Dragon’s Dogma: Season 1’s Surprise Villain Is Its Most Heartbreaking

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Dragon's Dogma, now streaming on Netflix.

Netflix's Dragon's Dogma adapts the popular Capcom video game of the same name, bringing the story of Ethan the Arisen to life in seven episodes. This first season deals with him going from his small town of Cassardis, accompanied by a Pawn known as Hannah, to kill the dragon that murdered his family.

En route, he encounters quite a few nasty characters and sees humanity at its very worst. However, the most surprising villain turns out to be someone we thought was a true blue hero, and their dark turn comes off as truly heartbreaking as a result.

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The event in question occurs in the fifth episode, "Greed," as Ethan and Hannah are reunited with soldiers from Aernst known as Simon and Balthazar. They worked together in "Envy" to fight off goblins and a griffin but the soldiers lost the people they were transporting, Theo and Elizabeth, and have now been sent back to duty from the Capital.

They all reconnect at another dreary, abandoned town where Ethan and Hannah have to fight off skeleton warriors who are based in a mystical church. It's revealed that a Lich, a demonic skeleton priest, is controlling the beings as he wants to protect treasures hidden in the building. Anyone who encroaches on his territory will be killed so Simon asks a reluctant Ethan to help out with the supernatural terrorist in exchange for the exact location of the lair. It's a hard bargain but they form an alliance again and kill the Lich in a keen contest.

But Ethan's the one who sparks their downfall when he throws a corrupted coin for the altruistic Balthazar to catch. There's a dark influence over Ethan; he tells them that rather than return the bullion to the Capital for politicians and the elite to squander, they can keep the riches for themselves. Simon doesn't want to, citing the code, but Balthazar stabs him in the blink of an eye, seemingly entranced by greed like the Lich was before he turned into a fiend. Balthazar makes it clear he's a broke nobleman and won't be making the same mistake his ancestors did of not planning financially for the future.

As the building caves in, Ethan and Hannah are separated from the best friends, who then duke it out. It ends with Simon killing Balthazar before he dies as well. But they perish as happy men as their souls are free. Balthazar won't burn in hell, which relieves Simon, and there's even a hints at something more than friendship between the two. The way Simon asks for his friend's safety plays up the homoerotic subtext even more, and as they try to stretch their hands unsuccessfully to touch one last time, it's very tear-jerking.

While at first, it seems like killing two heroes off like this before having them break bad all of a sudden might be overkill; however, their potential isn't wasted. There's emotional heft to their story: they die as brothers in arms and prove to Ethan and Hannah how quickly humanity can turn on each other, as well as how fast they can seek redemption. It also teaches the duo about trust and to expect the unexpected, with Ethan learning about monsters under the surface -- which he's battling due to his own inner demons. And ultimately, seeing a cursed coin tear such close individuals apart reiterates that in this medieval world, it's best to not get attached to anything or anyone.

Season 1 of Dragon's Dogma, starring the voices of Greg Chun, Erica Mendez, Cristina Vee and David Lodge, is now available on Netflix.

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