“The Rings Of Power” Adds Seven To Its Huge Ensemble Cast

Ah, how I’ve missed the Amazon marketing team’s wildly unpredictable strategy for promoting what is reportedly the biggest and most expensive series ever made for television. Coming off a premiere with record-breaking viewership numbers that caused lots of online discourse but nevertheless generated a dedicated fanbase who thereafter kept the series at or near the top of the Nielsen charts for multiple weeks in a row, The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power has fumbled one opportunity after another to keep that fanbase’s undivided attention through what is expected to be a long downtime between seasons. Most casual fans probably weren’t even aware that season two had quietly started filming back in early October, while the first season was still airing, because there have been almost no official updates on the production out of Bray Studios in England.

Joseph Mawle as Adar in The Rings Of Power
Joseph Mawle as Adar | comicbookmovie.com

Until Thursday morning, when Amazon chose to randomly spring on us a total of seven new casting announcements for The Rings Of Power season two – with one, unfortunately, being the unexpected recasting of a major character. Nobody behind-the-scenes seems to have considered how slipping this important piece of information into a press release might completely overshadow what should have been a celebratory moment for the seven new actors joining the world of Middle-earth, or how a day of warm welcomes would inevitably turn into a day of solemn farewell messages directed at Joseph Mawle when it got out that he would not be returning as “Adar”, the darkly seductive leader of the Orcs that so many of us had grown to love.

Samuel Hazeldine, best known for his work in Peaky Blinders, The Sandman, and The Last Duel, will assume the role going forward. Knowing nothing about Hazeldine and his acting process, I only hope that he isn’t compelled to mimic Mawle’s mannerisms too closely, or worse, directed to do so – while there should be a sense of continuity between their two iterations of the same character, Mawle’s Adar was by all accounts the end-result of meticulous research and immersion into Tolkien’s mythology for the Orcs, and I (along with many others) would ideally like to hear that Hazeldine took a similar journey before settling on his own, subtly unique, characterization for this enigmatic antagonist. Beyond that, I can guarantee that fans will be comparing the two actors, and a few will be coming into this season downright mad about the recasting and mad at Hazeldine through no fault of his own, so channeling Mawle might just have the undesired effect of drawing attention to his absence.

With that out of the way, there are six other actors joining The Rings Of Power who are lucky not to have the shadow of another looming over their heads, and it’s time we moved down the list. First up, there’s Gabriel Akuwudike, who comes from a background in theatre and has had various small roles in film and television (including 1917, Game Of Thrones, and Cursed). He’s around the same age as Morfydd Clark and very handsome, so naturally everyone in the fandom has jumped to the conclusion that he’s playing Celeborn, Galadriel’s canonical husband who has not yet appeared in The Rings Of Power (in a significant deviation from what Tolkien wrote on the subject, the series’ version of Celeborn has been believed dead for centuries, which is already a hell of a lot more interesting than anything he ever did canonically; sorry, someone had to say it). Of course, this is all just speculation, and it’s just as likely that Akuwudike is playing an original character.

Rings Of Power
Yasen Atour | vanityteen.com

Next on the list is Yasen Atour, and his face might already be familiar to some of you as that of the Witcher Coen in the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher. He struck me as very funny and likeable there, so I’m excited to see what kind of energy he brings to The Rings Of Power, whether his character is dramatic or comedic. My most out-there theory is that he’s Theo’s nameless father, who disappeared from Tirharad before he was born (and at one point was widely suspected to be Halbrand), but the mystery surrounding that character and Theo’s origins in general weirdly trailed off without a proper resolution halfway through the season, around the same time the Orcs attacked Tirharad. With Theo and his mother Bronwyn presumably safe and sound in Pelargir at the beginning of season two, maybe there’ll be time for the show to address all our burning questions regarding Theo’s bloodline, and his connections to Mount Doom and Sauron.

Moving on, we have Ben Daniels – an acclaimed British actor with a long and distinguished career on the stage (his performance in All My Sons at the Royal National Theatre in 2001 earned him a Laurence Olivier Award, and he is a three-time nominee), as well as in television and film (globally, he is probably best known as Antony Armstrong-Jones in the third season of Netflix’s The Crown, but he has also had major roles in House Of Cards, Merlin, and Jupiter’s Legacy). With that resume, I have to imagine his character in The Rings Of Power is someone of significance: Círdan the Shipwright perhaps, or Amandil, the grandfather of Isildur, if Amazon obtains the rights to his remarkable yet tragic story.

