|A tender moment with Solas... right before he stomps all over your heart.
I... enjoyed it.
The Iron Bull: Of course you did. Ben-Hassrath training, remember? Grew up learning to manipulate people.
When it's a hostile target, you give them what they want. But when it's someone you care about, you give them what they need.
1. Spoilers as always for all of Dragon Age!
2. This post contains analyses of some pretty adult romances across Dragon Age. Topically, it is both NSFW and appropriate for adults only.
So here we are again on the subject of Dragon Age and romance...
In this installment, we'll go beyond the fairytale formulas and look at some of the other potential relationships across the games. Here, we're definitely leaving behind the hearts and flowers, and entering a slightly tougher, edgier world, where romance may also include lies, double-crosses, emotional baggage, betrayal, abandonment, and, well... the occasional safe word.
I liked all of the sweeter, more fairytale romances I mentioned in my earlier post on DA romances, and was really charmed by each in different ways. However, my favorites across the series have tended to be the more complex romances and relationships—those that didn't make a beeline for true love, and which in many cases didn't work out at all.
The earliest of these, and one of the best, to me, is definitely Zevran's, as his romance explores a character who seems impossibly sunny (despite surviving terrible abuse), yet as it goes along, we begin to see that no matter how sexually freewheeling he seems, he does fear real intimacy and closeness. This is a theme with several romances across the trilogy, from Zev, Morrigan and Fenris, to Sera, Dorian, and more.
|Dorian's fear of intimacy is directly tied to his own shame, but that makes it
all more moving when he actually takes the leap and embarks on a relationship.
Dorian's fear of intimacy is directly tied to his own shame and abuse, but that makes it all the more emotional when he stops flirting and actually takes the leap and embarks on a relationship with a male Inquisitor. (It's also easily one of the hottest and loveliest kisses in the entire game, as well.)
Dorian and Bull
Dorian's romance is complex and genuinely interesting if the Inquisitor pursues a relationship with him, but what's possibly even more interesting is the alternate potential storyline (if the Inquisitor doesn't romance either) in which Dorian and The Iron Bull hook up.
There's been a lot of talk about the fact that Bull comes on pretty strong with Dorian, and in ways that some see as harassment or abuse, but I just don't see it that way—I think it's flirting between two people who know they're attracted, and who even admit it. The problem is that Dorian brings his own class issues to the table, as well as his own ambivalence about his sexuality. I'm even more okay with the fact that Bull comes on as strong as he does because of the way Bull is proven, over and over again, to know with scary accuracy what people want—and to then give it to them. I also think that Dorian only takes Bull up on that offer because of the fact that Bull is so blunt and insightful about acknowledging their attraction.
So it's interesting, if perhaps not entirely healthy at first. For me, their dynamics are uneven at first, most of all, because Dorian fears and half-loathes himself for his sexual impulses while Bull, pansexual and utterly at home with himself, cannot conceive of the concept of shame when it comes to sex between consenting adults in any way. He's completely free of hang-ups. The resulting relationship is messy, it's believable, and it's ultimately a really fascinating and even sweet romance that ends up being good for both men.
Dorian's damage and his hesitance to accept true love even when it's offered results in a moving story, and it's why his was one of the romances in DAI that unexpectedly moved me the most. I also enjoyed Zevran's assassin with the heart of gold, Isabela's funny, sexy and incorrigible pirate, and the heartbreakingly vulnerable, tragic Anders.
|Bull is the only character in DAI who does not respond at all to early
flirts—he's absolutely unreadable.
Anyway... so Bull finally responded, and I was delighted. Finally, my Beauty and the Beast romance could begin! (I hadn't found Bull hot at first, but of course by the end I thought he was gorgeous.) I hadn't expected, however, for Bull to show up in my Inquisitor's quarters... much less, for him to coolly proposition her with a purely sexual relationship with zero strings (except, cough, for those he provided in the bedchamber). I remember actually dropping my jaw (and my mouse) in shock. (Hey, don't judge me... I'm kind of a human toon.)
However, what I like most about Bull's romance is that, unlike almost any other romance in DAI, it starts with sex and goes from there. Sex isn't the rom-com prize at the end of the story; instead, it's just the way things begin. The relationship can actually go on to be either genuinely sweet and surprising (including some of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a videogame), or it can end on a pretty nihilistic pitch-dark note in Trespasser. Again, it just depends on the choices you make. I will simply note that the happy ending of Bull's romance is delightful and charming, while the darker ending (which I played through a few years later) had me in tears. So: proceed with caution.
When I first met Solas, for instance, I thought: "Huh. Beautiful voice. Not really into the whole pale bald-guy thing though. But hey, to each their own!" Then I bantered with him at Haven, in a series of conversations that were by turns tense, argumentative, funny, charming, and even slyly sexy. Within minutes, I had fallen flat, and I still remember my confusion when I looked at Solas after that moment and went, "Wait... when did he get hot?"
And it was definitely worth it, as Solas revealed himself as an often surprising character whose layers are only really apparent when he's romanced. He's a constant surprise in the romance scenario—defensive, secretive, impulsive and fiery—but also tender, funny, and openly sensual. He's genuinely witty and bold in his responses to your flirtations, and it's one of the many ways in which, again, the character really confounded my expectations. When we'd first met Solas, for instance, my first impression had been that he was rather cold and monkish. And of course, the romance revealed that he's anything but—he's all fire beneath the surface, and is easily one of the most passionate characters in the story (and Solas's kisses are, to me, easily the best in the game).
For instance, take this wicked little early conversation with a female elven mage:
Solas: You train your will to control magic and withstand possession. Your indomitable focus is an enjoyable side benefit. You have chosen a path whose steps you do not dislike because it leads to a destination you enjoy. As have I.
Inquisitor: Indomitable focus?
Solas: Presumably. I have yet to see it dominated. I imagine that sight would be... fascinating.
Inquisitor: (laughs softly)
Ahem. So... let's just say that I think Solas and Bull have more in common than might be readily apparent... on a number of levels.
|The last thing Solas should do is fall in love... so of course he
does exactly that.
I'm still not okay about him dumping me, though. And neither was my poor Inquisitor (who's still not over it). But that's part of what I love about it... and I think it's why it lingers on in the memories of so many other Solasmancers.
Romancing Solas in DAI is all the more painful because it's a story that's not over. We're still invested... we're still in love... and we're still, somehow, waiting for our happy ending.