I present to you Thane Krios. He is Drell assassin, soulful murderer, and incredibly sexy reptilian man. Allow me to paint a picture.
Going back to the beginning, the design team had attraction in mind. As BioWare’s art director Derek Watts explains, because Thane was a potential love interest character, “women were going to have to find this guy attractive.”
Drell are physically the most human-like aliens in the Mass Effect universe, other than the Asari, which helps Thane to appear exotic rather than bestial, despite the obvious animal influence in his design. Thane’s presence is definitively athletic, including that perfect male waist-to-chest ratio and a clearly defined symmetry of body enhanced by his symmetry of clothing. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that he’s clearly wearing leather, Hollywood’s token cultural symbol of the “bad boy.”
However, Thane is far from your average bad boy.
Drell eyes are large and very dark, giving them a depth that seems endless. And they have that third eyelid flicker that reminds us they aren’t quite like ours. Thane’s voice is low and rough, more masculine than any character that isn’t Krogan.
When we first meet Thane, he is a shadow. We fight through endless mercenaries to get to him, to find him, to recruit him. We don’t see him, but we know he’s there from the corpses falling out vents in the ceiling and the mysteriously rescued maintenance workers. It’s enticing. What kind of person can do all of these things and move so much more quickly than our hero, Shepard? We need to know.
When we finally reach the top of the tower and there is nowhere left for anyone to run, Thane appears. His movements are extremely fast and precise. He has a physical grace in every animation.
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Our introduction to Thane is a swift, bloodless execution of a notoriously hardened criminal (who hired Shepard to kill her sister in the previous game), immediately followed by a prayer.
It quickly comes to light that it’s not merely Thane’s eyes that are soulful. Thane’s religion and spirituality are a personal focus of his throughout the game. After a kill, he prays for forgiveness, not for the criminal he dispatched, but for his own sins. His polytheism is uncommon, and I imagine it as a parallel to paganism in today’s Western culture, giving him an aspect of natural connectedness.
As Thane reveals his story, we learn that he has been trained as an assassin since childhood by the people who saved the Drell from their dying homeworld. He considers it an honor to be able to help them in such a manner.
The more we speak to Thane, the more the image of the cold killer, the leather-wearing “bad boy” is merged with that of a deep, thoughtful, gentle, desperately human man. In addition to his violence and spirituality, Thane is primarily concerned with the tragic state of his family and the fatal illness he faces that forces intense contemplation of his own mortality.
Thane’s family story lays out his vulnerabilities with touching clarity. When his wife is murdered by his enemies in order to draw him out, Thane abandons his young son to seek vengeance on all involved in her death. When his vengeance is complete, Thane finds his life empty and pointless, so he continues to do the only thing he has known all his life, though it holds no meaning for him.
Thane never reaches out to his son. Thane is ashamed to have brought the boy such pain, and fears that the son will glorify the father’s work as a murderer. Then Thane learns that his son has done exactly that, without the benefit of Thane’s training and skills, so it is up to him and Shepard to save the boy from making a terrible mistake before it’s too late. The few interactions we witness between Thane and his son are beautifully constructed, thoroughly memorable.
If Shepard draws Thane into a relationship, the night before the suicide mission Thane reveals that for the first time in a decade, he feels real fear for his life, that because of his connection to Shepard he feels an intense desire to live that he has not felt since the loss of his wife. The scene cracked my heart, then shattered it.
He is, throughout everything, an expert in precision murder and an invaluable asset to Shepard’s galaxy saving team. The combination of honed athleticism, precision skill, and exquisite depth of mind and soul in one character is simply irresistible.
And that’s what makes Thane Krios great.