Amelia Kenworthy and Nia Towle have similar backgrounds in theatre and to date have had only a few film and television acting credits between them. For Kenworthy, in fact, The Rings Of Power will be her television debut – although the RADA graduate has previously appeared in several productions of Shakespeare’s work, including as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Towle, who graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, received very strong reviews for her performance as Lettie Hempstock in the West End debut of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, and most recently appeared briefly in Netflix’s anachronistic adaptation of Persuasion.

And that brings us at last to Nicholas Woodeson, who has been working in theatre since the early 1970’s, when he started out at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool. Looking at his enormous body of work, which includes numerous appearances in film and television, including Heaven’s Gate, Conspiracy, Skyfall, and the HBO series Rome, I see a similar career trajectory as the one Sir Ian McKellen took to the role of Gandalf, which made him a household name globally. Looking at Woodeson, I could potentially see him as another wizard – one of the Blue Wizards, perhaps – or as a Harfoot, if there are any new characters yet to be introduced from that group. He could be Círdan (he’s certainly closer in age to how I would imagine the Shipwright than anyone else in the cast), but something about him doesn’t fully scream Elvish to me.

The Rings Of Power
Nicholas Woodeson | bbc.com

Well, that’s everything I know about everyone joining the cast of The Rings Of Power in season two. There are probably still a few more names that haven’t yet been revealed, important ones too, but I’d be surprised if we saw many more new additions to the cast – after all, there are still over twenty returning characters from season one. Whose introduction (or return) are you most excited for, and is there anyone from the books you think we’re seeing here for the first time without even realizing? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Everything We Learned From Genshin Impact’s Version 3.3 Special Program

My fellow Ittorou shippers, our time has finally come.

What’s that? You thought I’d start off by talking about the long-awaited gameplay preview for Scaramouche, who graces the thumbnail of the Genshin Impact Version 3.3 trailer (above)? Well, if it’s commentary on Scaramouche’s redesign and unique gameplay mechanics that you’re looking for, allow me to redirect you to a post from earlier this month where I went over most of the information that was only officially revealed in yesterday’s Special Program, including what I would consider to be a far more concise description of his Elemental Skill than what was offered on the livestream, which got a little bogged-down with ornate names for everything under the sun. Seeing as that post has not yet been outdated by any new information from the game developers, there’s actually not too much more to say about Scaramouche – I mean, besides the fact that he’s getting his own Archon Quest, apparently. Don’t worry, we’ll go over all the details in due time.

Arataki Itto in Genshin Impact
Arataki Itto

But first thing’s first, and the thing in question is Ittorou – which I suppose is its own kind of ornate term, so let me explain. “Ittorou” is the nickname for a popular queer ship in the Genshin Impact fandom that involves the characters of Arataki Itto and Gorou. The one is a Geo on-field Main DPS, the other a designated Geo support, and they are apparently both at their best when played alongside each other (I wouldn’t know, having never gotten my hands on a copy of Gorou, despite him theoretically being the easier of the two to obtain as a four-star character). They debuted simultaneously in December 2021, and Gorou has only ever received a drop-rate boost on Itto’s limited-time banners; in fact, he is likely to reappear on a banner next month when Itto gets his second rerun. Yet despite their obvious synergy, they’ve never interacted onscreen.

Until now, that is. For the main Event of Version 3.3, Akitsu Kimodameshi, characters from all over Inazuma have been invited to participate in a “test of courage” organized by the Yashiro Commission…and the trailer confirms that Itto, Gorou, Heizou and Yoimiya are amongst the champions hoping to venture into Chinju Forest on Narukami Island, where malevolent spirits roam under the cover of eternal darkness, and come out the other side unscathed both physically and mentally. Now, as much as I hate to see my favorite characters suffer, just think of the potential interactions we could see – Itto cowering behind Gorou at every strange sound, Gorou leaping into Itto’s arms in a moment of weakness, Gorou’s fur bristling and Itto trying to comfort him by patting his head like a dog. Even though we know damn well that MiHoYo has no intention to put any of its characters, straight or queer, in canonical relationships, they’re giving me what I want, which is a canonical basis for the very much non-canonical fanfic I intend to consume in massive quantities after the Event.

