Spoilers for all of Three Houses.
Something that I have thought more and more of in recent days is Claude's role in the story of Three Houses. I've read some analyses and arguments for why he's so well-written, but I have personally yet to be convinced. To me, Claude feels like several good ideas put together that weren't fleshed out enough and left him incomplete as a character.
In the academy phase, it's made clear that Claude is secretive and a big unknown. No one knows where he came from or what he wants, but it is pointed out that it was very convenient that Duke Riegan's original successor, Claude's uncle, passed away early which paved the way for Claude to be proclaimed the Leicester Alliance heir in 1179. Byleth's first impression of Claude is that "his smile doesn't reach his eyes", and throughout the entire first phase, Claude studies mysteries in the library, listens in on meetings between Rhea, Seteth, and Byleth, and there is a never-ending reference to his schemes.
Like everyone in Three Houses, Claude has his own agenda. The problem is that that agenda does not seem to properly correlate with how they portray Claude in the first half of the game. Claude, while seemingly not nefarious, seems like someone who doesn't mind playing dirty in order to achieve this goals. However, once the war arc comes along, there seems to be a huge tone shift in regards to Claude's character that is not related to something like character growth, but more like plot threads were scrapped. Claude is still interested in having questions answered, but it's never explained how exactly that coincides with his goals.
So what are his goals? To open up Fódlan's borders. According to Claude, Fódlan is completely shut off from the rest of the world and that's just no good.
The dissonance here to me is rather striking. What does this have to do with wanting power and figuring out Church secrets?
The dissonance doesn't just come from Claude's character but also the worldbuilding up until that point. We saw plenty of different people in Garreg Mach, and while Shamir and Cyril are not trusted by everyone, they are free to live their lives however they want and they're there with the blessing of Rhea, whom Claude wants removed. Not to mention that Fódlan has seemingly been the defenders against hostile foreign powers multiple times in recent times. There was a war between Adrestia and Brigid and Dagda, but even more important than that, you yourself stop the Almyrans from invading Fódlan in Hilda's paralogue. The fact that Claude does not mention this comes across as intellectual dishonesty, and it should be the first thing people mention when he brings up his grand plan.
I should make a few things clear: I am fully aware of Claude's past and how it might make him want to open Fódlan up, and I have read analyses about Claude's distance to other people. I also believe that an outsider's perspective on what's really a war between the Empire and Faerghus *could* work, but I don't think this works. Like I mentioned at the start, these ideas feel half-baked in the scope of the main story - I mean, blink and you'll miss that Claude's father is the king of Almyra.
There is one final problem I would like to mention, and that is Almyra. For all the good stuff in the worldbuilding of Three Houses, we lack an emotional connection to Almyra, which is why Claude's goals, even if you think what I have brought up is of little consequence, ring a little hollow. We see a grand total of three Almyran characters in Three Houses, with Claude himself being the only one who actually gets any kind of screen time or development. It's hard to care about a nation when we only have Claude's words to go by, especially after Hilda's paralogue. Even if Claude desired power and to oust Rhea so that he could unite the continent by force before Edelgard beat him to the punch, there would still be a major emotional disconnect due to this fact.
What do you chaps think?