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"Dragon Age 2" (2011): Carver Hawke, A Character Analysis

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Ash has been playing "Dragon Age" since the first game's release. She enjoys exploring and explaining the characters and lore.

Templar Carver.

Templar Carver.

Carver and Bethany were the younger twin siblings of Hawke, the protagonist of Dragon Age 2. Like Kaidan and Ashley in Mass Effect, they were plot devices that existed to make the protagonist's life more difficult.

Bethany, the mage twin, is trademarked as sweet and agreeable, while Carver is known among the fandom for . . . Well, for being a massive asshole. And depending on which class you play, one of the twins is always killed in the prologue by an ogre.

I mostly play mages in fantasy rpgs, so the first time I played Dragon Age 2, I watched Bethany die and my surviving sibling was Carver.

God help me. It was easily the most depressing playthrough of Dragon Age 2 I ever did. Carver died hating me in the Deep Roads, and I had decided to romance Fenris to see his content and experience that delicious anti-mage drama, but I didn't max out his rivalry or friendship, so I had to kill him at the end. This was back when I actually still liked the character somewhat so it was sad to watch Hawke kill her own lover (now I hate Fenris, so it's just hilarious . . .)

Anyway. Welcome to my character analysis of Carver.

Carver Doesn't Hate Hawke

My Hawke glares at Carver's back.

My Hawke glares at Carver's back.

I should probably preface this by saying that I don't actually hate Carver. In fact, he's one of my favorite characters in Dragon Age 2 and he's a classic example of why I will always love the followers in the second game better than (sigh) Inquisition.

But as much as I love Carver, I just feel it's best to rival him.

The first time I played Dragon Age 2, I was a young, twenty-something doormat and people pleaser, even in video games. These are power fantasies, after all, and like most gamers, my canon playthrough is always the one where I play as myself.

So the first time I played, I was Marian Hawke and a mage and I wound up with Carver. I wanted him to like me and was baffled when I looked at his character screen and saw that he had high rivalry.

Like the doormat I was, I set out to make Carver like me.

"They're your bloody templars!"

"They're your bloody templars!"

A lot of fans think Carver hates Hawke (and I imagine Hawke believes that as well) but if you actually use Carver in your party, you discover that he doesn't actually hate Hawke. He resents her.

If you take Carver along for mage/templar quests and you snark the templars or do anything to cross them and put yourself at risk, Carver gets upset and begs you to stop. This is because you're his sister, he loves you, and after losing Bethany, he's terrified he'll lose you next.

And he resents your recklessness because here he is, devoting his life to playing your bodyguard, and you are throwing it away by putting yourself at risk everyday.

It becomes most obvious he feels this way if you recruit Fenris. Fenris will express suspicion toward mage Hawke, and if Carver is in the party, he threatens Fenris to back off.

This isn't the only time Carver protects his sister either. It's my belief that he actually hates Anders because, as is well known among the fandom, Anders is a little obsessed with Hawke and pins for her hard. Carver senses Anders wouldn't treat his sister right, so he treats him like crap (in several very hilarious banters).

Anders: (observing) You don't like me much.

Carver: (adamantly) I don't like you.

Anders: It isn't right to hate someone for being a mage, you know.

Carver: I don't hate you because you're a mage. I hate you because you won't shut up about it.

Lol.

In short, Carver resents Hawke and doesn't hesitate to show it, but he also loves her and is fiercely protective of her. I think it's . . . sweet.

And that's why I like him.

Carver as a warden.

Carver as a warden.

All that being said, as I grew older, I developed into a person who gave less of s*it what people thought, and as a result, I stopped being a people pleaser. This was once again reflected in the way I played my characters.

One day, I asked myself why I wanted to kiss Carver's ass so badly. I realized I didn't give a f*ck about his resentment and I rivaled him. And honestly? It was the best thing I ever did.

Why Carver Resents Hawke

The three fates of Carver.

The three fates of Carver.

Carver actually has three fates in Dragon Age 2.

  • The first fate? He can die, either during the prologue or later in the Deep Roads.
  • The second fate: if you bring Anders into to the Deep Roads, he can help Carver become a Grey Warden.
  • And the third fate: if you leave Carver behind at the end of Act I, he will join the templars.

Even though Carver had been a massive jerk, I was horrified when he died in the Deep Roads and on my next playthrough I took Anders along to save him.

Carver is actually pretty happy as a Grey Warden, too. What he wants most in life is to be a hero and to find his own way, live his own life. The entire reason he resents Hawke is that he is stuck taking care of their life, while they get to play hero and be praised by everyone.

Gamlen, Hawke's uncle.

Gamlen, Hawke's uncle.

This is further driven home by the quest in Act 1 where Hawke and Carver go in search of the Amell will. Gamlen and Leandra have an argument, where Leandra complains that she is the eldest, so she should have gotten her inheritance. Gamlen points out that Leandra ran away and left him to clean up the mess of her life.

