The premier episode of Netflix’s animated fantasy series Dragon Age: Absolution, “A Woman Unseen” is a warm hug from an old friend for entrenched Dragon Age fans, and a diverting delight for anyone who enjoys a well-trodden but not trite ensemble heist.
1. To Serve Fan
To it’s enormous credit, this show moves. As this is just the latest addition to a franchise that already includes three video games, five novels, and eleven comic series, the world of Thedas is detailed enough to justify reams of exposition, but it is smartly doled out in small doses through the characters who are grounded in this lived-in world. There are plentiful references and deep cuts for well-versed Dragon Age devotees to savor, but the characters and the story stand well enough on their own that they don’t require homework to enjoy.
2. A Compellingly Sweet and Complicated Romance
Kimberly Brooks expertly leads as the justifiably volatile Miriam, who is called upon by her caring yet demanding ex-girlfriend Hira (Sumalee Montano) to participate in a heist at the scene of a mysterious past trauma. With impressive economy, we understand this relationship to be deeply loving despite how fraught it is, epic in a way that is grounded in the larger-than-life nature of real-life romance. Just enough details are revealed and held back to leave the audience curious to learn more.
3. A Ragtag Crew of Misfits and Ne’er-Do-Wells
The rest of the main ensemble consists of Miriam’s suave partner-in-crime Roland (Phil LaMarr), Hira’s boisterous partner-in-crime Fairbanks (Matthew Mercer), a mage with a bubbly personality Qwydion (Ashly Burch), and a warrior whose gruff exterior must surely be compensating for fuzzy insides Lacklon (Keston John). The characters aren’t exactly original, but they’re not boring either. Incorporating specific layers into what might otherwise be boring tropes, the whole cast works believably well, individually and collectively. Their uplifting energy is a huge part of what makes this show fun to watch.
The aforementioned group of adorkable friendos get into a number of lightning fast brawls, dodging at impossible speeds, and flying weightlessly through the air. Each character’s fighting style is connected to their personality, integrating story and character development into each action sequence. Mostly, the speed is fun, contributing to the frenetic energy delivered in the voice performances, though there are times when it goes too fast, leaving the audience wondering if there are frames missing, and unsure of exactly what just happened and why.
The story moves as fast as the action does. Obstacles are overcome quickly, and immediately we cut to the next obstacle. And like the action, the story’s speed has it’s pros and cons. Overall, the speed is to the show’s credit, creating enough space for a lot of story in twenty-five minutes, but one could be forgiven for finding it dizzying. Especially for viewers new to the Dragon Age world, and even for those who aren’t, following the plot and remembering who’s who may be daunting, but those who succeed are in for a treat.
Every entry into the Dragon Age franchise is consistent with it’s unique sensibility, digging into the horrors of oppression with righteousness, humor, and hope that comes from a found family and queer romance, a ray of sunshine in an icy world. Fast-paced action-packed fun with endearing characters makes Dragon Age Absolution‘s “A Woman Unseen” a charming addition to the ouvre.