Azshara's Magnificent Welcome - Analysis of the Nazjatar Cinematic
Ihe latest Blizzard cinematic, Queen Azshara extends a warm welcome, using the Tidestone of Golganneth to part the seas and plunge players to the depths of Nazjatar. In this cinematic analysis, we'll analyze Nathanos' mysterious reaction, why the Tidestone no longer being kept in the Tomb of Sargeras is very bad news, and Azshara's magnificent talents of manipulation.
Story Spoilers inside!
Make sure to check out our
to learn more about questing in the patch, and our
Queen Azshara biography
to learn more about her backstory.
Nathanos and Sylvanas’ Endgame
Emboldened by their recent command of the sea achieved in the Battle of Dazar'alor, the cinematic begins with a large Alliance fleet in hot pursuit of just a few Horde ships and ends with all of them wrecked at the bottom of the ocean. Using the power of the Tidestone, Azshara's effortless elimination of the Alliance's naval advantage leaves both forces crippled and stranded in a strange new land, and it's a bit short-sighted that the Alliance didn't sense a trap when sending so many ships after the few Horde ones.
As the ships fall to their doom, everyone, Horde and Alliance alike, seems shocked by this development... everyone except for Nathanos.
Standing silent at the front of the ship, using the Blade of the Black Empire as a beacon, Nathanos appears unfazed by the horrific shipwreck and parting of the seas, rather than anger, or his typical stoic lack of emotion, a hint of a smile creeps across the face of the Banshee Queen's champion once ships start to fall into Azshara's trap. Curiously, we only see Alliance reactions to the trap, with no shots of his own ship wrecked or destroyed. While we've also previously explored the color associations within Nazjatar and Azshara's Eternal Palace, it's hard to miss the color choices in the scene in which Nathanos observes the wall of water; he's nearly washed out, bathed in light, and his eyes burn orange and yellow - just like Azshara.
During the 8.2 PTR, Sylvanas had an interesting discussion with Nathanos about her endgame. While this appears to have been cut or moved to a later quest on live servers, it's still worth highlighting to show their master plan, as other bits of cut dialogue like Lady Ashvane in Siege of Boralus still ended up as major plot points in BFA.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner: Nathanos. The next phase of our campaign is at hand.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner: Sail out with what remains of our fleet. The blade will guide you to the rendezvous.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner: Casualties on both sides will be substantial. Consider this an opportunity to weed out the disloyal.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner: The threads we have woven with such care will soon be drawn together. The war is serving its purpose. Stay focused on the endgame. You know what is to come.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner: We have been through so much together, you and I. Trust in me, as I have ever trusted in you.
This is further emphasized by Nathanos admitting that Baine's escape from Orgrimmar was part of Sylvanas' plan all along:
Nathanos: Saurfang, Thrall, the Alliance... it is vexing to allow our quarry to believe they escaped us. But we must trust in the warchief's plan.
Nathanos: Soon your loyalty will face an even greater test. I do hope you prove worthy of the Dark Lady's favor.
Nathanos: I have been recalled to Orgrimmar. Remain in Nazjatar. Keep playing along with these traitorous vipers... until you are summoned.
Facing Azshara doesn't seem to worry Nathanos or Sylvanas, both seem more concerned with weeding out the unloyal within their ranks. If she wants to weed out those who would stand against her, why would she let them escape Orgrimmar at all, knowing it would drive the Alliance and Horde together, and then bring her remaining forces to Nazjatar where they're certain to face further loss? Is Sylvanas that good at predicting all of these moves as well as their outcomes?
Sylvanas has made it clear that her goal is to master death, so perhaps she will be a wildcard in future patches, appearing to play into Azshara's plan in order to further her own motives. While the Horde story appears to be moving towards rebellion... what if Thrall
gain the support of the people through the rebellion, but it doesn't matter? Should Sylvanas have a plan to avoid ending up imprisoned, following her penchant for breaking rules and traditions, this rebellion led by Thrall and Saurfang could be for naught, or worse, playing right into her hand.
We now appear to be in a race against time to see what happens first - the Old God N'Zoth breaking free to corrupt and consume Azeroth, or Sylvanas hastening the death the world soul by her continuous escalation of the faction conflict, harmful use of Azerite, and raising enemies into Undeath.
When we first played through the quests on the PTR, we wrote a detailed article on
Sylvanas' Endgame, Old Gods, and the Faction War
, speculating on her ultimate plan and where her story could go next.
The Unprotected Tidestone and Tomb of Sargeras
Azshara uses the Tidestone of Golganneth to part the seas and shipwreck the Alliance and Horde fleets. While she has repeatedly tried to steal the Tidestone unsuccessfully in past expansions, she now treats the Tidestone nonchalantly, instead delegating the task of placing the Tidestone to one of her handmaidens. This is yet another example of Azshara subverting expectations, keeping her true intentions and desires a mystery. She cloaks all of her emotions in artifice - seeming more excited to greet the players than she is about finally obtaining and using the Tidestone after years of chasing after it. Throughout
Rise of Azshara
, the Queen has tempted humans to her side by offering their deepest desires, so it makes sense she'd avoid similar manipulation by keep her own interests closely guarded, even as she projects a general love for power.
