Dragon Age: Absolution

a dragon boy - Dragon Age Absolution

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Lauren Cook

TV Series Review

Video game adaptations have a reputation for being—to put it mildly—not all that great. But Netflix, it seems, is intent on changing the game (pun intended).

Dragon Age: Absolution takes place in the world of the Dragon Age franchise, an ongoing series of fantasy roleplaying games. While characters from the source material make the occasional appearance, the story of Absolution is largely original, telling a new story with new heroes on a new mission.

Unfortunately, however, when the team behind the series were adapting the games for the small screen, they neglected to leave behind many of their glaring content issues. Oops.

Heist to Meet You

If you’re a newcomer to Thedas, the fantasy world in which the Dragon Age franchise takes place, buckle up, because this might get a little complicated.

Miriam is an elf, which doesn’t make her very popular. In Thedas, elves face prejudice, hatred, and in Thedas’s kingdom of Tevinter, even slavery, which Miriam was lucky enough to escape. No sooner has she left her past behind her, however, than a proposal for a dangerous heist pulls her right back in.

Tevinter, as it turns out, has gotten its hands on an artifact powered by blood magic, a genre of spells conjured through murder. Since the kingdom is run by mages that aren’t the friendliest (case in point: the whole elf slavery thing), the idea of them using a weapon like that isn’t exactly appealing. And so a very reluctant Miriam joins up with a dwarf, a human warrior, a mage and a woman (with whom she has a rather complicated history) to return to Tevinter and steal the artifact right out from under the mages’ murderously magical noses.

If only it was that simple.

(Dragon) Age Appropriate?

Remember those content issues I mentioned earlier? Yeah, about them.

The Dragon Age games are choice-based, meaning the player is faced with decisions throughout the game that will affect the outcome of the narrative. Among these choices is which member of your party your character will form a romantic relationship with — and the games place very few restrictions in regard to gender.

Absolution very quickly follows in the games’ footsteps. Miriam and Hira, the human woman who recruits her for the heist, used to be in a relationship, and Hira convinces Miriam to join the team by promising that afterwards they can be together again. We see them kiss and hold hands, and if the source material is any indication, more explicit content is on the table for coming episodes.

Magic and spiritual issues are also integral to the world of Thedas. A being known as “the Maker” is worshipped by members of the Chantry, the dominant religious organization, though smaller gods and goddesses are revered as well. The elves even have their own deities, referred to as the “old gods.” Magic is used both for good and evil; while some mages use it to fight demons and monsters, others use it to raise corpses, oppress the innocent, and just generally make a mess of things.

Don’t let the animation in Dragon Age: Absolution fool you — we’ve long since abandoned kid-friendly territory. Swords are drawn and blood is spilled; foul language is common and same-sex romance almost even more so.

“Absolution” might just be a fitting subtitle for this fantasy series; you can bet it’ll have a lot more to ask forgiveness for by the time it reaches its end.

Episode Reviews

Dec. 9, 2022—S1, Ep1: “A Woman Unseen”

Miriam, an elf who escaped slavery from the kingdom of Tevinter, joins a ragtag crew of warriors and mages on a mission to steal a dangerous artifact from a Tevinter palace.

The premiere episode of Dragon Age: Absolution takes issues common in the fantasy genre and slams the gas pedal on all of them. Violence is prevalent; over the course of several fight scenes, punches are thrown, enemies are choked and animated blood is freely splattered. Randolph, an ally-turned-adversary of Miriam’s, shoots an arrow at her, which she deflects back to land in his throat, sending blood flying. Several blows (and even a bite!) are landed during a tavern brawl, and we see blood spray across the walls of a castle when Miriam breaks in and kills three guards with her knives.

Love is in the air, but not necessarily all for the better. We quickly learn that Miriam was in a relationship with Hira, a female mage. And though the two broke it off, they’re keen to pick things back up again. The two women hold hands and kiss as they plan their future together. Subtle same-gender flirtation also occurs between Fairbanks, a human warrior, and Lacklon, a dwarf. While in a tavern, a thug starts to harass Miriam, and when Fairbanks comes to her defense, he proposes that they “share her.”

Religion, spirituality and magic are core themes in the world of Dragon Age. Constant references are made to the Maker, Thedas’ equivalent to God (“Light of the Maker shine upon you”). Other minor gods and goddesses are mentioned as well. One of the most significant is Andraste, a human woman who, in the lore of Thedas, was born a slave, but rose to become a prophet and the “spiritual wife” of the Maker. She is worshipped by many of the characters and her name is used as an exclamation (“What in the name of Andraste?”). We see spells and potions used by mages, and we hear references to “blood magic,” which is dependent on the spilling of blood to reanimate corpses and cause violence.

Characters drink in a tavern. Discrimination against the elves is common; an antagonistic bystander calls Miriam “knife-ears.” The f-word, s-word, “b-stard” and “b–ch” are each used once, while “d–n” is heard twice.

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Lauren Cook Bio Pic
Lauren Cook

Lauren Cook is serving as a 2021 summer intern for the Parenting and Youth department at Focus on the Family. She is studying film and screenwriting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. You can get her talking for hours about anything from Star Wars to her family to how Inception was the best movie of the 2010s. But more than anything, she’s passionate about showing how every form of art in some way reflects the Gospel. Coffee is a close second.

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