leasspell_dael: FF13's Serah Farron standing in profile (ff13 - serah - solitary)
[personal profile] leasspell_dael
I find Serah and Snow's relationship to be fascinating, and have very strong opinions about it. These opinions were formed abstractly during FF13, but with the additional perspective of FF13-2, they've solidified. (FF13-2 information will be behind a Cut.)

In my review of FFXIII, I mentioned how I wish we had learned more about Serah throughout the course of the story, especially her relationship with Snow. I wanted to know how long they had been together, how long they had known each other, how they met, that kind of thing. The only hint we have is that in the "Thirteen Days" section of the Datalog, we learn Snow has only just met Lightning. This suggests a fairly new relationship.

Everything goes topsy-turvy at this point, when Serah gets branded as a Pulse l'Cie and attempts to break-up with Snow for his own protection. Snow, madly in love, refuses to let her face her fate on her own. He defies everything that has been indoctrinated into him since birth and stays with her, promising to help her fulfill her Focus, saving her from becoming a Cie'th. Both Serah's actions and Snow's show how much they care for each other.

During the Fireworks Festival, Snow asks Serah to marry him. This is an absolutely heart-warming gesture, and give Serah a desperately needed morale boost in her darkest hour.

But it's an empty gesture. Snow has absolutely no reason to believe that Serah will actually survive long enough for them to have a future together. Symbolically what he did was powerful, but there was no reason to believe he'd ever need to follow-through. Even if Serah completes her Focus, she'll gain "eternal life" by turning into crystal.

Does this mean he didn't mean the proposal? Absolutely not. But their relationship is new and untested; they're still in the honeymoon phase. They're madly in love with each other, and want to spend the rest of their lives together, but in the long run, they may just not be compatible.

Of course, the impossible happens, and Serah is released from crystal stasis at the end of the game. Lightning blesses their engagement, and we're left with the final scene of Snow already planning their wedding. They're actually going to have the chance to make that empty promise to each other reality. This is where we are left at the end of the game. At this point, while I had vague misgivings, given that the story was over, I figured that they'd last the test of time (although it would be interesting to read well-developed 'fic where they didn't).

Of course, Square-Enix decided that the story wasn't over. And with Serah as the main character of the sequel, I looked forward to seeing how her relationship with Snow played out.

SPOILERS FOR XIII-2 START HERE!!!
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Except Snow's missing. And they haven't gotten married. Because time was re-written, and Lightning wasn't there to give the marriage her blessing, and everyone is walking on eggshells around Serah because she insists that Lightning had been there.

Snow, once more putting his faith in Serah, takes off shortly after they settle in New Bodhum with a promise to find Lightning.

I'm going to digress for a moment here, and talk about ambiguous timelines and belief.

First of all, the timeline for Snow leaving: I'm pretty sure Serah outright states that he's been gone for three years, but most people seem to be reacting as if he left more recently than that. NPCs comment on how he and Serah had just moved in together so it must be tough on her. He's stated to be pretty instrumental in the founding and establishment of New Bodhum. Perhaps most importantly, there's still a leadership void.

I like to think that Snow left at the later time, maybe only a year pre-game, because it makes him less of an asshole. Because if he left three years ago, and hasn't stopped back even once? No matter how head-strong and oblivious that boy can be, that's just unacceptable and irresponsible. More on his mission(s) from Lightning in a minute.

As for belief, the game is very two-faced about people believing Serah about Lightning. Absolutely nobody believes her. Except then everybody always believed her. Here's my take on it.

At first, nobody believed her. Why should they? They're going to believe their own senses and the evidence. Serah just came out of an extended crystal stasis, the entire premise of which is to provide happy dreams. It's only natural for her to be confused. Fang had memory issues when she came out of stasis too.

I think Sazh would have begun to believe when he gets tossed into a gate himself. As for Hope, we know that the Academy was studying the Paradox effect as early as 5 AF, maybe earlier. That, combined with everyone else disappearing, probably would have led to him believing Serah's story out of desperation if nothing else. In 1X Yaschas Massif we're shown that he still hasn't completely recovered from the loss of his mother, still holds hope for saving her, why would Lightning, his pseudo-mother, be any different? As for NORA, I think that after Noel's arrival, and seeing the Paradox Effect in New Bodhum, they come to have more faith in Serah's version of what happened.

Snow, by his own admission in the first Graviton Core fragment, doesn't really believe her when he sets out. He's believing in her, because he loves her, and thinks that's what he should do. He's doing exactly the same thing as when he proposed: ignoring the elephant in the room and planning for the impossible.

(If you want to be uncharitable, you can accuse him of using the search as an excuse to get out of the marriage. As much as Snow irritated me by times in the first game, I can't really see that being his reasoning. There's no doubt in my mind that he loves Serah, and I don't think he has enough perspective to think he's rushed into things with the proposal.)