While it's bad enough that the Tidestone caused a shipwreck, the larger implications of the displaced Pillar of Creation makes the situation even worse. We left the Tidestone unguarded in the Tomb of Sargeras, assuming it would be safe after the demons defeat, but that clearly is not the case, and means the other Pillars of Creation could be vulnerable or stolen already. Magni emphasized the importance of leaving the Pillars of Creation within the Tomb of Sargeras, so the missing Tidestone has ominous portents, once again leaving the Tomb unsealed and vulnerable. Even after Sargeras stabbed his massive sword Gorribal into Azeroth, Magni didn't want to move the Pillars of Creation, despite their ability to help heal the injured world:
That sword of Sargeras is surgin' with dark energies. They're seepin' into Azeroth's heart like poison. The blade's power must be snuffed out. The Pillars o' Creation could do it, but they're keepin' the tomb sealed. So we need other vessels capable o' harnessin' vast energies.
Battle for Azeroth unravels many of the victories we achieved in Legion -
corruption is spreading
within the Emerald Nightmare, the faction war continues unabated, our artifact weapons have been burned out, and Azeroth's safety is more perilous than ever before. While we as players face several immediate threats in 8.2 like the Horde's internal conflict and Azshara's trap within Nazjatar, we can't forget about the long-reaching implications of the unsealed Tomb of Sargeras, stolen Pillar, and what it might mean for the fate of Azeroth, even should we survive Nazjatar. The Pillars of Creation were once used to reshape the world of Azeroth after the Titan's war against the Old Gods; with N'Zoth growing ever stronger, perhaps the most devious of the Old Gods plans to use them for that very same purpose once again - creating a new world for a new Black Empire.
When we first discovered the Tidestone was used in Rise of Azshara, we wrote a lengthy article on the history of the item, sinister implications, and where its story could go in the future. You can check it out at
The Tidestone of Golganneth and Tomb of Sargeras Mystery in Rise of Azshara
was our first glimpse of the legendary Queen and Old God together, as Azshara made her faustian bargain with N'Zoth to retain her status and power. Their fascinating dynamic leaving viewers unsure of exactly who tricked the other into a better deal.
The second confrontation between N'Zoth and Azshara has a different mood: Azshara toys with N'Zoth, barely giving him a glance. With tension palpable between the two in
, it ended with a strong hint that N'Zoth completely dwarved Azshara in power, her fragile body gulfed by one of his eyes. But in the 8.2 cinematic, N'Zoth is just a smoky tendril, curling around Azshara, responding to her touch. Azshara appears to have the upper hand, towering above the smoke, teasing N'Zoth, calling him anxious and frustrated, as her taunt of "still locked away, so powerless" references calling him a "god of nothing" in
utilized a distinctive color palette, split into three sections - purple for Zin-Azshari, blue for the watery deeps, and orange-pink for N'Zoth's vision of his kingdom, perhaps Nyalotha (read more in
Ny'alotha, the Sleeping City of N'Zoth
). In the Nazjatar cinematic, Azshara is framed by a similar backdrop of pink and orange, perhaps hinting at N'Zoth's vision of a promised land.
This cinematic also emphasizes how much Azshara's confidence has grown since her fall and rebirth in the Sundering. In
, the camera frequently framed her face as a range of emotions ran across it, ranging between fear, frustration, and pain. In our Welcome to Nazjatar, Azshara has perfected her gracious facade, barely letting it slip except for an annoyed glance back at N'Zoth, while viewers barely see her face outside of a softened reflection in the water. While Azshara's face was reflected in N'Zoth's eyes in Warbringers, the dynamic emphasized an imbalance of power, with Azshara appearing small inside the infinite depths of his eyes. Now, Azshara stares into her own reflection, shaping her image, reaching out a hand to touch it, pleased with her work.
The strongest sign of this changed dynamic is seen in Azshara pushing back N'Zoth's tendril of smoke. This scene is reminiscent of N'Zoth approaching Azshara as a fish from dark smoke - lost and cold, she tentatively reaches out a curious hand. Now the Queen of Nazjatar beckons down at the smoke from her throne, extending a hand to push it away... and the smoke obeys.
Smoke and Mirrors
Particularly notable in Azshara's cinematic is the symbolism of reflections and mirrors, building up to the moment we first see Azshara’s true face. On a superficial level, we know Azshara is extremely vain, enamored of her own beauty. She even used Sharas'dal to enhance her legendary appearance:
One of the first things Azshara did with Sharas'dal was use its power to enhance her legendary beauty. As the years wore on, the queen seemed to grow younger and more mesmerizing
Yet if we peer deeper, we see that the camerawork uses the reflection to symbolize Azshara's scheming and secrecy. While the cinematic focuses on Azshara, we only see a front-facing shot of her over a minute into the video.
