Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Taste of Lies and Sorrows... Talking with Solas After the Arbor Wilds

In his "You have impressed me" compliments, the idea that Solas is professing that love in response to having his worst impulses confirmed is deeply sad to me. That's why it's a brilliant lead-in to the next moment... that of our last, terrible date.

SOLAS: You honor the past and work to recover what was lost, even if the cost is high. I respect that, and I am indebted to you for the reminder.

So I'm on the home stretch to my analysis of Solas's romance, but before we get to the kisses, tears and regretful butt-grabs of The Last, Worst Date Ever, I want to take a closer look at one of the most pivotal companion conversations in Dragon Age: Inquisition—our talk with Solas after the events of the Arbor Wilds and the vir'abelasan (The Well of Sorrows). (Note: I've updated this slightly from the original post to fix a few typos, and added a reference to the fact that the epilogue scene may take place in the Crossroads, as posited by @LadyInsanity.)

Saying No to a Sip

If we didn't drink from the Well, Solas is calm and even mildly euphoric after the Temple of Mythal. There's something complacent and secretly pleased about his demeanor, and, as with the events of Halamshiral, he's playing his cards close to the vest. He comments that "The Temple of Mythal was extraordinary. In all my journeys, I never dreamed of finding anything like it."

Which, to me, isn't a throwaway comment but an observation that is worth examining. It's Solas writer Patrick Weekes being subtle with us again, giving us something potentially complex and layered within a seemingly innocuous, simple statement by one of their characters.

First and foremost, it's obviously a pretty disingenuous comment by Solas, since he would have to have seen far grander temples to the Evanuris back in the ancient days. Not to mention the fact that, right there at the Well itself, ancient elven sentinel Abelas had just told us that Mythal's Temple was destroyed by the very people who betrayed and murdered Mythal herself.

A Little Deception

Doesn't Abelas's job sound awful, by the way? He and the ancient sentinel elves evidently spend all their time sleeping, basically snoozing their way through millennia, only waking up on alert in time to fight or banish anyone who tries to enter the Temple of Mythal. If they survive after combat, they apparently just go back to bed until the next incursion. It's like the worst on-call fireman's job ever. And with no side benefits like a fireman's pole, dalmatians, communal cooking, riding around in a cool fire truck, or getting the thanks of a grateful community.

So it's another small moment of deception from Solas, if we examine it, because he has likely already been to the Temple of Mythal, even if it was millennia back. Wasn't it likely the site of Mythal's actual murder? Even though it's implied that Solas and Mythal were divided at that point (perhaps over differences on the issues of elven enslavement, the use of the vallaslins, or some other betrayal), we know that there remained deep love between them, to the point that Mythal's death sent Solas spinning into acts of revenge and retribution that would change the entire face of the world.

So it seems likely that Solas would have hastened there himself way back when, either to prevent her death, or to discover it on his own. The other Evanuris beings who killed her may even have hoped to pin the death on Solas himself, for all we know. Either way, I think he's been there before. Ironically, before most of his many journeys to come across both Thedas and the Fade.

And keep in mind that the Temple of Mythal is also strongly implied as the prearranged meeting-place for Solas and Flemeth in the shocking final epilogue scene in Dragon Age: Inquisition. (although there is also a persuasive case by LadyInsanity that it takes place in the Crossroads, as well). But I'd swear on my stuffed Emerald Graves Nug that both of them know the place all too well.

That's all we get if we didn't drink—it's a mild, quiet conversation with no surprises (yet).

However, the situation is, of course, much more fiery and emotional if we did, in fact, drink from the vir'abelasan.

What Inquisition has accomplished beautifully in a big-picture way with Solas's story is to constantly remind us that sometimes the worst fate you can suffer is to be trapped in your own guilt and regret.

The Taste of Sorrow

If we drank from the Well, the encounter is more volatile. Solas confrontational—frustrated, angry and scared at the implications of what the Inquisitor has done. As always, he cannot tell her what he knows about the immortal contract to which she has just agreed. As Inquisition's greatest champion of free will, Solas is predictably devastated that the Inquisitor is now bound to something she does not understand. He cannot tell her Mythal is real, the gods were real (at least, in some capacity), and that he himself walked among them, saving and dooming Thedas as a result.

Solas gets a lot of anger from many fans, and he undoubtedly deserves it. He's walked at our side for over a year now in the timeline of the game story, and he has reserved, omitted, and even obscured essential information from the Inquisitor and the Inquisition at large repeatedly in order to cover his own identity, motives and actions. 

