Know Your Lore: Patch 6.2’s end cinematic
A lot of people have been asking about this subject pretty much since the moment patch 6.2 launched and certain sites datamined and released what appears to be patch 6.2’s end cinematic. You’ll note that I said patch 6.2, and not Warlords of Draenor, because we still don’t know if there’s more content to be had or another patch to come out between now and whenever the next expansion is released. So this week, we’re going to talk a little bit about that cinematic and what it potentially means for the future of Draenor, and the future looking forward in World of Warcraft.
Please note: This Know Your Lore contains serious spoilers for the end of patch 6.2 and the finale of Hellfire Citadel. If you are avoiding spoiler material, I would advise you not to keep reading, because we’re just going to jump all in here right after the break.
So here’s the thing with the Hellfire Citadel cinematic — we don’t actually know if it’s patch 6.2’s end cinematic or not. Why? Because we still have to complete the legendary ring quest chain, and that chain directly involves farming the heck out of Hellfire Citadel, Archimonde included. And since that last leg of the legendary quest chain has us hunting down Gul’dan with the intent of confronting him, it doesn’t really make any logical sense to have already beaten Hellfire Citadel, witnessed this datamined cinematic multiple times over the course of farming items for the ring, and then turn around and pretend that what we’ve been repeatedly shown in that cinematic hasn’t actually happened yet when we complete that legendary ring.
If that is the case — if we’re viewing a cinematic that technically doesn’t happen until after we receive the final ring — then honestly this is some of the sloppiest timing I’ve seen, and something that could have, and should have, been noted and avoided, particularly since they were so careful to do so with Siege of Orgrimmar. The legendary quest chain in Mists of Pandaria never stepped too far into actual raid content, until you were asked to take down Garrosh Hellscream — after your cloak had already been obtained. So we’re going to have to wait and see when people start actually completing the legendary quest, as far as trying to determine whether or not this is the “final” cinematic.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at that cinematic. Note that this has both the intro for the Archimonde encounter, and the end of the fight.
First things first — Gul’dan isn’t dead. What happens to Gul’dan, however, is a complete unknown. Archimonde shoves him through that portal still very much alive, and we don’t know if that portal goes to the Twisting Nether, to another world, to our world, to a different reality, or what. If we go back and look at what happened in the original Warcraft RTS titles, we haven’t really got anything to reference here, either. Some people have speculated that Gul’dan could possibly be set up to be the next Lich King, or something along those lines, but I sincerely doubt that’s the case — we’ve already got one potential Lich King on ice up in Northrend, introducing another would just be silly.
What I do find interesting however are two things. First, Gul’dan manages to summon Archimonde with the wave of a hand — and this is something that took the Book of Medivh to accomplish on Azeroth, which suggests that Gul’dan’s power at this point is astronomical. The second is that Archimonde explicitly states “You made a pact,” largely because it means that the Burning Legion is certainly not done with Gul’dan. What were the terms of the pact? What did Gul’dan promise? Was it one of those ‘I’ll deliver the orcs to you guys, and you give me super powers’ kind of deals, or was it something else entirely? When was this pact made, and with whom — was it made with Kil’jaeden, before Garrosh interrupted the timeline, or after, with Archimonde?
But the really telling moment here is that Archimonde doesn’t kill Gul’dan. He binds him up in some kind of crazy fel-chains, and shoves him right back through the portal, blowing the thing sky high, or at the very least deactivating it. Immediately after doing so, Archimonde falls over, the green glow in his eyes fades, and Gul’dan’s staff disappears right before Khadgar’s eyes. The staff is likely one of the keys, here — the fact that it disappeared almost suggests that Gul’dan was simply erased from this timeline or reality, like he never existed in the first place. Alternatively, there’s the possibility that Archimonde jumped aboard the Gul’dan train in his final moments, performing the kind of transfer Sargeras used to usher his essence into Aegwynn, and later Medivh.