And yet, as resentful as he is of Leandra, she is the only person Gamlen ever really loved. In Act 2, it becomes apparent that he and Leandra still have weekly visits where they spend time together. When Leandra disappears, Gamlen panics, and when Leandra is murdered, Gamlen completely breaks down, sobbing and ranting about how much magic is a curse on the family.

Carver similarly resents Hawke but she is also the one person he actually loves. This becomes obvious whether you make him a Grey Warden or a templar.

Carver complains to my Hawke.

Carver complains to my Hawke.

After Gamlen and Leandra argue about the will, Carver seems to realize for the first time that he doesn't want to become like Gamlen. He makes a fearful comment to Hawke about becoming the caretaker of her life, wasting away his years looking after her. This erupts in a fight between the two of them, during which Hawke will explode and call Carver ungrateful.

From Hawke's perspective, everything she does is for her family, namely her brother. But Carver is too busy being resentful to see it. At the same time, everything Carver does is also for his family, namely Hawke. But Hawke is too burdened by her role as provider to see it.

My Hawke with her family.

My Hawke with her family.

I love the fact that I always play Marian as a mage because there is a deliberate parallel drawn between Gamlen/Leandra and Hawke/Carver.

Hawke is the older sibling, but because she's a mage and Carver loves her, Carver feels obligated to stay with her and protect her from the templars. He is basically the caretaker of Hawke's life, sacrificing his own life to ensure her freedom.

Carver's entire life is defined by the magic of his family. Once his father and Bethany are dead, Hawke becomes the last mage to hold him back from living the life he really wants.

I believe this is why Carver is so happy as a Grey Warden. Being a Grey Warden has nothing to do with his family and their magic. It's a path that's completely separate.

But that said, I believe the best outcome is templar Carver as a rival.

Rivaling Carver as a Templar is Just Better

Grey Warden Carver expresses his love for Hawke.

Grey Warden Carver expresses his love for Hawke.

When Carver is a Grey Warden, he is a lot nicer to Hawke because his life worked out better. He gets to be a hero and choose his own destiny, living far away from Hawke and the family's woes. He and Hawke get along better and actually show their love for each other.

Unsurprisingly, most fans prefer this route. But to me, templar Carver will always fit the story better.

Sure, when Carver is a templar he is bitter and angry and rude to Hawke. This is because his life is technically still centered around her. When Hawke meets Meredith face to face at the end of Act 2, it's revealed that Meredith doesn't know Hawke is a mage because Carver has been protecting her at the risk of his own livelihood.

And of course, when Hawke shows up during the qunari attack, he's resentful again ("Somehow I knew you'd be in the middle of this.") because Hawke is outing herself as a mage to defend the city. She risks both herself and him by doing so but doesn't seem to care.

I haven't yet used templar Carver for the DLC Legacy (I'll edit this whenever I have. I usually take Isabela, Merrill, and Varric. Only took Carver as a Grey Warden) but templar Carver during Mark of the Assassin, while not largely rude, still tries to scold Hawke about getting into trouble and refers to the templar tenants he must uphold. Hawke tells him where to "uphold" his tenants in a hilarious banter that shuts him up.

*Update*

One of the seal rooms from Legacy.

One of the seal rooms from Legacy.

All right. Here's my update. So I did a run of Legacy with Carver as a templar (and I forgot to take pictures of my Carver with my Hawke. . . . sigh. Maybe I'll remember if I do another run. For now, have a picture of someone else's templar Carver with Hawke. See below).

In the past, I always made Carver a Warden because, like most fans, I preferred it if Carver wasn't an ass to me. Once I started making him a templar, he was such a jerk that I never bothered taking him along for Legacy. I'm glad I did now. Because it just confirmed everything I said in this article.

Instead of maturing and actually growing up, being a templar kind of stunts Carver. During the qunari attack in Act 2, he actually has the gall to blame Hawke for their mother's death. He is literally a templar. It's his job to police mages. But instead of actually looking for this blood mage killer, his sister the mage is out doing it. Then he has the nerve to blame her for failing what was supposed to be his job!

It's so sad that being a templar keeps Carver such a whiny, annoying child. But again, I think it's fitting for his character. This is a tragedy. There is no happy ending. . . at least not until Inquisition.

Templar Carver talks with Hawke in Legacy.

Templar Carver talks with Hawke in Legacy.

During the DLC, Carver continues to be an ass toward Hawke. He scolds her for joking around with Varric about the situation. Then there's a moment when he complains about going into the Deep Roads. He says he would rather leave that burden to the wardens . . . while carrying his own burden as a templar.

Carver looks at Hawke when he says this, and while it could just be head tracking (the game's programming during dialogue), I think it's pretty clear Carver is talking about Hawke. He loves his sister and feels obligated to protect her. Being a templar is his way of shouldering this burden.

