A Fangirl’s Manifesto Praising Grumptastic Little Brothers Everywhere
This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.
As an older sister of a young man who was an absolute PAIN IN MY ARSE until we were adults, I have to go with that lovable younger brother and all-around adorable grump, Carver Hawke.
I have absolutely adored many characters from the DA universe, and had my fair share of fangirl squee moments over snarky blonds and disgraced nobles, and even cheered at the appearance of broken templars and fawned over heavy brogues. Hands down, though, I find Carver to be the most well-developed character we see, which is pretty impressive for how much we don’t get to see of this woefully under-used companion. Let’s face it, Carvers have a more than 66% death rate, and that is if you are not a monster* who lets him die in the Deep Roads.
Very rarely, if ever, do we start out with a companion who is not only not neutral to you as the PC, but who hates your stinking guts when we first meet him. At the game’s inception, Carver does not like you. Not one lick. He rarely misses a chance to grouse at you. He hardly ever has anything nice to say about you, and he certainly isn’t going to hold back his deeper thoughts to spare your feelings. Yet, during all of this, we get to see light touches and moments of steadfast loyalty to you, the PC sibling. He might hate you, and he might sometimes wish horrible things upon you, but no one is entitled to inflict those horrible things on you other than him.
BioWare nailed the sibling dynamic right there, and IMO, portrayed that better than any other relationship I have seen come to light over three games and multiple DLCs.
Carver doesn’t instantly like you when you give him things, either. No, sirree. You have to work your poverty-stricken arse off to get him to thank you for the letters from his namesake, and even then, it’s an awkward moment of begrudging acceptance of feelings. But if you work at it, you eventually see him warm to you, ever-so-subtly in his own way. Still? He can’t seem to manage to tell you he loves you out loud. It’s incredibly powerful to me, as an older sister with a brother who still has trouble not deflecting emotions with snark (and also me as a sister who has trouble not criticizing every thing about him).
I also love the way that it isn’t easy to get Carver’s approval one way or another. He has hidden amounts of approval or disapproval for every action you take, and it really takes some intense meta to lock it one way or the other. Just when you think that grumpy brother of yours is going to back you up, he suddenly muses over how stupid you’re being — and doesn’t hold back in telling you so, even if it is unpopular. Then, in the middle of trying to talk to him, he throws his grief of his missing twin at you in a rare moment of obvious vulnerability. Carver’s blunt honesty is one of my favorite things about him.That, and the way he calls you out for showboating or needlessly drawing attention to yourself when his life experience thus far has taught him that these are not good for self-preservation. It is such a younger brother thing to do.
Carver starts out insecure, resentful of you and your clout as you play Hawke, and endlessly searching for a way to make himself stand out apart from Hawke. The fulcrum of your relationship with him is the moment you decide whether or not to take him to the Deep Roads on your expedition. He wants to go. He’s vocal about his desire to be useful and to help the family — because above all else, Carver values his family even if he rarely manages to say it. Choosing to take him with you validates him as a person, but refusing to seems to do the opposite. It shows, at least to him, that Hawke has no regard for Carver’s wants, that they are not important enough to honor.
This is where I think the breaking point happens for him, in that it is the only way I can see Carver crushed enough to resort to the one place that, to me, seems so wildly out of character for him thus far considering the Hawke family’s background. Turning to the templars. Becoming the very thing he was trying to protect his family from all these years. Seeing Carver as a templar breaks my heart, because it feels like he has found a place of forced power and can now hold it over Hawke’s head. Hawke wouldn’t validate his worth, so he found a way to get a subtle jab back and prove just how much worth he has. “Look what I did without you, and now you have to respect me, because I have this power over you, a mage.”
Take him with you, and go through what is, for me, one of the most heart-wrenching moments of the entire game, where you have to make the choice to hand him over to the Grey Wardens, and we see a completely different Carver. He also grows, he also comes into his own, but he goes there with the validation that his sibling respected him enough to include him in the expedition, but you also have that moment where Carver realizes that you care if he lives or dies. Seeing his face if you choose that dialogue option just before Stroud takes him away almost seems to be the first moment that Carver realizes your Hawke had actual affection for him.
We don’t get to see what happens to Carver in Act II. This is tragic to me, because this is where he does all of his growth and dynamic changing. Sure, he sides with you no matter what in the end of the game, giving a nod to his deeply-held value that family matters above all else, but how did he get there?. I love that even if you chose the rival path with him, that he still stands by you (because the rival path is far easier to achieve, and still not easy to max out). As a Grey Warden, Carver comes to a feeling of belonging to something greater, and it seems to make him happier as a whole person. I cringe to realize that he’s come to the place by the end of the game where his life as a Warden is the most important thing to him (apart from you, his only remaining immediate family), and I hope that Carver eventually finds something in the Wardens to give him something personal to hold onto as a human being.
Lukas Kristjanson gives us, with very little on-screen time, a character who grows, sometimes begrudgingly, through a gamut of characterization. I am still in the stages of writing a ridiculously fangirlish fan letter thanking him for this. Carver fascinates me as an older sibling who went through a tumultuous relationship with her own younger brother which didn’t come to a place of love and open respect until we lost our father. Carver is written with buckets of potential, and I can see so many opportunities for him to reappear with import flags at the very least in future games. A pipedream of mine would be to see him as a full companion in future games, because every time he appears in a DLC I cheer. His snarkiness and grumpy scowling, combined with a healthy amount of showing off with an obvious need for praise, has endeared him to me endlessly.
Carver Hawke, you are forever my bro. Keep being you, little brother.
*Used in jest, though, I am of the opinion that no one with a heart would do this after they find out it is avoidable! I’m a Carver fangirl. I regret nothing.