Know Your Lore: Who is Jaina Proudmoore?

A couple of years ago, I wrote about Jaina Proudmoore’s progress as a character after the loss of Theramore and the events in Mists of Pandaria. At the time, I was happy that the character was seeing some kind of movement – something beyond hoping for diplomacy and peace. It seemed as though Jaina was on track to evolve into a notable leader. And I was pretty happy about that.

In light of everything that’s happened since, it feels almost as if that happiness was misplaced. Rather than being a character at the forefront of the scenes, Jaina’s been pushed aside. Any lessons she’s learned have been quickly forgotten in her anger at the Horde. In fact, it feels more like she’s there just as a vehicle to remind Alliance players that the Horde is bad, carted out to shout and flail, then shoved to the side while other people take over a story that maybe should be hers.

So who is Jaina Proudmoore? Because I don’t know anymore. I don’t think she knows anymore.

Please note: This post contains spoilers for the Broken Shore and pre-expansion quests.

Theramore’s fall

Jaina was originally a smart, capable character, the only person willing to listen to Medivh’s warnings during the Third War. As a leader, Jaina worked at building up bonds of trust between Theramore and the Orcs, with the intent of eventually working towards some kind of peaceful co-existence. She even sacrificed her father in the name of this goal – Grand Admiral Proudmoore wasn’t about to change his mind or his ways, and Jaina willingly let the Horde into Theramore to kill him.

And then we have Theramore. Out of nowhere, Jaina’s peaceful ideals were shattered in one horrifying moment, along with almost everyone she’d ever known. In Tides of War, Jaina’s wrath was absolute and terrifying – she intended to wipe out Orgrimmar. She probably would have, were it not for the timely intervention of Kalecgos. And Thrall recognized that their relationship had changed – Jaina was no longer the peaceful diplomat.

As for Jaina, she was made leader of the Kirin Tor. Archmage Khadgar pointed to a prophecy that Rhonin had, from Korialstrasz.

After the red comes the silver,

She who was golden and bright;

The Proud Lady humbled and bitter,

Shall now turn her thoughts to the fight.

Sapphire to diamond she gleams now,

The Kirin Tor leader who comes,

“Queen” of a kingdom now fallen,

Marching to war’s martial drums.

Be ye warned – the tides of war

At last break upon the shore.

It wasn’t just that Khadgar asked Jaina to lead the Kirin Tor – no, her fate was prophesized by a red dragon. This was the role she was supposedly destined to play.

Dalaran and the Divine Bell

It felt like Jaina had some semblance of peace after Tides of War – she knew that the Alliance and Horde would come to blows. It was inevitable. But she also understood that there was an honorable way to fight, and a dishonorable one. Wiping out Orgrimmar – full of children and innocents who had no part in Theramore’s fate – wouldn’t have been right. But that didn’t mean she needed to try for peace, especially when Hellscream had no interest in that.

Maybe things would have been fine. But then Horde mages – mages supposedly loyal to the Kirin Tor – helped Hellscream’s forces sneak into Darnassus and recover a dangerous artifact. The Divine Bell would make Hellscream stronger – and in Jaina’s eyes, it would help Hellscream achieve another Theramore. To Jaina, it was an utter betrayal, and she forcibly kicked the Horde out of Dalaran, purging the city of every mage that wasn’t loyal.

Was that a little overboard? Maybe. She single-handedly guaranteed that the Blood Elves would never leave the Horde and join the Alliance, as they’d been considering. At the same time, memories of what happened to Theramore were still fresh in Jaina’s mind. She knew what Hellscream would do with power – she’d seen it all before.

Siege of Orgrimmar

And then at the end of the Siege of Orgrimmar, Jaina started sliding back down that nasty track we witnessed in Tides of War. All the Horde leaders were present at the moment of Hellscream’s downfall. Jaina demanded that Varian take advantage of the opportunity, and dismantle the Horde. This…was a little odd, to say the least, especially after the rebellion came together with the Alliance to bring Hellscream down.

It was still understandable. Jaina lost Theramore. She gained leadership of the Kirin Tor, and saw half of Dalaran’s citizens supposedly turn on her to help the Horde, and Hellscream, grow stronger. She saw – or at the very least, heard about – what Hellscream had done to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. But we were given in the impression in Tides of War that maybe she’d moved on from that vengeful path into something different – and then promptly watched Jaina get dragged down that path of vengeance again.

In War Crimes, Jaina struggled with this, and by the end of the novel, she seemed to come to a conclusion. Through the course of Hellscream’s trial, Jaina was eventually reminded that yes, Hellscream was a monster – but the Horde wasn’t Garrosh. She nearly died during the trial, but Anduin saved her – and when she recovered, she seemed to be at least tentatively reaching out to Thrall again, to rekindle their old friendship.

