Analysis: Sephiroth in Crisis Core

This post was originally inspired by the #IHaveaTheory challenge on Square Enix Amino.

To that end, I’ve set my sights on Sephiroth. You know, the man we all first knew from Final Fantasy VII as the guy you’d never invite to a fireside chat.

WARNING: FINAL FANTASY VII AND CRISIS CORE SPOILERS AHEAD

But before that in game canon, there was Crisis Core. Where Sephiroth was young and had friends and absolutely no desire to crush us all with a meteor (probably). We start at the beginning: Sephiroth was raised and trained as an intellectually and physically exceptional child with no immediate family.

While there’s no canon information on his childhood, some of his behavior in Crisis Core reflects what his mentality likely was.

Unlike many real life students with exceptional skills, Sephiroth had all of the special instruction and resources he needed to prosper. By the time we see him in Crisis Core, Sephiroth was entirely confident in abilities he’d been building on his entire life.

Yet when Genesis expressed jealousy over Sephiroth’s fame, he told Genesis he could have it. This is an indication that his confidence was self-contained rather than something he got from or held over other people. In short, fame or the lack of would not affect him at all.

This connects to another issue that exceptional people face in their upbringing. According to a guide by the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), “specific provisions for [gifted and talented students] stir heated controversy regarding whether or not they need special attention”.

Zack himself displayed this skepticism just before his mission with the Turks that Sephiroth was originally assigned to. Upon hearing that he refused to go, Zack asked if they were being too soft with him or babying him (depending on language/translation).

You can see the scene here at about 6:40.

For Sephiroth, this kind of controversy led to his abilities defining him to others in one of two ways. His status as the best First Class SOLDIER led people to believe he was either a hero beyond their standing or he was entitled more than he deserved.

Let’s consider that in conjunction with the immense value he placed on his friendship with Angeal and Genesis.

To have two friends who treated him as someone on their level, whether positively or negatively, meant a great deal to Sephiroth. There were few people who wouldn’t judge him based on his reputation since he had no family.

The bottom line is that Angeal and Genesis (and later Zack) gave him something his reputation could not: a sense of belonging.

And that feeling overpowered everything else Sephiroth held as important. He refused the mission that Zack went on because it was an act directly against his friends. When he was on his way to Modeoheim, he put his current mission off to go out of his way and talk to Zack – even though Zack was upset with him at the time.

Full clip here.

Sadly, this value Sephiroth placed on belonging was his undoing in the end.

To be human and exceptional separated him from nearly everyone, even others who were First Class. But at least he had that in common with people – humanity.

His discovery of the truth took that last bastion of hope away along with two of his closest friends. (The below video shows Sephiroth’s struggle as he tried to hold onto his humanity and the particularly painful way he found out he wasn’t human after all.)

Full clip here.

Failing that, Sephiroth had utterly nothing in common with anyone insofar as he knew. What meant most to him in life was inaccessible to him forever (or so he felt).

All that remained to fill the void was his greatness. In his mind, that had defined him to everyone else throughout his life, and he only thought he’d been defined by something more to those he cared for.

With his feeling of belonging gone, Sephiroth had to face that he would never truly belong among humans.

That combined with inevitable rage at the deception and horror at the truth of his origin… Sephiroth turned to godhood to embrace what he had originally tried to reject.

He was exceptional and he did not belong among these people; he never would. Grieving it in solitude could drive him mad or…

Sephiroth could choose not to grieve, instead empowering himself by believing he never really needed to belong. The feeling was simply another deception by the lesser beings of humanity.

And so, he rationalized godhood as his destiny.

and I’m still sad about it after all these years
#BlameHojo

Thank you for reading!

 

May Your Heart Be Your Guiding Key

In response to the philosophies prompt on the Square Enix Amino, I’ve analyzed a recurring phrase in the Kingdom Hearts series, but specifically in Back Cover.

“May your heart be your guiding key.”

WARNING:

Spoilers Abound

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The one time the meaning of this phrase is explained is by the Master of Masters, who claims to say it all the time. In the Case of Invi, he tells her that “you ultimately need to do what your heart feels is right”. (He also says it to Aced during the Case of Aced, although he doesn’t explain it then.)

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But this is a fairly open definition. Its true parameters are defined by the heart, so each person is allowed to decide for themselves what it means. Add in context and you’ve got yourself a mission statement that can be perceived to mean anything.

So who says it when? What does it mean?

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After Ira’s announcement that he believes one of the Foretellers is a traitor backfires, Invi tells him this phrase as a comfort. In this context, Invi offers this familiar saying of their absent master to remind Ira that he did what he thought was right. And even if it didn’t turn out to be right, Invi wanted him to trust his heart.

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When Aced had to fight Ava, Gula, and Invi, Aced said the phrase to himself. For him, this phrase is to express certainty in his convictions.

Throughout the game, he frequently mentions that the Foretellers are comrades – this means a lot to him. To have them almost unanimously think that he is the traitor could not have been painless.

But saying this phrase to himself, the one their master repeated to them all, was a reminder to Aced that there are things more important than that. His heart told him to fight for what he believed, and so he did.

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Gula said it to himself after Ava refused to help him summon Kingdom Hearts in a ploy to make the Master return.

To understand the context of this phrase said here by Gula, you need to know his opinion of Ava. Before asking her to help him summon Kingdom Hearts, he tells her that she always does the right thing.

