There is a major Fridge Brilliance moment regarding Ander's final personal quest. When he asks you to collect the ingredients he needs for his potion, investigate further about said ingredients. If you pay attention to what he says when he describes what the ingredients are like, where he can find the ingredients, and you have some passing knowledge of chemistry as well as geology, you may realize what exactly he had you collect when you see him destroy the Kirkwall Chantry with a massive magical explosion. The ingredients are potassium nitrate and sulfur; both chemicals are basic components used to make explosives, like black powder. BOOM. It helps that the Tevinter name for one of the ingredients is "sela petrae", almost identical to the Latin sal petrae, or Saltpetre, the common word for potassium nitrate.
The second time you see Flemeth she tell Hawke that "it's only when we fall we learn if we can fly" and tells Hawke however he/she "could never be a dragon" like her. Hawke is a hawk! She/he does start to fall as he/she loses what is left of their family and faces the devastating Qun and civil war, but in the end wins...or at least lives and runs away with his/her true love.
The repetitive nature of some of the dungeons is initially annoying, until one remembers the entire game is essentially being retold by a storyteller who can't help but embellish a few things or cut corners in exposition. The reused dungeon interiors are essentially Varric saying "We went to a cave/warehouse/hovel and kicked some asses." and leaving it at that. He doesn't bother explaining what it looks like, leaving Cassandra to fill in a generic location. A generic, reused dungeon interior is now a part of the story that reinforces the narrative being told by Varric!
The lack of armor among the qunari makes a lot more sense when one realizes they're survivors from a shipwreck, and thus would have had to discard most of their armor while swimming ashore. Furthermore, very few people in Kirkwall would likely be willing to sell the qunari troops armor to replace what was lost. Further, vendors in Kirkwall may have equipment properly sized for humans, elves, and dwarves, but it's unlikely they predicted having much in the way of a qunari customer base. As a result, anything they COULD sell wouldn't fit the giants.
Once you've beaten the game, Varric's statement at the beginning is oh, so ironic. Similarly Varric's narration is full of foreshadowing that becomes Fridge Brilliance on the second playthrough. At one point when talking about Hawke's companions, Cassandra mentions a blood mage (Merril,) a pirate (Isabella) and finally "the warden Anders," to which Varric responds in a very bitter voice "don't remind me, I introduced them." The Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realise that Anders is the only one that Varric introduced to Hawke. Marethari asked Hawke to look after Merrill and Hawke met Isabella in a tavern by chance. Varric basically tells us that Anders does something to betray Hawke and the rest of the group, but he says it in such a way that it is very easy to miss without knowing what happens at the end of the game.
The characters you bring to the Fade with you during the "Night terrors" quest are very telling of their character flaw's: Isabela succumbs to a desire demon, indicating her general greed. Merill sides with a pride demon showing just how much she is unwilling to admit she is wrong about her use of blood magic.
Regarding the quest "Prime Suspect"/"All That Remains" and the major spoilers inside: There are a few tips-offs to Gascard's involvement with the serial killer: When confronting him, he will claim that Quentin uses young, beautiful, but low in status women as prey. Normal stuff for a serial killer, right? Yet, the woman he claims is going to be the next victim is none of these things—she is an older noblewoman, and not particularly good looking. The other known victim, Ninette, was also an older noblewoman. And, of course—so is your mother. Furthermore, the flowers the serial killer sends his victims, including your mother, are Calla lilies—which are traditionally associated with funerals.
Leliana shows up alive again in Dragon Age II even if your DA1 import save has you killing her at the end of the Sacred Ashes quest. Now, that could be a bug... or it could be that when the Warden defeated her, he made the mistake of leaving her for dead less than twenty feet away from that world's equivalent of the Holy Grail, the one that can heal anything. Admittedly, the part where he'd have just tainted it would be an obstacle, but hey, Andraste moves in mysterious ways! Or, you'd just poured out a pinch of untainted ashes for yourself before tainting them, perhaps you spilled some on the floor.
Fun fact: WordofGod says Anders is just a nickname because he was at least born in the Anderfels. It makes sense that when fleeing from the templars he would go by a pseudonym.
As discussed above, there's a problem with certain characters (Leliana, Zevran) who can be killed in DA1 and yet can still return in Dragon Age II. But they're both rogues, and in DA1, rogues have access to a 'Feign Death' ability on their talent trees.
During Zevran's cameo mission, after you've killed the bad guy at the end, he stops to let you loot everything in the camp, even lampshading the fact. Since none of the other NPCs bother to let you pick up your loot before starting the ending cutscenes, it seems odd that Zevran would. But Zevran had been adventuring with the Warden all through DAO. He, of all people, would understand the importance of looting immediately after the fight.
