Cinematic Analysis of the Anduin Raid Finale (Spoilers)
The first eight bosses of Normal and Heroic versions of the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid opened this week, culminating in the encounter against Anduin Wrynn, in which we try to rescue him from the Jailer's powerful Domination magic. In this analysis, we go over the cinematic that plays after defeating Anduin Wrynn.
Controlled by Domination magic, Anduin is being forced to aid the Jailer's plan to remake reality. As time runs out to stop him, the champions of Azeroth must make a difficult choice: defeat the young king to save the cosmos, or risk everything to restore his soul.
SPOILERS!!! Possible Major Story Spoilers Ahead.
Anduin Raid Finale
As the fight ends, the following cinematic plays.
Under the Jailer's Control
The cinematic begins with the fight still underway. On one side, Anduin lashing out, using Kingsmourne to shoot out Maw magic. On the other, Jaina, Uther, and Sylvanas are on the defensive, Jaina using a shield to protect from Anduin's spells. Jaina's expression is one of worry and concern. In contrast, Anduin's expression is blank. Dominated by the Jailer, his actions are not his own.
As the Jailer's voice speaks through him, Anduin drives Kingsmourne into the ground before him to unleash a wave of Maw energy. The move is similar to the spell
, which he casts during the fight, but this time it seems to be worse. As the Maw energy rises around him, Sylvanas darts forward, calling out his name, but it seems too late. The Jailer commands Anduin to fulfill his final purpose: "Annihilation".
Jailer/Anduin: Do you not understand? This one is bound to me.
Jailer: Fulfill your final purpose: Annihilation. The fate of all who carry my blade.
We can see the strength of the Jailer's control over Anduin. The runes of Domination on his armor alight, and his face clearly in pain as Kingsmourne pulls on him. Against such force, he does not seem to have even a hope of breaking free.
Even as he's struggling, a light begins to fall across Anduin's face. And then, suddenly, a hand rests on his shoulder. The pull of magic from the sword seems to fade away. The music, which was building to a climax, suddenly changes - a pause in the intensity as a voice breaks through. Anduin gasps, and turns to look at the spirit that's shining a light on him.
Varian Wrynn: My son.
It's his father, Varian Wrynn.
Callback to Wrath of the Lich King
This moment makes clear references to two cinematics from Wrath of the Lich King. The first is from the very first moments of the
Wrath of the Lich King Cinematic Trailer
. In this video, we see Arthas as the Lich King, fully equipped in Domination armor, wielding Frostmourne, as the same words are uttered by his own father. "My son."
The second reference is to the
Fall of the Lich King Ending
- the cinematic conclusion to the Icecrown Citadel raid, where Arthas was finally defeated. As Arthas lay dying on the floor, the spirit of his father appeared, standing over him in nearly the same position as Varian does here.
As we know, Frostmourne was Arthas's downfall. A tool of Domination, when Arthas picked up this blade, he fell under the influence that would eventually lead to his full corruption - where he would become the Lich King. In the same way, the Jailer has Dominated Anduin through this similar blade, Kingsmourne. As he stated, this is "the fate of all who carry my blade".
Frostmourne vs Kingsmourne... vs Shalamayne
However, the Jailer does not seem to have fully accounted for the way in which Kingsmourne is different from Frostmourne. While Frostmourne, along with the Helm of Domination, were created by the Primus as some of the first tools of Domination, Kingsmourne was created from a sword that already had its own, important history: Shalamayne.
As his father reminds him of their sword's history, Anduin is still in shock when another hand lands on his shoulder, this time to his left. To his surprise - and our own - he looks up to see the spirit of Varok Saurfang is also standing over him.
Varion: this blade does not belong to darkness. It was forged by valor.
Varok: And also... by honor.
Varion and Shalamayne
Shalamayne was, in fact, originally a pair of blades named Shalla'tor and Ellemayne, and wielded by the two halves of Varian Wrynn when the Black Dragon Onyxia used her magic to split him in two. In fact, it was Jaina Proudmoore who gifted him these blades. When the two Varians were once again made whole, so were the two blades made into one - Shalla'tor and Ellemayne became Shalamayne.
At the Battle for the Broken Shore, Varian sacrificed himself for the sake of the Alliance, battling the Legion to his death while the Alliance escaped. In his final battle, we saw Varian rip his sword in two.
Varian died, and the two halves of Shalamayne lay dormant - until Anduin retrieved them. In the Alliance-only Legion questline and cinematic,
What a King Must Do
, we saw Anduin find Shalamayne. Still struggling with his new position as King, when Anduin picked up the sword, a vision of Varion appeared to him, encouraging him and telling him that he must do "what a King must". The vision faded, and we saw that the sword had once again awoken, Anduin was worthy to weild it.
