Solas and Blackwall - Who's the Biggest Liar?

Blackwall and Solas have more in common that you might see at first glance.  Both are lonely, guilty men who ran from their respective pasts and come to face the music.  Each has constructed a façade behind which he hides and each finds through their time with the Inquisition that the time has come to tear it down.

We never get a chance to ask Solas how old he is.  BioWare also leaves the reveal that the village he claimed to have grown up in had been in ruins for centuries until after he’s run off at the end of the game.

Our Inquisitor never gets the opportunity to confront him about his history.  When you consider how much traveling he says he’s done, how much distance he’d have to cover, and the fact that he doesn’t have his own freaking horse at the very least you have to question how he’s managed to stay so smooth-faced.

In many instances in Inquisition Solas shades the truth, giving half-answers or passing off his knowledge as something a spirit told him in the Fade.  In this way he’s much like Blackwall, except that our fake Grey Warden bases every half truth on a bald-faced lie.  I don’t think I’ve ever played a game in which my supposed allies misled to me so much.  My first, unspoiled run brought a number of shocks in the last third of the game.

Child-murdering mercenary and craven fugitive!  Princess Left-Hand Stabbity!  Ancient sentinels still alive!  Ancient elvhen goddess!  Dragon taming!  Corypheus is a petulant wimp!  And then the stinger!

Yet I’m sympathetic to Blackwall.  He’s an ass and deserves to swing but he’s so freaking pathetic about it.  After the tortured puppy story it makes me feel like he’s the dog and I have to do better than his younger self did.  I just can’t send him to the gallows, much as he needs to pay for the guys who already died for their part in his misguided mercenary job.

I’m infuriated that Solas left me.  My Lavellan would drop the Inquisition and run off into the sunset in a heartbeat, once Corypheus went down.  She’d done her job and she would much rather dedicate her time and any power she’d accrued to the Dalish.  After what they’d seen (and what Solas told her when he dumped her) she knew full well that history held any number of surprises for her.

Anyone with half a brain and a pair of eyes could see he had more in common with Abelas and the other sentinels than modern clans.  If Solas had asked Lavellan would have gone with him and let him explain as they went.  She could always have

Some people cite Solas referring to the rest of the pantheon as “them” as a lie but I consider that precisely how he would refer to them.  He was an outsider, part of neither the elvhen gods nor the Forgotten Ones.  “They” ended up in a situation where Solas felt it necessary to imprison them, whether to end the war between them or because they were tainted with the blight or some other situation not yet revealed.

He also says that they weren’t really gods at all, in the sense of being divine.  Naturally he would not consider himself one.  Clearly they held enormous power and accepted the worship of “lesser” beings.  How does Solas define “god”?  We don’t know, just that whatever definition he’d use it doesn’t apply to those the elves consider gods.

As much as Solas omits details about his history, you won’t find too many outright lies about it, either.  In part that’s because you’d never think to ask someone, wandering hermit mage or not, whether he’s a god.

Certainly it would never cross your mind to ask if the orb that gave you the mark belonged to him, much less if he gave it to Corypheus.  One would hope he’d volunteer that sort of information after a few heavy petting sessions instead of giving you a history lesson.  Apparently that’s precisely what he meant to do before he chickened out and changed the subject.  (So sayeth the WoW—Word of Weekes, who is God in this case as he wrote the character.)  Their perceived cowardice ties him and Blackwall together as characters, though we haven’t yet gotten the explanation for Solas’s past and plans.  His redemption will have to wait.

Solas definitely evades direct answers but even when he tells you he learned something in the Fade he may not actually be lying.  He has, after all, been asleep for many centuries.  In his immortal slumber, he’s been wandering the Fade (if only in a certain range of where his physical body lay, as he implies).

One presumes he’d have run across all sorts of spirits in the vicinity, particularly if (as my pet theory runs) he’s on Sundermount near Kirkwall.  Any passersby, whether elves or bandits or merely travelers in the Free Marches, may have encountered him as they slept.  (Suddenly I want to know if Solas ever met Feynriel.)

We’re told in Dragon Age that spirits and demons have some connection to the waking world, that they watch enviously.  I don’t know how directly dreamers and erstwhile gods can do that from the Fade but even if Solas’s view of the world’s events is obscured he would get news from spirits and wanderers.

In addition, he specifically (and wistfully) tells you it has been a long time since he’s had a friend in the waking world.  I have no doubt that, once awake, he still got most of his information from spirits.  In only a few instances do I suspect his “I learned it in the Fade” explanation to be lies rather than uncomfortable truths.

I don’t mean to defend Solas, here.  He does lie and he does hide things from you.  I’m interested in why, however.  Blackwall does both because he’s terrified of owning up to his past.  Besides the difficultly of someone taking your self-proclamation of godhood at face value, why does Solas?

Perhaps Solas doesn’t do well with complexity after so long away from the waking world.  Spirits embody a single trait, after all, which makes them simple to interpret.  If you find yourself in someone’s dream the surroundings and events out of his or her control tell you a great deal about that person and they’re not likely to lie to you or hide their feelings.  Things must seem pretty transparent to him until he wakes.

Then he finds himself back in the “real” world and suddenly the malleable is concrete and the straightforward hidden.  Instead of single-minded spirits and people in the honesty of dreams he’s surrounded by mortal elves who distrust him on sight and humans who, according to what we learn in Inquisition, were just becoming prevalent in Thedas when he left.

