A Contrast to Lloyd

“The blood-smeared road might be the only way to lead us to the world we desire.”

Lloyd serves as the group’s adversary for nearly the entirety of three discs. He burns Dart and Shana’s hometown Seles to the ground to abduct Shana, instigates Serdio’s war by influencing Emperor Doel of the Imperial Sandora to commence all the violence and bloodshed, and he spies on King Albert of Basil so as to obtain the Moon Gem. Next, he gets Lenus, a fellow Wingly, to play out the intrigue in Tiberoa so as to obtain the Moon Dagger. He brings down the ancient Divine Dragon, mightiest of all Dragons, to obtain its Dragoon Spirit — not because he desires the Spirit (besides, it doesn’t acknowledge him), but because he considers it an obstacle. He fools the Sacred Sister Wink of Mille Seseau so as to gain entry to the Crystal Palace, where the queen would give him the means to lay hands on the Moon Mirror.

All along, he claims to do all of it to gain the power to create the utopia he desires, believing that he has “the calling to reform the world”. When questioned, he states that he’s acting under the orders of the reborn Emperor Diaz, who shares his vision. In fact, Diaz is the name of a man who died millennia ago: the Human leader who fell during the Dragon Campaign. So, according to this Diaz, the world is as rotten as it was during Melbu Frahma’s reign, incapable of escaping the inertia that is called peace, and slowly devolving. This is supposedly the reason the magic power of the Winglies has been deteriorating, although the danger of the world’s state affects all species. In order to regenerate the world, the last species prepared by the creator Soa has to be born: the 108th species, which is the last god and which will lead the people to utopia.

Lloyd tells the group this much when he temporarily joins them, and explains that the Black Monster has been killing the Moon Child to prevent the blessing the world is supposed to receive. This vision offered by “Emperor Diaz” fully resonates with Lloyd, and he’s intent on making that ideal reality by using “every conceivable means”, as he demonstrates time and again. Unfortunately for Lloyd, “Diaz” has been fooling him all along: He made Lloyd gather the tools to shatter that which chains the body of the God of Destruction and abduct Shana, the Moon Child, in the full knowledge that this would lead to the destruction of the world. The promised utopia is false, but by the time Lloyd realizes his mistake, it’s too late. “Diaz” easily disposes of his tool at the end of Disc 3 before revealing himself as Zieg (who is actually Melbu).

Flawed Writing

Honestly, no matter how many times I play The Legend of Dragoon or think about it, Lloyd as a character fails to impress me. The amount of appreciation for him among fans of the game strikes me as curious, as he is a character who not only seems fairly standard in old school JRPGs, but who is also underwhelming in his inconsistent and lacking narrative within the game itself. The love and praise people shower Lloyd with also show in the amount of discussions such as why he’s not a playable character and whether or not he became the holder of the Divine Dragoon Spirit. (No, he did not: The Dragoon Spirit does not acknowledge him, he explicitly said so, and the armour he wears is not Dragoon armour). It’s quite jarring to me, to say the least, considering all the other actually well-written characters in the game who have far more to show than Lloyd in pretty much every regard, in a way that keeps their characterization and messages consistent at that.

Lloyd barely receives any characterization to begin with, and it’s clear he’s intended to be a front man for the bigger threat first and foremost. “Emperor Diaz”, that is to say “Zieg”, who ultimately turns out to be Melbu Frahma, not revealing himself before the end of Disc 3 is effective storytelling because it takes that long for the player to see where the story’s getting at (especially as far as Rose’s role is concerned), and to slowly piece it all together — somewhat. Lloyd’s role is that of a puppet that never so much as considers to question its master, and in that role, he does what the job demands of him. Just look at it:

Dart: If you desire a utopia, why did you take Shana away!? What is Shana to you!?
Lloyd: All the truth will be told in Vellweb.
Disc 3: Snowfield

To paraphrase: “I have no clue what I’m doing and why I’m doing any of this, so I’m dodging the question.” All I’m saying is: You had it coming, Lloyd. So far, so good. For some reason, however, the game tries to redeem him at multiple points.

Before the confrontation at the end of Disc 3, the party faced Lloyd at the Tower of Flanvel in battle, but when Dart is about to deal the final blow, Wink (the Sacred Sister fooled by Lloyd) steps in to take the blow for him as she asks Dart to forgive Lloyd. I loathe this single scene for everything that it is, and it cheapens the otherwise great writing of female characters in the game. Lloyd made Wink believe she mattered to him somehow while pursuing his own agenda, but Wink swallows it in quite a shallow way (and there’s never a follow-up to this) to the point of giving her life for this stranger. That alone would be tolerable — but then you have to consider the genre and the long tradition of female characters sacrificing themselves for the sake of a male character’s development, all in the name of love. Wink’s feeling were never portrayed as anything other than one-sided, yet Lloyd response to this scene is to tell Dart to kill him and go to Vellweb. Dart, in one his few truly great and aware moments, punches Lloyd into the next wall.