Saurfang and Shalamayne
Varok Saurfang prepared to face Sylvanas Windrunner in Mak'gora
, he was given two weapons to wield. Thrall lent him his axe Dra'gora, and Anduin - who felt responsible for setting Saurfang on the path that lead to this confrontation - lent him Shalamayne. Like Varion, Saurfang split the blade in this last fight of his life, cutting the scar across Sylvanas's eye that she still bears to this day.
And so together, the spirits of Varion and Saurfang reach down further and lend their strength to Anduin as he, like they did before him, breaks Shalamayne in two.
Varion: Its legacy, and ours, are with you, even here.
Varok: Now, let it be finished.
Once more, there are parallels to a previous event. In Wrath of the Lich King, when Darion Mograine finally broke free of Domination, it was, in part, due to the spirit of his own father, who also wielded the same sword as his son did. In that case, the sword was the Ashbringer. The scene can still be witnessed by new Death Knights who choose to play through the original Death Knight Starting Area.
There are some questions about Varion and Saurfang's appearance here. Varion was presumably killed by Fel magic, which has the power to destroy souls. Saurfang, meanwhile, died after the Arbiter was broken - and so would have gone to the Maw. How, then, do they appear here? It's not clear, but one thing seems to be certain - it has something to do with their connection to the blade. After all, Varian did appear to Anduin once before - at least in a vision - when Anduin picked up this very same sword.
As Anduin pulls the sword apart, there is a blinding flash of light, and then we see Anduin has changed. The Jailer's amor lies broken on the floor in front of him. In his hands, he holds Shalla'tor and Ellemayne, and we watch his transformation as the Domination magic burns away.
In front of Anduin floats a single glowing light. It is the shard of soul that was placed inside Shalamayne to transform it into the mourneblade Kingsmourne. The last scrap of soul that's left of the former Lich King: Arthas.
Jaina: Is this all that remains of him?
Uther: The last flicker of his scarred spirit, consumed in the forges of the Jailer.
The music has changed. The soft tones of
, the song that played when Arthas lay dying in his father's spirit's arms. Sylvanas steps forward to contemplate the soul of the man who nearly destroyed her. For so long, her entire existence was encompassed with her hatred of Arthas, her need for revenge. Her hatred became all-consuming, and even after his death, Sylvanas carried the legacy of that hatred and the things it made her willing to do with her.
Sylvanas: No crown. No throne. Not even a soul left for judgment. I hated you, hunted you, and with each selfish act... became you. That is my burden to bear.
As Sylvanas acknowledges her own legacy - the burden of her own actions - she tilts her head towards Uther, a small acknowledgment to the way he helped her realize that this was her only way forward in Shattered Legacies, the cinematic that plays at the beginning of this week's main story campaign.
Read More in Wowhead's Cinematic Analysis of Shattered Legacies
By this time, the music has changed, subtly, to Lament of the Highborne, a song not only strongly associated with Sylvanas Windrunner herself, but also with the grief and loss of the lives of Elves who die in war - such as the Blood Elves that died with Sylvanas at Arthas's hand... and the Night Elves that Sylvanas herself so recently slaughtered. Sylvanas is not absolved. She carries the burden of what she has done with her, and there will still be a judgment that she will need to face.
Sylvanas's story is not yet over, but Arthas's story is.
Sylvanas: But your legacy... is at an end. Begone, then, Arthas Menethil. May the last whisper of your name fade... and be forgotten.
It's important to remember Sylvanas never saw Arthas's death, and was
only angered that her chance to see him broken was taken from her
. Yet now, she has a chance to see him almost entirely destroyed. Arthas has no crown, no throne, not even a soul, and yet, as she speaks these words, Sylvanas's face shows no anger. It's soft, sad. Though she's telling him to begone, her voice is not gloating, it's almost kind.
Arthas's legacy has hung over the characters of World of Warcraft since before the game even began. Arthas created Sylvanas. Arthas lead to Uther's downfall. Arthas is the reason why Alexandros Mograine, and his son Darion Mograine, were turned into Death Knights. Arthas is the reason Bolvar Fordragon left his daughter an orphan so that he could be the new Lich King. Arthas broke Jaina's heart.
In the final moments of the cinematic, as the last shred of Arthas that was left fades away forever, we see Uther and Jaina lower their heads - quiet mourning for the man they once knew and loved.
Arthas is gone forever.
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