Yet what the game has accomplished beautifully in a big-picture way with Solas's story is to constantly remind us that sometimes the worst fate you can suffer is to be trapped in your own guilt and regret (a fate Abelas understands all too well). It's something Weekes makes painfully acute in almost all of Solas's dialogues with companions, and especially with a beloved Lavellan. He wants so badly to speak. And yet he cannot do so. And because he is a true believer, because he truly thinks he is doing the right thing, his prison is binding. No moment of weakness or regret will salvage him because every moment of pain or loss simply provides him with the chance for further righteous sacrifice or abnegation.

And oh, The Last, Worst Date is looming, and I would argue that here's where we begin to see that fallout... even here.

So I like the scene a lot, because it's one of those moments in which I feel we're watching Solas have to face the bleak reality of his choices... and lose control. And justifiably so. He can't fix things, he can't go back, and he's caught in a cruel stasis in which he alone knows the miseries yet to come for those he has come to care for. Even though Solas seemed to tacitly want for us to drink at the time—or, at least, to do so instead of Morrigan, who he views as grasping carelessly for ancient power she does not understand ("She is right about only one thing: we should take the power which lies in that well")—he's nevertheless deeply, visibly upset.

This scene is instantly presented as intense and dynamic—we walk into the Rotunda with Solas, and he rounds furiously to confront Lavellan for drinking from the Well. Solas is about as emotional and unguarded as we've ever seen him.

SOLAS: I begged you not to drink from the Well! Why could you not have listened?
SOLAS: You gave yourself into the service of an ancient elven god!
INQUISITOR: What does that mean, exactly?
SOLAS: You are Mythal’s creature now. Everything you do, whether you know it or not, will be for her. You have given up a part of yourself.

Solas and Lavellan can have more conversations here, but they're mostly variations in which Solas reinforces the danger of the decision (and her loss of agency) while emphasizing the fickle and potentially twisted nature of the original 'gods.' In one of my favorite moments, Lavellan calls him out on the fact that she knows he doesn't believe in gods, and Solas agrees, but clarifies that he believes that these powerful beings did exist in some fashion, whether gods or something else. Again, I always love these moments in which Solas tosses out an idea like a guess, when he knows the truth beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Regardless, within a few short moments, Solas seems to take a breath, and to accept that what's done is done, and he makes a visible effort to calm down.

SOLAS: And you are bound to one of them now. I suppose it is better you have the power than Corypheus, which leads to the next logical question… 

And... here we go.

Oh, sweet Creators, and oh dear and fluffy Maker, Solas, please do not thank us for this particular revelation. Shit.

The Hidden, Vital Question

This, this, is the big moment for Solas... where, in hindsight, we realize all realities for Solas collide. He asks the question that means more to him than anything in the world, I believe. Right here and right now, Solas must know the answer to a vital question: What will she do with this divine power now? How will she use it to affect the world?

SOLAS: What will you do with the power of the Well once Corypheus is dead?

Lavellan can reply in a variety of options, here. She can respond that she will undo the chaos Corypants caused, she may respond that she trusts her friends, say that she will attempt to stay humble and share her power, or (last but not least) that she will not look back, but try to move the world forward.

It's no surprise that Solas reacts most powerfully to two of these responses—to the Inquisitor's resolution to bring back the past, or to move beyond that past into something wholly new. 

"I am indebted to you for the reminder"

Every one of these options includes an important disclosure from Solas. But, in hindsight, his open happiness if Lavellan responds, "I'll bring back what was," should be a warning bell that clangs across the Frostbacks. Solas is openly euphoric at the idea that Lavellan would put things back "the way they were, because it's the affirmation he so desperately desires—confirmation from someone he has come to love and admire that undoing the past is a good and honorable thing. No matter what the cost:

INQUISITOR: I’ll use whatever power I have to undo the chaos that Corypheus and his allies have caused.
SOLAS: You would put things back the way they were before?
INQUISITOR: Yes. I mean, not exactly…
SOLAS: I know what you mean. Thank you.
SOLAS: You have not been what I expected, Inquisitor. You have… impressed me. You honor the past and work to recover what was lost, even if the cost is high. I respect that, and I am indebted to you for the reminder.

Note how Solas's final moment of appreciation here emphasizes Lavellan's willingness to honor the past and "recover what was lost, even if the cost was high." He's happily grateful for the reminder.

