All That Remains + things that cannot be unsaid
This is exactly how I see Leandra too. There’s an element in there, of course she doesn’t HATE her children, but there’s such an incredible amount of resentment between her and her eldest child that to write it off as simply grieving is a misnomer, I think.
I think it’s fairly clear that she resents Hawke for a number of reasons: knowing Malcolm better than she does (implied at the end of Legacy), failing to save him/acting as the head of the family despite the fact that she’s clearly not stepping into the role or even trying, the dead twin, etc. Moreover, I think it’s fairly obvious that Leandra and Malcolm were very much what would have happened if Romeo and Juliet hadn’t had a typically tragic ending: they were young, impulsive, and in “love,” but once you’ve given up everything, what does that really leave you with? A partner you barely know, who you’ve put all your trust into despite that, and despite however much Leandra says she puts love above all-else, we see even in her conversations with Gamlen that this very much isn’t necessarily the case, and she carries a lot of her bitterness with her. She wasn’t ready for what running away really meant, she was young enough to have very likely acted impulsively on a romantic ideal that didn’t pan out in any way she’d actually hoped.
It’s a really dysfunctional, bittersweet relationship, and I can’t at all blame Hawke for thinking this. Hawke’s already got a guilt complex a mile wide, no matter how you really play it; there’s a reason they take on all this responsibility that isn’t even necessarily theirs. With Malcolm, it’s all responsibility, and honor, and doing the right thing no matter how hard it is, and with Leandra, it’s all guilt, residual affects of growing jaded with where unchecked romance really leads.
She can be a caring figure, certainly, when she feels like it, but finding her to be a truly supportive one it a little harder for me, when she relies on her eldest child the way her younger children do. There’s such a lack of responsibility on Leandra’s part: something must always be someone’s fault, because surely SURELY there must still be some good left to come out of a foolish decision she made as a teenager. Their status in Kirkwall is Gamlen’s fault (which is true enough, but he DOES have a point in that she’s been away from home for 25 years; anything he does to drag the “family name” into poverty and squalor is his own doing, and while it’s hard to support his methods, he’s at least grown up enough to recognize the reality of his situation. Is Leandra’s anger at her brother entirely unjustified? No, but at the same time, she continually fails to recognize that she gave up her status, her family name, and her inheritances, and this attitude doesn’t come out of nowhere, suddenly rekindled after two decades of “hiatus.” It’s a failure to take responsibility.
TL;DR, I seriously appreciate just how incredibly fucked up and dysfunctional Hawke family dynamics really are. It’s a family full of love that Hawke would and continually does put their life on the line for, but it’s not a healthy one. It’s not a supportive one. And I find it really telling that despite Malcolm’s questionable allegiances as an apostate, it’s THIS name that Hawke chooses to symbolize and hang onto, despite the fact that Leandra is clearly very ready to step back into the role of a noble that she’d “left behind.” Is it any surprise that Hawke seems so used to the responsibility, so easily stepping into the role as head of household when their parents are so embittered, disillusioned, and in Malcolm’s case, paranoid and uncommunicative?
Hawke’s so used to being the parent, being the one to take up responsibility that of course it’s going to kill them when they fail; they’ve been conditioned to impossible responsibility and the constant looming threat of guilt.
This depth makes my heart hurt.
Wow, this is such an excellent take. This is not how I’ve usually seen or headcanoned Leandra, but all this insight is really making me want to take a long second look at their relationship.
I love this. Because it’s not that Leandra doesn’t love her children — of course she does, she adores them — it’s that she’s not a perfect woman: She makes mistakes, jumps to hurtful assumptions, and thrusts too much responsibility on her children, particularly her eldest. Not to mention that she’s still struggling with profound grief, not just over losing her child and her home, but the life she sacrificed everything for.
She’s not a bad mother (just look at how her children turned out) nor is she a bad person. She’s just a complicated human being, with warts and flaws. Sometimes it’s hard to see them because we self-insert as her child, and it’s always tough to see your parents as people, not ideas, even when said parents are digital. But I think a read on her character that acknowledges said faults and mistakes is far more illuminating than the alternative.
Personally, I think you can see a lot of Leandra in Carver and vice versa; certainly they manifest their grief in similar (hurtful) ways. I’ve always headcanoned that the two of them were particularly close (and I think there’s some good evidence in-game to support the theory).