Except at some point in his search, Lightning sends him a dream, and gets him traveling through time. At this point, he realizes that Serah was right all along, and his pseudo-belief becomes real belief.

My big question at this point is: Why didn't he go home to let Serah know? Both about his progress in finding Lightning and about what he was going to be doing? It's possible he just got tossed into a Gate, and was unable to find his way home, and if it happened relatively early in his search it makes sense out of his radio-silence. There's not enough evidence either way. Although the Paradox Ending "The Future is Hope" seems to imply he can get where he wants fairly easily, the Paradox Endings tend to exaggerate and/or simplify things to get their points across.

Okay! Getting back on topic! We've established that Snow took off in a show of heroism for Serah, may not have been responsible for his lack of communication, and comes to believe in her fully after he gathers enough evidence (but was willing to act as if he believed even before that in support).

So Snow's traveling through time, sorting out paradoxes, is about to be cut down by a giant garden-weed, when suddenly his lady-love swoops in to save the day!

This is where I start to have concrete problems.

Not with how he reacts to Noel; I liked how they portrayed the friction between those two. It wasn't about jealously, it was about keeping Serah safe: for both of them. Noel dislikes Snow's recklessness because if Snow gets himself killed, it would break Serah's heart. Snow isn't fond of Noel because the man is taking Serah into dangerous situations where she could get hurt, and he doesn't trust Noel to be strong enough to protect her yet.

No, my problem with this situation is how Snow reacts to Serah. They both show worry about one another. That's great. But when Serah starts to express her happiness, introducing Snow to Noel, and telling her new friend about how the two of them are getting married...

...Snow cuts her down. He coldly states that the wedding's on hold. He's not sheepish, not longing, not explaining the situation. He's flat. And he changes the subject before charging off.

Serah's monologue to Lightning at this point is very hurt. She talks about finding Snow, trying to inject enthusiam into her voice, before she gives up, saying resignedly how he hasn't changed a bit, then "Stupid me" in a quiet voice.

This is not a ringing endorsement of their relationship. This is where those vague feelings I had became full-fledged concerns.

My interpretation is that when they got together on Cocoon, when life was still safe and happy, they were both pleased with the fantasy of the hero and his princess. Serah certainly seems to feed his hero-complex, even moments before she turns to crystal.

Then the l'Cie crisis happened, and the fantasy became reality. Their roles gave them comfort in the face of the inevitable.

When everything was over, though, I think Serah starts to out-grow the fantasy. A hero couldn't change the fact that her sister was missing as if she'd never been there in the first place. When Noel came along and forced her to learn how to save herself, she no longer needed to be constrained to the role of the princess.

What she needed, was a rock; someone who could steady her when she faltered, who would be by her side no matter what in the face of all that she had lost. Snow tried to help her by sticking to their old paradigm, and she didn't stop him because she didn't realize their old stand-by wasn't what she needed anymore. But all that time Snow was gone, Serah has been slowly realizing what she did want: above all else, her family by her side.

Snow doesn't give her that. Snow has made some pretty impulsive decisions while he's been traveling, most significantly, he's become a l'Cie again by his own request.

I'm positive this is why he's so cold to Serah. He knows that in terms of their relationship, this was a bad thing to do. They have no idea why they were released from crystal stasis and had their brands removed in the first place. Even if he manages to complete his Focus, there's no guarantee he'll be released from his crystal statue this time, at least not without a new Focus. And of course, should he fail, he'll be joining the legion of Cie'th littering the country-side.

He weighed his own happiness against the future of humanity, and made the choice only a hero could.

I just don't think he'd let himself think up to this point what it would do to Serah when she found out. He's ashamed, and cuts her out to hide it. He's also not used to thinking of Serah as an active agent, someone he can confide in and receive help from. He's here hero, but not vice-versa.

Naturally, when Serah finds out, it's at the worst possible moment: when Snow is fading from the timeline (which really didn't make sense) after the paradox is resolved, and Serah is already torn up about losing him. There's no time to get any answers from him before he disappears.

Here's a moment I liked. Serah has been pretty unhappy about a lot of things concerning Snow during this sequence. She's just lost him to a freak occurrence in the timestream and found out part of a horrible secret he's been keeping from her. She doesn't have a complete breakdown. She doesn't swear off him.

She makes a stand. She sees something he's in trouble over, and determines that she's going to help him like he helped her. Their relationship has troubles, but that doesn't mean it's not worth working to save. This is a very healthy attitude for her to have.

Unfortunately, this is where their interactions in the main game end. She never sees him again.

As for the Paradox Endings, he makes a big appearance in "The Future is Hope". The paradox endings are by their very nature non-canonical, but they do contain some interesting additives, so I'm going to go over it.