For someone whose role required him to trust no one, this is impressive. Gula holds Ava as a moral paragon. When she said she wouldn’t help him, it was as good as telling him that he’s morally wrong for wanting to summon Kingdom Hearts.

But still, he believed with all his heart that it was the correct choice. Maybe it wasn’t the morally right one, but his heart told him it was what needed to be done.

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Ava said this to the Keybearers she was training just before the war broke out. Until this point, all of the other Foretellers had done what they felt was right but several had deviated from the Master’s teachings.

In the earlier scene with Ephemer at the fountain, Ava said to herself that she would be glad to leave the future to those who see the world the way he did.

In this case, I believe that Ava told the Keybearers she trained to have their hearts be their guiding key because she truly believed they would make the best use of that phrase.

These Keybearers were the ones she regarded as the best of all unions. It’s not just their talent as fighters, but their perspectives that she valued. Their hearts could be their guiding keys because she believed they had the best, truest hearts.

I love Ava’s characterization, surprise surprise.

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Lastly, Luxu also said it as the final spoken line of the game (while hefting a box in the desert, no less). This meaning is a bit harder to interpret, but I think that’s the point of it at this stage in the story.

Nearly everyone else who used the phrase had gone against the tasks set before them, playing right into the prophecy (which I doubt was a mistake).

Does this mean that because Luxu was separate from the others, he actually succeeded in his entire role? Or did he “fail” as the others had, and open the box? The fun of this is that ultimately, we can’t say with what we see in this game.

In lengthy conclusion…

“May your heart be your guiding key” was the mission statement of the Foretellers, but it steered most of them in the wrong direction either inadvertantly or knowingly.

The intent of the phrase is to encourage people in dark times, but it was also used to justify bad decisions as good ones made as a personal sacrifice.

And that’s just in this game; the phrase comes back with the Wayfinder Trio. But that’s a subject for another post!

Dorian Pavus: Coping Study

Greetings!

Though I’m not finished with Inquisition, Dorian is easily one of my favorite characters and with this piece, I’d like to pull back the curtain and show the coping mechanisms behind the man.

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SPOILER ALERT

And now, on we go!

• • • • •

Quick summary for those who need the recap: Dorian Pavus is a human mage of the Atlus caste in Tevinter society. The Altus are considered to be descended from dreamers/magisters that could speak to the Old Gods when in the Fade, and they are exceedingly well regarded in the Tevinter Imperium.

This influences him growing up as it would anyone– both with the pressure to meet that ideal and also being considered great from birth, particularly because he’s from an affluent family as well.

He had a natural talent for magic, and of course, he’s Dorian… So he flourished under the envy, at least on the surface. After being expelled from a Circle at 9 years old for injuring a Magister’s son in a duel, he continued to rotate through mentors and Circles, each ending in a new fiasco.

It wasn’t until Alexius found Dorian and offered to take him as an apprentice that Dorian found the focus he needed to truly prosper. And that he did, earning merit and stations inside of four years of study in the Minrathous Circle.

…then Felix, Alexius’ son and a dear friend of Dorian’s, got the darkspawn corruption and Alexius’ wife died in the same tragedy. Two years, Dorian poured into finding a cure for Felix. But a fight between Alexius and Dorian severed their ties and immediately, Dorian was off the path to greatness again.

Between reveling in excess and loudly rejecting every flaw in his homeland, Dorian faced only hardship and scandals from then on in Tevinter. His father tried to use blood magic to “cure” his homosexuality, keeping him hidden as he slid back into old habits after his fight with Alexius…

This is the state he’s in when he joins the Inquisition. An outcast in his own nation, his trust in his own family destroyed, and completely adrift. [Backstory recap source]

So what does this all mean for Dorian’s coping mechanisms? He’s known to be very sure of himself and prefers wit on nearly every occasion, and let’s see how he uses both his bravado and humor throughout his backstory, either successfully or not.

Consider his first expulsion from a Circle at 9 years old, which was caused because he injured another child in a duel. A Magister’s son, no less, and at this point you can already presume that Dorian had a difference of opinion with most of his countrymen while still absorbing the doctrine of holding life in alarmingly low regard.

Whatever their disagreement was, Dorian would not yield. Although I’m sure he wasn’t as adeptly cunning as a child, it’s a safe bet that he pushed buttons with the Magister’s son until it came to a duel… Which he would not back down from to the point of actually injuring a fellow child.

Now there is where you behold two sides to Dorian: his general belief in morality and his inevitable acceptance of certain parts of Tevinter culture.

If he backed down from the duel, it wouldn’t be mercy, but weakness. Because it was a Magister’s son, he was expelled from that Circle… But the damage was done. He’d harmed a child in what was likely an intellectual disagreement.

And intelligent as he was, he knew that he could’ve been the one hurt or worse had the Magister’s son sucked a little less. And if that had been the case, Dorian would probably still have been the one expelled because he’s not a Magister’s son.

Dorian was an intelligent, gifted child who knew something was wrong there but didn’t have the direction, the guidance to figure out how to change it– simply how not to be affected by it.

If he was bound to expelled from the Circle regardless, and he knew he was once that argument began, why not at least show the brat his place? This is where bravado and humor comes in, and where Dorian’s… unsavory… behavior continued.

Tevinter is inherently a place where you can trust no one once you reach a higher standing, which the Pavus family held.

But ambition only doesn’t work for Dorian. A man of heart, he is internally and externally destructive without connections and a greater purpose. Given his backstory, with family alone as he is before Alexius, he’s reckless and overly aggressive. With purpose alone as he is after Alexius but before the Inquisition, he’s reckless with no regard for himself.

