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Everything We Know About the Jailer (No Story Spoilers)

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The Jailer is the central figure of the Shadowlands story, as he's the one behind it all (at least as far as we know), so we'll be taking a look at everything we know about him so far. We won't be going into any specific spoilers from the Shadowlands story and quests, only using info from interviews, cinematics, trailers and similar, but there will be plenty of fan theories, as well as our own speculation/assumptions - some of which may end up being true - so take care with that.

The Basics

  • His name is Zovaal.
  • He is a "titan or titan+" level enemy.
  • One of the "Eternal Ones" aka the "Pantheon of Death" comprising of the Shadowlands zone rulers and the Arbiter in Oribos.
    • The Pantheon is somehow connected to the "First Ones" who presumably created the Shadowlands and perhaps the entire Warcraft universe.
  • His role before the recent breaking of the machine of death was to rule the Maw and take the worst of the worst souls to Torghast, where he would keep them... in jail.
  • When or why his actual imprisonment happened is unclear.
  • It's also unclear when he freed himself, and if it was Sylvanas that did it (either by breaking the helm and opening the gate or by giving him power through the many deaths on Azeroth).
  • Sylvanas has been working for/with him ever since her death falling from Icecrown Citadel at the end of WotLK.
  • Sylvanas becoming Warchief was also the Jailer's doing (indirectly).
  • The runes on his body match the ones on Frostmourne, and we know he was most likely the one that commissioned the Runecarver to craft the sword and helm, as it was called a "weapon of the Maw" by Devos.
  • He may not be the final boss of the expansion.
     

The Jailer's Goals

  • He has been gathering souls to the Maw, bypassing the normal "machine of death" to grow in strength.
    • He has been doing this since some time in Legion, Ysera's soul is one of the last ones to come through the normal way. We also see that the situation is already deteriorated in the Shadowlands and the Anima is flowing into the Maw by the time Ursoc's soul arrives (so around the time of the Emerald Nightmare raid).
    • Aided by Sylvanas, who basically did all of BfA, from Teldrassil to Nazjatar and N'Zoth, just to get more souls to the Maw and the Jailer so both their powers might grow.
  • He might be after Azeroth's World Soul/nascent Titan, as the Herald in the pre-patch says "Death comes for the soul of this world." but that could be interpreted in different ways. Even if he is after her, however, that doesn't seem to be his ultimate goal, just another means to an end.
  • Why he/Sylvanas abducted Anduin, Thrall, Baine etc. is unclear. It could be just to siphon their power as major figures and heroes of Azeroth, but it's probably more complex than that, and has the smell of the Lich King (Arthas) drawing us to his lair to use us for some purpose.
  • His ultimate goal is not clear, whether he wants to rule the Shadowlands/universe, destroy them or something entirely different.
  • From the glimpse of how things used to work in some of the Shadowlands zones pre-Jailer revolt, he may just be after "justice", as the Shadowlands didn't really work well/fairly to begin with.

Theories

  • We know Frostmourne and the Helm of Domination were forged in Torghast (probably at the Jailer's command), and the helm in particular is sure to have some additional significance in Shadowlands, as it fits his design a bit too well, as noted by Sakuriik:

pbpeyw6sdsr41.png?width=1024&auto=webp&s
Source.

  • We also know the true purpose of the helm, as seen in the Collector's edition. The following is an unattributed quote from someone working for the Jailer or the Jailer himself: "The veil between realms wanes. The Helm of Domination was created to be our way forward. Instead, the one seared by the flames of life uses it to keep us at bay."
  • The Arbiter and Jailer seem to be two sides of one whole, as the hole in the Jailer's chest lines up pretty well with the Arbiter's pearl (small size difference notwithstanding, as we know size is relative in WoW):

76ptbps07v551.png?width=773&auto=webp&s=
Source.

  • Both the Helm of Domination, the armor (which was never actually worn by Arthas, he used his Death Knight armor instead) and Frostmourne may have once been the Jailer's equipment (as he's unarmed and unarmored), possibly taken away by the Pantheon of Death and later sent to Azeroth by the Jailer's agents.
  • One of the biggest current theories is that the Arbiter is actually doing the Jailer's job, which Zovaal was doing before he was banished into the Maw, hence the orb/pearl in the Arbiter's chest might have been removed from the Jailer at that time. There's also the accompanying theory hat the Arbiter IS the LITERAL "machine of death", an automaton that took over the Jailer's duties and has now broken (presumably by the Jailer in some indirect way).

The Jailer's Look

The very first appearance of the Jailer was very mysterious and shadowy, and is so far the community's favorite:

maw.jpg.81fc7bff525cc42a1831c45ccce82f92

Then came the big leak/reveal, where the Jailer looked VERY different from what we know today, as a supposed early piece of art for him was photographed at the Blizzard offices, as relayed by Pyromacer (but leaked by someone else):

1590053170_thejailer2.png.bc795d5dcc59b7

The more titan-looking fellow was scrapped in favor of the more burly and physically intimidating one we got in the end (and the reasons were purely aesthetic, he never actually looked like the above in-world).

jailer.jpg.69214414855773255ee6448040a6c

eZZ8R4A.png   wMEcJgQ.jpg
Source 1, Source 2.

 

And finally, for a bit of levity, here's how we're going to be defeating the Jailer (no spoilers):

j4kz54bfu3m51.png?width=1024&auto=webp&s
Source.

Or, the REAL nightmare scenario, as Magni gets involved (which makes WAY too much sense when you think about it, as he does like woonz a whole lot):

u0o603z28fp51.jpg?width=443&auto=webp&s=
Source.

If you want to know more, from the actual storylines of the Shadowlands quests, you can check out these two articles below:


We're sure we missed some details, as we wanted to avoid using information that was either datamined or even simply learned through questing in Shadowlands, but if there's anything you think should be added (also spoiler free), please let us know in the comments!

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Great article.

I like his appearance a lot more if he's going to armour up as the expansion goes on. That's a really really cool idea.

Although honestly it makes me uneasy because it feels like Sylvanas to me. An idea that should be made clear well in advance that just isn't communicated properly. 

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