We don’t know. But it definitely looks like at this point, we have not seen the last of Gul’dan.
Yrel and Grommash
The part that really puzzles me though is the treatment of both Yrel and Grommash in this cinematic. Is it nice to see Grommash Hellscream survive? Yes, I’m glad he did, and I pointed out why in an earlier Know Your Lore. But this is not the way I wanted to see him live. Unless we have some really sweet transitional dialogue somewhere mid-Hellfire Citadel, there is virtually no reason for anyone standing at the foot of that citadel to be cheering with Grommash Hellscream, especially the draenei. Have they suddenly forgotten that Grommash was the one responsible for the death of Velen? It was Grommash who demanded Ner’zhul display some kind of amazing power, and forced the leader of the Shadowmoon to turn and embrace the powers of the void that had been forbidden by his clan — an act that ultimately ended with Velen’s death right on the brink of the attack on Karabor. An attack by the Iron Horde, led by Grommash Hellscream.
Yet it’s Grommash Hellscream who lifts Gorehowl to the sky, proclaiming for all to hear that Draenor is free. Not just the orcs, Draenor itself. When exactly did Grommash turn from being enemy number one to a guy we’ll happily cheer along with at the end of a momentous battle? Where was the remorse for his actions, or the apology, or the confrontation with Yrel, or any of the other exarchs for that matter? Where is Grommash’s moment of reckoning? Where is that moment where his support shifts, and we decide to accept him as an ally, instead of murdering him on sight?
Which leads me to Yrel — not only is Yrel apparently completely content to spout platitudes that suggest she’s simply rolled over and accepted the fact that her mentor and leader sacrificed himself to protect her and all her people from the orc she is currently standing next to, but her message to Khadgar is an ominous one. “If you ever need us, we will be here.” On the one hand, it’s nice that we’ve got an army of draenei in an alternate dimension that is ready and willing to help us out, and Khadgar does tell her “Until we meet again,” which might mean we’ll see the draenei again at some point. But on the other hand, this almost feels like and seems to be a goodbye to Yrel — who was one of the most interesting characters introduced this expansion. With that one line, it feels very much like we’re about to chalk everyone on Draenor off and head home with nothing really to show for it.
Finally, we’ve got Khadgar, who is once again acting very strangely here. He’s not happy about Gul’dan’s escape, which is to be expected — he’s been telling us all expansion that we need to get rid of that guy, from the moment we set him free when we arrived on Draenor. He watches Gul’dan’s staff disappear, but offers no explanations for what we just saw. He doesn’t participate in the cheering or the celebration, fixated on wherever, whenever Gul’dan has just fled to, or been banished to.
And when Yrel offers him her full support, he essentially tells her goodbye and takes off — turns into a raven and flies away, just like that. He’s not just flying away from Yrel, here — he’s flying away from all of us. He’s deserting us, leaving us behind, no congratulations or moment of victory, no party back at the garrison, no acknowledgment of what we just accomplished. We finished it all, succeeded on what was supposed to be at best a suicide mission, and his response is to just take off without a word to us, his allies, the armies he led to this world in the first place. That doesn’t add up. There’s something here that Khadgar isn’t telling us, and whatever it is, it warrants his immediate attention, above and beyond our feats of heroism and strength.
Overall, this doesn’t feel like an end of expansion cinematic. Even with the shouts of victory, we’re still looking at what appears to be a fairly open-ended situation — it has an end-of-chapter closure to it, but it definitely doesn’t have that expansion-ending, satisfying punch of what we saw out of Wrath, or Cataclysm, or even Mists of Pandaria. From a lore perspective, we’ve only got a few notes to take away from this. Grommash has apparently been forgiven, Yrel and the draenei are staying behind to rebuild Draenor — possibly alongside Grommash and the orcs, the fact that Archimonde died on this side of the portal means that he more than likely isn’t really dead, and we are certainly not done with Gul’dan, not in the least.
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