In the Inquisition and the Inquisitor, he finds both. Of course, this doesn’t change who he is or how he faces the world. Even as he confesses friendship with the Inquisitor, he leans on humor to make it safely through his honesty.

Such honesty was a serious risk in Tevinter culture, and factoring in the betrayal of his father and Alexius – two people he trusted most – and he’s opening himself to that all over again by admitting out loud that someone is his friend in this context:

“Perhaps it’s odd to say, but… I think of you as a friend, Inquisitor. I have precious few friends. I didn’t think to find one here.”

When the Inquisitor goes to respond, Dorian cuts them off to say, “Don’t speak. I detest confessions, and I’d like to get this over with.” He’s half kidding, mostly serious, but honesty suits Dorian far more than ambition and more than he’d care to admit.

And he needs that humor to bond over his genuine friendship with the Inquisitor. Dismissing a serious matter as light reduces its weight on him and makes him feel less threatened by the rules of the culture he grew up in: one where you don’t trust anyone and seek only power.

He can confess to being close to someone and all the solace that provides as long as he has redirection and hospital humor to get him by. And it’s not the only instance where he used these tactics to cope, not by any stretch. It’s nearly constant.

For example, in the Templar timeline, Dorian appears to warn the Inquisition at Haven. His first line of dialogue is, “if someone would open this [the gate], I’d appreciate it”. When someone does, he’s on the verge of falling over and held up only by his staff.

After trying to stand and falling onto Cullen, using his help to stand, Dorian describes himself as “a mite exhausted” and says “don’t mind me”. These are all examples of how Dorian uses levity to draw attention away from the issues he’d rather be hidden. In that case at Haven, he was on a time crunch to put it lightly, but the mentality stands.

Of course, there are those who don’t understand his perspective and view it as arrogance at best, indifference at worst. But this is part of the beauty and complexity of Dorian, and while I could go on… That concludes this study. Perhaps another time, my friends!


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Roman Torchwick: Fallen Hero

Greetings! I bring you a new analysis piece of Roman Torchwick and what I’ve seen in that amazing, majestic man.

Why can’t I do eyeliner like that

But I will inform you also that this is a baby analysis compared to my usual, mainly because there isn’t a wealth of canon material on Roman but I wanted to analyze him anyway. On we go!

SPOILER ALERT BELOW

First, the impression of Roman.

Here’s a man who exudes a powerful charisma even as he also shows that he’s not above using force. There’s a certain rough levity to the way he acts and speaks, reacting with phrases like, “that would be bad” when situations take a turn for the worse.

Were he a hero, he’d be considered playful and witty, but it’s his willingness to use violence that confirms him as definite villain. He’s no morally good but edgy bard using his silver tongue to gain the advantage. But! After all is said and done, I do believe he once was.

How so?

Let’s review his actions and demeanor throughout the series. He dresses and speaks very eloquently, which says he has both expensive tastes and a promising intellect.

Pair that with his ruthlessness, and a younger Roman has high standards and was intelligent, determined, and willing to go to any lengths to get what he wanted. He simply wanted different things (that I cannot determine because /someone/ didn’t have a backstory).

SPOILER REMINDER

But if you listen to his final words, they are way too personal not to mean something. He’s beating Ruby, an actual child, with a cane and saying she has spirit, but the real world doesn’t care about spirit. The real world is cruel and cold, and she isn’t operating in this real world.

And as cold and cruel as Roman is, is he not a man with spirit? A broken one that never quite set right, but he has one nonetheless. He didn’t give in when he was imprisoned and interrogated by Ironwood, and he frequently brushes off hardship lightly.

Torchwick has spirit, but it’s changed with what he’s experienced in life.

Before that speech on the real world, he tells Ruby that she can’t beat his employer, he can’t beat them, so why not be on the right side? His exact response to her questions was, “You’re asking the wrong questions, Red! It’s not what I have to gain… It’s that I can’t afford to lose!”

This answer tells me about a boy who tried to fight for what was right, or loved someone who did, and he only lost everything. I think adult Roman has only Neo to hold dear, and when he lectured Ruby about the real world in his final moments, he was just as much speaking to his younger self as to her.

And when Neo is taken off the airship, he shows a moment of real concern for her before unleashing his cold anger on Ruby. He tells her that if she wants to be a hero, she should “play the part and die”.

In the real world as seen by Roman, all heroes die. Why would he want to be one after coming to see the world like that? (See the whole heart-wrenching scene here.)

I’m not pardoning him, that would honestly cheapen his character, but I am saying I see Roman as a man who tried to be the hero, who failed, and who lost all that he had fought for and more… And swore he’d never lose again no matter the cost.

Sirius: Heroism & Denial

Books and movies alike, Sirius is one of my favorite characters in the Harry Potter series (and I’m a huge analysis dork, as you’ve likely gathered). So why not combine the two in an analysis of Sirius? My thoughts exactly.

Many Harry Potter characters have hidden depths, of course, but Sirius is among those I find most compelling for the way he handles the defining moments in his life.
Moving right along, I hope you enjoy the read!

On to the fun part!

Also: spoilers ahead.


To know a character, you typically have to start with their backstory. For Sirius especially, this is true. Sirius was born into a long line of a pure blooded elitist family, and he fought that image with all that he could muster.

To upset his parents, he put permanent sticking charms on Gryffindor banners in his room as well as pictures of motorcycles and Muggle girls in bikinis and other such things they would object to.

