Oh, Delilah – Dishonored 2’s Key Narrative Issue

Spoilers for Dishonored, Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall, Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches and Dishonored 2, Reader discretion is advised.

Delilah Copperspoon. Known to some as Delilah Kaldwin. Young apprentice to Anton Sokolov. Bearer of the Mark of the Outsider, leader of The Brigmore Witches. Older sister of Late Empress of Jessamine Kaldwin? Delilah is many things, but a good villain is not one of them. This is the main issue with Dishonored 2’s main game narrative.

Back in the DLC for Dishonored 1, we took control of the assassin Daud, at an impasse in his life. The death of Empress Kaldwin has changed him, and he needs a way out. It is then that The Outsider uttered a single name. Delilah. From here we are led on through a mystery, who or what is Delilah? The revelation that Delilah is actually a person did wonders for the narrative for the Knife of Dunwall. It is not until the end of the DLC, in which Delilah turns your right hand (wo)man against you. Here Delilah becomes a villain in the player’s eyes.

Moving onto The Brigmore Witches, Delilah functions perfectly well as an one and done villain for the DLC. She wants to possess Emily so she can take over the Empire. Daud stops her, and locks her inside of her own painting inside the void. A satisfying and poetic ending to her tale

Except Arkane decided to drag her back for Dishonored 2…

I’ll admit, her entrance was grand, even bold. There she stood in front of the empress, claiming to be the late empress’ older sister, and the rightful heir to the throne. It’s just a shame that momentum is lost almost instantly. The plot of Dishonored 2 is much like the first – Protagonist is framed/usurped, and they must prove their innocence/Take back their throne. The reason the original Dishonored did this plot better than the sequel came from the twist mid way through – The Loyalists have turned on you and you’re left for dead! Following this, you meet the assassin of the empress, Daud, you return to your old base and eventually storm the last retreat of the traitors. There’s no such twist in Dishonored 2, and as such, Delilah is the main villain throughout. It doesn’t help that the ‘Crown Killer’, the enigmatic figure that helped orchestrate the events of the game is dealt with in Mission 3 of 9, with little build up and next to no mention throughout the rest of the plot. Most of Dishonored 2 is searching for Delilah’s weakness, by eliminating her Key allies. While this was ok in the first game, as the twist was there, it doesn’t work quite as well here, when 8 of the 9 missions are dedicated to Delilah’s allies.

Throughout the game, Delilah talks to the player, via statue or ringing you into the void to lead to tragic backstory. Speaking of the backstory, it seems ham-fisted in between missions, and tries to show Delilah in a new light. Her tale is left intentionally unconfirmed, leading the player (and the characters themselves to question if it’s the truth she speaks). The issue is, that whether true or not, the story Delilah tells little to justify her actions. She’s still just an antagonistic bitch.

Returning to Dunwall, with the intention of usurping Delilah, you expect to see Delilah living it up, happy with her position. After all, she’s been seeking the throne for at least 15 years in universe time. Yet we find Dunwall in Chaos, and Delilah is instead creating a new painting, ‘The World as it Should Be’. In it Delilah would rule eternally. Hang on a minute. The entire plot relies on two facts, A) Delilah is immortal and B) She has the throne. With these two things in mind, why does she need to create the painting, where the exact same circumstances are present. It boggles the mind.

Of course, this seems to be a bit of a narrative hiccup on Arkane’s part, but it adds to how bland and uninteresting Delilah is. As an audience, we want an interesting villain, and we want them to meet a satisfying end. Of course, thereis  infinite satisfaction of using your many powers and gadgets to end Delilah, provided you find the real one. Yet the low chaos, canon choice, is to trap her in the painting… the exact same thing Daud did in Dishonored 1. The same circumstances that led to her growing in power (Explained in an oddly exposition heavy scene with The Outsider). You can see the issue here.
While I’m sure Arkane won’t use Delilah for a possible Dishonored 3 (At least, I bloody hope so), in game hints for the Billie Lurk DLC will more than likely feature a younger Delilah. I’ll have to grit my teeth and bare it, but it’s really time to ditch Delilah.

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