Despite her literal mask of confidence, Mileena is the most insecure and tragic character in Mortal Kombat. Her entire reason for being revolves around Kitana, who she will always be compared to and never be greater than. Worst yet, Kitana is the closest Mileena has to family, but also the furthest from what she could ever be.
Kitana was born to a loving family, and even after having them brutally torn away from her, she’s able to escape and lead a new life. Mileena was crudely created to fill the gap that Kitana left in Outworld, made to entrap and kill for a “father” that will only see her as second best.
Slowly, Mileena has been given a life outside of her sister’s shadow, especially when she tried to claim the Outworld throne for her own in Mortal Kombat X. Here, she built an army by herself that included her hinted-at lover, Tanya. But it all fell apart when everyone realised that she was just a clone, and an imperfect one at that. An experiment that should have never existed. Her allies are either killed or ditch her for Kitana.
Brought back as DLC a game later, she played no role in the story, save her own non-canon arcade ending. But of all of her appearances, this is the one that left the most impact. Finally, she wasn’t seeking power for power's sake, but because it was the only way she could secure a sense of belonging. Here, she rids the world of everyone who never wanted her. She finally wins the throne and has a child with Tanya. As cruel as she is, it’s incredibly sympathetic. “Unlike my sister, my daughter regards me with awe and wonder,” she says. “To her, I am no abomination, I am perfection.”
Now, from just these simple words at the end of a non-canon ending, NetherRealm is rebooting Mileena’s story for the next generation. In Mortal Kombat 1, she finally has a family.
In the reveal trailer, Kitana and Mileena are sisters. They’re sitting in the same carriage, both dressed equal parts deadly and regal. After two timelines of fighting, they’ve now realised that they share an enemy - they were both pawns in a much larger game. Without Shao Kahn, they can flourish.
As we’ve seen constantly throughout the series, Mileena hates Shao Kahn just as much as her sister does. Call it a hunger for power if you want, but it must go deeper than that. There are other realms for her to conquer, particularly if she were to work with Shao Kahn. But she doesn’t. She bides her time and fights for the Outworld throne. It’s personal, in a way you would expect from a daughter of a tyrant that only created her out of frustration that he couldn’t control his other child. All while knowing that she would be chucked back into the flesh pits the second Kitana pledges her allegiance to Shao Kahn.
But now, they’re on the same team, and the timing couldn’t be better. More and more, we’re seeing female characters who exist for men finally leaving their shadows, and having their stories reclaimed. It’s high time Mortal Kombat caught up. Just look at how much we all love Gamora and Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy. When they were introduced, they were two sexy sides of the same sexy coin, sharing fight scenes and little else. Gamora even got fridged the second Nebula was escaping Thanos’ shadow, something that was thankfully rectified in Vol 3. Harley Quinn has them all beaten though, long escaping the clutches of the Joker, proving that she has an identity outside of the abuser who created her.
I can’t wait to see Kitana and Mileena celebrate all that makes them so similar and so different. Even in this ‘perfect’ world that Liu-Kang has created, Mileena still has her iconic fangs, and that isn’t enough for Kitana to push her away. Less dramatically, we can see she’s even rocking an undercut, giving herself her own identity outside of being a twin.
Sure, there was little warmth in the carriage that the sisters shared, but they shared it, and after all that they’ve been through, that’s powerful. I’m hardly expecting Mileena to ditch her violent - maybe even villainous - ways in the new timeline, but it will finally be her story, and for once, it could have a happy ending.
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