I adore Solas. But his goals scare and worry me, and this, in retrospect, is pretty terrifying.

"I trust my friends"

In response to Lavellan's desire to trust her friends, Solas answers with a differently, yet equally telling, revelation:

INQUISITOR: I trust my friends.
SOLAS: I know that mistake well enough to carve the angles of her face from memory.
INQUISITOR: Why is this so important to you?
SOLAS: You have not been what I expected, Inquisitor. You have… impressed me. You must not let false modesty allow you to pass your power to someone else. There are few regrets sharper than watching fools squander what you sacrificed to achieve.

Which—that's Mythal, isn't it? It has to be about Mythal. Whom he loved and trusted, who may have called him out of the very Fade itself and into flesh all those thousands and thousands of years ago... and yet, at some point, he felt that she betrayed him. Then their friendship was sundered, even if the love remained.

I like the way this version of Solas's "You have not been what I expected" compliment also subtly references the fact that he feels like whatever he achieved in raising the Veil and imprisoning the Evanuris was then squandered by "fools" who came after. Are these the Dalish, perhaps, who became a wandering and lost people unable to remember their own history? Or all of the modern elves, Dalish and city elves alike? Or simply all of Thedas?

Yet it's worth noting that the first thing Solas did upon emerging from the Fade was to go straight to the Dalish and attempt to share his knowledge with them. Knowledge they declined, before forcibly casting him out.

Perhaps it is only then that, to him, bitter in his isolation, they became fools. 

"The Lure of Power's Corruption"

In option three of Lavellan's potential answers here, she attempts to retreat into the safety of abnegating power and ruling by committee, while Solas is instantly skeptical:

SOLAS: You think to share your power, to avoid the temptation to misuse it. A noble sentiment… but, ultimately, a mistake.
SOLAS: Because while one selfless woman may walk away from the lure of power’s corruption, no group has ever done so.

I love the foreshadowing here, as this, of course, is a situation Trespasser directly addresses front and center, and it turns out to be the central question on which the entire Halamshiral hearing hinges: Will the Inquisition remain as an organization or will it be absorbed into the Chantry, to answer to the Divine? Or is now simply the time for the Inquisition as a formal political entity to end? Our choices for our Inquisitors there will surely have massive repercussions in Dragon Age 4.

As a last interesting little detail, this is the only answer to Lavellan's plans where Solas does not give some version of the "You have impressed me" speech.

And here we are again, making a massive mistake, and simply reinforcing Solas's terrible agenda even when we express the actual reverse of his current and determined path. Because all roads lead to the din’anshiral for him at this point.

"I'll help this world move forward"

I find it interesting that the last option in our responses to Solas—the one that is the flip side to the first option (to "restore what was")—is the one that also draws the most emotional response from him. Which makes sense, since both answers, bookends though they are, are intertwined: 

INQUISITOR: The war proved that we can’t go back to the way things were. I’ll try to help this world move forward.
SOLAS: You would risk everything you have in the hope that the future is better? What if it isn’t? What if you wake up to find that the future you shaped is worse than what was?
INQUISITOR: I’ll take a breath, see where things went wrong, and then try again.
SOLAS: Just like that?
INQUISITOR: If we don’t keep trying, we’ll never get it right.
SOLAS: You’re right. Thank you.
SOLAS: You have not been what I expected, Inquisitor. You have… impressed me. You have offered hope that if one keeps trying, even if the consequences are grave… that someday, things will be better.

All Solas takes from this is, "I just have to keep trying, even if the consequences are grave." It's basically the worst and most tragic possible lesson he could take from what the Inquisitor noted. Instead of being freed by the idea that he can and must let go of the past—that he should move on both literally and figuratively from what haunts him—Solas sees this conversation that if he wants to undo the past, he simply needs to keep trying.

All of which makes that final "You have impressed me" compliment he gives to a romanced or high-approval Inquisitor bittersweet, to say the least. Because for me it's a disingenuous end to a disingenuous beginning. And as I always do, I love Gareth David-Lloyd's performance, as he communicates the slightest undercurrent of instability here, of euphoria and excitement beyond the moment. Something is not quite right here. Solas may actually be trembling in the aftermath of revelation and... relief?

It's worth repeating that I believe that Solas does truly love and admire the Inquisitor. Yet here, the idea that he's professing that love in response to having his worst impulses confirmed is deeply sad. That's why I find it a brilliant lead-in to the next moment... that of that last, terrible date. 