Lloyd: Is it out of pity?
Dart: Your death won’t bring… anybody who died back! Lloyd, I’m gonna make you see it through to the end!
Dart teleports out of the room.
Lloyd: Passion… Is this the power that drives them?

So, Lloyd joins the group on their way to Capital Vellweb, shares his (false) knowledge with them, and when he finds himself betrayed by his idol, he attacks “Diaz”:

You deceived me. My utopia exists in the future of this world. What I desire is the creation of the future! Not the destruction of this world!!

And although believed to be dead after the counterattack hitting him, he flies into battle once again right before the group’s final boss fight in an attempt to steal the spotlight because he isn’t quite done yet:

I cannot die with the wrong god still around! There is no space for you in my utopia!! Melbu Frahma!! You forgot our supernatural spirit and pursued your own interests! Unforgivable!!

So he knows who he’s actually facing this time, but gets swatted like a fly once again. I don’t think it makes much sense to bring Lloyd back from narrative death seeing how this doesn’t really add to his characterization in any way (quite the opposite, if you read on below). This may just be a thinly veiled excuse for his true purpose at that stage of the game: He plays delivery boy for Rose and Dart, as he hands them the Dragon Buster and the Divine Dragoon Spirit in his last moments.

Narrative Foil

So, why am I writing all of this about a character whose writing I am evidently highly critical of? Because you need to understand Lloyd’s role and motivations in all of this in order to understand why I’m drawing comparisons between Lloyd and Rose next, as the two of them share several narrative similarities.

As with Meru, what Lloyd and Rose have in common is that they’re “remainders of the old world”, and they’re both, albeit through different sources, privy to knowledge withheld from everyone else. Like Rose, Lloyd has reasons not to look down on Winglies: Rose because she works together with Winglies, Lloyd because he’s revealed to be a Wingly himself (though neither belonging to the Forest of Winglies nor Ulara). But when the two of them are faced with Winglies who follow the old ideologies of Wingly supremacy (Rose on the way to Ancestor Blano, Lloyd when saving Wink for the second time), they both have nothing but contempt for those who cling to the former reign while dismissing the notion of a united future.

Lloyd and Rose are clearly conceptualized as antiheroes. They both act alone in their mission and commit horrendous deeds for the future they desire, all of them with the best intentions: Rose wants to prevent the destruction of the world, Lloyd wants to regenerate it and to create a utopia. They commit all the crimes in the knowledge that nobody will thank them, worse, that people can’t help but despise them for what the sacrifices — other people’s lives — they’ve been choosing to make. Dart, personal victim of both as they each have destroyed his hometowns — Neet and Seles — on top of having killed countless of people, eventually lets both of them go: Lloyd in the quoted scene above, Rose because she has become a cherished comrade whose motivations Dart understands. Usually, narratives only have one antihero, and in this case, Rose’s characterization and development surpass Lloyd’s by far, and not even just due to her being a party member.

In the following, I’d like to examine their differences. Firstly, it’s quite clear that Rose knows exactly what she’s doing, and her arc is never about questioning her mission or her ways. There’s no reason to, as she’s been part of it from the very beginning. Lloyd, in contrast, has no idea what the hell he’s doing. Worse, he never questions it despite having very good reasons to do so: Some hooded figure shows up and claims to be the long deceased Human hero, talks about some last creation of Soa that has never been born, and orders the abduction of a mythical figure along with the theft of three sacred objects in the hands of three rulers. It’s disturbing Lloyd carried out all of that, and one has to wonder whether or not there’s some plot hole in all of it: After all, Lloyd, as a Wingly, could be expected to know about the sealing of the Virage Embryo by the Winglies of old (the separation of soul and body), and perhaps even the function of the Signets as well as the Divine Moon Objects created to shatter those Signets.

Even if so much time has passed that even a Wingly doesn’t know these things anymore (we’re never told what kind of Wingly settlement, if any, Lloyd belongs to), there’s still the fact that everything Lloyd was fooled with is part of Wingly history, his heritage. Meru, the other prominent Wingly who fights for a bright future, questions so much of Wingly history and is always willing to learn more despite not harbouring any of the contempt Lloyd has for particular Winglies, and without a desire to stain the world with blood.

This is also why Rose and Lloyd’s sources of knowledge and conviction differ. Rose’s knowledge is all first-hand experience. She trusts in the things she has fought for and the vision of the future she shared with her comrades when they fought in the Dragon Campaign. Lloyd trusts the words of a shifty stranger. Rose also fights to preserve, as she has always done, while Lloyd wants to remake the world because… a stranger convinced him it’s rotten. Lloyd is aiming for a change that may very well be unnecessary and that is not carried by conviction, and it’s never even clear what the utopia he wishes for actually consists of.

