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Know Your Lore: A discussion of Med'an

Matthew Rossi

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how -- but do you know the why? Each week, Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

Med'an is a controversial character.

Well, maybe not. If Med'an were controversial, that would mean that some people like him and some people hate him, but so far, if Med'an has fans they're being awfully quiet about it. Now, that doesn't mean they don't exist, but until I see evidence for them existing I'm going to assume that they don't. So Med'an isn't controversial because there's no controversy. People either hate him, or they don't care about him at all. But there's the rub. By nature, I tend to dislike just going along with the common opinion without examining it for myself. So now, I find myself forced to ask: is Med'an that bad?

Med'an is as far as I know the only character to get dismissed from existence by the Ask CDev responses. There's a vague response at the end of Ask CDev 3 that implies that he left Azeroth entirely, and that's the last word we've gotten on the character. And I kind of understand why - taking a look at Med'an's backstory, it kind of sounds like something you'd see in someone's FlagRP profile that got out of hand.

Know Your Lore A discussion of Med'an Wed

To make a long story shorter, Med'an is the son of Medivh and Garona, making him half human, a quarter orc and a quarter draenei. Since he was conceived when Medivh was possessed by Sargeras, I suppose you could make an argument for quarter demon if you wanted to. Surrendered by Garona after his birth he was raised by Meryl Winterstorm, a thousand year old undead (not a Forsaken or Scourge undead, his own unique form of undead) and former member of the Council of Tirisfal. Through a comically convoluted series of events, Med'an discovered his true parentage, eventually leading up to his meeting Maraad (a draenei vindicator and Garona's uncle, thus his great-uncle) and becoming the new Guardian of Tirisfal as well as stopping C'thun from being reborn or reincarnated or whatever it is that Old Gods do when they're dead but still giving orders to Cho'gall.

So is Med'an so bad? The story's a standard 'young man finds who he really is and discovers his destiny' plot, after all. It's nothing new or original, but it's a standard because it works. So does it work here?

Well, let me put it this way: Med'an's biggest crime isn't anything he actually does in his story arc. The kid's actually fairly boring, your standard 'determined to be heroic young kid finding out who he is' story that doesn't do much other than show him trying to be good a lot. You could certainly make a case that he's boring, but in and of himself that's his primary sin. He's a fairly boring character, the closest he gets to character development is moping about his heritage and how the orcs did horrible things to the draenei and worse, how Medivh was so evil and he'll be evil too, stuff that's dealt with pretty fast in the comics anyway.

I think, if we were going to try and dissect why people dislike Med'an, there are a few reasons that I can think of to cover.
  1. He fills roles other characters already fill. We don't need a green skinned messianic figure, Thrall has that covered. Garona handles the whole "I'm descended from the monsters and their victims at once" aspect, Medivh pretty much nailed the whole 'Last Guardian' shtick, if we need an impossibly powerful mage we already have Jaina and Khadgar. In short, Med'an doesn't add anything crucial to the storyline.
  2. He shows up, usurps the comic book story and reduces every major lore character to his periphery. The header image is from the end of the storyline, when Med'an basically 'borrows' the powers of every single member of the New Council of Tirisfal, goes super-Saiyan (complete with yellow glow) and defeats Cho'gall who is empowered by C'thun. We're talking people like Hamuul Runetotem and Jaina Proudmoore here, and they're reduced to cheerleaders while Med'an defeats the story's big bad. Even his mother, Garona, a ridiculously lethal assassin ends up twiddling her thumbs while Med'an saves the day.
  3. His very existence changes established lore characters. I admit, I actually don't mind the idea of Medivh and Garona having an affair - I kind of like the idea of these two lonely people, each with a past full of tragedy and predestined doom, finding a kindred spirit in another person who grew up feeling alone and alien - but Med'an's existence means that Garona goes from haunted, reluctant assassin of a personal friend to someone who spends years playing absentee mother/guardian angel, and Med'an as the Guardian of Tirisfal completely destroys the whole point of Warcraft III, that the time for Guardians was past and the world's fate was in the hands of its people now.
  4. The story he appears in didn't really have any lasting impact. That one's mostly because Blizzard has very deliberately steered away from letting it have said impact, but look at the story. Med'an grows into a person capable of wielding arcane magic, nature magics, the power of the elements and the Holy Light, is eventually empowered by the New Council of Tirisfal (which this time consists of members of both the Horde and Alliance, representing a variety of magical disciplines) and defeats Cho'gall. And none of it matters. The New Council either immediately disbands or just plain forgets that it exists, Cho'gall is a major villain in Cataclysm, Garona hasn't been seen since her brief appearance in the Twilight Highlands (she doesn't even show up to kill Cho'gall when the ogre dies), and Med'an himself is apparently in another dimension having an extended training montage. Whether or not you like Med'an is almost besides the point - the fact that his story is so ephemeral that even the people who take part in it don't seem to remember any of it stands as a huge blow to the character.
Three and four are the big problems with Med'an to my eyes. Three isn't really the fault of the character - bland as he is, Med'an doesn't affect Garona at all really. He neither adds or detracts from her personal story, he doesn't make her life or actions revolve around him. You'd barely even know while reading the comic that she's his mother. Now, ordinarily I'd be willing to argue that it's a good thing that Garona isn't changed into a matronly or maternal figure, because it doesn't fit her arc from Warcraft II - but the problem is, we're still given this huge secret about Garona that she's been hiding for the kid's entire life and we're given no indication that it has had any affect on her. I almost would have preferred a nice Lone Wolf and Cub-style montage of a pregnant Garona murdering people trying to capture her, then wearing a back harness with a baby Med'an in it while again murdering more people, something that showed us that she was still Garona. Having mystery undead dude just adopt the kid and raise him in Duskwood just cheats us of any possible story development.

In a way, Med'an changes everything too much and yet not nearly enough, a paradox that's astonishingly frustrating. We see that Garona and her uncle Maraad know about each other, but we get very little time seeing how coming face to face with her draenei heritage affects her. We get a flashback of Garona and Medivh but it's so short that we never get any sense of how their relationship happened. We see a council of some of the world's most powerful beings come together and immediately fall apart. Where were these guys when the Lich King showed up? When the Cataclysm happened? Heck, it was the same villains as the Med'an story, were they all just too busy, or maybe too embarrassed?

In the end, it's probably just as well that Med'an is trapped in the bottle city of Draenor, or heading off to free Argus, or fight Freiza or whatever it is he's doing now. I'd love to see Garona return and do stuff, but frankly, dealing with the mess this storyline makes of her backstory is probably a bad idea. It's here, like an enormous elekk in the room, but it's been so thoroughly sidelined that I can only see a couple of ways to make good use of it in the future.

Next week's KYL will be a Tinfoil Hat dealing with how we could get good use out of Med'an.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

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