If you’ve lived with open and honest people, if you purposely removed yourself from those dedicated to scheming, contention, and deceit as it seems Solas did, how difficult would it be to adjust to what we consider normal?  The elvhen empire he describes to Lavellan hardly sounds any better than Dragon Age Thedas but it’s also far in his past.

Do I think he gave Coryphyfish his focus in a fit of naïveté?  Not exactly.  He isn’t stupid and he certainly realizes the power of the magister.  He does tell you when you ask him about the orb that he would never have thought Coypheus could unlock it.  (See this video at about :50 for the specifics.)  Whatever he thought would happen he doesn’t seem to have considered the proto-darkspawn could succeed in opening a door to the Fade.

Solas joins the Inquisition because of the unintended consequences of his underestimation.  When he says he can only guess answers to your questions about Coryflakes he’s not lying, although he definitely isn’t telling you everything.  Obviously, what he believed about the magister’s capabilities was wrong.  What can he do but guess?

None of this addresses the instances where Solas tells you that the Dalish and the city elves are not his people.  Neither does it claim to explain whom he believes his people to be, a question of some consequence as he tells Mythal that his people still need him at the end of the end.  In his brief exchange with Abelas I got the impression that not all the ancient elvhen have died.

Whether there exist other temples with sleeping sentinals like the High Priest of Thighs or some immortals yet linger in uthenera, I think Solas believes the immorality of his people may still be resurrected if only he can accomplish it.  Unfortunately for Lavellan, he also seems to believe he’s the only one who can do so and that the Inquisition cannot (should not?) help.

He tells your Inquisitor, whether romanced or not, that he finds you wise beyond your years (from his lofty millennia) and that you have impressed him mightily.  Considering his opinion of nearly everyone else at the beginning I’m not sure whether my Inquisitor should be insulted at being called a brilliant idiot or pleased that she’s changing his perception of people.

You get hints throughout Inquisition that Solas is not what he seems.  It isn’t until after your deceitful companions have left you that Leliana reveals she knew more than she told you all along, either.  Had your spymaster trusted you to lead she might have mentioned Blackwall’s real name and the centuries-abandoned village where Solas claimed to have grown up.

Instead she deprives the Inquisitor of the ability to investigate and make decisions about her inner circle for herself.  With Blackwall it leads to looking gullible in hindsight, which is exactly how the people of Thedas will see it.  I tend to consider him a mercenary whose last job went sideways more than a flat-out murderer.

It’s the running away that makes Blackwall a bad man, not the mercenary work in itself.  When he finally stands up to what he did it buys him just enough redemption for me to let him keep working toward it.  The big reveal should never have been so public, however.  It’s a black mark for an organization to find such a secret in its midst and appear to have had no clue it was there.

Again, it’s a romanced Blackwall who comes off much worse than the unromanced version in Inquisition.  He should have told you, especially after the early hero worshipping of you.  It’s one thing to keep an unsavory detail to yourself but your real name should be something you share with someone you profess to love.  At least we get the opportunity to have this conversation with the man.

The Inquisitor, and Lavellan in particular, deserved the opportunity to put Solas to more direct questions about his past.  Had she been able to do so I could say, “What a freaking liar!” or “At least he came clean when you ask him directly.”  Leliana keeps those secrets for game mechanics but it’s hard not to hold them against her character and to wonder what other tidbits she chose not to share about your other companions.

In writing that last paragraph I realized that I trust Leliana less than I trust Solas.  Yes, I’m afraid his plans will turn out to be ugly for large swathes of Thedas and I think he’d kill if he felt it necessary.  It’s just that I trust him to take a longer, wider view.  It likely won’t align with what the Inquisition as a whole wants to accomplish or he wouldn’t have left in the first place but he’s not out for power or control.

Leliana has turned into a paranoid, secretive woman who doles out crumbs of information when it’s too late for it to any good because she’s protecting her hoard.  She exercises the daggers and strings at her command and only asks the Inquisitor for input when it’s a war table mission and the others already know there’s a question.  I’d love my Inquisitors to have a pointed conversation with her about that but that plot armor prevents this one, too.

In the end, the real similarity between Blackwall and Solas comes in how they decide to tell you they’ve been lying to you.  Both of them run, though at least the ancient elf has the decency to break up with you before he disappears.  BioWare gave us the chance to resolve things with Blackwall.  Here’s hoping they do the same with Solas.

 at :50 Solas says "I would never have believed a Tevinter mage could unlock such a powerful relic."

3 Response to "Solas and Blackwall - Who's the Biggest Liar?"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Leliana wasn't keeping anything from you. Cullen tells you that, while Leliana had the report on Thom Ranier, there was no way for her to make the connection between the report and the man calling himself Blackwall. As for Solas' village, all she new before he left was the name of the village claimed to have grown up in. Once he disappeared, she sent people to look into it and only then found that it had been in ruins for centuries.

    Otherwise, you've made some great points!

    Hunh, apparently I mutated my basic fear of stabby Ms. Leliana into a mistaken belief that she knew all along. Thanks!

    L says:

    Blackwall infuriated me because he gave bad information regarding wardens and killing darkspawn

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