He was the first Black family member to be in the Gryffindor House as well. But if you look at all these actions, you see a case of two extremes: Light and Dark.

His family glorified the Dark Arts and purity of blood, going so far as to disown any Squib family members (such as Sirius’ uncle). When Sirius rejected this family tradition, he instead embraced the ideals of heroism and bravery as told in legends. Also recognized as the attributes of goodness or Light.

Embracing these traits would lay the foundation for how Sirius approached most things in his life, so it is crucial to understand how much they really meant to him. Think of his advice: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

And frame that in his childhood and time spent at Hogwarts. He aggressively chose light, every hour of every day – as if to compensate for the darkness in his family lineage. He was creating his own image in defiance of what his family and name had tried to force on him.

And this mentality of light and heroism was the cornerstone of his independence. To be free of the Black lineage, he had to be everything they weren’t. And he did truly enjoy his Gryffindor friends and the life he’d earned for himself (even at the expense of his familial connections).

Again, compare this to the typical hero’s story: a struggle for what’s right, loyal friends, and a just cause.

He struggled to be good and light, and he was rewarded with loyal friends (or so he thought). He had James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew – The Marauders.

In light of that need for loyalty, it’s no surprise that he illegally became an Animagus with James and Peter for Remus’ sake. Just as he defied Black tradition to be good, he defied laws to be a true friend when Remus needed him.

This act reflects his belief that a good cause is worth any risk. He risked his family’s constant disdain to be who he wanted to be and he risked legal punishment (and perhaps worse should anything go wrong with their secret transformation to Animagi) for Remus.

Now what he needed was an antagonist. Then came Snape, the personification of everything the Black family worshipped. Sirius described him as “this little oddball who was up to his eyes in the Dark Arts” and instantly disliked him, especially because of the existing hatred between Snape and James.

Snape was destined to be hated by Sirius on at least two counts: Sirius’ need to reject of the elitism and darkness Snape represented made it possible and loyalty to James made it inevitable.

To Sirius, bullying Snape was not something to be ashamed of as a 15-year-old. In later reflection as an adult, he tells Harry he’s not proud of what he did, but he still resents Snape fully. Treating Snape poorly wasn’t wrong because to Sirius, he was the antagonist of a heroic tale– the Darkness to his Light.

James and Sirius eventually stopped tormenting him, but never apologized for what they did simply because they weren’t sorry.

Worse yet, Sirius did put Snape’s life in danger when he told him about the Shrieking Shack and left out that Remus was in there for his transformations.

And had he died, Sirius would also have put the blood on Remus’ hands. But to someone thinking in pure light and dark terms as in heroic legends, that’s a morality too grey for even adult Sirius to understand. His exact response was that it “served Snape right”.

That moral ambiguity was lost on Sirius and he continued life undaunted by its implications for himself, Snape, and Remus.

I do believe that Remus was more willing to believe that Sirius was a traitor because of this incident– he’d shown he was capable of moral wrong-doing with no remorse. All it takes is one seed of doubt, but we will return to that.

At 16, Sirius was adopted by the Potters. The good, light family he wanted to be part of and another piece in his heroic story – right down to his family’s accepted uncle sympathizing with him and leaving a large inheritance for Sirius.

Of course it would work out for the protagonist, it always does in heroic tales! That mentality had worked for Sirius until that point and he was well bound up in it by then.

He had a new family, a proud image of being good, an antagonist, and then the First Wizarding War happened.

Sirius joined the Order of the Phoenix with his friends and there he had his noble cause at last. Everything led up to this, a glorious battle. They were to fight against Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters at his side to protect both Muggles and the Wizarding World.

Sirius could scarcely have orchestrated a task better suited to his need for heroism. To add to it all, he was selected as the godfather to his best friend’s first child! The fact that he believed Remus to be a potential traitor was horrible, but… Every story must have its antagonist, as we recall.

Only this was not a legend of heroism, and there was a far less “obvious” traitor among them. Pettigrew did more than I believe Sirius could’ve imagined when he killed James and Lily.

But to successfully frame Sirius for mass murder, forever putting his godson out of his reach (not to mention landing him in Azkaban), was even further from his ability to fathom. This didn’t follow the hero’s path like Sirius had expected…

And even if it had, situations like this passed. The hero’s allies rush in and turn the tables when things are at their gravest. Only Remus did not come. Dumbledore did not come. Rescue never came.

To get revenge seemed the only natural course of action, the last scrap of his hero’s tale that Sirius had. James and Lily were dead. The only Potter alive either didn’t know him or knew him as the person who murdered Pettigrew and twelve Muggles.

Sirius was ultimately known for the one thing he’d always struggled against being: an elitist, murderous wizard of the Dark Arts who was willing to put his cause before any human life.

And Remus? He wasn’t coming to Sirius’ defense anytime soon, a betrayal in itself. One he couldn’t bear, especially not in Azkaban, where he would face dementors on a daily basis. Sirius needed every happy memory he had and denial was the only he’d keep them (and his life by extension).

Revenge gave him purpose, but denial gave him hope. And when he did escape at last, Sirius was bound to recreate the life he clung to in his memory through Harry.

Despite saying he felt badly for how he treated Snape, he fell right into the rhythm of treating him with disdain when they met again after his escape. And he held onto his friendship with Remus over any need to ask him why he didn’t defend him, why he let him sit in Azkaban for 12 years for something he did not do…

He didn’t want Remus to be the antagonist, he was the last original Marauder that Sirius could still call a friend. Pettigrew was his target and beyond that, Sirius only longed for the life he used to lead at the start of the war.

