In light of all that we’ve learned with this most wonderful final season, some people have asked me to reassess Hordak’s backstory monologue. To see how Hordak’s narrative fits with what we now know about his home. To try to discern exactly what its discrepancies are, and why.
I’m going to do that! But before I do, I would remind everyone: this is a little difficult to fully untangle because, given that Hordak is not a main character and thus does not have the focus that we’d like, we really don’t know a whole lot about the Horde in terms of function, social roles, and general history. So this is going to be very much limited by what I can glean from exactly what the show gives us.
That said, it’ll hopefully still be interesting. So!
During season three, after recovering from his syncopal episode, Hordak describes to Entrapta what he is, what he was, and how he came to be on Etheria. He describes himself as a defective clone who, once upon a time, was the top general in the galactic Horde. When his defect became too much of a burden, he was apparently demoted, sent to the front lines to fight until death, and arrived on Etheria by way of unexplained portal.
This is what Hordak tells us, and, as far as we know, he’s not lying. Hordak, as portrayed in the show, is a very honest person, both in his own actions and in the actions he expects of others. He greatly dislikes deception and does not appear skillfully capable of it himself (save for that one time). Knowing this, we generally have to assume that, in his own mind, what Hordak is saying is true.
So. What gives, right?
After all, once we see the galactic Horde in action, we learn that it is a played-straight, honest-to-the-gods cult. There’s nothing distinctly military about it. It’s not a bigger, grander version of Hordak’s Etherian Horde.
It is a cult with a god-brother-creator at the helm, commanding countless identical acolytes who live their lives in slavish devotion to their master. There do not appear to be any ranks. We hear nothing about any generals, let alone a “top general.” There doesn’t even appear to be a need for anything like that, because Prime doesn’t seem to really delegate to his brothers in a way that singles them out or relies on real autonomy from them.
He can, after all, read their minds at will and slip into their bodies whenever he fancies. If he needs to make a decision about a battle on a planet at the other edge of the galaxy, he can just take over a body on that planet and make said decision himself. Or, at the very least, enter the relevant clone’s mind and influence the decision as needed. He doesn’t need, and certainly doesn’t appear to tolerate, clones taking their own initiative.
So, again: what gives? What does Hordak mean by “top general”? Why does he think he has this elevated role when we can see that Prime considers all of his clones the equivalent of faceless bodies to be used a he likes?
Well, while we will likely never know the full truth, given the lack of Horde background detail, we can safely assume some things from what canon shows us.
Namely that, while all clones appear indistinguishable and do not seem to have named rank, there are definitely clone positions that work more closely with Prime than others. His attendants are one example. Those who are in his throne room feeding him information while he is working are another. (Hordak actually appears to be one of these, at least while Prime is trying to hack the Heart of Etheria, when Entrapta is captured.) And then, of course, there are the chosen vessels that will one day house Prime’s consciousness.
All of these positions can likely be occupied by any clone, with bodies switched out as needed (likely what happened when Hordak got sick). I doubt that individual clones have any sort of real rank. Prime knows this. Hordak and his brothers, I suspect, may not fully understand it.
Rather, I would not be surprised if Hordak, deceived and indoctrinated into believing things about himself and about Prime that are not true, misinterprets the nature of his purpose and the truth of his relationship with his Brother. He believes that, fulfilling whatever role he was fulfilling for Prime, he was a general, an individual of note, an individual that Prime specially valued. Perhaps he fulfilled the role long enough that, in all but name, it became “his.” Perhaps he even fulfilled it well enough that Prime praised him frequently, cementing this unfortunate delusion. Perhaps Prime gave him legitimate favor - a false thing, of course; simply a controlling tool, but Hordak did not realize that.
Without canon confirmation, we can really only speculate, but these ideas seem reasonable.
Details aside, the point of the matter is that Hordak sees himself as “top general” because he sadly doesn’t understand that he is an interchangeable piece of a utilitarian machine. He truly thinks that he has this coveted position, that he is particularly useful, special, of great value. It’s a tragic misunderstanding that simply fuels his misguided devotion to Prime and prevents him from seeking freedom when he is given the opportunity.
It’s something, I think, that people in very controlling religious organizations often end up thinking: that they are especially valued, worthy in some way that others are not. It’s part of how the organization controls them. By the by, there is also the theory that Hordak has suffered memory erasure before and is thus doubly confused, filling in blanks with fantasy, but given that we have no direct evidence of that, I’m not really going to go into it; it’s a popular bit of speculation, though.