Solas tells us he loves us many times, and I believe them all within the story of the game. Yet here, his proclamation of admiration is not only somehow unearned and hollow, it is a subtle harbinger of sadness to come. 

In falling in love with an ancient god, we are already on the path to the din’anshiral. Solas is already far ahead. The greatest tragedy of the situation is that it's a path he walks alone, and love or no love, he will not wait for us.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Trespasser Turns 4: Celebrating 10 Favorite Moments...

INQUISITOR: We save Ferelden, and they’re angry! We save Orlais, and they’re angry! We close the Breach twice, and my own hand wants to kill me! Could one thing in this fucking world just stay fixed?

September 8, 2019 marked the 4-year anniversary for the Dragon Age: Inquisition DLC “Trespasser,” which is arguably the most impactful and tantalizing DLC of the entire game trilogy.

Personally, I still can’t believe it’s been four years… some part of me is still back there, honestly, listening to bard songs, weeping over the outcome for my Qun-loyal Bull, or still ruminating on that final conversation with my other digital boyfriend Solas, and enjoying the prospect of even more heartbreak to come.

From Origins through Inquisition, each chapter of Dragon Age has included a DLC that served as a tantalizing yet crystal-clear link to the next game. From Origins' “Awakenings,” to Dragon Age 2’s “Legacy” to Inquisition’s “Trespasser,” these DLC milestones provided a subtle step forward while presenting the issues and story elements that would be highly impactful in the next major release and a dramatic step in the game story.

I love all of these DLCs, from “Awakenings” and its bittersweet foreshadowings of darkness for some of its brightest characters (Anders) to the way “Legacy” pointed us directly into the bleakness and chaos of Corypheus in Inquisition.

But my favorite DLC so far has to be “Trespasser,” which provides us with everything we loved and hated about Solas in a single DLC, and which instantly paints him as someone who is both irredeemable in his goals and yet intensely worth love and loyalty (for many, at least) for the reasons behind his actions, as well as for his quiet and rather surprising continued loyalty to (and compassion for) the Inquisitor and the Inquisition.

Following are some of the most surprising and emotional moments in “Trespasser” for me… from joy to anguish and everything in between. Here goes!

1. The Time Jump

It's genuinely shocking to go into "Trespasser" and to realize that not only have two years gone by, but that our companions have gone on with their lives, often in poignant and significant ways. The Inquisition has grown, perhaps disquietingly so. Varric leads Kirkwall. Whether with the Inquisitor or Dorian, Bull and his romance have progressed in intimacy and commitment. Blackwall has found a newfound peace and purpose. Sera has found love as well as a newfound acceptance, regret and maturity. Dorian has come to terms with his complex family and heritage. Vivienne has settled back into her scheming, while still retaining her cold affections here and there.

We really get the sense that everyone has, well, lived, during the two-year gap. It feels real, and messy, and complicated, and I love it. For me, the one slightly sad element is that, unless romanced, the Inquisitor still feels a bit lost... in stasis. Committed to a larger goal that may no longer exist anymore.

My favorite aspect of all of this is the way the game story is actually daring to imagine a complex answer to the question: "Is the Inquisition finished? And if not... should it be?"

2. Oh, Teagan!

Feel free to fight me on this, but perhaps there is no outcome as unexpected or cruel for those of us who’ve been with Dragon Age since Origins as the revelation that Arl Teagan has gone, in ten brief years, from a sexy, elegant and supportive stealth hottie, to a bitter, twisted man prematurely aged and prunified by his circumstance. 

As a huge fan of Teagan in Origins (and who spent way too much time in that final Archdemon battle spamming heals and frantically making sure he was okay), I found myself mentally shrieking at him constantly in “Trespasser,” unable to process his loss of hotness (or empathy). Ultimately, I just ended up whispering “Who hurt you?” in answer to all of his bitter, nasty, political diatribes (even if he did, occasionally, have some genuinely good points about what, exactly, the Inquisition was still doing existing, for instance).

Also, that hat. That hat. Why, Teagan, why? (This is where I shake my fist at the heavens, as cinematically as possible…)

Honestly, I blame Isolde.