When pressed, you could see some of that animosity bleed through, but it was always collected– if only because Remus (in the case below) saw the damage done to his friend and didn’t want to push him too far.

He had enduring friendship and glory back then, and he needed that still… For more than just warding off dementors by that point. His mental state was weakened by his time in Azkaban. Sirius needed something to believe in beyond revenge now that he was free, and that belief was the idea that his life would return to normal after James and Lily were avenged.

Although unspoken, I do think Remus saw the extensive damage done to Sirius’ psyche during his time in Azkaban. There could be no true healing for Sirius because it required acceptance, and denial kept what was left of him going.

But Harry didn’t know this, and it wasn’t clear to him until Sirius’ final moments. He was a man tortured both literally in Azkaban, by constant threat and neglect, and mentally through the numerous and severe traumas he’d faced.

When he said, “Nice one, James!” to Harry, it was an instinctive reaction based on his coping mechanisms. Sirius lost James and Pettigrew for good, Remus and Harry temporarily, and lastly, he’d lost the reputation of goodness he’d spent a lifetime building.

All in the course of that single night when Pettigrew murdered Sirius’ best friend.
He could not cope with the loss, but instead had to rebuild it in his mind with the next best thing. Sirius is undoubtedly a powerful person as a wizard and in sheer willpower, but Harry also wanted to see him that way. As a replacement for the family he didn’t have.

But it was in that last moment that Harry had the key he needed to see the full extent of Sirius’ mental state. Harry saw at last that he wasn’t the only one making a substitute for James.

While the quote from Sirius, “the ones that love us never truly leave us” is accurate and heartwarming, Sirius took it very much to another level. He needed that life to still exist in however many fragments he could scrounge together.

Because what was revenge worth if it was for a life gone past? What would Sirius live for after? For Harry, for Remus, for the life he had to believe was still there if he was to keep going. But denial does not hold, it does not last.

Eventually, Sirius would have to face everything he’d been through, and with how he was in the books and films… He likely couldn’t endure it. Sad as his death was, it was almost merciful in comparison to the life of denial and trauma he’d be facing otherwise.


And that concludes my somewhat sad analysis of Sirius.

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Thank you for reading!

Relationships on Ice

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Yuri on Ice has many themes and elements: identity, love, perspective, and of course ice skating (and more). This analysis is focused on love as displayed by three different relationships of the following pairs of characters: Yuuri K. and Viktor; Michele and Sara Crispino; and Georgi Popovich and Anya.

These are not all romantic pairs.

This analysis does not touch on all representations of love in the series.

Just a reminder!
Now let’s get to it!

Viktuuri represents a healthy developing romantic relationship, Michele and Sara represent a dependent platonic relationship, and Georgi and Anya represent a toxic romantic relationship.

Viktor and Yuuri

Healthy Romantic

It should come as no surprise that the central couple is a representation of a healthy developing romantic relationship. They both start with a limited understanding of one another and a measure of idolization of what they know. Yuuri more literally than Viktor.

We as viewers are well aware of Yuuri’s idolization of Viktor as a role model on and off the ice, one he’s had since he was a child. That kind of idolization has mellowed over time, but never faded. To Yuuri, Viktor was perfect and the ideal person as well as skater.

But Viktor also idolized Yuuri to an extent. He seemed honest and down to earth, but also an accomplished skater who genuinely respected Viktor.

With their one interaction when Yuuri was drunk at a party and a viral video, Viktor had a simplified version of Yuuri is in mind because he didn’t know him well enough to know better. What they did know about each other interested them, and they both wanted to know more.

That’s the dating phase, when you’re seeing someone but not going steady, so to speak. It was under the guise of training (like a regular study session with your crush), but they were getting to know each other better. This was the beginning of their growth from idolization to intimacy.

But that intimacy doesn’t change their relationship, it builds on what was already there. They get closer, but they still have the foundation of what they had in the beginning. They surprise each other and learn from one another.

And those surprises mean so much to them both.

But sometimes this means getting hurt, and Viktuuri is no different. Surprises mean you always grow and learn, but you also make mistakes. As you do in any relationship.

They are not perfect, and showing how they handle that is what makes them healthy.

When they accidentally hurt one another, they continue to talk and make things right. They communicate what they did wrong and why, even if they don’t do it right away or it takes time to understand.

Viktor made a mistake with Yuuri in the parking garage in season 1, episode 7. He tried a tactic that likely worked on him – motivation through the threat of loss – but hurt Yuuri to the point of crying. But he apologized immediately.

And that made Yuuri actually voice his thoughts and fears, even when he knew they weren’t true.

It’s another surprise, a tough one that requires communication, understanding, and patience. All of which each of them showed even though the situation was emotional and it was easy to be hurt instead of being supportive. That’s their health, and it’s a healthy part of any relationship: the ability to resolve conflict.

And Yuuri also makes his mistakes, the largest being at the end of season 1, in episode 12. Instead of sharing his thoughts, he assumes that Viktor wants to return to the ice and training Yuuri is the only thing holding him back.

Rather than talking to Viktor about his concerns, Yuuri decides for himself what the best course of action is for Viktor and even says as much that he’s “making this selfish decision” – thinking he’s doing a good thing for Viktor without realizing how much he actually hurt him.

It’s only when he’s pushed to that point that Viktor communicates in turn why he’s so angry at what Yuuri did.

