(aka Optimus Thrall & Grimgarrosh)Warning: HUGE nerd post following, spanning multiple geek genres.
A burst of realization hit me this week like a thunderbolt, regarding the current Horde political scene with Thrall & Garrosh. I'd seen it all before. It's exactly what happened with the Autobots, Optimus Prime & Grimlock in the original Transformers comic series.
Anyways, in the comics the Autobots (the good guys) experienced a leadership struggle between the peace-seeking, compassionate leader Optimus Prime, and his headstrong, dim-witted, might-makes-right lieutenant Grimlock. One of the main points of contention between the two was that Optimus Prime wanted to protect the Earth and humanity, while Grimlock believed that the humans were weak and just interfered with the Autobots' real goal: defeating their enemies, the evil Decepticons. When Optimus Prime died, Grimlock became the new Autobot leader, despite some firm opposition from his fellow soldiers. His reign was tyrannical, heavy-handed and rife with discontent from the other Autobots.
Sounding familiar yet?
If you need further convincing, here's a sample conversation between Grimlock (black head) and Optimus Prime (blue head) that almost identically echoes the sentiments expressed by Garrosh to Thrall. Click for larger version if the text is too small. Also, this one looks different than the later pictures because it's from a more recent comic series.
When Optimus Prime died, the other ranking Autobots gathered to discuss a new commander, running down the list of noble traits their former leader had possessed. Grimlock interrupted their discussion and argued that strength, not compassion, was the key to victory. Once again, this could be a discussion about Thrall and Garrosh, right down to Optimus/Thrall's concern about the planet and Grimlock/Garrosh's blunt, crude demeanor. Hell, replace Grimlock with Garrosh and the other Autobots with Vol'jin, Cairne, Saurfang, Lor'Themar, Sylvanas and...how about Darion Mograine, and you have the makings of a scene right out of WoW.
Grimlock-Garrosh makes me crack up.
Sure, there's some minor differences - Thrall isn't actually dead, and Cairne's model isn't that detailed - but I could definitely see a similar meeting taking place upon Thrall stepping down as Warchief.
Anyways, let's take a closer look at Optimus Prime/Thrall and Grimlock/Garrosh. First, a snippet from Optimus Prime's official wikipedia entry:
Optimus Prime is depicted as a heroic, brave and compassionate character who puts all his talent to use to improve the universe around him. Optimus has a strong sense of justice and righteousness, and has dedicated himself to the protection of all life, particularly the inhabitants of Earth; he will battle his foes with unyielding resolve.You could basically just swap in Thrall's name in that paragraph and it would still fit perfectly. And now, Grimlock:
Grimlock is the most fearsome and powerful member of the Dinobots. Grimlock can be cold, merciless and contemptuous of those he considers beneath him, such as human beings, and at times, even Autobot leader Optimus Prime himself, who Grimlock would gladly supplant as Autobot leader if he were able to. Nevertheless, he is a valiant warrior whose actions command respect from all who are witness to them, both friend and foe.
Okay, so personality wise there's remarkable similarities between Thrall/Optimus Prime and Garrosh/Grimlock. What else? We know Garrosh openly desires to be Warchief, and has challenged Thrall's authority and strength on numerous occasions. What about Grimlock? Let's look at his Wiki entry again:
Grimlock steadily grew more and more displeased with Optimus Prime's leadership, and eventually broke his Dinobots away from the main Autobot faction. After a prolonged period living in self-imposed exile, the news of Optimus Prime's death brought Grimlock back to the Autobots. After proving his worth by defeating the Decepticon Trypticon, Grimlock was elected leader of the Autobots.
It soon proved that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Grimlock developed into a tyrannical ruler who led the Autobots with an iron fist. His policy towards Earth and its inhabitants were vastly different from Optimus Prime's – instead of viewing them as objects of protection, Grimlock expressed a disdain for humanity, viewing them as an inferior species unworthy of their protection.
Yup. He's Garrosh.
There were more incidents under Grimlock's rule that are right out of Garrosh's playbook. When two Autobots named Goldbug and Blaster grew tired of Grimlock's leadership and set off on their own, he declared them traitors, and had them hunted down and imprisoned/tortured.
Other Autobots expressed unease about his decisions, including even his elite circle of fellow Dinobots. However Grimlock, a physically powerful and intimidating Autobot, not only dismissed their concerns completely but often reacted with anger and threats of violence at being questioned.