Snow comes in and saves the day from Alyssa's treachery. For the record, I loved that that was finally dealt with. Her erasure from the timeline and Yeul's optional comments just weren't enough for me. I only wish Hope had reacted to it more.

But Hope had other concerns. Mainly preventing Snow from kidnapping Serah and taking off without any explanation.

I'm not being sarcastic about that use of "kidnap" either. He grabs her wrist and orders her to go with him without a word of hello. Even in their fantasy lives on Cocoon, I'd like to think Serah wouldn't have put up with that kind of behaviour. It's also quite the change from his avoidance in the Sunleth Waterscape.

The question is: does he remember that? Was Sunleth!Snow just deposited in another section of the timeline? Or was he erased? They don't address that. Or his brand.

Hope does convince him to offer some explanations. When he's done, he offers Serah his hand this time and requests that she join him. Which she accepts, because she loves him and has been searching for him.

I was disappointed that her monologue seems to have set her back to Princess!Serah mode, but am treating it, like Snow's actions, as caricatures meant to convey feelings and information in a brief scene. Snow's original abruptness is meant to convey urgency and impulsiveness. Serah's hero-talk is meant to show how much she cares for him and demonstrate their shared past. Noel's absolute silence on being abandoned and Hope's incompetence in not asking for details on his own assassination are because the focus on that point of the scene is the happy reunion of Snow and Serah.

The only other thing about this ending that sheds any potential light on their relationship is Serah's anxiety over riding Shiva, and Snow's cavalier dismissal of that anxiety. Again, probably caricatures to show how different their personalities are.

Ultimately, thinking over all of these things, there's still no definite answer about whether or not their relationship would work in the long-term in canon (assuming Serah comes back). My personal opinion is that while the engagement was great as a morale boost back in XIII, as a real progression of their relationship it was hasty. I think that if Snow had stayed behind in New Bodhum, they could have made a real go of it. I think that as XIII-2 is presented, Serah has outgrown their relationship and Snow has made (hard) choices that have lowered the priority of his commitment to their relationship. I think that they wouldn't last as a couple in the long-term (although I would love to see them remain friends). I'm not saying they shouldn't be together, I'm not saying their relationship cannot work. All I'm saying is that in my head-canon, they eventually break things off farther down the line.

Wait a second, I bet you're just saying this to justify a non-canon pairing! You're a Serah/Noel shipper, aren't you?

For full disclosure, I do have another pairing involving Serah that I ship like a burning-woah, but it is not Serah/Noel. I enjoy reading Serah/Noel for the most part, but have problems with the rampant infidelity that are in most 'fics I've tried. However much I think Serah and Snow don't belong together, I can't see either of them ever cheating (aliens made them do it, sex pollen, drunk mistakes, etc., being the exception there, but would still have to be convincing).

Nope, my Supar-Sekrit-OTP is Serah/Hope. At first it was just that the cute hand-holding scene in 10 Yaschas Massif made me wonder "what if?". Then came the interactions in Sunleth between Serah and Snow that essentially took away my alternate pairing inhibition. Seeing Serah's reaction to Hope's murder in Augusta 200 was heart-breaking, and the whole "scream at Hope" boss-finisher is one of my favourite scenes in the entire game.

But what really clinched it for me? When Hope quotes her in 4XX Academia over the Proto-Fal'Cie Project's cancellation. His tone is so fond, and he obviously places as much importance on her as she does on him. They work well together. This made me look back at the scene where Hope is the one to hand Serah Lightning's knife and, essentially, destroy her joy, which gives a little bit of complexity to their interactions. Just a shade of guilt on his part, perhaps.

And hey! No infidelity in any of the Serah/Hope fics I've read so far...

...because they don't exist. *sob* *sob* *blatant request for recs if you know where any are*

As for Snow, I've always felt he had chemistry with both Fang and Lightning (at least later in the game), but could never really picture either couple because of Serah. Future!Hope could be an interesting pairing for Snow too, especially given their past, although it would need more work for me to believe it than with Serah/Hope.

(You may note that I don't really believe in OTP: I have favourite combinations, but believe almost anything can be good reading if it's written well.)

I'm going to segue into a brief talk of fanworks before ending this wall of text. I'm mostly sad because I appear to be in a minority for wanting to see Serah/Hope, and cannot find it anywhere. I've been reading Serah/Noel and Noel/Hope, but due to the game's relative newness, there's still not a lot out there. (For the record, I tend to prefer plot with pairings attached instead of PWP...)

I would also love to have an icon of Serah taking Lightning's knife from Hope. I haven't been able to find one thus far, but if anyone can point me in the right direction, I'd be eternally grateful! :D

So that's my two... er two billion cents on the matter. If you have questions, comments, suggestions, disagreement, or anything really, feel free to drop me a line! I love discussion! (and recs :D)
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