They had to be hurt to be honest, but they learned to compromise even when they were hurt by one another. A healthy relationship of any kind can handle the good times with the bad, and Viktuuri doesn’t shy away from showing the reality of that (particularly in romance).

Mickey and Sara

Dependent Platonic

There are a few things that merit mentioning with these two that is different than how most fiction represents their relationship type. First, it’s platonic and other two are romantic (and platonic relationships are rarely more than a backdrop in fiction). Second, it doesn’t take nearly as harsh an approach as many stories do with this type of relationship.

While the healthy relationship (Yuuri and Viktor) is purely positive in representation and the toxic one (Georgi and Anya) is canonically acknowledged as creepy, Michele’s dependence on his sister and her dependence on him in the past is portrayed as misguided affection.

She still loves him dearly and always will, just as he loves her. She simply saw before he did that they needed to be more distant from one another to be self-sufficient people. Everything he did, he did for her – leaving him with no sense of self and her with no independence. And that wasn’t good for either of them.

But instead of making him out to be clingy and desperate, they showed him as supportive but overbearing. He wasn’t demonized, as many people in dependent relationships are (particularly the one who struggles to let go, like Michele). Typical of Yuri on Ice, this is very forward thinking and humanizing, not condoning, of dependent relationships.

By his performance when he thinks she’s not watching, the English dub has his thoughts as:

“It’s over now. I have to accept that. I’ll show you how much I love you… By letting you go.”

And when she hugs him after to congratulate him on beating his personal best score, she says she’s sorry that she said such mean things earlier. But ultimately, she’s glad she did because:

It shows a dependent relationship mended so it can continue as a healthy, self-sufficient bond.

And it echoes the message of Viktuuri in that all relationships are about compromise and understanding. Just because their relationship could not continue as Michele wanted it to didn’t mean it couldn’t continue.

His willingness to let go and understand what Sara asked him to do for both their sakes combined with her willingness to come back to him and apologize (but maintain that she was right) is what allowed that relationship to become healthy for them. That’s the kind of depth and consideration I expect of Yuri on Ice, and they definitely delivered here.

Georgi and Anya

Toxic Romantic

Lastly, we have Georgi and Anya as a representation of what can happen in a relationship when it’s over but you can’t let go.

Georgi can’t let go, not like Michele did. He’s stuck on Anya and almost everything he does is for or about her, even things he used to enjoy on their own – like figure skating.

Even when he’s doing well and succeeding in his performance, the only time he doesn’t think of her is to think about his desire to make Viktor feel lesser than him.

So he’s really not in a great mental place as an individual. He lives for Anya and the morsels of attention she gives him, even the cruel kind. Think on her actions here too: she has a fiancee and a new life that she’s happy in. Why did she go to her ex-boyfriend’s performance, sit where he could see her, and bring her future husband? Just so she could do this where he could see it and his resulting emotional distress would potentially ruin his performance?

There is a kind of addiction to someone so lost in you that they can’t find themselves anymore that is a hallmark of toxic romance. She has another romantic partner and seems to be well and truly over Georgi, but she goes in person to his shows and acting in such a way to make it harder for him to move on. She hasn’t even blocked him on social media or had her fiancee do it because that way, he can see how her new life is without him.

In fairness, Anya doesn’t get equal representation here. She barely shows up and hardly speaks. Her opinion is not wholly represented, and I know this. We only have her fleeting screen time and Georgi to go by (and he is admittedly not a reliable source as far as opinions go, only what his mental state reveals about her).

But even then, she creates an environment where he’s still there to be desperate for her attention, any kind, and he’s so wrapped up in her that all Georgi wants is to be her protection.

Much like Michele wanted to protect Sara, only Michele saw that his truest expression of love was letting her go.

Georgi and Anya did not let go of each other, they don’t communicate, and they don’t respect each other. She treats him like filth and goes out of her way to do it, and he treats her like a possession.

But even then, Yuri on Ice comes forward to give Georgi good points and even subtly explain how this came to be between them. Or at least how it was possible for Georgi.
Yakov describes Georgi as follows:

He’s so receptive to what others tell him that Georgi won’t make opinions or decisions of his own. If Yakov tells him that a routine is better his way or to take a jump out or to practice in one arena over another, Georgi will just do it.

Even if that arena he was in was his first arena where he trained for years and felt most confident, he’d do what Yakov said. That’s what makes it one of his greatest weaknesses too.

Once Georgi learns to respect himself enough to stand up when he needs to, he’ll be able to move on (probably) and find someone to respect him back. The writers of Yuri on Ice give him that potential just by having Yakov think that about Georgi.

Thank you for reading!


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Carol Peletier: Development

I started watching Walking Dead on a whim because I needed background noise while sewing. You will be certain after this brick here that it is no longer background noise to me. And one of my favorite characters, hands down, is Carol Peletier.

What prompted this analysis on her character was this idea from the Walking Dead Amino from TyReeses Puffs with support from Crescent.

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Let’s #MakeCarolGreatAgain and show her some love!

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SPOILERS BELOW


 

Naturally, we start at the beginning.

Carol was mousy and quiet, but people liked her. They wanted to protect her from her husband, Ed. That kind of thinking around Carol does factor into her persona later in the series, but it’s a slow build, so just bench that memory: Carol started as someone timid and in need of protection.

And most people who end up in abusive romantic relationships either had abusive relatives or are the sort of passive personality that will sit in silence through abuse. I believe Carol falls into the second category, having grown up as a quiet girl that people felt the need to shield from the world.

