Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Solas's Romance Part 2: Flirting with the Dread Wolf

Solas's early flirtations are especially delightful because they're unfailingly polite and yet also, quietly naughty.

INQUISITOR: You have an interesting way of looking at the world, Solas.
SOLAS: I try. And that isn’t quite an answer.
INQUISITOR: I look forward to helping you make new friends.
SOLAS: That should be… well.
INQUISITOR: That isn’t quite an answer, either.

First off, I have an admission. After weeks of wrestling with them, I just can't consign Solas's romance to a specific number of posts! So he'll be searchable under "Solas's Romance" in the future, as well (and I'll continue to designate them that way once I finish moving blog platforms). 

One of the greatest pleasures of Dragon Age: Inquisition surely has to be the ways in which we're able to flirt with our companions, whose reactions are almost always both revealing and (more than occasionally) incredibly funny. For instance, watching Cullen stammer in awkwardness or Cassandra blush in confusion at a flirtation from a female Inquisitor will never, ever get old for me. Neither will the shy delight from Blackwall and Josie, or the more sophisticated, amused reactions of Sera and Dorian. Bull, of course, doesn't react at all, aside from those blasted "The Iron Bull slightly approves" notifications. (Although in my mind, he accompanies them with a smile and a raised eyebrow. Dammit.) The end-all, be-all reaction to our flirtation attempts, however, comes from Vivienne, whose response of open laughter and disbelief are so devastating I'm still not okay even years later.

But out of all of our companions, my favorite flirtations are those with Solas, who is by far the smoothest companion in the bunch when we flirt with him. His responses are absolutely delightful—sexy, smart, and suave. I remember how surprised I was with that when I first played through DAI—and how appropriate I found it upon replay, knowing who Solas actually was.

Some of Solas's most notable and direct flirtations occur early on at Haven—like this series of variations, below:

Rogue Inquisitor:

SOLAS: You train to flick a dagger or an arrow to its target. The grace with which you move is a pleasing 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: So you’re suggesting I’m graceful?
SOLAS: No, I am declaring it. It was not a subject for debate.

Mage Inquisitor:

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 the sight would be… fascinating.

Warrior Inquisitor:

SOLAS: You strengthen your body to deliver and withstand punishment. The muscles are 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: You find the muscles enjoyable?
SOLAS: I meant that you enjoyed having them, presumably.
INQUISITOR: Ah.
SOLAS: But yes... since you asked.

These flirtations are especially delightful for me because they manage to be both polite and quietly mischievous (the mage comment especially!), while also conveying a real sense of enjoyment in both the Inquisitor and Solas here. All of the above dialogues then end with the female Inquisitor giving an amused "Mmhmm" along with a slight chuckle (and Alix Wilton Regan's performance is particularly charming to me, because it manages to convey both amusement at his daring along with a slight hint of shyness). Either way, let's face it, I'm assuming she then had to go off and fan herself, because holy cats, that's hot.

And of course Solas is a smooth flirter. He ought to be, considering that he's actually been flirting for millennia at this point, in terms of his actual age. 

Solas's unusual and often archaic speech patterns are some of my favorite things about the character from a writing standpoint, because they emphasize the fact that Solas is a man out of time.
Love, Godhood, and Carbon-Dating

(Okay, first off, sorry about the carbon-dating/dating pun. BUT I HAD TO DO IT. It was just sitting there, taunting me!)

Onward. (And yes it was bad. And no, you're right... I'm not really sorry.) 

Where were we? Oh, right, flirting with my ancient almost-god digital elven boyfriend...

At a conservative guess, Solas is at least 9,000-10,000 years old (the Veil was erected before humans had ever even showed up in Thedas at all, 8,000 years ago), and my personal guess is that he spent several thousand years as an Evanuris before that, AND as you may know from my other blog entries on the subject, I believe that, before that, he spent perhaps uncountable millennia existing as a spirit of Wisdom, in the Fade.

In other words, the cute guy we're flirting with at Haven here could be as much as 20,000 years old. Hahren, indeed. I love this, and the way it dwarfs any of those vampire/human romance tropes, for instance (Angel/Buffy, Lestat/Louis, Edward/Bella, etc.), or even the age gap between the Doctor and his Companions (although I think those come close). The distance is so great that it's difficult to imagine.

But Solas gives himself away every now and then, nevertheless, in his language and conversation choices (both flirtatious and otherwise). 

Verbal Clues and Turns of Phrase

One of the many things I love about the care taken with the characters in Dragon Age: Inquisition is that they encourage us to look closer, to find the complexities and (perhaps) disparities that may lie within them. Characters who for me especially embody unexpected depths, surprises and capabilities include The Iron Bull, as well as Flemeth, Varric, Leliana, Blackwall, Cabot, Dagna, Dorian, Dennet and more.

