Bungie made us despise Uldren Sov in the Destiny 2: Forsaken expansion but Beyond Light and Season of the Chosen is making it really hard to hate his reincarnation as The Crow. As a massive Cayde-6 fan that shed real tears during his murder, I’m in this conflicted spot where I love my time in Destiny 2 but I hate that Bungie made me feel something other than contempt for this character, even though he’s not Uldren anymore.
Before we get into the confusing world of emotions that is Destiny 2, let’s dive into some backstory a bit for those that may be a little behind.
The road so far
Uldren Sov was one of the first Awoken and was the incredibly loyal brother to the Queen of the Reef, Mara Sov. He served as the Master of Crows, the Reef’s spymaster, and was a diligent force against any threat that posed a danger to his queen and to his people. A rocky relationship with his sister aside, Uldren’s distaste for Guardians grew into a volatile hatred after Mara’s apparent death.
He spent years trying to find her, convinced in his mind that she might still be alive. Instead, he was being viciously manipulated by Riven with the visage of his dead sister into creating the Scorn. In his bid to reopen the Dreaming City, he murdered Cayde-6 and, in turn, was murdered by Petra and the Young Wolf. But that wasn’t the end…
A wandering Ghost happened upon the corpse and revived him as a Lightbearer. Without his memories as Uldren, including his previous incarnation’s acts against Cayde, he quickly learned that his face was not a welcomed one and adopted new clothing to hide who he is with the help of The Spider in the Tangled Shore. The Spider, the manipulator that he is, mocked him and called him The Crow, and indentured him into servitude to pay off his debt of salvation. The Lone Wolf helped him repay that debt and he, in turn, became a Guardian himself. The story thus far hints that his reveal to Zavala and Ikora could be imminent. He can only hide his face for so long.
The moment everything changed
When I first played the Forsaken expansion, I felt like this was the shift players have been waiting for to mark a turning point for Bungie in a post-Activision world. To me, this story brought a breath of fresh air to the online game, much like the Taken King expansion did for the first game. I remember seeing Cayde-6 laying on the floor, knowing he’d been bested. Bungie was very clear that he was going to die in pre-release trailers, but I still found myself hoping and praying that he’d somehow survive or come back. What I got was a lot of tears and an overly emotional finish to that particular story. With each expansion and season that followed, I held onto that hope that we’d see him again. Instead, we got Uldren. But it’s not really Uldren, is it?
How is The Crow not Uldren?
While Uldren’s body was resurrected by a Ghost named Pulled Pork, which is heckin’ adorable – and subsequently renamed Glint – it’s important to remember that Crow is not Uldren anymore. Uldren died. Upon his resurrection, and his evolution into a Guardian, all of his memories were wiped completely, effectively changing everything that made Uldren himself. His personality molded by his relationship with Mara? Gone. His philosophies regarding the Light? Gone. His prejudices, his fears, his hopes, his goals, his leadership of the Scorn? All gone. This could get philosophical really quick, but we’re more than just our bodies. He ceased to be Uldren the moment Ghost wiped everything that made him a person. Who he becomes is still up in the air, but who he is now is nothing short of heartbreaking.
That split between the two characters as part of the same body is what makes this arc so incredibly interesting. We’re used to seeing Uldren in a role of villainry, a role he played so well, only to have everything stripped away from him for a chance at something new; a redemption. Despite being the same voice, the same body, the same mannerisms, Uldren and The Crow are not the same person, and that’s what makes this entire thematic arc so powerful and expertly done.
I’m not crying, you’re crying
There is one moment during a quest for him where you happen upon alternate sleeping quarters for The Crow and it becomes a quiet conversation between him and the player. The room is sparse with a cheap sleeping bag as a bed and small mementos to call his own. It’s here that The Crow states that he needed this place away from Spider and that’s it’s not a lot, but it’s his. This is also another opportunity where he acknowledges that he must remain hidden from the public view because anyone he meets despises him for the actions of Uldren. It’s honestly heart-shattering, and I wasn’t expecting to feel so deeply for him when I hated Uldren with everything I had.
I don’t know if I’m just too sensitive, but I remember those moments in high school or social events where some people already decided that they hated me without knowing me. Whether it was because of rumors or just clique goodness doesn’t really matter, I just remember feeling that desolation and deep-rooted sadness over having my entire character, as a person, wiped away because of misconceptions. It hurt, and I didn’t even murder anyone as Uldren did. Projecting my own issues onto video game characters is nothing new for me; I love getting so immersed in a story where that becomes my reality for a few hours, so seeing this projection with The Crow wasn’t surprising to me. But his voice actor (Brandon O’Neil) did a phenomenal job at portraying quiet acceptance over his new reality, acceptance over past deeds that he can’t even remember, and acceptance regarding the future ahead.
Uldren’s arc was interesting in itself with his descent into world-altering rage and sadness but his ascension into a person free of expectations, free of familial bonds, free of a life drenched in lies and subterfuge is equally appealing. While I knew that I was going to be interested in how Bungie was going to pivot this character in the eyes of so many that loved Cayde, both in-game and out, I didn’t expect the creeping love to develop regarding who he could be. I have to hand it to Bungie; killing Cayde was a risky move and one that many, at the time, heralded as the “final nail in the coffin” for the sequel. Seeing this feedback and doing it anyway, Bungie made a gamble that has paid off tenfold. I can’t wait to see what else they do and how The Crow evolves, even if it means making Papa Zavala incredibly angry.