Ed likely started off as a firm guardian, developing to the relationship they have in season one where he owns her and she’s “in debt” for all the protection he’s given her. He found a passive partner who would allow him to continue the cycle of abuse (as I think Ed himself was abused as a child— but this isn’t about him).

< Source for typical patterns of abuse >

Ed teaches her that she’s helpless and she has to do as he says for things to go well. Obedience and control are his goals and making him the center of her universe is how he does it. That’s why he’s able to hit her publicly in season one, episode three, and she’s upset that he’s hurt afterwards.

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In the abusive structure he built, he protects her and she “deserved” to be hit for the failure of her friends to stay quiet. In her manipulated mindset, he protects her from everything. And when he’s killed by a walker, she loses the person she thought was responsible for her continued existence.

Her pain wasn’t at the loss of her spouse— as she explains in a later episode at the church while Sophia is missing, she knew Ed deserved to die— her pain was mainly at the loss of someone she’d been abused into being dependent on and now she was alone.

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The first change.

This was actually Carol’s first introduction to the thought of doing and bearing the burden of horrible things for those you love. She was supposed to love her husband, and so she made sure he didn’t turn. She did love her daughter, so Carol made sure she would never have to see her father as one of the undead.

But there are hints at Carol’s deeper personality before this as well. She takes her husband’s abuse quietly, but she protects Sophia from him. When Ed basically tells Sophia to keep him company in tent, Carol coolly insists that she wants to go out, takes her daughter by the hand, and leaves.

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And Ed doesn’t argue or fight her. Granted, he’d also just been beaten very recently at that time, but she stood firm and he didn’t even try to put her in her place. I think she’s always had that line drawn in the sand, especially since she also admits later in the church that he “looked at his own daughter” (heavily implying a sexual interest).

Her loyalty to her family and willingness to do anything for them goes as far back as that in canon. She wouldn’t protect herself from Ed, but she was unafraid to stand up to him for Sophia.

But then Sophia goes missing. That led to the other role for Carol, a mother, being threatened too. As much as Carol tried to defend her child from Ed, she still instilled in her the idea of living in fear (as many abused spouses do unintentionally by example). When Sophia was cornered under a car by walkers, she ran and as Carol later says, “running wasn’t enough”.

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The discovery of Sofia’s fate is the breaking point for Carol. She was not a wife or a mother anymore, and all she had left were those who reached out to her while she still had been those things.

Daryl, who held her back when Sophia was first seen, and who brought her hope throughout the search, played a massive role during this time. His kindness as well as his wounded cruelty later on both impacted Carol.

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Carol resumes control of herself

Take a moment to see Daryl through her eyes. He’s kind in times of need, but genuine when he’s upset. What he said about Sophia not being his problem, that was hurtful— but true. He also introduced the idea of starting over very uniquely: “Fuck the way I was.”

And this next part can be difficult to understand, so bear with me. Ed took control away from Carol. She was weak, helpless, and pathetic to him— she needed him to survive. Even the people who tried to protect her from Ed reinforced that concept (although with best intentions and you can’t fault them).

With Daryl, the control over her life was put back in her hands. She could start over, and she could be tough when she had to be. And that’s a heavy burden and it hurts to know that she could’ve saved her daughter if she’d done more to prepare Sofia better to protect herself before her life was on the line.

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But for someone who had gone through years of abuse and feeling like she had no control, this was empowering in a weird way. She had more control over what happened than she thought. And while she couldn’t change the past, there was always the future. Her connection to Daryl and his honesty was the final catalyst for her growth.

There’s a large time skip between the fall of the farm and their discovery of the prison, and she goes through a lot of development in that time. She learns to rely on herself and displays loyalty through doing more than being someone to protect. She did the protecting then, and Carol was just starting to discover that she was good at it.

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And one of the most powerful scenes for Carol’s transformation is at the prison. Talking to another survivor, she said that she’d like to think that if Ed walked in that door and told her to go with him, she’d tell him to go to hell.

But she knows she wouldn’t (or at least she fears she couldn’t).

The building blocks of her survival are supported by the fact that she was abused. She learned what inaction costs through abuse. She learned to seem harmless and get people’s guards down through abuse. And she learned to read people because she always had to anticipate the next attack from her husband. These symptoms of abuse are now her weapons for survival, so she can’t remove one from the other.

And abuse never goes away. As an abuse survivor myself, I can say that the emotional cuts turn into scars and stay with you. Trust becomes difficult and all that much more necessary. This insight from Carol explains quite a bit down the line, so hang onto this too.

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The prison is where Carol really latches onto the idea of saving the future by learning from the past. She teaches the children how to fight under the guise of storytime – not because she fears repercussions, but because she knows Rick won’t approve of why she’s doing it.

He understands, and she knows he does, but he’s not accepted it yet like she has by then. Considering Rick family as she does, she trusts him but isn’t afraid to do things for everyone’s benefit (even if they don’t like it).

It escalated after that to the point where she’d confirmed that she’d killed Karen and David to protect the rest. In a later conversation with Rick before her exile, she tells him that he doesn’t have to like what she did, and she didn’t, but he had to accept it.

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Action does not mean victory.

At this point, Carol is taking her life by the horns. She’s taking control where it had been denied for so long, and she felt she was doing the right thing. But then the disease spread anyway and the prison was lost. Even though she took action, the end still came. This was Carol’s first failure after taking control to prevent people she cared about from dying.