Finally, a second faction of Autobots later showed up to join forces, but Grimlock refused to acknowledge the authority of the new group's leader. As a result, the powerful allegiance that would have formed between the two groups never happened due to Grimlock's refusal to surrender any degree of his total control.
To summarize, the Autobots were splintered, scared of their own commander, and fighting amongst themselves - all the while still battling their actual enemies, the Decepticons.
Eventually, Grimlock's shortsightedness and arrogance led to more and more Autobots growing sick of his leadership, and they collectively conspired to overthrow him, arranging for Blaster to challenge Grimlock for leadership. During their duel the Decepticons launched an all-out assault, and both Autobot factions were forced to work together to fend off the attack. Shortly after the battle Optimus Prime was resurrected, and Grimlock stepped down as leader, having realized his faults.
So what does this mean for Garrosh? For starters, I could definitely see many of Grimlock's mistakes being duplicated by Garrosh in Cataclysm, especially the merciless attitude towards what he views as "traitors." After all, it's widely assumed that Cairne will be executed by Garrosh for supposed treason. I predict that Cairne will meet or assist a faction or subgroup of the Alliance - probably the night elves, what with the shared druidic bond that the tauren and night elves share, and the common global threat of the Emerald Nightmare. Regardless of Cairne's intentions, Garrosh explodes when he finds out, having declared any friendly behavior towards the Alliance as traitorous.
Garrosh also doesn't seem the type to receive advice/criticism very well, and would likely lash out in anger at anyone who dared. (Except Saurfang. Where does he fit into this? Maybe self-imposed exile over the death of his son, much like Tiron Fordring in the past.) We know that in Cataclysm the other Horde races have been kicked out of Orgrimmar. Mostly people have speculated that the reason for this is that Garrosh considers them too weak. I think it's going to be simpler, and even dumber...Garrosh will probably just get pissed off at Vol'jin constantly disagreeing with him, flip out, and /gkick them. Maybe using the newly reclaimed Echo Isles as an excuse, though that seems too diplomatic/subtle for Garrosh.
Is Garrosh's leadership doomed to failure before it even begins? Not necessarily. Despite his many flaws, Grimlock does slowly come to realize his flaws. Granted, it's at least partially motivated by his desire to "smash Decepticon" but the intent was there, and his situation does work out fine in the end.
Is Garrosh capable of such character growth? As it stands, I would say...no. Grimlock was always respected, if unpopular, since he was a fierce warrior who had proven his abilities countless times in the past. He also had a very close inner circle of loyal friends (the Dinobots) whose opinions he deeply respected and valued. When even they started to disagree with him, Grimlock realized that maybe he was doing something wrong.
Garrosh has none of this. He doesn't have a great warrior reputation or history of heroic deeds - in fact, he's really done almost nothing. (Yet. More on this later.) There's basically no reason for any non-orc to respect him, except possibly the Forsaken...but I think Garrosh would dismiss their tactics as cowardly and dishonorable, killing any camaraderie there. And unlike Grimlock, Garrosh has no close mentors or friends to help him find his way. While Grimlock found wisdom in the genuine opinions of his close friends, Garrosh trusts only in his own angry impulses.
That being said...
I think we'll see Garrosh do something incredibly badass before Cataclysm, to provide both an in-game reason why the Horde would follow him & acknowledge him as Warchief, and an out-of-game reason that Horde players will think "Hmm, okay that was pretty great, maybe Garrosh isn't such a tool after all." This is exactly what happened with Grimlock - after months of being arrogant and brash, he saved the leaderless Autobots from a terrible ambush, proving his worth to them and the readers at the same time. Maybe Garrosh's paranoia will uncover a Twilight's Hammer plot that threatens the entire Horde, or something to that effect. Or there's that well-known Burning Blade leader sitting comfortable right in Orgrimmar.
It's going to be interesting to see the state of the orcs, the Horde, and of Garrosh himself come Cataclysm. If we look at the Autobots as a simulation, it doesn't look good. Grimlock's leadership was one of the lowest points in the Autobots' history. Tension was high, morale was low, and their actual enemies were close to wiping them out. Only Grimlock's personal maturation as a character and the miraculous return of their former leader prevented their total destruction.
Will Garrosh go through a similar period of self-reflection and growth? Will Thrall return to take back the reins of leadership and lead the Horde out of their grim state? Or will Garrosh lead the Horde down a darker path, spiraling further and further out of control? Only time will tell.