The Elder Scrolls

Why the Thalmor are unlikely to be “the villains” of Elder Scrolls 6

TheElderScrolls13 - Why the Thalmor are unlikely to be "the villains" of Elder Scrolls 6
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Now, I know right away that this will be controversial to even talk about, because after all, isn't this already a given? Everyone just knows that the Thalmor will absolutely be the villains. It's just what's going to happen.

And, sure, I do expect them to be there in some capacity. I don't think they are going to be ignored altogether. But there's a difference between being one of many antagonists and being "the villain." The Thalmor were antagonists in Skyrim, but they were not "the villain," that was Alduin. And I expect something similar to happen in TES 6, for the following reasons:

1) There would be no plausible way to defeat them

To begin with, I'm starting with the assumption that almost everyone else has also made, which is that TES 6 will be set somewhere in the top left of Tamriel. Whether that's High Rock or Hammerfell or some combination of the two (Hammer Rock?), who knows, but there seems to be a general consensus that that's where the game will be set. If that's the case, and the Thalmor are there as the main villains of TES 6, then we can assume a number of things:

  • Sometime after the events of Skyrim, the Aldmeri Dominion fought a second war against the Empire and won, destroying it completely.

  • Skyrim is now occupied by the Dominion.

  • The majority of Tamriel is now controlled by the Dominion.

  • Morrowind and Black Marsh are either conquered by the Dominion or remain unwilling to take any action against them.

  • The playable area of TES 6 remains the last part of tamriel where the races of man have any power.

If this is the case going into TES 6, then let's be honest and ask ourselves: how the hell are we going to beat them?! Even if we, the amazing heroes chosen by destiny, singlehandedly murder every single Thalmor soldier in the playable map and kill their generals and pretty much evict the Thalmor from Hammer Rock altogether….well, so what? They still control every single province that surrounds it. They still have the overwhelming advantage in manpower and resources, and there's no way to solve that without somehow having DLC for personally liberating all the other provinces, which is obviously impossible.

This is where we see the main problem with the Thalmor being the villain. It's not that the Thalmor are just too overwhelmingly powerful individually. The actual problem is that when the Thalmor get such a decisive upper hand in the period between Skyrim and TES 6, it means you can never convincingly have them be defeated in TES 6. After all, if they went from a stalemate with the Empire in Skyrim to conquering virtually all of Tamriel in TES 6, well, then who's to say that the Thalmor won't just conquer the entirety of Hammer Rock after the events of TES 6? There's nothing you can do at that point to convince the player that the Thalmor won't just wipe the floor with humanity once the credits roll.

Now, of course, you could always just have the Thalmor be no stronger than they were in Skyrim…but then how are they supposed to be the villains? If they're just the same type of antagonistic diplomats that they were in the last game, that's not a big enough threat to make them the "main villains". The only way they can be a big enough threat to carry a whole game is if they're an existential threat to humanity waging direct war on Hammer Rock. But if you do that, then you can no longer have them be defeated convincingly, because they are now suddenly a much bigger problem than one hero restricted to operating in one province can solve.

2) The Thalmor threat is not mystical enough

The threat posed by the Thalmor is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty mundane. As far as the games are concerned, they are Elf Nazis, a racist conquering army that wants to subjugate humanity because of their superiority complex. Which, sure, that's evil. I'd even go as far as to say that's really evil. But it wouldn't match the grandiosity of most of the villains in this series. Let's think of the last 3 titles for comparison:

  • Morrowind had Dagoth Ur, a person with such detailed lore that I probably can't even begin to write a cohesive explanation, but to massively oversimplify he was a living god who fought against the other living gods of Morrowind, and tried to reclaim Morrowind for the Dunmer with the power of the Heart of Lorkhan.

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  • Oblivion technically had Mankar Camoran, but he was really just a helper of the real villain, Mehrunes Dagon, the god of violent revolution who tried to bring all of Tamriel into his realm of Oblivion when the Emperor died.

  • And of course, Skyrim had Alduin, the world eater dragon who enslaved mankind for many generations in ancient history, then got banished to the future, and tried to do it all again in the 4th era.

Suffice it to say, these villains are much more interesting than an army of racist elves. They have more lore, they have more individual power, and the stakes are inherently higher. Compared to this, the Thalmor being the villains would be like if Ulfric Stormcloak was the villain in Skyrim rather than Alduin. And maybe that would be cool! But whether it's cool or not, my point is that Bethesda clearly likes going for as much magical flair as possible with their villains, and the Thalmor cannot exactly deliver that.

"But u/MotownMurder, don't forget, what the Thalmor actually want is to tear down the towers so that they can–"

Yes, don't worry I've heard of that. But there's two problems. Firstly, we don't actually know if Bethesda actually has any intention of following up on that idea. It's unclear if that was Bethesda's idea, Michael Kirkbride's idea, or just an idea a fan on the internet had that just spread around really well. And if Bethesda doesn't have any intention of following up on this idea, then there goes the Thalmor's one link to being potentially interesting.

The second problem, though, is that even if they do explore this idea of the Thalmor wanting to end existence in TES 6, what will that actually amount to? Not much. I mean, we can't actually have the Thalmor really end existence in the middle of the game, because having a game where linear time doesn't exist is probably impossible. So, all it would probably amount to in practical terms is the final boss telling you "I want to destroy the towers and end existence!" before you cut off his head. Not much of an improvement.

3) Elder Scrolls games rarely go as we expect

If Morrowind was the most recent Elder Scrolls game you played, what would you expect the plot of TES 4 to be about? Probably not Mehrunes Dagon trying to conquer Tamriel and the hero's struggle to appoint a new Emperor to replace Uriel Septim.

If Oblivion was the most recent Elder Scrolls game you played, what would you expect the plot of TES 5 to be about? Probably not the return of the dragons to Tamriel and the player learning about their Dragonborn heritage in order to defeat Alduin in Sovngarde.

And now, since Skyrim is the most recent Elder Scrolls game we've played, what do you expect TES 6 to be about? Probably not the Dwemer returning to Tamriel and attempting to conquer Hammerfell, forcing the hero to construct a new Numidium to save Tamriel.

…ok, I made that up. But that's my point: whatever the villain of TES 6 is going to be, it's probably going to be be something none of us can predict. Looking for clues in the current game to find out what will happen in the next game usually gives worse results than if you just guessed randomly. In general, the Elder Scrolls games traditionally have only followed each other's storylines very very loosely, and I see no reason why TES 6 would be any different.

As much as we may joke about TES 6 being Skyrim 2, the truth is that Skyrim is almost 10 years old already. By the time it actually comes out, it's possible that more time will have passed between Skyrim and TES 6 than will have passed between Arena and Skyrim. That's a long, long, long time. With that much time having passed, for better or worse, one thing we should count on is an entirely new experience, and part of that is often an entirely new story.

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