Now, however, let us examine a different aspect of this. Labels aside, delusions aside, we are left with another conundrum: however Hordak interprets his position, it is very clear to us that said position does not actually offer the power or respect that a legitimate high military rank would offer. It does not appear to provide Hordak with any special treatment.
Once upon a time, back when we first learned of Hordak’s backstory, it was somewhat assumed that the position would do something like this. Numerous fans speculated about how it might be a position that gave a clone dominion over others, or over their own personal ships or planets; some fans suggested that it might give a clone the right to a name. Now, of course, we know that none of these speculations are true: all of Prime’s clones are essentially interchangeable; all are part of a hive mind that eliminates the need for certain clones directing others; no clone is allowed a name, no matter what their current job might be.
So. What, exactly, is Hordak practically gaining here? Despite this position appearing to hold zero effective esteem, despite it necessitating Hordak giving up his self and his autonomy, it is abundantly clear that he desperately wants it back. Why?
What about this position, whatever it may or may not be called, would provide Hordak with this sense of value, of specialness, of personal worth? After all, Hordak may be deluded, but he’s not stupid; even indoctrinated, he can tell that he doesn’t hold dominion over other clones, or have a right to his own name. He can tell that he doesn’t receive any functional privileges, that his own sense of value doesn’t translate into anything that you or I would think is “worth the price of admission,” so to speak.
In light of that incredibly steep price, what does this position offer, in a world where military rank appears irrelevant? What does it offer, in exchange for Hordak’s name and his bodily autonomy and his freedom? In short, what does it offer that makes Hordak think it worth sacrificing so much for?
It offers closeness to Prime, doesn’t it? It offers the chance to work near him, to bask in his presence, to be spoken to and looked upon and touched by him. It offers the chance to receive his praise, personally. It offers the chance to perhaps - hopefully, wishfully - receive his love.
Because that’s what Hordak really wants. Not dominion over others, or a fancy military title. He wants that emotional connection. He wants that approval and validation. He wants love. And for so much of the series, for so much of his life, he believes that love comes only from Prime. That working closely with him, being of use to him, will provide him with that sense of belonging and acceptance and affectionate care that he hungers for. That it will make him worthy and loved.
(There’s a line in the deleted Entrapdak scene, where Prime calls Hordak the “most unloved and unworthy” among his brothers that really cements the idea that worthiness is synonymous with love within the galactic Horde)
This is what marks the position as “special” in Hordak’s eyes: it is special because it stands the greatest chance of providing him with Prime’s love.
All of it is a lie, of course. Because Prime only “loves” his brothers as extensions of himself, and even then, only if they are physically useful to him. Once Hordak starts to lag behind due to his illness, he is quickly removed from Prime’s presence and sent to the front lines, destined to fight until defect or battle kills him. And yet it is a lie so powerful, and the clones’ need for Prime’s love so great, that he is able to use it to control them even when they are separated from him. To the point that a sickly clone trapped in a shadow dimension will forgo freedom in his desperate bid to feel wanted and treasured by his cruel god.
Eventually, thankfully, Hordak finds a true version of the connection he craves, someone who looks at him and acknowledges him, values him and loves him as he is, without him needing to prove himself useful. He finds Entrapta, and she provides that love that he sought from Prime.
This is why, even though Hordak actually ends up working in Prime’s throne room again, ends up close to him once more, he breaks free from control and kills his Brother. Throughout season five, Hordak remembers Entrapta. He remembers how she makes him feel. He remembers her love… and he realizes that it is not the same as Prime’s. It is sincere. It is unconditional. It accepts him as his own flawed person, rather than the perfect drone Prime wants him to be. It is deeper and more true and more real than the hollow sham Prime offers.
And so Hordak rejects this once-coveted position, rejects Prime, and frees himself. He makes the choice between a false, controlling “love” and the real, heartfelt thing. He makes the choice, and he chooses Entrapta.
In the end, the greatest disconnect between what Hordak tells us in season three and what is true isn’t the word “general,” or even the cruel difference between how Prime views the clones, and how they view him. It is the impression of why Hordak wants such a position at all, of what it means to him. What initially comes off as a disgraced military man seeking to regain former glory is actually a lost, unloved soul desperately searching for the emotional connection he needs.
And, after many mistakes, after much hardship, he finally finds it.
I mean between Entrapta being excluded by the princesses and berated for her interests and the heavy religious trauma themes with hordak, she ra really just came for me this season
There is nothing that makes me feel more tender inside than knowing that Hordak made this momentous decision to cut ties with his brother, took this huge physical, mental, and emotional leap, and there’s someone waiting to catch him on the other side.
