Illidan Stormrage Should Really Stay Dead – Part 1: Illidan’s History

Blizzard has their fifth expansion for World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor, in development right now.  The game is currently in alpha but is nearing closed beta, which attendees of PAX East were gifted invites to.  And though the expansion is still in fairly early stages of development, players are already speculating on what will happen and what characters may be seen in our adventures on Draenor prior to its demonic-go-boom fate.

Blizzard has their work cut out for them with this expansion mainly in making the story seem cohesive. Players are already confused and split on the concept of the expansion, which wasn’t terribly well explained at Blizzcon when it was announced.  Personally, I think they should have gotten Chris Claremont of X-Men fame to come help them explain it. He’s pretty familiar with these zany plots that would fit quite well into a comic book.

Here’s the simple explanation as I understand it.  Garrosh escapes imprisonment on Pandaria and, with the help of Kairoz the bronze dragon (or perhaps infinite dragonflight?), manages to escape through time and space to Draenor before the orcs were corrupted by the Burning Legion.  He stops all that demon blood drinking nonsense from happening and unifies the orc tribes (mostly) with his knowledge of better technology to forge an army dubbed the Iron Horde.  He then manages to activate the Dark Portal from 30 years-in-the-past Draenor as a time AND space gateway to modern day Azeroth.  So basically the orcish Horde of Draenor 28-30 years ago is not corrupted but invading modern day Azeroth.  And that’s where we begin.

Now, Blizzard tried to explain it’s not a time travel story and it’s not…really.  It’s like an X-Men story, only a bit in reverse.  Bishop and Cable stories were usually centered around either character going into the past to alter history and prevent their own future from occurring.  Garrosh has done the same thing, only instead of altering history, he just brought history straight into the present as an army.  So basically at this point, if anything, you’ve created split timelines and alternate timelines.  Players are questioning what this means, of course.  In the alternate timeline, Azeroth is never invaded, so what does that mean for all the characters of the Alliance we know and love?  No invasion, no Legion fueled orcs, no failure to win means no Lich King.  So Arthas may have no reason to go nuts.  It’s a great set up for some What If… stories.

But Blizzard isn’t focusing on that.  They’re focusing on a force from the past attacking the present.  Thrall meeting his father doesn’t mean something could make Thrall not exist. Honestly, there’s a little bit of “just go with it” on this one.  We’ll have to see how they work everything out, but I don’t expect a neat little package because it IS time travel as the catalyst and time travel into the past always mucks things up.  At least with Bishop and Cable they were genuinely looking for a way to erase their timeline from existence (though in comics you just create yet more timelines rather than erase any of them).

One character I’ve seen players speculate on is Illidan Stormrage.  With no Legion on Azeroth in the Third War, he won’t consume the skull of Gul’dan, so maybe that’s how Blizzard brings him back. Maybe they resurrect him. Maybe with time travel, they alter the past and he’s never killed.  Any way imaginable, whatever it takes, somehow they feel Blizzard MUST bring back Illidan Stormrage.

I say they shouldn’t.  Ever.

Illidan Stormrage is dead and needs to stay that way.  To do anything else with the character is going to ruin him and his story.  Sure, he can appear in flash back stuff, but modern times, he really needs to stay dead.  Fans claim he didn’t get the story he deserved, but I think his story was actually one of the better ones in Warcraft and has a beginning, climax, and denouement for a conclusion.

I'll grant you that he always looks cool

I’ll grant you that he always looks cool

Illidan’s story begins over 10,000 years ago now as a young night elf with great talent in the arcane arts.  When the Highborne were preparing to usher in the destruction of the world bringing Sargeras to Azeroth and Malfurion, Tyrande, Cenarius, and the Dragonflights planned to enact a plot to destroy the Well of Eternity, Illidan abandons them and sets out to warn the Highborn simply because he doesn’t want to lose his magic when the Well is destroyed.  Illidan had no remorse in betraying his brother due to his addiction to the arcane energy and his jealousy of Tyrande’s feelings for Malfurion.  Illidan swears above all else to protect the Well of Eternity from destruction by any means necessary.  During the battle, Illidan fills vials with the water from the well, planning to keep their energies for himself after the demons crush the night elf civilization.  The battle causes the portal to go unstable and…..’splosion.  The Sundering results in splitting the land, but some survivors find themselves on Kalimdor.