If it’s to unite Humans and Winglies again, there are less extreme ways to go about that, as Meru proves throughout the story. If it’s to make “a better world” with more progress instead of the mentioned “inertia”, this need is not significantly anchored in the game: Endiness is never portrayed as having problems with progress. Sure, the magic and technology of Winglies has been lost, but if you take Savan’s words, I don’t think they are needed either. Lloyd, at one point (in a flashback), asks “Emperor Diaz” whether the deteriorating world is the cause behind the Wingly’s fading magic. I think it’s a valid question, but I heavily doubt it’s what truly concerns him. After all, as mentioned above, he looks down at Winglies who cling to their past glory, and he has sufficient strength already, which he demonstrates in the arena match at Lohan and when he brings down the Divine Dragon. He may state that he seeks “power” to achieve his utopia, but I don’t think it’s power as in strength — it’s the means, the ability, as he wishes to awaken the last god.

If it’s to make a world with better people, kinder people, I think Lloyd’s writing utterly failed at conveying that, which brings me to my second point.

“Liberation” of Winglies? Hmph! You are so old-fashioned. A world without Humans? It won’t be any different from the forest you are cooped up in. … I have made many sacrifices for my ideals. But your ideals cannot be achieved unless you annihilate everything?
Lloyd, Disc 3: Evergreen Forest

These are Lloyd’s words before he strikes down one of the radical Winglies who attacks the Sacred Sister Wink in the name of former Wingly glory. It’s true that Lloyd doesn’t condone that, it’s true that he has always admitted to how far he’s willing to go for his goal. But when he looks down at that particular Wingly’s destructive nature, Lloyd’s being a hypocrite. Because time and again, Lloyd uses more violence than necessary without any regard for those around him:

  1. Lloyd tells Dart he allowed Seles to be burnt down, Lloyd drags an entire nation into war to obtain the Moon Gem, which has demanded many victims. (The game’s first chapter is called “Serdian War” — appropriately so, as throughout Disc 1, the party witnesses the effects of war: families driven out of their homes, raided villages, fallen soldiers who can no longer return to their families, towns turning into battle sites, children separated from their parents, and so on.)
  2. Lloyd kills Lavitz and later on mocks Albert, who was closest to Lavitz.
  3. Lloyd makes use of Lenus, who was clearly infatuated with him, and throws her away.
  4. Lloyd kills one of the last Dragons for no reason other than it being in the way.
  5. Lloyd kills a Wingly he disagrees with rather than trying to find a different way.

In stark contrast, Rose has always loathed violence and killing. Rose never caused more destruction and violence than she had to, present examples of which are when she spares Kongol (when he was still fighting for the enemy) twice while having the upper hand, one of those times at the behest of the group, or when she leaves Luanna to die in a burning shed as the Black Monster because she may have not believed it necessary to pierce the child with her sword. Or even when she joins the group to help put an end to a war despite not being involved. And if you want a more direct example: The radical Wingly Lloyd disposes of has a brother, who shares the same extreme ideology. That brother attacks the group when they’re on their way to speak to Ancestor Blano in the Forest of Winglies. Rose taunts him for his outdated thinking, but doesn’t fight him. When he shoots at Dart and Dart reveals his Dragoon form, Rose leaves it at that and walks ahead.

For Rose, there was no other way to protect the world but to kill. It’s unclear how detailed Lloyd’s orders were, but Lloyd caused plenty of unnecessary deaths just because people or creatures happened to be in his way, even if they were unrelated to his plan. But despite the difference in options available to them, Rose, who had no alternatives, has full control and agency over the choices she makes and the crimes she commits, whereas Lloyd, who seems to move around with much more freedom, is a puppet through and through.

Lastly, Rose learns: Rose learns that she is no longer alone in what she must do, and she learns to trust in others and rely on others. Lloyd, like Rose, may have seen Dart’s passion and the group’s drive, but he doesn’t stop acting on his own until the very end. Before the final battle, he storms at Melbu to take down the false god, but ignores the entire group that is already present, and Dart, who stands next to him, never even gets a move in. Unlike Rose, who was initially cold and uncaring due to her experiences, Lloyd (despite what the Wink scene may have wanted you to believe) never truly learned to care for those around him. And that disregard for anyone or anything other than his own goal was his downfall.

Here’s a thought: Perhaps Lloyd was set up this way not to be a Sephiroth a tragic antihero, but primarily to serve as a foil to the character with the biggest narrative significance. If so, this contraposition lends weight to Rose’s protagonist role.