3. The Lost Worlds

Thanks to some gorgeous conceptual design and rendering, "Trespasser" gives us, at long last, an achingly beautiful rendering of what it might have looked like to walk way back in the glory days of Arlathan and the elven people. The ruins our Inquisitor navigates are stunning and regal, and are populated in bittersweet moments by flashbacks, books, spiritual memories, and are all the more painful because they offer a taste of something delicious we can't quite have for ourselves. We do not get to enjoy Arlathan. We just get these tiny glimpses. It hurts, and it's also wonderful.

4. The True Terror and Wonder of the Qun

Sure, we've heard stories from Sten, and (often heavily propagandized) from Bull. And we definitely saw the devastation on the small city-wide scale in Dragon Age 2's Kirkwall. 

But now, for the first time, "Trespasser" gives us a more expansive and terrifying real glimpse of the Qunari and its goals. We finally begin to understand that the Qun doesn't bend; it never bends. It pushes and pushes and either wins or it breaks.

For this reason, for me, there's always something extra-awful and sort of horribly lovely about our progress through the Darvaarad. Finally, as with the elven Fade, so many secrets unlocked and accessible! And yet, still so alien. As far away as ever.

5. The Missing Ones

It’s one thing to lose characters in Inquisition, depending on your choices. But if you played a colder, crueler or more insular Inquisitor, “Trespasser” can feel like a ghost town, an abandoned palace of emptiness. 

Depending on those decisions in both recruitment and in approvals, we may find no sweetly befuddling Cole outside the tavern, no teasing Dorian or Bull banter, no spa date with Vivienne, no surprising maturity and sweetness from Sera, and no warm and kindly update with Blackwall.

And if we chose to save the Qunari dreadnought in Bull’s loyalty quest in Dragon Age: Inquisition, sacrificing the Chargers to preserve an alliance with the Qun, then “Trespasser” is not only pretty grim, it’s downright depressing. With no Chargers, there is no lighthearted birthday celebration for Bull, no sweet Krem presence in the tavern, quietly protecting Bull’s blind spot, or (potentially, depending on your choices) romancing bard Maryden.

There’s just nothing. Nothing but Bull sitting alone at the bar, waiting for the moment when he sells his soul for good and all and his suffering ends. In the meantime, he does what he’s best at, and waits, drinks, and lies.

6. "Wait, We Get to Save a Dragon?!"

The revelation of the project entitled "Dragon's Breath" is both tragic and yet rewarding. We realize just how far the Qunari are willing to go, and it's doubly upsetting if we flash back to that conversation with Bull from Inquisition about the kinship the Qunari feel to dragons. It's one thing for them to fight a dragon free and clear and honorably; it's grotesque for them to harness and weaken one for their own aims.

As someone who always secretly hated killing the dragons (yeah, I'm one of those) in Inquisition, it's therefore doubly satisfying to be able to finally save one in "Trespasser." And that cutscene of the dragon smushing a fleeing Qunari warrior? Is glorious.

7. Everybody Loses Their Shit (Including the Inquisitor)

One of the biggest surprises for me in "Trespasser" was also one of my favorite emotional moments in the DLC. It occurs fairly late in the questline, when we’re nearing the end of the story, and in a terrific and very human moment, every single person in the room loses their temper. Including the Inquisitor. It’s a moment that shocked me when I first played it, because it’s the rare occasion in which our heroic, bright-eyed Inky goes full-on ballistic and has had enough with everything and everyone. But before she does? So does JOSIE.

It’s great drama, and it’s emotionally affecting because we haven’t seen the Inquisitor this way. Up til now, they’re arguably never out of control even during the most emotional moments of Inquisition. So the moment when our long-suffering Inquisitor, facing a scary and painfully disintegrating Mark, finally realizes their own mortality and simply loses their composure to their inner council of Josie, Leliana and Cullen is pretty surprising and powerful, and – best of all – it happens right after Josie absolutely loses it first (“Do you know what this has cost us with Orlais and Ferelden? They are planning to dismantle us as we speak! And perhaps they are right…”)

After Josie’s outburst, the Inquisitor’s Mark flares again, and they gasp, then actually scream in pain. Here, we can choose for them to react in confusion, in fear, in bravado, or (my favorite) with outright frustration:

INQUISITOR: Shit! Damn it! We save Ferelden, and they’re angry! We save Orlais, and they’re angry! We close the Breach twice, and my own hand wants to kill me! Could one thing in this fucking world just stay fixed? (They sigh, panting.) I need to get to the Darvaarad. You can all fight amongst yourselves once I’m… once I’m back.
It’s the first time the Inquisitor really loses it in the entire arc of their sufferings despite the Mark, and the moment is really beautifully played, no matter which Inquisitor voice you chose to convey it – Alix Wilton Regan, Sumalee Montano, Jon Curry, or Harry Hadden-Paton.