And to be fair, despite never having interacted with each other previously, Itto and Gorou are already about as blatantly queer-coded as the male characters in Genshin Impact can get (it’s a very different situation for female characters: although they’re just as unlikely to ever state that they’re queer, it’s no secret that Jean and Lisa, Ningguang and Beidou, and Ei and Yae Miko are more than just extremely close friends). The reason fans started shipping Ittorou in the first place is because Itto has a voice-line where he talks about the warm, fuzzy feeling that he gets around Gorou, and also because he has a massive crush on Gorou’s alter ego, the advice columnist “Ms. Hina”, who is depicted on posters and standees as Gorou wearing a dress. But we still don’t know how Gorou feels about Itto, so this new Event is sure to be very illuminating in that regard.

As an additional incentive for participating, one of the limited-time rewards obtainable through the Akitsu Kimodameshi Event is a new weapon named the Toukabou Shigure, technically classified as a sword but more closely resembling an umbrella with a claw-like handle, a leering mouth, and a single eye. The weapon’s distinctive design is based on depictions of the Kasa-obake, a type of yōkai or demon, found in Japanese art and literature dating back to the Edo period. And looking at the amount of research that went into this one weapon, I can’t help but again be reminded of the stark difference between how MiHoYo lovingly takes inspiration from Japanese culture when expanding the region of Inazuma and its accompanying lore, and how they grabbed a bunch of random, orientalist stereotypes of Southwest Asia and North Africa when it came time to do the same for Sumeru.

Kaeya in Chinju Forest posing with a Tanuki, in Genshin Impact
Kaeya posing with a Tanuki in Chinju Forest

In fact, despite the region still being fairly new, Sumeru and its roster of characters are already being neglected by MiHoYo in favor of Inazuma, Liyue, and Mondstadt, with only one Sumeru-based Event announced for Version 3.3 and no Hang-out Event for the new four-star character, Faruzan, whom I was excited to learn more about after it was revealed during the Special Program that she’s over a hundred years old and knows a great deal of lore pertaining to Sumeru’s desert-dwelling ancient civilization, having spent decades trapped in the ruins beneath the desert. Unfortunately, it’s possible we won’t see or hear from Faruzan until some random side-quest or Event brings us back to the desert, and that could take a while. She was not mentioned in association with Misty Dungeon, a popular Event that will return in Version 3.3 with a desert theme.

Cyno posing in the desert of Sumeru, in Genshin Impact
Cyno in the deserts of Sumeru

Misty Dungeon first appeared in the spring of 2021 under the title Battlefront: Misty Dungeon, and was so popular it was brought back later that same year as Misty Dungeon: Realm Of Light. This year’s reskinned version of the Event is titled Misty Dungeon: Realm Of Sand, and will take place in Sumeru, but it will still follow the same general concept, requiring players to move through a labyrinth, completing puzzles and timed challenges until they unlock an encounter with a final boss. And it won’t be the only fan-favorite Event making a comeback in Version 3.3 – Windtrace, Genshin Impact‘s version of hide-and-seek for co-op mode, will also be returning with some cool new perks for both hiders and seekers, including giving players the ability to continue participating in the game even after being captured.

And if you don’t share in the nostalgia for Misty Dungeon and Windtrace, well, Genshin Impact has got you covered with Across The Wilderness, a brand-new Event where players run around rooftops capturing balloons. From the description and preview, it looks relatively stress-free, but there’s no doubt that having multiple Anemo characters like Venti, Xiao, Kazuha, and Scaramouche on your team will give you a literal boost while running, jumping, and climbing (if you needed any more reasons to pull for Scaramouche, he’s about to make exploration in this game ridiculously easy).

On that note, I guess it’s time we talked about Scaramouche’s Archon Quest: Interlude, which presumably picks up right where the final chapter of the Sumeru Archon Quest left off, with Scaramouche hidden away at the Sumeru Akademiya in the care of the Dendro Archon and making a full recovery from the traumatic head injury he sustained after falling from the cockpit of his giant robotic exoskeleton (long story). But of all things, an Akademiya inquiry into the events on the island of Tatarasuna leads the Traveler back to Scaramouche and forces the former Fatui Harbinger to begrudgingly sift through his scattered memories and construct a full account of what happened there roughly four-hundred years ago.

