort, that he’s nothing more than Mannoroth’s blunt instrument.
And then Thrall comes along and tells him Grom died a hero’s death, repudiating the Legion and buying freedom for the Horde. You know. The Horde. That thing which, as far as Garrosh is concerned, is about orcs conquering the world. That’s all it’s ever been for him. He hasn’t been to Azeroth yet, hasn’t witnessed the Horde being defeated again and again, hasn’t seen Thrall liberate the orcs from slavery and re-invent the Horde as a banner behind which the defeated and the broken and the outsiders can rally and be strong. Nope, as far as Garrosh knows, it’s ORCS ORCS ORCS and damn the torpedoes.
Then… then there’s some stuff that happens in the tie-in media, and here we have the problem.
Garrosh’s motivation is inexplicable if you only play the game, like what I do. If you haven’t read Heart of War or the Warcraft comics around the Theramore Summit, you don’t get to see Garrosh be crushed by the state of Orgrimmar and frustrated by Thrall’s apparent refusal to seize what the orcish people need in order to survive and, yeah, conquer. Remember, that’s what he’s spent his whole life believing, and no amount of blood elves wandering around Orgrimmar dancing on mailboxes is going to make him change his mind overnight.
Garrosh tries to take over the Horde because everything that Thrall does contradicts what he’s always believed the Horde to be, and he becomes more and more frustrated by what he sees as broken, honourless orcs who have lost sight of that purpose. When he eventually does get put in charge, he’s following through on that purpose. Garrosh, like certain other leaders with whom many of us have had a problem, believes that what he is doing is right, and that if you’re not with him, you’re against him. He believes absolutely in the Orcish Horde as he remembers it – a force of destruction destined to conquer the universe or die trying. As far as he’s concerned, if there are other races in the Horde, it’s because they were enslaved – not asked to join, like some sort of… well, some sort of Alliance, comprised of equals.
He lacks the experience of defeat. He’s never been beaten like the rest of the Horde’s leaders have. That ignorance his his greatest failing, and all his pride is rooted in it. For all that his story has been told clumsily, for all that the casual majority have missed huge chunks of it, it does make sense; and he’s the perfect villain for Pandaria, for a land where the errors of kings and emperors have an all-too-obvious effect. The Sha, the manifestations of negative emotion that occur in Pandaria (and are indeed encouraged by the Pandaren ‘suppress and expel’ morality), are a reflection and a source of power for a character whose ignorance and pride and hate blind him to the reality of his situation.
I’m kind of hoping we don’t have to kill him. Pandaria has generally been pretty positive about having characters realise their mistakes, for one thing, and for another – something my characters have expressed during our current roleplaying campaign – when you live by the words ‘victory or death’, killing him would only vindicate him, only confirm the validity of his absurd creed. To be spared, to be made to live on and learn from his mistakes, which he’s made himself, and only seen mirrored in the Sha? That’s a defeat. That’s a repudiation of everything he believes, and if he chose it himself, as Jaina and Lor’themar chose to lay down arms and break the cycle of violence on the Isle of Thunder, so much the better.
Intead, though, I’m putting money on “nope, corrupted by the Old Gods, now he has to die.” That’s how WoW storytelling works, and it’s thematically consistent with every expansion bar one having had its Old God buried somewhere and even the Burning Crusade giving them the nod. I can’t fault it in terms of consistency. I’d hoped that Blizzard would favour the internal consistency of Pandaria’s symbolism and philosophy instead, that’s all; it’s shown a maturity in dealing with characters’ burdens and motivations and mistakes and emotions that I’d thought to be outside their capacity, and to have that come crashing down because Old Gods and because he’s bad would be… disappointing, to me.
Oh well. At least I’ll get to kick him in the face for loot.