I especially love the final moments, when the anger fades, and they attempt to skip past the certainty that they won’t survive.

And from then on, there's this slight vulnerability to the Inky, taken right along down to that final run for the Darvaarad, when, once again, they admit to their companions (either in seriousness or as dark humor) that they're probably not coming back from this.

8. “Nothing Personal, bas.”

"Nothing personal, bas." Three words that will always resonate within the vast emptiness of my Dragon Age soul on its darkest night. (Well, those, and "Ar lath ma, vhenan...")

I always argue with those who characterize this as The Iron Bull’s “betrayal,” because to me that’s simply not accurate. While it’s devastating, Bull is betraying nobody here. In his loyalty quest (“The Demands of the Qun”), he asked us what to do, and unfortunately, in this specific Qun-loyal scenario, we answered “Bull, you must stay true to the Qun. No matter what the cost to you.”

Bull's answer: "Okay, bas" (Freddie Prinze, Jr. is a genius, because, with Qun-loyal Bull, that affectionate "Boss" nickname is gone forever... if we listen closely enough).

So that's brutal. Because Bull heard us, took orders like a good soldier, did exactly what we asked, right down to watching the slaughter of his entire found family (including beloved Krem), and then he predictably retreated back into the shell of himself for the sake of his own tattered sanity. My personal belief is that Bull himself died (or the best of him did) in that lonely final, devastating reaction punch after the loss of the Chargers back at Skyhold.

After that grief-stricken punch, my take is that our friend and companion Bull is gone, gone, gone—a shell going through the motions and pithed by our (and the Qun’s) demands.

It’s even worse if we read between the lines when “Trespasser” takes place, after this scenario, because the implication is that Bull has spent the intervening years back in the bosom of the Qun and (it’s heavily implied) under further brainwashing or “reeducation.”

Bull has, of course, potentially continued to romance the Inquisitor (or Dorian) for the sake of his calling, but coldly, without warmth. Until he is freed, rather ironically, by the Viddasala’s command, when he can at last take action against the Inquisitor who cheerfully ordered the killing of his family, revealing that to him they are not even worth the title of being called a basalit’an (a non-Qunari deserving of respect). Instead, the Inquisitor is just bas. A thing. And he can now, at last, unleash his grief from the depths and die fighting and feeling… something.

And, worst of all, still following orders. All the way to the death.

9. Solas's Confession... 

Surely there’s rarely been an RPG game conversation as cursed, complex, beloved, or debated as Solas’s final astonishing, bittersweet confessional in “Trespasser,” especially with a romanced (and dumped) Inquisitor. 

I'll be going through this in more depth later on as I finish analyzing Solas's entire arc (and romance), but for me, let's just say that his appearance in "Trespasser" is what great drama is made of, and entirely worth the wait.

It's a genuinely cinematic moment, and the BioWare artists and directors involved really deserve so many kudos here. The Inquisitor enters the ruined courtyard through the shimmering eluvian, confused and visibly shocked to find herself (if a romanced Lavellan) navigating a wilderness of grey motionless statues, Qunari warriors frozen in mid-attack. Trevor Morris's gorgeous music soars. As she makes her way through, we hear that voice we haven't heard since the steps above Skyhold, as Solas finally speaks—and the fact that it's been so long since we've heard it just adds to the impact of Gareth David-Lloyd's silken Welsh voice here. He speaks with slow regret and equal contempt (and who would have expected Solas's first words to be in Qunlat?). Just two short, devastating sentences: "Ebasit kata. Itwa-ost." ("It is ended. You all have fallen.") 

The Viddasala ignores his warning and attacks from behind, and in a casual blue flash of his eyes (not even bothering to look back), Solas petrifies her, freezing her in place and adding one more warrior to the silent forest.

And then he pauses, rather slyly. He doesn't turn around, and thanks to some superb character rendering and movement... it's so real for me. The little details. Like, I always get the palpable sense that he's using the drama, enjoying the moment and even savoring it. Then, with that hidden sense of wit and humor I've always enjoyed about the character, Solas glances aside, still mostly hidden from us, and says, simply: "I suspect you have questions."

And then he turns around, finally, to face the Inquisitor. 

