Confession: I always cry like a baby when Leandra dies. Sure, she’s harsh on you when your sibling dies, and she’s so critical of Hawke, but I still feel like it’s my own mother I’m losing.
Which is a pretty good reason to feel conflicted about her death. Not all people will feel it. But those that do are not wrong.
She is hypercritical of Hawke’s behavior. Some say that it springs from a place of love, that Leandra is so impressed with Hawke’s abilities that she has set the bar incredibly high, but the end result is that a lot of the time, that bar is insurmountable, and inevitable failure makes Hawke doubt his or her competence and worth. She makes Hawke feel like a dunce even when he or she is doing better than anybody else could do. It’s true that Hawke voluntarily accepts the burden and is responsible for his or her own misery over it, but when the person setting the examination is someone Hawke respects, it’s an understandable trap to fall into. That’s the problem with offering criticism when someone fails and acting like it’s nothing special when they succeed. I don’t have to imagine what a lifetime of that feels like. I don’t blame Hawke one bit for being resentful over it.
And then there’s the accusation when the sibling dies. It was blurted in fear and grief, but it was reinforced in the Gallows weeks later, after a long sea voyage where Leandra had plenty of time to think. The problem with that is that Hawke is grieving, too, and Leandra’s accusation has turned that pain to poison. TMI warning! When my dad died, my mother pulled a Faramir (“You wish now that our places had been exchanged? That I had died and Boromir had lived?”) I hadn’t thought anything of the sort until that moment, but once the words were said, I did. I couldn’t even grieve for my father without thinking how rotten a person I was. Blurted in a moment of grief and pain? Of course! But impossible to forget.
Some people take more than a few days to grieve.
Some people take weeks or months or years to get over a death.
She’s supposed to be totally okay that her child just died and functionally completely normally because it’s been a few days or weeks? It doesn’t excuse unnecessary criticism or unfair harshness and of course it’s reasonable to be conflicted over her death, but it’s still a point to be made. LOSING A CHILD is not the same as losing a sibling. They both hurt. But they’re different.
It may be harsh but it doesn’t make her a bad person. Hawke is totally able to say some pretty harsh shit throughout the game, too. Including to Leandra.
Nevermind that Hawke & Sibling actually get out of the house and get to go around and do things and make friends and vent their frustrations while Leandra’s stuck sitting in the slums all day. Even when she wants to try and help or do something there’s not much she can do except sit there and dwell. Make friends? With who? Get a job? Most of it is manual labor and they’re not even hiring people who are suitable for those jobs, because there are too many refugees. She works on petitioning for an audience to reclaim her home. Not much else she can do. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was incredibly depressed.
We also don’t get a whole lot of ‘in-between’ interaction between the two to see what their relationship is like outside of those few moments, so you can pretty much imagine it any way you want. She can be a total monster, or she can be a loving mom.
Everyone is going to feel very differently about this depending on their relationship with their own parents and their own coping ability, IMHO. I’m willing to bet most people never think about what it’s like to be her, though.
It isn’t the lashing out part that’s unforgivable. It’s the emotional blackmail. Leandra is using Hawke’s own grief and guilt as a weapon.