Times Change: Garrosh & the Warlords cinematic

The Warlords of Draenor cinematic went live yesterday. This post has spoilers.
If you haven't seen it yet, here's a link, go watch. It's only 5 minutes long.

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The Warlords trailer was released yesterday, and people have lots of thoughts. There's probably going to be many blog posts soon addressing how the focus was entirely on orcs, how there were no draenei, how there were no female orcs, the heavy masculinity, and how the lore significance was likely lost on the many players that didn't play the older games.

These are valid points, and you should read them! But this is not one of those posts.

No, this post is about one thing and one thing only: Garrosh. While he's present in a good portion of the cinematic, he doesn't play a major role (one could argue that his torch-waving signalling was unnecessary, since the siege machines were already in action), and he only has one line of dialogue, which consists of only two words.

But those two words. Man.

Gul'dan: This...was not our destiny!
Garrosh: Times change.

Okay. Let's talk about this line. On the surface, it's a clever retort. It's a snappy one-liner to Gul'dan's protests, and it has the meta benefit of alluding to the fact that Garrosh has gone back in time to accomplish his goals. It's a good line.

But put that aside for a moment. Ignore the scene, who he's addressing, what's going on around them. Instead, just look at Garrosh's face when he says his line. And listen to HOW he says it.

Times change.

Me? I hear a distinct heaviness in his voice. A weight. A weariness. A clear absence of the anger, arrogance and brashness that has for years utterly defined who Garrosh Hellscream is.

Think back to oh, every time we've heard Garrosh speak, whether it's to Thrall, Varian, Taran Zhu, or to players in his own faction. He snarls, he sneers, he spits his words like cannon blasts. For him, the very act of talking is a heavily emphasized, violent act. That's who Garrosh IS. Go watch the 5.4 trailer again if you want to compare.

But his words in the cinematic, these two little words...they don't feel this way. This is a different Garrosh. He sounds almost apologetic.

This drastic change in attitude isn't just the voice acting, either - it's written all over his face. Look at the attitude difference between this Garrosh...

...and this one.

There's no fury, twisting and contorting his features. No bloodlust or hatred. Nor is it the smirking expression of someone who just delivered a devastating verbal shot. No, that is the face of someone who is at that very moment, coming to a difficult, perhaps painful, realization.

Remember, until recently it was Garrosh, not Gul'dan, shouting about his "glorious destiny." And when Garrosh realizes he has lost, that he has been denied the fate he so adamantly believes he deserves, it's almost more than he can bear.

(sound credits: Wowhead!)

Fast forward to Garrosh in the cinematic, standing over Gul'dan. Why is Garrosh not angrier? Why doesn't he take out the years of frustration and rage he, like most orcs, now feel towards this traitor to their proud race? Why does he not spit in Gul'dan's face, break his spindly neck, mock his suffering?

Well, Guldan's faith in the destiny promised him has just been shattered. And hearing the pain and denial in the other orc's voice as those dreams and hopes slip away...what must be running through Garrosh's mind at that moment? He knows Gul'dan is a monster. But Garrosh also knows what it's like, to have the world in the palm of your hand, so close you can taste it, only to have it stolen cruelly away at the last second.

Garrosh was in those exact same shoes not so long ago. He knows this pain all too well.

Now, maybe Garrosh has comes to terms with himself, with the unexpected directions his life has taken him. After all, he's no longer the proud, celebrated leader of the Warsong Offensive. He is no longer Warchief of the Horde, leader of the mightiest army on Azeroth. Now, he's an outlaw. A renegade. Hunted and despised by everyone he's ever known. His grand, ambitious plans of conquest, of victory...now all gone, scattered to the winds.

Gul'dan believed he was destined for something greater. Well, so did Garrosh. But guess what?

Times change.

Maybe he's come to realize that the world might not actually revolve around him...that his purpose, his meaning in life, is what he is doing now. Not to be the one leading the ferocious charge into battle, not to the one defying the rest of the world and daring them to come rip him down off his throne, but instead, helping his father be the one to attain such glories.

To wait behind, to signal the catapults. To retrieve his leader's weapon. To eschew accolades and recognition. To follow, not lead.

Who is Garrosh really addressing in the cinematic?


Or himself?

I said there was a weight in Garrosh's words, and there is. But there's more. A sense of resignation. Of defeat. Of mourning, an unspoken, quiet sadness at what could have been, and at what he knows he has lost.

But there is also something else - acceptance.

The timbre in his voice. The expression on his face.

For the first time, Garrosh seems - dare I say it? - content.

Look at the moment when he retrieves Gorehowl from Mannoroth's corpse.

Garrosh pauses, considering it. He knows this weapon. He's wielded it countless times. He knows its weight, the feel of how it sings in battle, the adrenaline rush of sending it cleaving through his foes. It's not just an axe, it's an extension of his very being, his warrior's spirit. His legacy.

He looks at it. Remembering.

And then he lets it go.

19 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. gravatar

    I'd noticed that too, though I could never have put it quite so eloquently into words. In this cinematic he was almost, dare I say it, likable.

    August 15, 2014 at 9:38 AM

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    I believe he lets go of Gorehowl because he's done it before.

    He tossed aside the very emblem of his legacy, the very thing that drove his ambition and desire, when he picked up the Sha. He literally threw Gorehowl aside in pride, for something he believed to be greater. Jaina and Lor'themar comment on his abandonment of the axe and I think that that very event is in play here. Perhaps he doesn't feel worthy of it anymore.

    August 15, 2014 at 9:54 AM

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    It wasn't a bad cinematic -- I just can't shake the feeling Blizzard is STILL gonna cock it all up during WoD.

    August 15, 2014 at 10:36 AM

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    There are unanswered questions in my mind.

    1) What is Garrosh's relationship to Grom? i.e. Does Grom know who Garrosh is, or is Garrosh presenting himself as a friendly stranger - kinda like Medivh's role as "the prophet" on Azeroth in TimeLineOne? Has it been said? Does Grom even know what holding that axe means to Garrosh?

    2) When exactly did Garrosh arrive in this timeline? The scene was 35 years ago, Azeroth Standard Time. But how much further back did he go? Maybe he's had a decade or two to learn to be a more skilled weasel - he already had that talent, maybe he's learned to get his Wormtongue on. Or maybe he's just worn out from x number of years preparing for this pivotal moment.

    3) Could the final boss be taken out by playing "Lara's Theme" and rocking gently back and forth in time to the music?

    August 15, 2014 at 11:07 AM

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    The combination of "We will not be slaves!" and Kargath's story of slavery to the ogres, combined with brown-skinned orcs and heavy chain imagery, leaves me feeling nauseated and disturbed and inclined to fight with them instead of against them.

    And the ogre oppressors are fat white dudes.

    Blizz loves their redemption stories, so it looks like they're setting one up for us. I would like it better if they could avoid racial stereotypes. But I suppose that sort of sensitivity about any social justice subject is far too much to expect.

    August 15, 2014 at 11:30 AM

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    It would seem Anduin's mercy had an effect after all,

    August 15, 2014 at 5:49 PM

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    If I could add to it. think of the storys that Garrosh has been told about his father, especially the one's from Thrall, of how he killed Mannaroth in the same manner, and took the full blast of the attack of the Pit lord dieing. Garrosh knows and recognizes the scene for what it was. And he too that moment to save his father from his fate, and create a new one. One he could be proud of as a child.

    Because this isn't about him anymore, and he's realized it picking up Gorehowl.

    August 15, 2014 at 5:51 PM

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    @Tigercrane - A very good point! One thing's for certain, he's definitely deep in thought for that moment he picks up Gorehowl, thinking on what it represents to him one way or another.

    @Grimm - I agree that there's definitely still a lot of questions. I think I'm okay with not knowing some yet, and them not being explained in the cinematic, as long as they DO get explained in-game later on. (It would've been fine if they used the cinematic to detail all that, too, but I guess they didn't go that route.)

    As for how far back, I think they said it hasn't been that long. Which is too bad, because one of my favorite personal headcanons involves him going back like 10-20 years before THESE events, so by the time "current time" rolls around Garrosh is fully integrated into orcish society and really respected and trusted. And that when we eventually arrive and encounter him, he's OLD, a beloved orc ELDER. That'd be a twist.

