In the Dragon Age realm it is a rare occasion that you come across a character who isn’t broken in some way. All seem to have demons they must overcome. As an outside observer, we decide who’s demons are worth dealing with and who’s are worth punishing. That, in my opinion, is what makes the games so real and so enjoyable. These seem to be real people with real problems.
In Inquisition, Hawke (if she approves of Anders actions) states that Anders isn’t a monster or a hero, or maybe he’s both. It’s funny to me that he is the only character who is “branded” this way. Fenris, by most definitions, could very well be labeled a monster, and Cullen, by most definitions would be a hero. I will clarify both these statements later, but my point is Anders seems to be the one living in the “grey” area.
Let’s break down a seemingly random statement Anders makes to Hawke. She tells him she doesn’t want to see him lose himself to the templars or to Justice. His response always threw me, “How much is left after you strip both those out?”, weird right?
When Anders was young, he was stripped away from a loving home and sent to the Circle. It traumatized him so severely, he refused to even speak to anyone. This went as far as even telling people his name. He was not born Anders. They simply started calling him that because that was where he was from. The Templars gave him his name, his identity. He never accepted it and tried many times to escape and find the life and happiness he used to know.
Fast forward to the Blight. The Circle falls and guess which mage is nowhere to be found. He escapes to find the only person who has ever cared about him, a mage named Karl. His best friend and lover. However, it’s not long before he is caught. This places him in the care of The Warden.
Just as he begins to feel he’s found his place by the Warden’s side, he/she moves on. A mission of their own. While Anders stays for a while, he realizes quickly that the only person who truly cared for him is now gone and he decides to follow through with finding Karl.
He heads to Kirkwall. When he shows up he finds a Circle far worse than anything he’s seen in the past. These mages aren’t just contained, they are imprisoned. For a while he goes unnoticed in Kirkwall, until Hawke shows up. When he/she is willing to help him get to Karl, he is so relieved.
Quickly, Anders begins to see similarities to the Warden he befriended, and says as much. He’s so elated to have that back, not thinking to find it again.
Most people at this point have mercifully killed Karl to save him from Tranquility. If not, this theory doesn’t pan out, but continue reading if you wish.
Anders is obviously a pivotal player in the Mage rebellion. I believe he had a larger role than what he wanted to reveal. During Sebastian’s quest, when you encounter The Resolutionists and Leliana, Anders seems to have a sense of what is going on. He finds out an Exalted March may be coming to the Free Marches.
The events in the final Act of DA2 line up with the events of Asunder. The mages have discovered the Rite of Tranquility can be reversed.
Take all of this into account. He’s lost every person he’s cared about, minus Hawke. He wielded the blade that killed his lover, not knowing he could be saved. I think this was the final straw for him. At this point, he’d seen nothing good from any Templar, ever.
He knew the only way to see change was to force it, and he wasn’t the only one.
ALL Circles fell! He just set it in motion. If he was a monster, then the same can be said for all of the mages that set off in rebellion. But don’t you think he spread word of what he knew BEFORE he took action against the Chantry?
In fact, many times he says he will speak to the Grand Cleric, who throughout the entirety of the game refuses to take sides. She knows Meredith is wrong but won’t go against her. She was the only person in the city who could have taken her out of power… she refused.
Is it truly surprising that in the end he took the decision away from her?
Anyway, that’s my two cents…