Scaramouche getting an Archon Quest in place of a Story Quest is interesting because Archon Quests aren’t optional, so whatever dark secrets are contained in Scaramouche’s backstory, MiHoYo wants us all to know this stuff. The only other characters in the game with that level of personal significance to the overarching storyline, besides the literal Archons of each region, are…honestly, maybe only Dainsleif and Kaeya, and they’re both so integral to the story of Khaenri’ah and its destruction that they literally can’t appear for too long or one of them will inadvertently spoil the game’s ending. I pray that we get a little more time with Scaramouche before he’s put in a similarly awkward position.

Genshin Impact Genius Invokation TCG gameplay
Genius Invokation TCG | pcgamesn.com

One more thing before we finish up here: new, completely optional permanent gameplay is coming to Genshin Impact in Version 3.3, in the form of an animated card game named Genius Invokation TCG, but for the time being there are no plans to offer rewards or allow players to track their progress in the game, and it’s subsequently unclear how MiHoYo intends to keep players from growing bored of this after the novelty of challenging friends and random NPCs to duels wears off, as I’m sure it will sooner rather than later. Until I sit down and actually read the rules, my first impressions of Genius Invokation TCG are neutral. Admittedly, I’m a little bitter about the absence of Itto – he literally plays Genius Invokation TCG! How is he not featured on a character card? – but the art and animations are the only things catching my eye in the gameplay preview.

Anyway, what did you think of the Version 3.3 Special Program? Will you be spending your hard-earned Primogems on Scaramouche’s banner, or waiting for another character? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” – An Epic Send-Off To A Hero


All films have a lot riding on them. Even the most obscure arthouse films, though rarely expected to make all that much money in the handful of theaters where they’ll find available screens on which to play, still need to catch the attention of critics (or of a streaming service looking to buy up content on the cheap), while the biggest and “safest” Hollywood blockbusters still need to make a frankly ridiculous amount of money at the worldwide box-office, enough to sate the greed of studio executives and to recoup the cost of making them (ironically, the reason they’re so often “safe” from an artistic standpoint is because they’re very much not safe from a financial standpoint, and their creators, however visionary they may be, aren’t in a safe position to make demands of studios). The stress that puts on filmmakers is no joke.

Wakanda Forever
Shuri | koimoi.com

Few filmmakers would willingly shoulder another burden on top of that, particularly one as heavy as the legacy of the late Chadwick Boseman, but Ryan Coogler has made it his mission with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever to bring a much-needed sense of closure to the character Boseman portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to fans of that character, and to himself and to Boseman’s close friends in front of and behind the camera – and the reason I believe Black Panther: Wakanda Forever succeeds at what he set out to do is because Coogler was surrounded and supported, each step of the way, by a team comprised of Boseman’s friends and people who understood his impact on the entertainment industry and the world. It is no coincidence that Wakanda Forever is a story about the importance of community in the aftermath of tragedy, and about the dangers of trying to work through grief alone; it’s not just a tribute to Boseman, but to Coogler’s entire support-system who helped him build this beautiful memorial to his friend.

When Wakanda Forever remains single-mindedly focused on accomplishing that one task, motivating its entire cast and crew to do their best work, the film is eloquent, soulful, and important, standing a full head and shoulders above all other Marvel films since the first Black Panther; particularly in the first act, when the pain of Boseman’s passing is most fresh, and in the latter half of the third act, when the emotions that accompanied it are again evoked. Between those two high points, the film is a better-than-average Marvel movie brimming with action and adventure, but cluttered with far more characters than were actually necessary to tell this self-contained story.

Most egregiously, the choice to shoehorn Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) into Wakanda Forever feels like the result of an unfortunate studio mandate, and her surprisingly large role in the film’s second act could easily have been whittled down to a single quick cameo, if Kevin Feige’s intention was merely to start laying the groundwork for the Thunderbolts movie she’s supposed to co-lead. Same with Everett Ross (Martin Freeman); charming fellow, but totally extraneous. These two characters are the furthest removed from the core thematic conflict of Wakanda Forever, and the time we spend with them seems especially undeserved seeing as their subplot trails off without a satisfying conclusion – presumably waiting to be picked up in another film.