The silly thing is that Hawke never asked for his protection. He resents her for a "burden" he chose. He didn't have to stay around and protect Hawke. He chose that.

Then you find out Malcolm didn't want mage children and he rubs that in your face with a smug smile (why was there no option to haul off and punch him?).

But then Hawke can ask Carver why he became a templar. Carver gives a B.S. answer and Hawke calls him out with auto-dialogue, "You joined to spite me!"

Carver's Excuse for Joining the Templars

Carver half-admits that this is true. His answer basically amounts to, "You said you didn't need me for the expedition and it hurt my feelings."

Basically, Carver has always felt less than Hawke because he is not a mage. He has always had to work twice as hard to prove himself. So when Hawke said she didn't need him for the expedition (that is what is said almost word-for-word when telling Leandra she's not taking him in Act 1), it was a major blow to his ego. For him, it confirmed that he was useless because he wasn't a mage, because he was just her baby brother.

But again, as much as Carver immaturely insults Hawke and takes out all his frustration on her, he still loves her and cares about her. Right before Hawke releases Corypheus, he begs her to be careful. And at the end of the DLC, once he and Hawke are back at the mansion, Carver has calmed down. No longer is he determined to be an annoying asshole. He and Hawke reminisce about their father.

Hawke expresses sympathy for Carver that their father spent so much time with her and Bethany to train them in magic. Seeing how angry and resentful Carver was during the events of the DLC made her finally understand and acknowledge his frustration.

Carver is grateful for this. He happily remembers what it was like when their father realized he was strong enough to stay behind and protect their mother while Hawke and Bethany were away training with him. He smiles and adds, "I guess it's one more way you take after him."

In other words, Carver has finally forgiven Hawke for leaving him behind. Seeing how difficult it was for his father to live as an apostate while also trying to care for his family (which came under threat because of his magic when the Grey Wardens threatened to kill a pregnant Leandra) made him also recognize Hawke's feelings of frustration. Perhaps for the first time ever.

For a moment, it seems the two of them have reconciled. Then Carver adds unhappily, as if he's just realized something, "Back to the way things were, I guess."

Hawke hesitates and agrees.

Gamlen and Leandra in Act 1.

Gamlen and Leandra in Act 1.

In all this time (six years; I did this in Act 3), Carver and Hawke have not been speaking. Carver sends Hawke a letter, which she doesn't answer. Again, they are deliberately held in parallel to Gamlen and Leandra.

When you first meet Gamlen in Act 1 in the Gallows, he playfully insults Leandra's appearance, then gives a half-assed apology that he never answered her letters. In all that time (twenty-five years!), the two of them hadn't been speaking. Carver and Hawke seem headed for the same fate.

Carver hesitates again. Then he begins, "Sister . . ." He wants to make amends with Hawke, but he doesn't know how. Hawke just patiently stands there, and I don't blame her for not making an effort, really. Carver is the one who pushed Hawke away with his bitterness and anger. He should be the one to apologize.

At the last minute, Carver changes his mind and leaves.

Remember, this playthrough I'm describing was on the rivalry path. So Carver and Hawke are not friends, though they still love each other and they still struggle to show that love. I find this conflict far more interesting than having Carver as a warden and being friends with Hawke.

Again, I'm so glad I tried a different way.

Templar Carver faces Meredith.

Templar Carver faces Meredith.

It just plays into the story better. Like Gamlen, Carver's entire life is defined by his sister's ties with magic. He can't join the guard because Aveline refuses him, so the next best thing is to become a templar.

That's another thing. A lot of fans think Carver became a templar just to spite Hawke (and yes, Legacy confirms that somewhat), but I think that's only part of it.

Hawke was gone for weeks. Carver had to support himself and his mother, and templar was basically the only job available to him with his skill set. Carver is a soldier, not a merchant or a craftsman. All he knows how to do is fight, and Aveline has turned down his application for the guard.

On top of that, no one in Kirkwall wants to hire a refugee. A lot of the Kirkwall natives are prejudiced and suspicious of Fereldans and refuse to hire them. So the Fereldans wind up living in slums and committing survival crime to get by.

Carver and Hawke, who both work as mercenaries and smugglers, are a keen example of how oppression works. Hell, mage Hawke has a double-whammy: being both Fereldan and a mage guarantees she will commit survival crime to feed her family. A mage simply can't go get a job. Malcolm, Hawke's father, is another example of this, as he became a Crimson Oar mercenary after escaping the circle.

Carver is also too young and too kind-hearted to be a shady criminal. He follows Hawke's lead and complains about all the bad stuff she does, but if he was on his own, he would never have the courage it takes to commit crimes to survive and doesn't understand why it's necessary.

Ser Thrask getting blackmailed by Hawke.