But for sheer surprise and revelation, Solas beats them all. And his unusual and archaic speech patterns, those subtle words and phrases that remind us of the ancient being he truly is, are some of my favorite things about the character from a writing standpoint, because they emphasize the fact that Solas is a man out of time. He is many things at once—ancient and young, mortal and immortal, spirit and flesh... and the product of a time and place that were so long ago that his compatriots are now myths and legends, and the collapse of his entire civilization is simply a cautionary bedtime story.

Solas's writer Patrick Weekes communicates that subtle sense of age and rigidity with these little verbal cues, these ornate and formal phrasings throughout his dialogues, as well as with general verbal tendencies such as Solas's absolutely exquisite manners.

Weekes further emphasizes Solas's slight oddness of speech with phrases such as those like, "whose steps you do not dislike," for instance, in the flirtations above. I mean, sure, Solas could totally have just said "whose steps you enjoy" or "whose steps you like," but that use of the double negative adds this wonderful spin, to me—a little quirk of strangeness that allows him to be both candid but also a bit detached, perhaps. I also love Solas's visible fondness for the prim, slightly antiquated phrase "one assumes," which is again just that little tip of the hat to Solas's tendencies toward overformality as his happy place.

Solas's ornate and tricksy language skills also demonstrate another one of my favorite hidden aspects to Solas for me as a character—that subtle, sly wit. I know people seem to think of him as humorless (especially those who don't care for Solas as a character), but I'm telling you, that subtle wit is actually almost always present, and it's so much fun, especially when delivered by the always-superb Gareth David-Lloyd, who not only gives Solas one of the most impossibly beautiful and emotive voices in this or any game, but who also imbues him with a delicate and decidedly wicked streak that makes Weekes's elegant dialogue that much more fun to listen to. And it's every bit as individual and recognizable as the delightfully Shakespearean turns of phrase that David Gaider gave to Morrigan, or as the poetic alliterations of Weekes's Cole.

Watching Solas emerge from his shell to tease, flirt, and talk, is always moving to me in an odd way, perhaps because we're not just seeing him reawaken after long sleep; we're also seeing a dead man realize he's actually still alive. The almost-god of ancient times now walking the mortal world.

Even if he shouldn't be.

All the times Solas is flirting with Lavellan, the grim reality is that he should've been moldering in a dusty grave for thousands of years now. Yet somehow he's still here. So he might as well feel something more than pain or grief.
The Wolf in the Sun

See, that's the tragedy of Solas, to me. He's a living fossil. He's thousands of years out of date. By all rights, when Solas is flirting with our darling Inky, the grim reality is, he should've been moldering in a dusty grave millennia past. But somehow he's still here, but cut off, lonely, yearning to unspool time and fix the mess he's made of the world. And yet he's just as driven to stay solitary, to protect the lies he's told and the pretense he's created.

Enter Inquisitor Lavellan, stage right. Bewildered and seeking reassurance and connection. She's courageous, smart and powerful, impossibly young, and with absolutely no preconceptions. She speaks to him in the words of his people and quickly becomes the one good thing to come of his impulsive decision to manipulate the Orb to Corypants, the part he cannot bring himself to regret. And before it even all begins, he calls her back to life from the Fade, sitting by her side all night in Haven. Fearing death and hoping for recovery. A tacit and unspoken tenderness growing simply in his guilty vigil to keep this woman from death.

No matter that to Solas, Lavellan is as fragile and transitory as a firefly. No matter that she will only live a brief scattering of years before mortality takes her. No matter that he himself may eventually be the cause of her death—what difference does that really make, after all? Everyone, everything, here is dying anyway. He can almost see it happening before his eyes.

So he shuts all of that away. Solas begins to relax into his role as the lonely apostate. He banters with Lavellan and remembers how to smile. He begins to feel something good, something beyond rage or guilt. Or maybe he simply begins to feel again, period. And so he begins to play with her verbally, and she plays back, in conversations that are as mannered and elegant and ornate as any dance at Halamshiral.

Even if he's still a man in a dream. Even if the world in which he walks is not quite real to him, and is instead something doomed, transitory and fragile—an alternate universe of possibility and wrong choices. Even if she herself is not quite real.

What harm, then, to take her to the Fade? All of this is just a dream in the end, either way. Or a nightmare.

1 comment:

  1. A great read, as usual. Some part of me can't help wondering, however, whether his vigil over the Inquisitor prior to the game's beginning was really as altruistic as you suggest. He has no connection to anyone at that point, and is still feeling bruised by the rebuffs of the Dalish and the anti-mage sentiments of the Chantry. It really wouldn't surprise me in the least if he was pragmatic/ruthless Solas at that point and was trying to figure out if there was a way to remove the mark from the Inquisitor's hand and use it as he intended to tear down the Veil. And obviously he can't figure out a way, so the next sensible thing to do is keep them alive in hopes he can get them to use the mark to tear down the Veil for him, or figure out some way to get that power back. But then he starts taking a liking to the Inquisitor (or not) and to the world, and the rest is history.

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