Black Panther in Wakanda Forever
Black Panther | rottentomatoes.com

For the most part, Wakanda Forever limits its attention to the here and now, although several characters are established who will have a long future in the MCU, if there is any justice in this world. The delightfully menacing antagonist, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) a hot amphibious mutant perpetually clad in bright green gogo-boy shorts, is obviously one of these – there is a historical precedent in the comics for him interacting with Wakanda, the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men (and recently, it’s become nearly impossible to scroll through Twitter without running into a joke about Sue Storm leaving her husband for Namor, something that has never actually happened in the comics but is still an oddly appealing idea to a lot of people), and his MCU counterpart has unfinished business with the Black Panther who brutally strong-armed him and his people into a truce after he nearly brought Wakanda to its knees. He’ll be back, and frankly I can’t wait: Namor is up there with Killmonger as one of the MCU’s most interesting, fully fleshed-out villains, not to mention the most devastatingly beautiful.

I can only pray that Michaela Coel, after being relegated to the sidelines in this story, will someday get another chance in the role of Aneka, an endearingly defiant member of the Midnight Angels (an autonomous subdivision of the Dora Milaje, who protect the royal family of Wakanda). Aneka is one of Marvel Comics’ most prominent queer characters, although that aspect of her character is only briefly hinted at near the end of the film, when she and Ayo (Florence Kasumba), her lover in the comics, share a deliberately chaste kiss on the forehead. It’s a disappointing debut for such an interesting character, portrayed by such a talented actress – but much like how Ayo herself was essentially an extra in Black Panther before she became an actual character (with her own small fandom) in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, I can foresee Aneka becoming extremely popular, particularly with LGBTQ+ fans, if given a sizable role in a Disney+ series…like, say, the Wakanda series that Ryan Coogler is apparently producing, that still has no cast or crew attached to it almost two years since its announcement.

Though I may be in the minority who actually liked the look of the Midnight Angels’ distinctive blue armor in live-action (but even if you hated it, I think we can all agree that Ruth E. Carter’s costume design was overall stunning and Oscar-worthy), I’d love to see the concept used again, and properly this time. As for their coolness factor (a necessary part of any superhero’s persona), the Midnight Angels are finally deployed in the third act battle as a last resort by the Wakandans, but apart from their suits allowing them to fly and dive underwater, they’re not outfitted with the kinds of cool gadgets and high-tech weaponry I was eagerly anticipating by that point. Luckily, they do have Okoye (Danai Gurira), who joins the Angels after being expelled from the Dora Milaje, and you need only put a vibranium spear in that woman’s hands for an instantly iconic action sequence to just happen.

In the absence of a Black Panther throughout most of the film, no one else besides Namor and his lieutenants come close to matching Okoye’s prowess on the battlefield until the third act, when Shuri (Letitia Wright), the actual star of Wakanda Forever, dons the Black Panther mantle at long last before launching herself recklessly into a no-holds-barred duel with Namor on the beach, where her objective is to prevent him from reaching the water and regenerating his strength (a twist on the story of Antaeus, a character from Greek mythology who could not be defeated while his feet touched the ground). At the end of the day, brains win out over brawn, but Shuri does put her panther-claws to good use, so I think it’s safe to say she’s a full-fledged action hero at this point…or perhaps antihero would be the more appropriate term?

Namora and Namor in Wakanda Forever
Namora and Namor | me.mashable.com

Shuri’s character arc in Wakanda Forever takes her to a very dark place from which it’s difficult (though in my opinion, still too easy) to extricate herself in the third act, when the accumulated rage she’s bottled up inside her heart breaks free of its fragile vessel and takes control of her with little resistance: rage over T’Challa’s tragic death at the beginning of the film, which Shuri missed while frantically seeking a cure to his illness in her lab, and over Ramonda (Angela Bassett)’s death at the hands of Namor; rage at the goddess Bast for allowing them both to die and for preventing Shuri from visiting either of them in the afterlife; and a general, all-encompassing rage at the world, which she tells Namor (in a moment of vulnerability) she would burn to the ground just to feel something again. It’s no surprise that Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) appears to her when she first enters the Ancestral Plane – because at that point, she’s not seeking guidance but validation for the violence she knows she’s about to unleash upon the world, and he’s the one person who understands.

