!Patch 7.3 Spoilers Ahead!
Illidan “The Betrayer” Stormrage. Imprisoned for 10,000 years for creating a second Well of Eternity at Mount Hyjal in an attempt to preserve the Night Elves’ magic and immortality after the War of the Ancients. Consumed the Skull of Gul’dan to empower himself into a half demon monstrosity so he would have the strength to take on the Burning Legion’s second invasion. Forged an army of Demon Hunters and enslaved Demons to prepare for a third conflict with the Legion. Used the Sargerite Keystone to open a gateway between Azeroth and Argus to force the champions of the world to deal with the demon threat once and for all.
Illidan is a character for whom the ends have always justified the means. Even his own life has been regarded as but a tool to achieve his ultimate goal of eradicating the Burning Legion. For some, this can be a noble endeavor that one should risk it all to stop a unending evil in the universe. However, this same traits can be that of a monster that destroys everything in his path to achieve that end. It’s probably one of the best recipes possible for a divisive character that people will either love or hate.
Which brings us to the latest World of Warcraft patch, in which Xe’ra – the Naaru we have been working with through our Order Halls and has been showing us the past events of Illidan’s life to show us how The Betrayer was truly meant to be the Chosen One to end the age of demons – is destroyed in a confrontation with Illidan who has no desire to be bound to a greater power once again or playing the part of a chosen one. The action shadows the conversation Illidan has earlier with the Prophet Velen where Illidan says that the Draenei have been using their faith in the Light to justify doing nothing in the face of the horrors that befell their people:
Not stopping the Eredar from dealing with Sargeras? Gotta trust in that Light.
Lead the Burning Legion in a chase across the Great Dark causing the eradication of world after world? Gotta trust that Light.
That’s the thing about Illidan that makes him such a complex character. Not that his motivations or personality are very diverse or even terribly interesting but that despite the horrible methodology that harms countless numbers of people for the greater good – he’s usually right. Without Mount Hyjal, Elven society would have likely fell apart. The Legion would continue to come to Azeroth until its world-soul was dead or corrupted. The Naaru are not the benevolent creatures people treat them as.
Some people have noted that there’s a quick mention that Xe’ra sealed Alleria Windrunner in a void pit for 60 some odd years for disobeying her. Which is weird considering how kindly and nice the Naaru are, right? Except we’ve known the Naaru weren’t to be trusted since the Burning Crusade. Kirrik the Awakened, an Arrakoa who converted to Light worship under the Naaru A’dal from traditional Terokk/Shadow worship, says: “Those who have not given themselves over to the Light are mere servants of evil. They must be destroyed.” These are the teachings of the Naaru. Join us or die.
So was Illidan right to destroy Xe’ra? There’s definitely a worthwhile debate to be had there. Was Xe’ra wrong to try and perform a forced purification on Illidan? Oh yea. Of course, that would have been where the Naaru would draw the line as well I expect. Based on what Kirrik the Awakened says, and the fact that he tasks you with such things as destroying Arrakoa eggs so they would not be born of Terokk instead of the Light, I would say that if Illidan resisted that Xe’ra would have simply destroyed him.
Stuff like this is why I never could get on board with the I-Hate-Illidan train or the Notice-Me-Illibeans-Senpai bandwagon. He’s in neither camp. Heck, I’d struggle to call him a Hero or even an Anti-Hero. He acts more like a force of nature than anything. He just acts in a purely utilitarian manner without worry about the consequences because the potential good outweighs any cost. It’s like saying Voting is a hero or an anti-hero. No, it’s just a thing we do as a society to improve things and it’s not perfect but damn it’s better than being gnawed on by a literal infinite number of demons. I may have mixed up a few wires in that last sentence.
In another side note, the thought occurs to me that I have no idea why the Naaru are against the Legion. The cosmology that Blizzard has set forth thus far is that the opposing element to Fel is actually Arcane, with them representing the spheres of Chaos and Order respectively. The Naaru are born from the Light whose opposite is the Void with the Void Lords and Old Gods being the opposite of the Naaru. But the Burning Legion – in its original incarnation – was started because Sargeras decided it was a safer bet to destroy worlds infested with the Void than chance them infecting a world-soul and creating a Void Titan.
