Sylvanas famously executes the humans of Lordaeron, leaving behind her own shattered legacy. This cinematic has been a staple in Warcraft lore since its introduction in World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King. In this analysis we explore why Sylvanas’ actions were so important to Blizzard and how they have shaped subsequent storylines within their games.,
Sylvanas is featured in the new 9.2 cinematic, Shattered Legacies. We’ll look at Sylvanas’ shattered soul and the only way she can go on and become whole again in this study.
SPOILERS!!! There may be major plot twists ahead.
So Far, the Story
Sylvanas had been linked with the Jailer, Zovaal, until recently, trusting in his promises to transform the cycle of life and death into one that is more fair. This changed seconds after Zovaal succeeded in his purpose of establishing a gateway to Zereth Mortis, when Sylvanas realized he had no intention of keeping his promises and would just be another dictator who forced her to submit to his authority. Sylvanas fired an arrow at Zovaal in a show of defiance, and as a punishment, he returned the fracture of her soul, ripped from her by Frostmourne and kept in the Jailer’s hands apparently since her death.
Read more in our Sanctum of Domination Cinematic Finale Analysis. Sylvanas collapsed to her knees, grasping at her chest, before collapsing asleep on the floor as the piece of soul re-entered her body.
Introduction to Shattered Legacies
After the events of the Sanctum of Domination raid, Sylvanas is still comatose as the scenario starts. We can tell right away that the soul’s re-entry caused a wound, comparable to the one that Uther’s soul bore. Uther’s voice may be heard, stating that her soul, like his, has been split.
Sylvanas’ spirit has been shattered from the moment she died… until now.
Touching Uther’s wound in Shadowlands Afterlives: Bastion enabled Devos to receive a glimpse of Uther’s memories and struggles. Maybe that’s why he’s reaching for Sylvanas’ wound. As the image starts, coils of blackness stretch up to his palm, as though the anguish she is experiencing is so intense that it is spilling.
Her Worst Recollection
The scene shifts, and whereas Uther’s most painful memory and cause of conflict was his death at the hands of Arthas, the Burning of Teldrassil seems to be the most terrible memory and source of conflict for Sylvanas.
Sylvanas: I’m going to burn it!
But it’s clear right away that this isn’t simply a basic recollection.
Delaryn Summermoon, the Night Elf commander in Warbringers: Sylvanas, attempted to question Sylvanas about why she would slaughter innocent people.
Delaryn: Can you tell me why? You’ve already come out on top. Only the most innocent people remain in the tree. Sylvanas: We’re in the middle of a war. Delaryn: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no This is wrath… hate. You were the protector of your people, Windrunner. Do you have any recollection? Sylvanas: A idiot, I recall.
In Shattered Legacies, the person confronting Sylvanas is Sylvanas herself, kneeling in the same posture as Delaryn. Sylvanas, a mortal with blue eyes, was plainly the portion of her soul that Zovaal had forcibly returned to her.
A Soul in Strife
We can see how severe the internal tension between Sylvanas and herself is as the debate continues. First, a glimpse of Sylvanas’s utter astonishment and despair, her chest trembling as if she were crying, the agony and accusation on her face as she wonders how. How could she have done such a thing?
Sylvanas: You killed all of them in their own house! Sylvanas: How could you take the lives of so many innocent people?
Then there’s banshee Sylvanas’ rage and aggravation as she attempts to defend herself, throwing her hands up while trying to illustrate the wider picture, and her obvious irritation on her face as she wonders how. Why couldn’t she understand why this was required?
Sylvanas: This was a life-or-death situation! Sylvanas: There was no way to full freedom other than this. Sylvanas: How could you miss it?
The distance between these two parts of Sylvanas is too vast for them to be at peace, thus the fight continues as the shard of Sylvanas’s soul shouts the same labels at her that others have called her with – insults Sylvanas has repeatedly dismissed. The only difference today is that Sylvanas is calling herself by this name.
Sylvanas: I get where you’re coming from. Sylvanas: You’re a murderer! Sylvanas: You’re a monster! Butcher, Sylvanas!
A Fragment – Not Half – A Wound That Cannot Heal
And this is critical. In the face of these arguments, Sylvanas has always stayed stubborn, believing that there is a broader picture, a more vital emancipation that makes any sacrifice both essential and desirable. We’ve witnessed her rage and fury when it seemed that the Horde didn’t get it. We’ve witnessed her efforts to persuade Anduin, her belief that given enough time, she might have persuaded him of her point of view. No one appears to understand, according to Sylvanas, but if they could simply listen and see the wider picture, they would.
Now that this piece of her soul has returned, Sylvanas is certain that no “greater picture” is worth some of the crimes she’s perpetrated. There can no longer be any solace in a larger plan for Sylvanas. She can hide from the rest of the world’s accusations, but she can’t hide from herself now that the part of her that would never have accepted all of this has returned.
It’s critical to keep in mind that the soul fragment is just that: a fragment. Sylvanas’ soul was not divided into two pieces when she died. Frostmourne ripped a piece of her soul away, namely the portion of her that could never tolerate perpetrating an atrocity like Teldrassil for whatever cause. Uther described this in the main narrative questline of patch 9.1.5, Aftermath of Chains of Domination.
Frostmourne destroyed my soul when Arthas smote me down. It was not, however, separated into two halves, one honorable and the other cruel.
Rather, it felt as if a section of my awareness was stuck in time while the remainder of my spirit continued on its journey.
To having that lost bit returned has made me reconsider a lot of my decisions.
This is why, when Sylvanas’ soul fragment wonders why she can’t get out of her torment: this is why. Because as long as this wounded piece of her, the part of her that torched Teldrassil, can’t find a way to live with what she’s done, Sylvanas can’t find peace from her internal turmoil.
