(1/3)There is something I have noticed about the Cullen critical arguments in DA2/DA:I. They mostly object to Cullen's "support" of Meredith's questionable conduct in Kirkwall. But Samson (who had no reason to lie) later reveals that Cullen was never as overenthusiastic in the treatment of magi as Meredith, and he is seen disagreeing with her in private if Hawke sides with the Templars. So all Cullen did not do was publicly condemn his superior, or leave her service. But wouldn't Cullen also h..
(2/3)..ave to renege against Inquisitor Dirthara by that standard? If she caught him publicly badmouthing her, or if he stormed off after IHW (leaving the inquisition ill-prepared to defend Haven or storm adamant), wouldn’t your Lavellan be V. cross? Meredith’s leadership was arguably sub-optimal, but kirkwall did need the templars. The city needed protection from the nearby Dalish clan, the demonic incursions and so on. If Cullen should have betrayed Meredith because he disagreed with her (wh..
(3/3)…ich he ultimately did, when she proved her unsuitability for her position in act 3), Shouldn’t he also have betrayed your Inq? Instead, he does for her what he did for Meredith; follow orders, publicly support, and voices his concerns in private. He knows that Thedas needs the Inquisition to protect it from Corypheus, just as Kirkwall needed templars to protect it from Dalish/abominations/demons. It seems unfair to condemn him for that behaviour with Merideth, but demand it for Dirthara.
Hi, Anonymous person! I’m just going to take a moment to be impressed that Tumblr let me receive three whole messages in a row. That’s got to be a record. Good job, Tumblr!
Now I’ve done with that … um. What? I’ve read this several times, Anonymous person, and I’ve no idea what I’m supposed to take away from it. I’m caught between horror and bewilderment here.
Okay – point one. Dirthara Lavellan, as per my previous, somewhat snarky post, is not demanding Cullen’s support, loyalty, friendship or service. What she’s demanding is that he answer for his crimes. In short, she would like to sack him, put him on trial and quite possibly put his head on a pike outside of Skyhold’s gates. I suspect that makes a lot of the ‘but it isn’t fair’ redundant.
Beyond that … yes, I fucking think Cullen should have turned on Meredith. I think his failure to do so was criminal negligence. More than that, I think that Cullen’s ‘concern’ over Meredith was to do with her deterioration after her exposure to red lyrium. That’s a legitimate concern, yes, but indicates that he was not particularly concerned with Meredith prior to that, which means he’s a bloody awful person.
Let’s break this down, shall we?
1) Meredith Stannard was a violent criminal.
Let’s be clear on this. This isn’t a case of Meredith painting the Circle breakfast room puce on a whim, and Cullen gently taking her aside to tell her that maybe she should consider something a bit less confrontational for the non-morning people among them, because he doesn’t want to embarrass her in front of the troops.
Even by the (appallingly lax!) standards of the Chantry, Meredith was a criminal. She and Grand Cleric Elthina conspired to overthrow the legitimate viscount of Kirkwall because he opposed Orlesian trade interests, and the Chantry’s ties to the Orlesian empire are strong. They installed a puppet viscount in his place, whose life Meredith was directly threatening. Meredith was functionally ruling the city well before the Qunari uprising.
She was making Harrowed mages Tranquil, and using the Rite of Tranquility as a punishment. Those are just the ones you get to know. Do a couple of laps of the Gallows courtyard, and you’ll hear enough horror stories to curdle your blood, and Cullen himself will admit that Meredith wielded the brand like she was handing out detention slips.
In addition to this, the Gallows mages (and Tranquil) were subjected to beatings, rapes, imprisonment in their cells, starvation and drugging.
We’re a little past ‘Shh, don’t embarrass the boss in public’, don’t you think?
Cullen ‘Just Following Orders’ Rutherford. Bloody lovely.
2) Cullen is a violent bigot, all on his own.
Cullen was originally sent to the Kirkwall Circle because ‘it became clear that he would go to any lengths to enforce the Chantry’s rule’, which means his temperament is far better suited to the (Notorious! Even the Hossberg mages think Kirkwall is fucked up!) Kirkwall Circle. He is a zealot who does not believe that mages count as people. That he’s exactly Meredith’s kind of thug is made clear by his rapid promotion: he’s her second in command. He’s the kind of person she likes.
He recommends the use of violence against the Mage Underground. You know: the good guys. The people who are trying to rescue the poor bastards trapped in the Gallows. Brave mages and their allies. He also clearly puts his thoughts into action. When you meet first meet him in the Enemies Among Us quest, he’s drawn his sword on a Templar recruit. Wilmod is possessed, of course, but Cullen doesn’t know that. No, he thinks Wilmod might be helping runaway mages. He’s personally taking the fight to the Underground.
You can actually bring him evidence of Ser Alrik’s plan to make all mages Tranquil, and he defends the man and says there are arguments to expand the use of Tranquility. Remember that he is saying there are arguments for destroying the minds and dreams of his hapless prisoners to make them more biddable slaves. That’s Tranquility.
Look. I know Inquisition tries to downplay Cullen’s involvement. It allows his version of events to stand unchallenged, and uses characters like Varric and Cole as mouthpieces to assure us that he’s a great guy really, when they’re the exact characters who would know better. It doesn’t let the Inquisitor seriously challenge him on his bullshit. That’s … basically what I was complaining about in my previous post.