So if the Burning Legion hates the Void, and the Naaru hate the Void… Why do the Naaru hate the Burning Legion? Other than apparently the Light is the natural enemy of all ‘negative’ elements since it also apparently can one-shot creatures of the Death domain when its opposite is Life (overseen by the Wild Gods like the Ancients or Loa.) The Light is overpowered. No wonder they nerfed paladins to the ground, baby.
A final note on Illidan that I stumbled upon while researching some of this but couldn’t work it in anywhere else. Apparently, during the Illidan novel, the events of Legion are foreshadowed when an elder naaru visits Illidan while he controls the Black Temple in Outland and shows him a vision of one possible future where Illidan leads the Army of Light against the Legion. Illidan views his image as being cool, level headed and hopeful – and at that moment, because the vision showed him happy-ish, Illidan decided that he could not trust the Naaru. And I think that’s hilarious. Illidan is probably the most self-aware character in the game right now. “In the future I’m happy? I’m NEVER happy! You and your kind are liars!” “Chosen One? Are you kidding me? Have you seen my approach to problem solving?”
So what do you all think about Illidan’s recent developments? Good? Bad? ‘I Hate Blizzard and Deliberately Seek Out Posts About Them on the Interweb to Voice My Displeasure’?
(P.S. Kudos to the animation team at Blizzard. From the blood on Illidan’s arm to the facial change when Xe’ra mentions how “Little” he got for his sacrifice – great subtle touches that sold that scene that for me)
Location: Warden’s Cage, Shadowmoon Valley
Illidan Stormrage. Do I have to say anything else? He’s become a punchline unto himself. The Betrayer went from a sympathetic anti-hero, to a villain, to the Warcraft equivalent of an old man sitting on his porch and yelling for those darn kids to get off his Outland. Granted some people still like him for… various reasons. But really he’s just a fruit loop at this point. He steals water, sucks magic out the air with giant mana vacuums, attacks Shattrath for no reason and imprisons his arch-enemy a stone’s throw from his front door guarded by the least trustworthy of his lieutenants. These are the desperate attempts for attention you’d expect from an episode of Captain Planet or a Silver-Age Superman comic.
I mean, ultimately the only one of his Lieutenants that actually doesn’t back stab him is Vashj. Probably because Illi-beans and the Naga have so much history between them. However, I wouldn’t have put Akama in charge of anything as important as guarding Warden’s Cage. Why? Because I have common sense. Akama has the least reason to be trusted. The only reason he even joined Illidan’s forces was because the Broken wanted Magtheridon to leave them the hell alone. Once that was done, they had no reason to care about what Illidan wanted. Yet The Sets-Himself-Up-To-Be-Easily-Betrayed goes ahead and gives them the keys to the one person who has betrayed her own people just to ensure that Illidan goes back into his hole: Maiev Shadowsong.
Can someone please send Illidan a copy of the Evil Overlord List at this point? This is almost up there with leaving the key an inch out of arms reach from the cell and assuming that will be sufficient. The only thing that makes this worse is that Maiev is in her prison cell in full battle attire. Granted, she doesn’t have her weapon at the moment, but he armor provides enough pointy bits that you could easily shank your way out of that prison with them. I can’t even think of a reason to let her keep it. At all. There is no justification in the world that would lead me to think that letting a prisoner keep gloves with claw fingers and bladed shoulder pads would be okay. It makes me want to kill Illidan just out of spite for his stupidity!
But wait – Illidan isn’t alone in the stupidity. Maiev doesn’t think of any of these things either. She simply goes along with Akama’s sit and wait plan. What the heck are you waiting for? A key? The entrance is a hole in the wall. A weakened opposition? Well, all the trash and bosses seemed ready for intruders. The attunement is apparently just a medallion that doesn’t really seem to do anything and a distraction so they can run into the giant gaping hole in the wall. At no point does she seem to register that she’s wearing weapons. This however remains consistent with what we know. If Illidan is a crazy moron, than what does it take to be captured by him?
I know I already did a post on a lot of the shortcomings that Illidan has as a villain. But at no point does it seem that he’s even competent enough to be a minor villain. His plans are childish, his army is dumber than bricks, and his nemesis is kept nearly fully armed and within walking distance of his home. This is so bad, it is almost satirical in nature. All we need is him yelling about wanting Netherdrakes with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads.