"Safe Haven" Cinematic: The Return of Thrall
Thrall makes a glorious return in Blizzard Entertainment’s new cinematic “Safe Haven.” The beloved former Warchief of the Horde has been in hiding since early
, and we see what he’s been up to in his absence—and why he decides to return.
The Horde has not fared well with stable Warchiefs since Thrall stepped down. Garrosh’s disastrous rule ended in his imprisonment after Siege of Orgrimmar and death at the hands of Thrall in AU Nagrand. Vol’jin was a well-liked Warchief, but his time was short-lived as he fell on the Broken Shore to the Legion, appointing Sylvanas Windrunner with his dying breath. Sylvanas has been…controversial, to put it gently…leaving a wake of death and destruction in her path in pursuit of her enigmatic goals.
Saurfang, initially the mastermind behind Sylvanas’ War of Thorns, eventually undergoes a change of heart after witnessing the Burning of Teldrassil. He abandons his position during the Battle of Lordaeron, taken captive by the Alliance and given a second chance at honor by Anduin in the cinematic “Lost Honor.”
After the Horde player tracks down the newly-freed Saurfang, with a choice to save or betray him, Saurfang vanishes. We haven’t seen him at all since that brief questline in December 2018, after he escapes from the Swamp of Sorrows.
This sets the stage for “Safe Haven,” a reunion between two former leaders of the Horde, now doubting their past deeds in isolation, separated from the community they helped build.
In this cinematic, we’re provided our first look at Thrall with his new
Rise of Azshara
model. Stripped of most of his armor, Thrall resembles his father, Durotan, from the
movie and Warlords of Draenor. Durotan stuck to his principles, defying Gul’dan in all timelines, which led to his tragic death when Thrall was just a baby. The legacy of his father’s decisions likely weighs heavily on Thrall, hiding away on an idyllic farm, far away from politics and bloodshed.
The location of the farm is also worth a note. It's easily identifiable as south-western Nagrand, near Oshu'gun. Nagrand is the home of Thrall's ancestors and where he first met Garrosh Hellscream, but the Orcish settlement Garadar is in a different part of the zone, closer to the Throne of the Elements. Is Thrall avoiding this town for any particular reason--regret for appointing Garrosh, or shame that he's let down his family? Or is he avoiding the Throne of the Elements and his past role as a Shaman, feeling unworthy of the elements after using them to kill Garrosh in AU Nagrand, also at the Throne of the Elements.
Thrall at first is resistant to help Saurfang, preferring to stay on his farm. Saurfang's plea to help does not change Thrall's mind:
This world. It looks good...but...it's wrong. Broken. Falling apart. Just like the Horde. Do you know what she's done while you've been hiding?
He feels pressured that if he returns, people will expect him to rule and he’s nobody’s savior—but Saurfang is quick to correct him that he just wants Thrall’s help. Thrall has seemed near-invincible in WoW’s history, but he’s always been in the spotlight as a leader. In this brief exchange, we see how Thrall struggles with his sense of worth when when he’s
Thrall: I will not lead the Horde.
Saurfang: I didn’t ask, but I hoped you would at least fight for it.
Their talk is interrupted by Sylvanas sending her spies to attack. Thrall assumes that Saurfang was followed, but Saurfang instead reveals that
followed the spies, telling Thrall that characters like both of them don’t get to hide. His mind made up, Thrall tosses his anvil out of the way, which he’s been eyeing for the entire cinematic, pulling out the axe buried underneath. While we're not sure if this is the exact same axe Durotan wielded, the parallels to his father are still clear. He may not wield Doomhammer anymore and shamanistic powers, but he’s ready to fight on behalf of the Horde.
Assuming Saurfang is correct, with the revelation that Sylvanas’ spies were on their way to Thrall first, Sylvanas’ master plan also grows in complexity. Every patch, we’re left unsure as to how much she actually knows, and if our actions to unite against her are leading us into a trap. For example, did Baine heroically free Derek Proudmoore, or is he secretly an agent for Sylvanas? Did Sylvanas send assassins to take Thrall out, or did she predict that the presence of the assassins would motivate Thrall to fight for the Horde? Sending two assassins is not much of a threat, especially after Saurfang took out Dark Rangers singlehandedly in the Swamp of Sorrows. Without going into spoilers, there are hints her cat-and-mouse game continues in
Rise of Azshara
, which you can
to read more about.
Another possible interpretation is that Saurfang isn't being totally honest with Thrall. We've seen him already followed by Sylvanas' troops in
Tides of Vengeance
, so it's logical that he'd continue to be followed through the Dark Portal. Perhaps Saurfang lured the assassins to Thrall, knowing that if Thrall saw them first-hand, he'd change his mind and fight for the Horde. While Saurfang usually isn't a master of subtlety, he
participated in schemes before, such as tricking the Alliance spies in the early chapters of "A Good War."
If you need a catch-up on both of these characters, check out our lore biographies for
Past Saurfang Cinematics
This is now the third cinematic featuring Saurfang in
Battle for Azeroth
. All three of them are introspective, an unusual choice for a character primarily known as a hardened battle-warrior.
On the eve of the Battle for Lordaeron, Saurfang reflects on the death of his son and the carnage of Teldrassil, with graphic flashbacks to the burning with screams of the Night Elves. We see Saurfang protesting Sylvanas, arguing there was no honor in burning Teldrassil--a welcome addition, as players worried that Saurfang was quite passive in Warbringers: Sylvanas.
A young orphaned troll, aka Zappyboi, comes up to Saurfang, glorifying the old Orc for his actions in the Third War. Saurfang, who started reflecting on the horrors of his past at the end of A Good War, starts stripping off his plate armor. He throws his Horde pendant into the flames, and then in flashback we see the death of his son in Wrath of the Lich King, as Saurfang' cradles his dead body and takes his pendant. He stalks away, perhaps to abandon the Horde, but the troll keeps following Saurfang, revealing he retrieved his son's pendant.
Saurfang decides to live another day.
In this cinematic, we learn the answer to a puzzling question from
Tides of Vengeance
. How did Saurfang escape from the Stormwind Prison?
Anduin and Saurfang have a quiet heart-to-heart, as Saurfang tells him that he spared Anduin's life so he could eventually take down Sylvanas. Anduin responds that he can't--not by himself, and leaves Saurfang with the door to his cell open.
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