First, we have a long shot of Azshara standing on a pedestal at :29, her back to us. As we cut in on Azshara, we still only see her reflection for another 10 seconds, until the camera pulls back slightly to reveal her profile at :40. Azshara is in love with her reflection, stroking her cheek and talking to her beloved image as if she is rehearsing a speech, picking the most flattering angles and expressions for the water to depict. She's a hostess preparing her welcome speech for her guests--the players.
Her speech complete, she turns away from the water, closing her eyes as to clear her mind. When she finally turns to look at the camera, her appearance takes on a sombre tone, her lips not twisted into a smug smile. The reflection of the water softened her features, and without that diffusing filter, she takes on a more cunning appearance. Even though we know Azshara is a master of duplicity, with her lust for power obvious, she still builds up an appearance of layers and riddles.
As the smoke representing N'Zoth creeps up behind her, she once again turns her back--a bold choice to give an Old God a cold shoulder. She continues to taunt N'Zoth and his state of imprisonment, as shadowy tendrils circle around her:
Feeling anxious, are we? How frustrating it must be for you. Still locked away, so powerless...for now...
Finally, Azshara turns to comfort N'Zoth and we see her standing proud on her throne.
Do not worry. We've both waited so long. But at least, you're about to see what I do best.
Azshara's true nature is revealed--she's not a gracious host, she's a ruthless queen who revels in her own power and cleverness.
Now while we have an idea how the Azshara fight will turn out, based on datamined broadcast text that she lured us to her palace so our Azerite would weaken his prison, there's still some unanswered questions. She's not particularly nice to N'Zoth in either cinematic, which still makes us wonder if they're working together or not. Does she want us to weaken N'Zoth's prison so he could escape... and fall into a terrible fate, perhaps one involving Sylvanas, or trapped in the Blade of the Black Empire? Leading up to the Crucible of Storms raid, we speculated they might be enemies in the articles
N'Zoth Wants Us to Win - Our Test in the Crucible of Storms
The Price of Power - Relics within the Crucible of Storms
What Does Azshara do Best?
As Azshara alternates between taunting and comforting N'Zoth, she leaves the Old God with the line:
But at last, you're about to see what I do best.
While Azshara likely thinks she is the best at
, she must be referring to something specific for N'Zoth, alluding to the pact which saved her after the Sundering. After thousands of years of waiting, N'Zoth will finally see how Azshara can turn the tide for him.
Restoration Shaman Artifact Book
, Azshara's curiosity and hunger for knowledge and power is frequently highlighted, as she concocts elaborate schemes to please her subjects and bend them to her will.
At its apex, one figure held sway over it all. Her name was Azshara. She was a leader of leaders, a queen of queens. Her power was absolute, and her thirst for knowledge and glory was unquenchable.
Azshara uses her power to manipulate subjects. She was a beloved queen, in spite of her hunger for power and ridding the world of what she perceived to be imperfections literally reshaping the world. In
Battle for Azeroth
, we see her manipulate Zul, the Kul Tiran Tidesages, and Lady Asvane into serving her; each think they're getting the best part of the deal, and each ultimately fall while furthering Azshara's plot. Lord Stormsong is murdered by adventurers in Shrine of the Storm, Zul's rebellion fails, and Lady Ashvane is transformed into a monstrosity in the Queen's service.
Azshara facade as a gracious hostess following the cinematic, welcoming and luring us deeper into Nazjatar, rather than simply using the Tidestone to bring the walls of water crashing down to a watery death. She pokes fun at Alliance and Horde leaders both, belittling them so they are tricked into working closely. But even their triumphs are a part of Azshara's plan; she's actually pleased to see us break through her defenses and enter her Eternal Palace. Everything that happens is a culmination of Azshara's masterful sleight-of-hand: luring us to N'Zoth's prison so our Hearts of Azeroth can be used to defeat the chains which bind him. All along we believe ourselves to be the heroes, but in doing so, we fall right into Azshara's trap.
There are still several mysteries of Patch 8.2 -
how exactly Azshara will weaken N'Zoth's prison
why N'Zoth's prison is located within the Well of Eternity
the implications of losing the Tidestone of Golganneth
, and more questions surrounding
. While this cinematic doesn't answer those questions, it's a fascinating character study of Azshara, and reinforces the idea that Sylvanas knew about Azshara's plan before ordering her ships into the Queen's trap. The Alliance and Horde may be at a tentative truce in Nazjatar, and things may be looking up with the return of Thrall in Orgrimmar, but having seen Azshara's talents of manipulation, we're sure to fall back into chaos before the story ends.
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