For all the uncertainty and instability that the future holds, he won’t have to face it alone, and that is everything to me.
Just thought I’d let you all know when I was watching the story board clip I was legitimately confused and startled when hordak collapsed
I forgot prime wasn’t actually dead guys-
Bow is even sweet to a clone who had JUST tried to kill Entrapta after its clear he’s in distress. Honestly? Angel.
Can we talk about the amount of instant, sheer respect Bow uses when interacting with Scorpia, Entrapta, and Catra all season?
He doesnt question the decision to rescue Catra. He treats her with nothing but the same level of kindness and respect he does with everyone else, instantly. It’s Bow who inducts her into the Best Friend Squad - something no other member of the rebellion has been inducted into. But he let Catra in. Made sure to never treat her any differently than Adora or Glimmer. Drags her into playful banter. And we see how happy that makes her.
We see him interact with Scorpia a few times this season. Fighting side by side, and up in the Spire. I think, that might actually be one of my favourite scenes. Every scene we have of someone who’s chipped coming around for a split second in the series is a love interest. Catra fighting the chip for Adora. Spinerella coming back for a moment for Netossa. And Sea Hawk’s beautiful distraction bringing back Mermista. And while we know Perfuma got to Scorpia, the evidence is all there, we never got the visuals. It was ultimately Bow that brought her round, just for a moment of trust. It’s the only time we see someone coming round for friendship. And of course it was for Bow. Because he hugs her afterwards. He’s consistently accepting and respectful.
And Entrapta. It hurt me seeing her struggle to relate to the Princesses, and struggling to find acceptance. And they were not kind or trusting in the beginning. They were nicer to Scorpia. And maybe I can understand - Scorpia betrayed the Horde to join them, Entrapta betrayed them to join the horde. But their treatment of her was incredibly disrespectful (the hair pulling in particular). In fact hair pulling is a theme. One that Bow does not partake in. His kindness and respect for Entrapta is there all season. He consistently believes in her. There’s the freak out when they’re first in space, but he also treats Adora in the exact same manner. But that’s the point. He doesn’t treat her any differently. He treats her so respectfully in comparison to almost everyone else. I think he’s probably her only real friend, outwith Scorpia.
This is a wonderful character to have on the show. Because kindness and respect are the core traits of who he is. And having him show that kindness and respect to Catra, Scorpia, and Entrapta consistantly and without ever asking for that same kindness or respect in return - only trust, he only ever asks for their trust. And even then, he’s asking that they trust him to save them. And wooo, boy. It gets me.
Everybody rightfully loves bow! I’ve literally never seen anyone hate on him, He’s done nothing wrong in his life ever.
Might take a break from my bigger projects and doodle a bit tonight
If anyone has requests I’m open to take em! im really lacking inspiration beyond my wips rn
It can be she ra or any other fandom!
I love this scene!! It’s so heart wretching and I love it.
I’ve already told some people, but I’d like to share it on my Tumblr, that I’m making a fully animated version of this storyboard!
I’ve already made the first sketch and I’m probably going to take forever, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. ^^
￼￼It’s criminal that they left this out I’m-
BRO OMG YOURE A GODSEND IM SO EXCITED
I would PAY M O N E Y
All right, friends and neighbors. We are going to engage in an Angry Post, because I am very, very tired of seeing people complain about and question both Catra and Hordak being “forgiven too quickly.” This may be a bit sassier than what you normally expect from me, so it shall be tagged as “discourse” and should be read at your own risk. It’s certainly not aimed at anyone in particular and is more intended towards a general attitude that I’ve seen. That said, I am having many emotions about cartoon characters that must be worked through, so it’s happening.
So. Let’s start with Catra. Catra, and the idea that Bow and Glimmer and Adora forgave her too quickly. That they should have demanded she pay for her crimes before providing her with affection and acceptance.
I just… here. Let’s. Let’s just. Let’s even forget about all of the trauma she has been through for the entirety of her life. Let’s shelve Shadow Weaver. Let’s ignore that. Yeah? It shouldn’t really be ignored, of course, but for the sake of simplicity. Okay.
Catra just spent who-knows-how-long on Horde Prime’s ship. Catra was just put through a hellish purification ritual, mind-chipped, and used as a vessel against her will. Catra also fell off of what was essentially a cliff, unconscious and limp, and nearly died. Potentially actually died. Whatever. Point is: physical trauma, emotional trauma, mental trauma.
What, exactly, do y’all want to do to this girl that she hasn’t already suffered? Hm? What further pain and discomfort and terror do you demand that she experience before she’s been “punished enough”?