Ser Thrask getting blackmailed by Hawke.

For example, Hawke can blackmail Thrask, a templar who allowed his daughter to flee the circle. Hawke finds evidence of this and demands hush money. Thrask calls her a monster (always hilarious) and pays her off. Carver gets angry and asks if that was necessary.

Unfortunately, it was. Hawke needs the money to support her family. She never had any intention of actually telling Thrask's secret (I don't think that's even an option in the game) but played upon his prejudice against mages (his assumption that she's a terrible person) to squeeze money of out him.

Hawke was just playing the system that was screwing her over anyway, but Carver is too young and naive to understand this.

And as a side note, Anders gets angry at Hawke for this, too. I think it shows how naive Anders also is, which isn't surprising since he 1) thinks justice actually exists (rather than just being an ideal) and 2) idealizes Hawke about as badly as Carver does.

And interestingly enough, Merrill, the one who is often accused of immaturity and naivety by fans, does not gain rivalry when Hawke blackmails Thrask. Deep down, Merrill knows how the world works better, probably, than both Carver and Anders.

Carver's naivety is why it's so ironic that he loves being a Grey Warden, I think. Grey Wardens are mostly conscripted criminals and thieves. I guess Carver is a lot like Alistair in that way: too righteous and upstanding to survive a dark world and blinded by his idealism.

Hawke isn't written to be above crime at all, which is another reason she and Carver bump heads. So basically, Carver hates having to reduce himself to crime to survive and kind of resents his sister for forcing him along that path, even if it's not really Hawke's fault. It's not like Hawke chose to be a mage.

Anders heals sick refugees.

Anders heals sick refugees.

Because of Kirkwall's prejudice, most Fereldans are reduced to begging and stealing. Walking in the shelter during the quest to recruit Anders and seeing all the refugees with starving family members is sad. That could have easily been Hawke and her family. Gamlen is a homophobic bastard, but at least he takes care of his family.

So the Kirkwallers create this situation by refusing to hire refugees based on a silly prejudice, then b*tch and moan about what criminals Fereldans are. Hmm. Sounds like real life racism. Totally an accident.

So in essence, Carver became a templar because it was basically the only job he could get. The templars are desperate to contain the growing mage problem and will basically hire anyone who can sufficiently wield a blade. Carver already admires the templars and probably also figures he can watch over his sister from afar while keeping the templars off her back and also carving (no pun intended) his own destiny.

And at the end of the game, Hawke runs away with their love interest, and templar Carver is left to clean up her mess . . . just like Gamlen had to clean up after Leandra when she ran off with Malcolm.

You could argue that it's better to give Carver a freer life as a Grey Warden rather than forcing him to stay in a life where he looks after Hawke, but . . . Dragon Age 2 is a tragedy.

It feels right that Carver should tragically wind up just like Gamlen, sacrificing his life to look after his sister, who is all he has left after the death of his parents. Carver will wind up a lyrium addled fool, and maybe Hawke will end up caring for him well into their old age. It's . . . sad. It's supposed to be.

Templar Carver fan art.

Templar Carver fan art.

Carver's personal quest in Act 1 also seems to push him in this direction. If you find the letter during the quest Birthright, it leads to another quest where you discover that Hawke's father named Carver after the templar who helped him escape the Circle.

Carver is pleased to discover this and views the templars with new eyes. It only makes sense that he would eventually join their order, having realized that not all of them are horrible and that some of them actually care about mages.

What's more, you can also see him coming to this slow realization on his own throughout Act 1. If you take him on quests where you help mages, Carver will start to realize that the Circles exist for a reason. He will state that most mages are indeed dangerous and are nothing like Hawke and Bethany. Hawke can be offended and point out that templars aren't perfect either. Carver will gain rivalry, and you can see him clearly rethinking the value of the templar order.

Carver protects Hawke.

Carver protects Hawke.

Last but not least, and probably the largest reason I love rivaling Carver as a templar, is the scene you get at the end. When Meredith tries to kill Hawke, she points her lyrium sword at Hawke's face and threatens her. An outraged Carver jumps in front for the sword and tells Meredith she will have to go through him.

Like Gamlen, Carver loves his big sister no matter what, no matter how much he resents her, no matter how much she frustrates him. He loves her and will never let anyone harm her.

That moment when Carver pulls his sword and starts kicking Meredith's ass to protect you is the hugest character defining moment of his entire arc . . .and you only see it if he's a templar.

For anyone who didn't understand Carver before that moment, everything should click into place after: Hawke's baby brother loves her.

If only Hawke had been the protagonist of Inquisition. Imagine a game where Carver was a red templar and Hawke had to fight him! Think of all the cool shit we missed! Ah, well.

The Dragon Age series is now a clusterfuck with a broken narrative full of contradictory lore and toxic followers but hey . . . At least we still have Dragon Age 2.