Now, these details are more fleshed out and explored, as well as altered, in the War of the Ancients Trilogy where three characters from current times get thrown into the past during the events of the War of the Ancients.  Illidan still abandons his allies in order to preserve the Well of Eternity, desiring to keep the source of his magic in tact.  He was also allured by the powers the Burning Legion wielded, which allowed his own thoughts to be swayed by the satyr Xavius and while Illidan believed he was acting to defeat the Legion, he wound up helping them by strengthening the portal with the Demon Soul.  This was the main alteration to the original story; Illidan had good intentions but was swayed by darker thoughts planted by Xavius.  His decision to kill his brother to win Tyrande, his plans to obtain the Demon Soul to stop the Legion when he was really being used to acquire it for them, etc. all make Illidan seem to be the victim.  But the key point is that he would never have thrown in with the Legion if he hadn’t decided to protect the Well of Eternity for his own selfish desire for power in the first place.  In this, the original Warcraft III manual and War of the Ancients still agree.

After the Sundering, Illidan climbs Mount Hyjal and pours some of the vials of the Well of Eternity into the lake there to create a new Well of Eternity. Again, this is purely so he could have access to power for himself and he shows no remorse for re-creating the very thing that brought the Burning Legion to Azeroth to begin with.  Illidan is imprisoned when it is determined he can’t be swayed, too enthralled by the grip of the arcane.

So to recap key points so far:

1. Illidan selfishly tried to prevent the Well of Eternity’s destruction so he could keep his power.
2. Illidan selfishly filled vials with the Well of Eternity to keep for himself.
3. Illidan selfishly re-creates a new Well of Eternity so he can keep his power.

Moving ahead 10,000 years, the Burning Legion return to Azeroth and Tyrande opts to free Illidan from his prison to fight them.  Illidan leads his own force of night elves into the Felwood to hunt the demons, intending to prove the Legion no longer had sway over him.  He encounters Arthas who tells him the Skull of Gul’dan is the cause of the corruption and that Illidan can have that power.  Illidan doesn’t trust Arthas, but still takes the bait and does exactly as he’s told.  He obtains the skull, breaks its seal, and, again desiring more power, consumes it for himself.  Illidan is affected, transformed into a demonic form himself, perhaps arguably transformed into a demon himself, and upon sensing the demonic power within, Tyrande and Malfurion turn away from him.  Illidan leaves the night elf forests feeling his efforts and sacrifice are unappreciated.

So at this point, we have a selfish night elf who has sought power in every chance he’s had, but arguably makes a sacrifice in order to save his people. By consuming the powers of the Skull of Gul’dan, he was able to defeat the Legion’s leader in the woods and stop the invasion.  He’s shunned for it, but that’s the burden he bears.  He’s a tragic hero in a sense at this point and it’s easy to see why the player is meant to feel pity and remorse for his fate.

………then he goes and ALLIES WITH THE BURNING LEGION.

Kil’jaeden offers him a deal, to scratch off that pesky Lich King in exchange for more magic and power than Illidan has dreamed of.  So Illidan summons the naga (former highborne who summoned all these demons 10,000 years ago to begin with) and brings in some satyr, because having demons work with you when you’re serving a demon is definitely how to go about proving you’re not demon corrupted anymore.  He corrupts some furbolgs along the way and heads off to obtain the Eye of Sargeras and heads off to use it to destroy the Frozen Throne and the Lich King.  Some argue that this is a sign that he’s still a hero, but remember he’s still doing this at the behest of the Burning Legion and for an offer of greater magic and power (because the enhanced power from the Skull of Gul’dan still isn’t enough apparently).

Since he failed to do the job, he flees to Outland to escape Kil’jaeden.  He begins wiping out demons in Outland, hoping that by eliminating the demonic presence, he’d escape Kil’jaeden.  Again, Illidan does none of this out of a sense of good, or because it’s the right thing to do, but purely out of self preservation.  He defeats Magtheridon and imprisons him beneath Hellfire Citadel.  However, all of Illidan’s success proves to be too little and Kil’jaeden finds him.  Illidan saves his neck by claiming he was gathering forces to fulfill his mission from Kil’jaeden and he’s given one last chance.

Kil'jaeden and Illidan

“You done goofed”

Illidan again fails to destroy the Lich King, defeated by Arthas but rescued by Kael’thas and Lady Vashj and taken back to Outland.  So throughout the War of the Ancients story and Warcraft III, Illidan is not a hero and he’s not really even an anti-hero.  He’s mainly a selfish character who only seeks out power for himself, repeatedly allying himself with the Burning Legion for promises of said power.  There is no redeeming story for Illidan through all of this, he has been consistently traveling down the path of a villain.  Granted, he sometimes did things for Tyrande, having always had feelings for her and he does initially want to drive back the Legion and prove himself to Tyrande and Malfurion both and it could even be argued that he does take great risks in order to defeat the Legion no matter the cost by consuming the powers of the Skull of Gul’dan.  One might even say it was an act of desperation to prove himself. After all, Illidan didn’t know it would make him a demon, but on some level, he has always sought power for himself.

In part 2, I’ll explore the Illidan story in The Burning Crusade and finalize my thoughts on why Illidan should simply stay dead.

 

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