But … come on. Maybe he never wielded the whip himself – I don’t know. And sure, I can believe that in the last months of her life Meredith had everyone operating on the kind of need-to-know basis that makes life impossible. But Cullen was Meredith’s second for six years. He held that position when Meredith was a perfectly functional tyrant. You can’t expect me to believe that he knew nothing about the day-to-day operations of his own damn workplace – you can’t fucking miss floggings and Tranquility, just for a start. Moreover, only Meredith stood over him in the Circle. He outranked people like Karras and Alrik. Murderers, sadists and rapists make up the upper ranks of the Kirkwall Templars. And Cullen never lifts a damn finger to stop them. No, he just wants to contain the mage ‘threat’.
And top of all that? He participates in an Annulment. That’s the point of no return. I like a good redemption story as much as the next person – but the very last chance Cullen had to do the right thing was when Meredith declared she was going to murder a tower full of innocent people. He could have gone to Hawke then. He didn’t. You do that? You walk into that building at Meredith’s side? There’s no coming back from that, and let’s be clear: privately disagreeing with her counts for absolutely nothing.
3) There are better Templars in Kirkwall than Cullen.
I’m anti-Templar in general, but I don’t want to be unfair. There’s a spectrum, here – Meredith’s brute squad (Cullen, Karras, Alrik and their ilk) at one end, and less culpable people at the other.
Act 3? Keran walks. Sometimes, if you haven’t got the power to stop something, all you can do is not participate. At least he had the courage to do that much.
Thrask? I don’t buy the ‘Templars protect mages’ bullshit for a second, although I can accept that he does. But at least he tried to act against Meredith. At least he tried to stand between the mages and the worst of the Templars. And who turns up to stop his conspiracy? Whom does Hawke have to beg to spare the mages? Meredith’s boy Cullen, that’s who.
Samson has issues of his own, of course, but at least he gets what he did wrong as a Templar. He articulates it, and expresses regret and remorse for it, in a way that Cullen never does. If I had to have a Templar as a military advisor, I wish they’d given me Samson. Reversing Cullen and Samson’s roles would have made so much more sense.
And then there’s Emeric. Quite possibly the only Templar in Kirkwall actually doing his damn job, while the rest of them variously stand around looking decorative, terrorise Kirkwall’s citizens and torture mages.
And just for an encore, let’s go the other way. Alrik is a truly terrible human being, but he’s also a proactive, getting-stuff-done kind of guy. Sent a letter all the way to the Divine, trying to get his scheme pushed through. What – Cullen couldn’t have lifted a pen to tell our young, vital, radical, pro-mage Divine that Knight-Commander Meredith was murdering and torturing her charges and something had to be done? Of course he could have. But he didn’t. Because he was fine with Meredith until she started talking to the damn walls.
Even in Inquisition he claims she kept people safe, which is such a big lie I have difficulty believing my Hawke wouldn’t come all the way back from Weisshaupt just to put an arrow through his heart for uttering it.
Changing tack here:
Kirkwall does not need Templars. I feel like this needs to be in all caps. Maybe bold and italics, too. KIRKWALL DOES NOT NEED TEMPLARS. Nowhere needs Templars. A religion should never have a private army. Never, ever, ever. The Templars are kidnappers. Murderers. Enforcers of the fucking faith. I mean – the best thing you can say about them is that they’re notoriously useless at doing a lot of what they’re ‘supposed’ to do. My favourite bit from Last Flight is Calien’s backstory, i.e, that time the Templars got the Antivan Crows to go mage hunting, because they were too scared to do it.
Emeric gets points for being the only Templar in Kirkwall to actually attempt to pursue a genuine maleficar.
Kirkwall has a city guard, if it needs defence (and surely you didn’t seriously mean to suggest that the Templars ‘need’ to exist to protect people from the wandering elven nomads whose land the Chantry stole in the first place?), and if it has deficiencies that’s an argument for improving the guard, not empowering a private army.
As I pointed out earlier – Meredith and Elthina conducted a coup, and the Templar Order is illegally in control of Kirkwall even before the start of Dragon Age II. The Templars are just the biggest, scariest criminal organisation in Kirkwall (to borrow from Varric – between the Chantry, the Carta and the Coterie …), one of a long succession of occupying forces, because Kirkwall is messed up like that.
Knight-Captain Cullen is a high-ranking officer in that criminal gang, which is less an argument in his defence than a very good reason he should be on trial.
And finally …
Shouldn’t he also have betrayed your Inq?
This part actually made me laugh. Isn’t that how these games work? Isn’t the approval system on companions one of their defining attributes? You can befriend them and fall in love; likewise you can disagree to the point where you end up crossing blades. You can drive these people away forever.
While I’d like to put Cullen on trial for his damn life, I’ll settle for this.
Dirthara: *recruits the mages*
Cullen: *disapproves* -5000, leaves your party permanently.
Dirthara: *does a victory lap around Haven, and promptly promotes Krem to the position of military advisor, because at least he has actual combat experience*
Where’s the downside?
The thing is? In Inquisition Cullen has learned nothing. He throws a tantrum if you recruit the mages, and another one if you refuse to betray them by reinstating the Templars as their gaolers. He advocates for Gaspard as ruler or Orlais (which, from a Fereldan, is just inexcusably stupid since Gaspard has expansionist aims). He defends Meredith. I’ve seen YouTube footage of his romance with a mage, and he takes the ‘not like other mages’ tack, which is grotesque. He believes Circles should be restored (with mages only working outside under supervision).
He’s given this whole new life, with power and respect and friendship on a silver platter, and he’s never even challenged on the horrible things he’s done.
I can murder Anders, sell Fenris back to slavery, butcher Wynne in an Annulment, drive Sera away – pick dialogue options that deliver the most cruel lines to my companions. But my poor Dalish Inquisitor can’t look Cullen in the eye and tell him to fuck right off.
There’s my gripe.