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Warlords and Legion

And in Warlords…whatever happened at the trial clearly didn’t stick, it wasn’t a magical transformation, and Jaina clearly still didn’t trust the Horde. Nor was she willing to allow the Horde anywhere near the Kirin Tor, as made clear during the legendary quest chain. Not only did she point out that she didn’t approve of Khadgar working with the Horde, she mentioned that the Council of Six agreed with her.

In Legion, it appears as though her distrust was well placed. Although the Horde and Alliance worked together at the Broken Shore, Sylvanas and her archers appeared to desert the Alliance right when they were needed the most. That betrayal led to the loss of Varian’s life. Sylvanas wasn’t condemned for her actions – she was made the next Warchief.

Obviously, if you play through the Horde side of the Broken Shore, you see what really happened. Sylvanas wasn’t thinking about treachery at all – she was concerned with Vol’jin’s life. And she was carrying out Vol’jin’s orders, getting the Horde to safety in a clear no-win scenario. Jaina, along with the rest of the Alliance, saw none of this. All she knew was that the Horde had seemingly betrayed the Alliance once again.

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The Broken Shore

Here’s the problem: Jaina has been perfectly justified all along. She hasn’t seen what we’ve seen as players – she wasn’t on Draenor working with the Horde. And every instance where it appeared she was starting to change her mind was immediately answered by another betrayal. After Tides of War, she seemed to be healing – and then the Horde in the Kirin Tor went against her wishes and helped Hellscream with the Divine Bell.

She was on the fence at the end of War Crimes, still not quite willing to jump into that place of diplomacy – and then the Horde seemingly betrayed the Alliance yet again at the Broken Shore. That loss led to the death of a king. Every time she’s demonstrated wariness, the Horde has proven that she had a right to be wary.

So it’s little wonder that she’d get angry at Khadgar’s insistence that the Alliance work with the Horde to address the Burning Legion. Yes, both sides are needed to fight this war. But the Horde just proved that they were apparently willing to let the Alliance suffer as many casualties as needed along the way. They keep proving it, again and again.

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Stagnation

At the same time, Jaina has been singing the same song since the end of Cataclysm, embracing her mistrust of the Horde and her role as her father’s daughter. She hasn’t really shown any sign of progression. We haven’t been given a chance to see what her character is thinking. She appears just long enough to pipe up with some obvious – and warranted – dissent, and then she’s shoveled to the side to linger behind the scenes until a dissenting voice needs to be heard again.

Meanwhile, everyone else is progressing all around her. Khadgar’s actions led to her leaving the Kirin Tor – a role that she was supposedly destined for, a role that he’d appointed her to in the first place. We don’t know where Jaina went. But the idea of her suddenly abandoning the Alliance – and the fight against the Burning Legion – is a little preposterous.

Jaina wouldn’t desert her people. She survived Theramore only because Rhonin forcibly shoved her through a portal to save her life. She was willing to die there, with the citizens of Theramore, and she wasn’t allowed to. She was given leadership of the Kirin Tor, and then had her role as leader questioned every step of the way, eventually shoved out of the picture when her perceptions no longer fit the narrative.

And frankly…that kind of sucks.

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Who is Jaina?

Two years ago, I wrote a column – archived on another website – that applauded the idea of Jaina’s descent, pointing out that maybe that was just the kind of character development she needed. And I still stand by that – but the problem is that in those two years, Jaina still hasn’t done any developing. She moved from being stuck in a position as the eternally optimistic diplomat, to the eternally dissident, grim survivor.

That role doesn’t suit her at all. Is it justified? Yes. Is it warranted? Absolutely. But it’s a role that is quickly going nowhere, once again leaving Jaina on the outside of popular opinion. No one embraced the idea of achieving some kind of diplomacy with the Horde, so Jaina was essentially standing alone. And now that she’s changed her mind, everyone appears to be headed the other direction, once again leaving Jaina standing alone.

WoW_TCG_Echo_of_Jaina

So what do you do with a character like that? I don’t know, honestly – I don’t write the game, I don’t write the characters, I just take a good look at them and see where they’re going. Some characters have gone fascinating places over the years – watching Anduin’s development and growth over the course of WoW’s lifetime has been fantastic. Watching Garrosh’s growth from depressed resident of Garadar to leader of the Horde and then to full-fledged villain has also been fantastic. Watching Jaina stand in one spot for years, then move to another spot and just…stand there – that hasn’t been fantastic.

I don’t ask who Jaina Proudmoore is as some kind of rhetorical question – I’d really like to know. Because somewhere along the way, she’s gone from leader and really interesting character to a character that is trotted in when the narrative conveniently needs a dissenting voice, then trotted back out again in mere moments, forgotten until that voice is needed again. She deserves  better than that.

I think it’d be interesting to see where she’s gone — where she disappeared to, after she left Dalaran. Where can she go? Theramore is gone, Dalaran was her home, and now…it isn’t anymore. But I can’t imagine her abandoning the Alliance like that. Maybe she went home again — to her original home, to Kul Tiras. Maybe she’ll find some answers there. I hope she does, and I hope we see it at some point in Legion.

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