Or so she thinks. What Shuri refuses to acknowledge, even to herself, is that she’s actually a lot like Namor, in that both of them are still beating themselves up about a tragedy in their lives that they’ve never moved on from (the inciting incident in Namor’s origin story was the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th Century, which forced his people to take refuge in the depths of the ocean). Both of these characters have a community at their backs who would support them, but crucially, they’ve both been isolating themselves from their communities for a long time – Shuri by outwardly pretending that she’s fine while privately hurting, and Namor by adopting the role of an aloof god-king inaccessible to most of his people (as one does). They’re only ever emotionally honest with each other, which is partially why some fans are aggressively shipping the two (that, and enemies-to-lovers ships are always popular, although it’s still relatively rare to see any ship featuring an unambiguously Black woman – coupled with a brown Indigenous man, no less – gain traction in the mainstream at the rate this one has).

But while they’d make for one hot power couple, I maintain that Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne), who has been rumored to be bisexual in the MCU, was coyly trying to ask Shuri out on a date at the end of the film. There’s chemistry there that I’d like to see further explored in the Ironheart Disney+ series. Sure, I might just be inventing queer subtext to make up for the lack of Aneka and Ayo, but Shuri needs Riri in her life, whether as a love interest or a friend; someone her own age whom she can talk to without any strings attached, who intimately understands grief (canonically, Riri’s father died before she was born, and her step-father was killed in a shooting) but has had time to adjust and move forward with her life.

From the opening scene onwards, Wakanda Forever is sad – but until the second act, it’s sad for all the reasons we expected it to be. Then the film delivers a shocking emotional gut-punch by killing Angela Bassett’s Ramonda, the solid rock upon which Wakanda rebuilt itself following T’Challa’s death. Bassett was one of the franchise’s unparalleled stars, delivering magnificent performances in both Black Panther films but especially in this one, where her role was greatly expanded…and to lose her so suddenly, almost unceremoniously, without even a final word of farewell to her daughter, just felt cruel. It would hurt less if the film had adequate time to mourn her properly, but following a quick funeral we rush on to the third act battle and Ramonda appears again only for a split-second on the Ancestral Plane. At least she slayed in her dozen or so different royal outfits (seriously, Oscars all around for the costuming department).

Angela Bassett as Ramonda in Wakanda Forever
Ramonda | gamesradar.com

In conclusion, Wakanda Forever knows what it wants to say and delivers its message eloquently when it stays focused long enough to do so – which is admittedly difficult when the film has so many subplots it wants to pursue and so many characters clamoring for more screentime. It is, however, the satisfying send-off to Chadwick Boseman that it needed to be, and a decent middle-chapter in the story of Wakanda and its continued struggle with the outside world. But on that note, I also hope that Ryan Coogler is allowed some much-needed time off before jumping into his next project for Marvel, because the unique stress of making this particular film, compounded with the usual stress of making any film, cannot have been easy to handle, even with the support of a team.

Film Rating: 8.5/10

Scaramouche And Faruzan To Debut In Genshin Impact Version 3.3


For almost two years, ever since his very first appearance in the Unreconciled Stars event of November 2020, the Fatui Harbinger Scaramouche has been one of the most eagerly-anticipated characters in Genshin Impact, but until now HoYoverse has stubbornly tried to keep his eventual playability a secret from players – a futile and some might say pointless endeavor, seeing as Genshin Impact is the type of game where anyone with a unique character model is almost guaranteed to be playable in some way, shape, or form. The one notable exception to this unwritten rule is La Signora, another Fatui Harbinger with a resilient fanbase who don’t care that she got incinerated back in Version 2.1, but there may be hope for her too, now.

Genshin Impact
Wanderer, a.k.a. Scaramouche | pcgamesn.com

You see, Genshin Impact has a rigid internal logic for when, why, and which certain characters become playable – and something that’s generally agreed upon in the fandom at least is that a character has to be on good terms with the Traveler to earn a spot on their team. Hence why the only playable Fatui Harbinger to date, Tartaglia, is the one who literally has to remain friendly with us for the sake of his kid brother, Teucer. Of course, there are eleven Harbingers, and only so many excuses for them not to kill us the first chance they get, so in time we may start to see the rules bend ever so slightly to allow some morally ambiguous characters to join our teams, but I have a hard time believing that the rules could bend around characters like, say, Dottore or Arlecchino, two unapologetic sadists directly responsible for the deaths of multiple children, without breaking entirely.

