If you played Dragon Age 2 a while ago (or not at all), you might assume that Samson is a new character. Not so: in fact, Samson actually has a surprising amount of screen time in Dragon Age 2. It’s not a lot, but if you’ve forgotten who he was, it’s definitely something that will surprise you on a second playthrough.
The Story of Samson
In Dragon Age 2, we meet a bleary-eyed Samson during the quest “Wayward Son.” Hawke is recruited to search for Feynriel, who we would later discover is a dangerous somnari, which is dealt with ominously and then oddly doesn’t come back to haunt us at all. In looking for the boy, we discover that a former Templar named Samson is aiding the mages. Samson tells Hawke that he directed the boy to a ship captain, who may or may not still be in possession of him. And that’s the end of Samson’s role in that.
But more interesting is why Samson is a “former” Templar. He’s obviously in the throes of lyrium withdrawal when we meet him, and we discover that he was kicked out of the Templars simply for delivering messages between a mage and his girlfriend. The mage, Maddox, was made tranquil, and Samson was kicked out. A small act of charity that had incredible (and dangerous) repercussions.
A few years later, we find that Samson has joined a conspiracy in an attempt to oust Meredith from power. Though the rest of the conspirators may become hostile, Samson runs away and retrieves our dear Templar friend, Cullen. Hawke can ask Cullen to have Samson brought back into the Templars. If so, Samson will fight alongside both Cullen and Hawke against Meredith in the end.
So now we have a picture of a generally good person who, despite his addiction, is trying to do his best; he was kicked out of the Templar group for an innocent favor and appears to sympathize strongly with the mages. Understanding this part about his character makes him a far more compelling villain in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Or — is he, really, a villain?
If Samson is taken alive rather than killed in Dragon Age: Inquisition, he will try to explain himself. He will state that the Templars have been used and that he wanted them to go out in a blaze of glory. Though this is, well, insane, some of that could be the candy coating of red lyrium.
Samson and Maddox
In Dragon Age: Inquisition, we learn that Samson has taken in Maddox, who was made tranquil. Is it an effort to keep him safe, or purely selfish — a way to construct his armor? It may be both. But we do know that he is upset when he learns of Maddox’ death and that he took a tremendous amount of risk to deliver letters. Though he could not have known how far gone Meredith was at that point, he (and Maddox) knew that it was forbidden for mages to fall in love.
Samson and Cullen
Throughout the game, it’s made apparent that Cullen has a significant amount of sympathy and respect for Samson. But more than that, Samson provides a parallel to Cullen. Samson is someone who is a good person but has been entirely absorbed by his lyrium addiction (by the end, almost literally). Where Cullen has the strength (and the support) to pull away from his addiction, Samson gives in.
Consider the fact that Samson and Cullen will ally against Meredith with Hawke. Both of them are sympathizers to mages at that point and both of them are going against the Templars. For Cullen, he is able to leave the Templar order and join the Inquisition, quitting his lyrium addiction in the process. For Samson, however, it’s a slow spiral downward into madness; he cannot get rid of the lyrium, and it slowly preys on his mind.
A Fall Without Redemption
In many ways, Samson’s tale is a story of redemption that ends just before redemption occurs. It has everything: a good man fighting against impossible odds, making mistakes, becoming compromised, losing everything… and that is where we leave him. Because, somewhat like Anders, Samson’s choices were made for him by his own sickness. Samson chose, presumably, to become a Templar. He then chose to break the order’s rules. This is what caused his lyrium sickness — and ultimately, that lyrium sickness is what drove him mad.
And it seems as though cosmic forces would always conspire to remove Samson from the Templars. Even if he rejoined at Hawke’s urging in DA2, he would still have to leave and stand with Cullen at the end. The road to hell is paved with pure intentions. Both decisions that set Samson on his course are decisions made out of good will: helping a friend and protecting the mages.
Though most people see Calpernia as the sympathetic villain, Samson is probably equally or even more sympathetic; Samson, at least, is killing people because he’s gone crazed with red lyrium, whereas Calpernia is killing people for some nebulous concept of Tevinter glory.