    @Anon - I also find it very curious Blizz has chosen to present Grom and the Iron Horde as such heroic figures at this point in time, especially the extremely badass scenes Grom got in the cinematic. It DOES make you want to root for them, and for them to succeed. So it's kinda weird knowing that no, they're actually the enemy...

    @jshadowhunter - I really hope we see mention of their talks, in-game, when we do find Garrosh.

    @Anon - I can't remember exactly, but doesn't Thrall even show Garrosh a little scene of how the battle with Mannoroth happened, back in Nagrand? Regardless though, yes, the parallel of that scene was really well done. And if this represents a moment of real growth for him...well, it's probably too late, in the grand scheme of things...but it's still good to see.

    August 15, 2014 at 6:37 PM

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    Just Me


    I'll leave the deep lore discussions to those with more knowledge than me, but I do agree with your comments on Garrosh. Though he may be biding his time for a future opportunity. Time will tell.

    Anyway great to see you back, looking forward to more posts.

    August 19, 2014 at 6:20 AM

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    In his voice and attitude from the cinematic there could be seen, from my point of view, an orc who struggled so long to accomplish his destiny - and finally, he did so. It is a hard way, to re-live the times again, but he is (almost) peacefully accepting his new fate as a challenge and as the opportunity he always expected. He knows he finally got the chance he deserved, and the feeling shown on his face is hope combined with weariness from all the rage that he felt before.

    August 21, 2014 at 7:32 AM

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    Every time I read a post on the cinematic I see something new, something more than I saw when I was watching it. It hadn't even occurred to me that Garrosh might be thinking those things with his countenance. But reading this, I can see it. And I guess even more so after I reading War Crimes.

    But I can't help but giggle at something someone else wrote about the cinematic - did you see how straight and shiny Grom's locks are? HOW DOES A MALE WARRIOR ORC MAINTAIN SUCH GREAT HAIR CONDITION?? GHD hair straightener? Moroccan oil? :D

    August 21, 2014 at 9:49 PM

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    Garrosh said 3 words actually. You forgot when he waves the torch he also yells "NOW" to the people operating the spinning spiky wheel catapult harpoon.

    August 22, 2014 at 1:02 PM

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    Garrosh and Gul'dan are not so different, and it is obvious Garrosh realizes that as the events reach their climax. He has come as a prophet promising glory and warning of ruin, like Gul'dan and Ner'zhul in his own time. He has used glory and honour and fear of weakness as points of manipulation of his own father and his entire race to incite genocide and hatred. I don't believe Garrosh has truly changed, but these thoughts have obviously been a sobering experience for him, as if he knows now the world and destiny are bigger than just him.

    August 29, 2014 at 2:16 AM

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    geat to see you're back!

    September 12, 2014 at 12:19 PM

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    When will you continue your damn blog man? This is so frustrating to open it and see the old story... :(

    September 20, 2014 at 7:34 AM

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    They know how to make cinematics thats for sure. I just hope they can make a good expansion too to make up for mists of pandaria :s

    September 21, 2014 at 11:39 AM

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    thank you for this great post. I thought i was the only one to notice this. none of my online friends talk about lore and meaning like this. so glad so many others saw this as well and you helped me understand it better too.

    it's such a great expression. i stumbled upon this site simply because i was about to make an avatar with this exact picture of his face with that almost "sad" expression. i say "sad" because i lack a better vocabulary. that's why i'm so glad i found your post and read it.

    excellent read!

    and i love reply #7 from Anon (after jshadow). can't wait to find out from blizz devs themselves what they meant to convey with him in this video.

    November 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM

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    thank you for this great post. I thought i was the only one to notice this. none of my online friends talk about lore and meaning like this. so glad so many others saw this as well and you helped me understand it better too.

    it's such a great expression. i stumbled upon this site simply because i was about to make an avatar with this exact picture of his face with that almost "sad" expression. i say "sad" because i lack a better vocabulary. that's why i'm so glad i found your post and read it.

    excellent read!

    and i love reply #7 from Anon (after jshadow). can't wait to find out from blizz devs themselves what they meant to convey with him in this video.

    November 17, 2014 at 5:11 PM

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    I just wanted to say that this remains one of my favorite pieces of analysis I've ever read out of any fandom - years after the fact. I come back to it frequently and think about it. Thank you for writing this.

    July 9, 2021 at 10:10 PM