And then she was exiled by Rick, only to come back and end up with Tyrese, Lizzie, Mika, and Rick’s baby, Judith. Still on edge after losing the community she was with, Carol tries again to restore her sense of belonging with this smaller portion of her family.

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And we know how this goes. This was the harsher reminder to Carol that you have to do terrible things for those you love and more recently, that even if you try, you can’t save everyone. Lizzie and Mika were substitutes for the daughter she couldn’t save. Only Lizzie couldn’t handle the world the way it was, and she ended up being a danger to Mika and anyone else she met.

When Rick asked her at the prison if there was anything she wouldn’t do for these people, and she said no. If killing Karen and David wasn’t evidence enough of that, this scene drives that home. Carol has lived a life of pain and she’s willing to be hurt time and again for the chance at a life of being safe and loved.

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But she hits rock bottom at that point. Tyrese had sworn he was going to kill whoever killed Karen and David for several episodes by then, and I don’t think Carol told him for the sake of being honest. She was hoping he might kill her and put an end to the pain of repeated loss of who she loved.

But Tyrese really turned that around on her. After what he’d seen her do, angry as he was, he forgave her. Carol had unknowingly been a role model for him even just then. As much as it pained her, she killed Lizzie because it was the right thing to do.

And as much as it hurt him to lose Karen, he forgave Carol because that was also the right thing to do. She was surprised and touched by this— at last, a success in keeping someone she cares about through her protection by making tough calls.

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Fast forward to her rescue!

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Recently reassured that she was on the right path of showing love through indomitable strength, Carol wrecks this joint singlehandedly. She covers herself in walker guts, explodes the barriers, and murders anyone fool enough to get in her way.

But it’s her conversation and fight with the mother, Mary, that leaves a mark on Carol. Mary tells her, “You could have been one of us.” Mind you, this is after Carol shot her in the leg. Carol is in the middle of reclaiming her family, showing the world she will stop at nothing for the life she wants— and then this cannibal who was going to kill and eat her family says she could be one of them.

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It doesn’t phase Carol on the surface, at least, and she lets walkers into the room to eat Mary alive. Then, after finally getting back with her family, Rick and the others, Carol is rewarded for the devastating brutality she wrought by having her family back.

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Go to Alexandria.

And then comes their arrival at Alexandria. Carol becomes her sweet, mild self from the beginning of the series minus the nervousness. But no one would suspect her of being a killing machine, and that’s what Carol wanted.

These people were not her family. She didn’t trust them and to better watch them, she was willing to assume the persona from the very beginning of this analysis: the quiet one in need of protection.

Her interview includes her saying, “I sort of became their den mother, and they were nice enough to protect me.” This was her plan from the moment she knew the interviews would be happening. Carol would do anything for this group and she acts on her own instinct (not teamwork).

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But this is also the beginning of Carol’s realization that she still isn’t happy with this. To protect people, she feels she has to destroy anyone who threatens them— only remember that she knows that you can’t save everyone either. When the Wolves attack, her confrontations with Morgan and the sheer devastation finally hit home with Carol.

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She had grown to care about the people of Alexandria, even from behind her guise as timid homemaker. And she couldn’t save them for all the fighting and killing she’d done. Pair that with Morgan telling her during the fight that she doesn’t like killing, and Carol had a lot to think about.

Even the budding romance she’d started with Tobin in Alexandria… he said after the fight that she could do things “that just terrify me”. She had become someone else after losing her first family, and now she had the chance to reflect on if that was someone who she wanted to be.

One of the lines that stuck with me most at this point was from a conversation she had with Morgan, where Carol said: “I don’t trust you, but I never thought you were lying.” Carol was capable of love and belief in others, but she couldn’t bring herself to trust anyone. They were potential threats, all of them. And that wasn’t what Carol wanted.

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By season six, when Carol and Maggie are being held captive, Carol’s charade as the “nervous little bird”, as Paula from the Saviors called her, was part charade and part reluctance to be the other self she’d built up.

When Paula was the last one still alive there, she said to Carol:

“You’re good… Nervous little bird. You were her. But not now, right? … If you could do all this… What were you afraid of, Carol?”

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To which Carol answers:

“I was afraid of this.”

She’s seen the fear that she instills in others, and it scares her now too. Carol doesn’t want to be a killer, but there’s another part to what Mary of Terminus said that speaks to her situation fairly well: “You could’ve listened to what the world is telling you!”
She finally decides to leave and strike out on her own, and the reason she gives in her letter is, “I love all of you here, I do, and I’d have to kill for you. And I can’t. I won’t.”

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But then the world speaks to Carol again, to mimic Mary’s quote, and she encounters bandits who were after Alexandria. And when she realizes in a panic that they mean to kill people, she tries to follow in Morgan’s footsteps and stop them. But she doesn’t have the skills he does, and she can only follow what she usually does.

Get their guard down.

Kill them all.

Her bond with King Ezekiel and their personas for the apocalypse played a tremendous role in her recovery at the Kingdom. She had Morgan to help her connect to her brutal self (not much different from his own) and the King to help her realize that this persona had its uses— just as his did— and that it didn’t take away from her true self in any way.

Morgan’s descent into aggression is timed with her own coming to terms with the various aspects of who she is— victim, survivor, and den mother. And in season eight, I expect Carol will be able to fight with her full force but love with all her heart as well (platonically and romantically).

But I look forward to seeing the show air again and get the canon story at last!


Thank you for reading!

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