And hot damn, he is totally working the ancient elven armor here. Every time this scene plays, several thousand loyal Solasmancers suddenly fan themselves then faint. So does Dorian.

Oh, boy. Where do we even start? And why is this segment only five to ten minutes long (or 15 if you linger over all the options)? I would have happily gone through, like, an hour of just finally talking to Solas. Or, who am I kidding? At least two hours. I would've bought an entire fourth Inquisition DLC that was just us talking to Solas in his Hot Ancient Elven Armor for hours. (By the way, "Hot Ancient Elven Armor" would also have been my preferred DLC title, although "Those Solas Thighs" would also have been a decent runner-up.)

Either way, we get the scene we've been waiting for, and after all this time, they talk. And Solas is finally honest. He reveals his ultimate plans, talks openly about his deceptions, and admits some of the darkest aspects of his motives. What makes this excruciating is that, of course, Solas also unveils his real self, past, sufferings, heroics, and more, right alongside his open commitments to actions that are both horrifying, short-sighted and grotesque.

Thanks to the care and delicate attention to detail by the Dragon Age writers in "Trespasser," and most notably by Solas writer Patrick Weekes, this moment is both satisfying and the very definition of complex. 

Solas is, by several accounts in past behavior, a hero, a freer of slaves and rebel against tyranny. However, his actions since his awakening (which, granted, were I believe highly affected by trauma) have certainly not been as clear or supportable, most especially in his deliberate conveyance of his Orb to Corypants), causing the Conclave explosion, as well as all of the devastation of the Breach and rifts across Thedas that sparked the events beginning Dragon Age: Inquisition.

To his credit, Solas was, and is, openly horrified by that outcome, and his work with the Inquisition was, I believe, his attempt to atone. 

But… his future plans are all the more frustrating and upsetting given the gentleness and romance of the scene with his romanced Inquisitor. And yet… Solas, who once disdained being called a god, who can now turn armies to stone with an eyeblink, who claims he is set on the path of death and cannot be moved from it... has nevertheless moved heaven and earth to both save Thedas from this latest Qunari threat, to protect the Inquisition and his former companions... and to save the life of the Inquisitor.

How do you react to someone who's saved the world three damn times right in the moment they've just confessed how they plan to singlehandedly end it?

So it’s an interesting conundrum, to say the least. Do we love Solas, or hate him? Thousands of fans eloquently defend options on either side. Do we choose to redeem him, or kill him, in the chapter ahead? It's not a given—one answer doesn't necessarily track with another here, as plenty of those I know who love Solas have, for instance, pledged to kill him if and when Dragon Age 4 shows up.

The genius of Dragon Age is that Solas knows that he is a paradox, and he expresses that knowledge, handing your protagonist a further weapon against him going forward.

I think that's my favorite element of this conversation. It goes against so many tropes in its own odd way; it's not a villain gloating, but a former hero mourning what he feels he will have to do. Instead, it's Solas going, "So, hey, schmoops, I haven't been totally honest with you, and there are things you need to know in the future so that you can fight me and have even the faintest chance of winning."

Solas may be the unexpected Big Bad of Inquisition and “Trespasser,” but he is also, so far, in this moment, the lonely and antiheroic Big Good. He can still go either way.

All we can do now is wait and wonder. And hope it isn’t four more years until we find out.

10. "I'm in the Book!"

Thank all the gods of Thedas for the never-ending prickly, adorable and complicated relationship between the Seeker and Thedas's favorite author.

Otherwise, those of us still weeping over Solas's final moments and that mournful epilogue would not have gotten the relief of Cassandra's inspired and ultimately delighted reading of Varric's tales about his years with the Inquisition, right down to fabulous impressions of all the characters (wonderfully and hilariously presented by Cassandra actress Miranda Raison) in the moment.

It's the perfect antidote to the near-operatic drama we've just endured in "Trespasser," and the perfect affectionate near-farewell to the companions we've all spent so much time with... a final reminder of what we loved about them... and what they loved about each other.

Perfectly embodied by Cassandra's overjoyed: "I'm in the book! I'm in the book!" and... "I am going to read the shit out of this."

As always (disgusted noises and all), once again, Cassandra is... all of us.

"Dragon Age: Dreadwolf" Predictions & Ponderings (and "What's in a Name?" Redux)

He doesn't call, he doesn't write, but finally, it looks like we might be hearing from Solas at last (2023?), as BioWare announces t...