Sylvanas: Why can’t I get out of this!
She Isn’t Awake
As a result, the scene shifts back to Uther, who explains that Sylvanas is bound and tortured because of this struggle. Only by finding a way to be at peace with herself will she be able to awaken from her sleeping condition. Baine, very rightly, questions whether she should wake up, given her misdeeds, but Bolvar reminds out that Sylvanas’ expertise is required in the struggle against Zovaal. Despite this, Jaina and Thrall contend that she is still untrustworthy.
Uther: The Jailer has broken their link, condemning her to relive her crimes indefinitely. Uther: She won’t be able to wake up as long as her soul is split. Baine: She probably shouldn’t. Bolvar: She’s the only one who understands the Jailer’s scheme and how we can rescue Anduin. Jaina: She’s the one who made Anduin turn against him. Thrall: Jaina is absolutely correct. How can we put our faith in her?
Uther, on the other hand, is more sympathetic, and he makes a choice, taking Sylvanas’ hand to put it on his chest wound.
Uther: Her wound is much more serious than mine.
In Andorhal – Uther’s recollection, a portion of Sylvanas’ spirit appears. Uther greets her in his human form and tells her how he, too, was slaughtered by Arthas.
Uther: Hello, my name is Uther, and I’d like to welcome you Ranger -General Sylvanas: W-What exactly is this? Sylvanas: What is your name? Uther: Someone who met the same end as you, slain by the same prince’s sword. Arthas, Sylvanas.
This part of Sylvanas immediately plunges into the nightmare she’s found herself in, a piece restored to a soul that is unrecognizable to her and that she is certain cannot be her. Uther understands that she must recognize that this shard is a part of Sylvanas’ soul, but she refuses.
Sylvanas: I died attempting to stop that monster, only to be plagued by one that looks just like me. Uther: You’re the banshee. No, Sylvanas. That is something I cannot tolerate. Uther: Her journey started where yours stopped, and you’ve seen her choices. Sylvanas: In a thousand lifetimes, I would never betray what I believed in! Sylvanas: You have no idea what I’m talking about. Uther lets out a sigh.
The scenario is strikingly similar to the one we saw earlier, during the debate with herself, when she turns on him to dispute, flailing her hands in explanation. Her movements demonstrate that she is the same person essentially, however this aspect of her is gentler and less violent than her soul when she is not present. The resemblance in these scenarios also gently implies that she is mistaken, as she was previously.
Uther, on the other hand, is aware of the situation. The fragment of Sylanas comes to a halt as he shows her his own fragmented soul, reminding her that the Jailer’s expectation is that the wound in Sylvanas’s soul will never heal because this fragment will refuse to accept that it can be a part of her – not just the mortal Elf she was before death, but the Banshee she is now.
Uther: The Jailer is a master of deception. It almost killed me when I realized I had become his pawn. He was certain it will also ruin you. Was he correct?
As Uther urges her to prove the Jailer wrong, embrace herself as she is, her own heritage, and once again be entire, the scene shifts.
Uther: Will you accept her destroyed legacy and tell us how to stop him, or will you embrace her shattered legacy and teach us how to stop him?
As a result, this sliver of Sylvanas’ soul, the part of her that could never accept something like Teldrassil, struggles with the realization that she, Sylvanas, is to blame. Some things are inexcusable, and she can’t console herself with reasons or forgiveness. She can’t console herself by claiming it wasn’t her since it would leave her soul shattered.
The only way ahead is for her to embrace the heritage of the soul that this piece is a part of and claim it as her own – which means embracing the repercussions, including the agony of knowing what she has done and the retribution she may suffer from people she has wronged.
Sylvanas: Her transgressions are unpardonable. Yes, Uther. Sylvanas: She, too… Sylvanas: I’m going to burn it! Sylvanas:…I’m going to have to deal with the repercussions.
This discussion ends on nearly the same tone as one Sylvanas has had previously – with Anduin – as Uther challenges the piece of Sylvanas’ soul to make her decision.
Uther: We can’t alter the past, and we may never be forgiven in the future… but we’re all doomed if we don’t act. Ranger-General, time is running out. Make your decision.
Sylvanas was ready to wield the Jailer’s dominance spell on Anduin in the cinematic Sylvanas’s Choice to compel him to submit to Zovaal’s wishes. Anduin pushed her to make a decision since she was hesitant. That scenario stopped before she made her decision, and we only found out afterwards that she had decided to corrupt Anduin.
Read more about Sylvanas’ decision in our analysis. The scene merely shifts in this cinematic, as Uther informs the others that he has done all he can. Sylvanas is currently unconscious.
Uther: I’ve given it my all.
Time passes, and the others go, leaving just Uther by Sylvanas’ bedside. Her eyes eventually opened. They’re blue in color. The soul from whom the part came has embraced it. Sylvanas’ soul has been restored.
A Final Thought
Sylvanas’ armor has evolved through time as she has grown closer to the Jailer. Looking at her three most recent models, we can see how she’s progressed from Dark Ranger armor with her stomach exposed to more defensive gear as she got more paranoid and hostile, and eventually to the hard, spiky Maw-inspired armor she’s worn since the beginning of Shadowlands.
Sylvanas gets a new model on the PTR, and we can see how it reflects improvements in her character right now. Her eyes are blue, and she’s dressed in armor that, once again, resembles that of a Ranger-General. It’s also softer, more relaxed, and less closed off than the Mawsworn gear’s hard spikes.
This new model underlines the idea that Sylvanas’ soul is complete again by integrating aspects from both her mortal and banshee forms. She isn’t only the mortal Elf who perished at Arthas’ hands, or the Banshee who set Teldrassil on fire. She is both, and she is prepared to face whatever the future has for her.