In the case of Scaramouche, a twisted take on Pinocchio if he became a serial killer, Genshin Impact is experimenting with putting a different version of the same character in the Traveler’s team, and gauging fan response (which has been overwhelmingly positive). Near the end of the Sumeru Archon Quest, Chapter III: Act V, Scaramouche literally falls into a coma after tumbling from the cockpit of his colossal mechanical exoskeleton and is carried away to a safe place by the Dendro Archon, Kusanali, who promises to look after him while he recovers. We will presumably learn more about what the Archon’s treatment entailed in Version 3.3, when Scaramouche becomes playable, but we can already ascertain a few things: at some point between now and then, Scaramouche will be granted an Anemo Vision by the gods in Celestia (or by whatever entity distributes Visions), change his name to “Wanderer”, and subtly alter his appearance until he no longer resembles the Fatui Harbinger we once fought.

There is some evidence in the Version 3.3 beta test leaks to suggest that Scaramouche will retain his old memories and a little of his original personality, but Wanderer is essentially a different person, spiritually reborn. I can’t call it a redemption arc, because Scaramouche didn’t ever actually do the work of bettering himself, but it’s enough to justify the Traveler taking him under their wing and helping him reacclimate to the world, this time endowed with a sense of morality he was previously lacking – and if angst is what you’re looking for, I can assure you that our self-righteous protagonist will not pass up the opportunity to remind Scaramouche of all his past crimes and misdeeds, probably even encouraging him to personally apologize to his victims.

Genshin Impact
Scaramouche Boss Fight | gamerbraves.com

Off the top of my head, I can think of three other Fatui Harbingers who will probably receive similar treatment in the near future: Dottore, Sandrone, and La Signora. From what we know of these characters (not a whole lot in Sandrone’s case, admittedly, but I’m making a few assumptions here), they’re all much too evil to redeem properly but at the same time much too cool to waste entirely, and all three of them could very easily be swapped out for nearly identical alternate versions of themselves – Dottore for one of his clones, assuming any survived his self-imposed purge at the end of the Sumeru Archon Quest; Sandrone for one of her sentient puppets, perhaps even Katheryne, if the Adventurer’s Guild’s robotic receptionist is one of her creations; and La Signora for her younger self when she inevitably gets resurrected as the shy, soft-spoken Rosalyne. These alternate versions would conveniently all possess functional moral compasses as well as Visions.

And speaking of Visions, whether by chance or by design on HoYoverse’s part, Scaramouche possessing an Anemo Vision lends further credence to the widely-held theory that Anemo male characters are uniquely distinguished by their intimate understanding of loss – all stemming from the original tragedy of the Anemo Archon, who adopted the physical form of his best friend after the latter’s death in battle so his memory would never fade. Xiao, Kazuha, and Heizou are also well acquainted with grief, having all lost people close to them, but Scaramouche has not only been abandoned but outright betrayed by many of those who claimed to care for him, leading him to misinterpret every abandonment as betrayal. Beyond that, being an Anemo character makes Scaramouche ten times more desirable than he would have been if he belonged to any other Elemental type.

Scaramouche is, rather surprisingly, a catalyst user (making him only the second male catalyst user after Heizou) with the ability to move about in mid-air after casting his Elemental Skill, gradually consuming “Sky-Dweller Points” instead of regular stamina points until he either casts his Elemental Burst or runs out of Sky-Dweller Points and descends to earth. While hovering above the battlefield, he can jump to gain height, and his normal and charged attacks will still hit enemies on the ground. His Elemental Burst creates an Anemo vortex like Venti’s which pulls enemies towards each other, and that alone will make him very popular with the part of the player base that adores Anemo characters for their ability to quickly and efficiently carve through large mobs.

Genshin Impact
Faruzan | pockettactics.com

If you can’t get your hands on Scaramouche, a five-star character available for a limited time on a single banner, you have a pretty good chance at nabbing at least one copy of Faruzan, his more easily obtainable four-star equivalent on the permanent standard banner. Faruzan, a scholar of linguistics at the Sumeru Akademiya, is an Anemo bow-user whose gameplay also revolves around crowd-control – after casting her Elemental Skill, her first charged attack will fire a small vortex, while casting her Elemental Burst summons a polyhedron vortex that flits around the battlefield, pausing to knock clusters of enemies off their feet and simultaneously reduce their Anemo RES (resistance). She sounds like your run-of-the-mill Anemo character, honestly, but perhaps players can find a niche purpose for her. Her lore is what really excites me, because she sees visions of Sumeru’s ancient history.

With all that said, which of these two characters will you be pulling for? Both? Neither? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!