Do you want to isolate her from friendly contact until she fulfills your random Redemption List? Make her eat her meals alone, without nary a friendly face? Leave her to her nightmares without anyone to comfort her? Shall she live with Prime’s voice and Prime’s memory inside her head, unable to reach out to anyone for reassurance and relief?
And for what? Why? What would be the purpose?
Do you think that would help? Do you think that that would help Catra get better faster? Do you think it would be good for her, to be further isolated and shunned and deprived of affection and sympathy and comfort? Is demanding penance prior to providing love really in everyone’s best interest? Is it in Catra’s?
And now: Hordak. Who apparently also doesn’t deserve any love or care or mercy until he’s paid his dues.
Hordak was born into a cult. An actual, played-totally-straight, honest to the gods cult. He was manufactured in a little tank for the sole purpose of being a body to use and abuse at his god’s whims. He was programmed and indoctrinated to be loyal and devoted to said god on a legitimately disturbing level.
And when his body started to fail, when it became too much to maintain, he was sent away to fight until battle or illness killed him.
Hordak spent decades on a strange planet, with no support system, fighting and striving in the only way he knew how to be worthy of the same god who threw him away to die. He spent those decades dealing with a chronic illness, alone, that caused him pain, shame, and legitimately threatened his life. When he finally had a brief moment of friendship, it was violently taken away from him. When he rejoined his god, he experienced only humiliation and terror before having his identity taken from him. Afterwards, his despair was so great that he subjected himself to purification agony in order to keep his painful memories at bay.
He has suffered chronic physical pain, loneliness, intense fear of failure, and a sense of self-worth so abysmally low that he thought it was a good idea to go back to his narcissistic monster of a creator in order to feel at peace with himself. He suffered all of this while blaming himself for not being strong enough to singularly overcome things no sane person would ever demand someone to overcome on their own.
Yes, he did terrible things. He waged war. He hurt people. But now? He’s done. And now, he needs support and understanding and multiple helping hands to set things right and recover from this.
Or… what? What, those of you who claim he doesn’t deserve the mercy Adora has shown him, is it that he should receive instead?
Should he be physically dealt with? Shall we withhold his life support from him, just enough to ensure he knows he’s being punished? Or, perhaps, should he be isolated again? Left alone to suffer further physical illness and self-loathing without anyone to reach out to for comfort and guidance? Should love and security be denied him until he’s… what? Rebuilt a certain number of cities? Provided a certain number of new technologies? And how should he handle his pain during this time? Should he just suffer the misery of his failures and his fear and his pain in solitude until the arbitrary Penance Quota is fulfilled?
What is the point of denying him these things? Is it actually helpful? Will it help him recover faster? Will it teach him some sort of lesson he’s apparently too stupid to learn without hurting? Will it undo the damage the war has wrought?
Or will it just satisfy some perverse vengeance fetish some people appear to have?
Look here. I don’t mean to say that Catra and Hordak shouldn’t work to help the people they’ve hurt. That’s fine. I don’t mind it. Honestly, I feel like they’ll want to.
What I mean to say is that I don’t see a point or purpose to withholding love and comfort and legitimate help from these two deeply wounded, ailing individuals until they meet some sort of personal redemption standard. I don’t see the point to it. I don’t see the advantage.
All I see is heaping more cruelty and pain onto two people who, damage though they’ve caused, have suffered so terribly and completely that they will likely be dealing with the fallout of their trauma for the rest of their lives.
And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of these takes complaining about Catra and Hordak “getting off easy.” They didn’t get off easy. They suffered. And extending that suffering to fulfill someone’s completely arbitrary sense of “justice” is cruel. And pointless. And entirely against the messages and themes of this show.
All right. I’m done. I’ve had my hissy fit. Back to less sassy posts.
P R E A C H
So proud of him.
I hate that people think hordak won’t try to make up for what he did or that he’d just take adoras gift as a get out of jail free card
Hordak is a lawful person who is incredibly loyal to a fault. That’s literally canon.
He would feel like he owes his LIFE to Adora
If she told him to jump he’d ask how high.
On top of that: hordak doesn’t have a good sense of self worth like, at all, and is incredibly self destructive. (Also proven in canon)
He would work himself to death to pay back his debt and prove that he was worth saving if he had to
The entire POINT is that Adora believes he’s capable of doing good, and he IS!
The princess could tell him to take a long walk off a short cliff and he’d do it. Because Loyalty is his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
some of yall really think he has the confidence and self value to just fuck off???