As mentioned on the character pages, there's some debate over whether or not Anders, Fenris, and Merrill's sexuality changes depending on the gender of the player character, as none of them express interest in people of the same sex if involved in a straight romance with Hawke. Merrill, however, will express interest in men if romanced by a woman, confirming that she's bi. There's actually a pretty good reason why she might not publicly express interest in women; elves are something of a dying people, with a declining population. Producing children's a big deal for them, especially the dalish. So while there's no explicit prejudice against homosexuality by elves in game, it certainly makes sense for them to have cultural hangups about it. Merrill might feel selfconscious over these feelings, only coming to grips with them due to her love for Hawke.
One of the complaints thrown around is that the player is railroaded into the end, and you can only choose between Mages and Templars. It's also on purpose. As each Act goes on, the level-headed people who want to prevent an open conflict, or even find a better solution are killed in various ways, until finally there is no choice but to have a war. If you favor one side or the other from the beginning it's not that big of a deal, but if you play a Hawke trying to avoid the inevitable fate, the feelings of the player will match the feelings Hawke has he loses every option to avert a very bloody conflict. The fact that the player has so little choice in the end drives home the game's position as a Deconstruction of fantasy. You are not an almighty God-hero of legend. In the Frame Story, Varric repeatedly surprises Cassandra by telling her the truth of the "Champion of Kirkwall" - his/her involvement in pretty much all of Acts I and II are circumstantial, and Hawke was only pivotal because s/he happened to be in the right/wrong place at the right/wrong time. Cassandra also calls Varric out when his story becomes too unbelievable. Act III's contribution to this Deconstructor Fleet? You don't get a third option. Other characters are in this world. Other characters have more power in this world. The world isn't shaped by your decisions, but a combination of your's and others'.
Pol running away from Merrill like she was a monster; Pol's an escaped city elf, and apparently holds onto his Andrastian beliefs. Blood magic is a huge deal for him; it makes sense it would terrify him more than the other Dalish.
Right before Anders blows up the Chantry he has a good, long rant at Meredith and Orsino. He winds up going full Justice/Vengeance mode at them, complete with the glowing lines and booming, echoing voice, signs that both Meredith and Orsino should recognize as making him an Abomination, something they both should attack on sight. It's a sign of how far gone everyone involved is that this doesn't get any reaction from either of them.
Varric knows a lot about the details of Hawke's personal and love life. We know Hawke keeps a diary to which Varric keeps adding "embellishments". If he can add those, he can read the rest. Even if what he reads is just "Tried to give Fenris the Book of Shartan today. Turns out he can't read. Figures. Will have to remedy", that's enough to extrapolate the exact phrasing and details based on what he knows of them from his own experience. His friendship/rivalry rewards support this: Either he's an "authorized biographer" and Hawke actually voluntarily lets him in on those details, or he's an "unauthorized biographer", will "tell your story someday, whether you like it or not", and keeps getting into your journal just to annoy you.
A lot of fans were really annoyed with Anders' characterization in II. It's not just that he's combined with Justice, it's that he's not recognizably Anders at all. But of course he isn't. Because he's not. Over the course of two games we have it hammered home to us that being an abomination means losing yourself to the demon that has possessed you. Anders became an abomination the moment he accidentally corrupted Justice. In a way, it's actually a testament to how good both Anders and Justice were before hand, that it took them so long to do what all abominations inevitably do, and start slaughtering innocent people.
The moving statues during the last bossfight seem odd at first. Why would there be statues with joints fully capable of such full range movement? But this was a Tevinter prison; the magisters probably had a spell, combined with red lyrium, to animate those statues themselves.
Anders little rant on Karl and the fact that it only happens if you flirt with him as a male Hawke as raised many eyebrows, especially with his skirt chasing antics—right up until you realize that Thedas isn't that much better than the real world when it comes to sexual politics. The whole rant is full of frustration at the system, but when it comes down to it, Anders settles for an awkward "like you" instead of stating that they had the same gender, and finishes off by seeking acceptance from Hawke. The only reason that he tells Hawke is because he thinks that he has found someone who can understand him, otherwise he'll be too ashamed to talk about his relationship with anyone, even those who have been his closest and supported him for years, as happens in the real world.
There are a lot of Blood Mages in Kirkwall despite all the "not all mages are Blood Mages" arguments that get thrown around. But according to Leliana, mages from the Tevinter Emperium a.k.a. Blood Mage Central were sent to increase tension between the mages and templars.
In Act III, visiting Anders will trigger a cut-scene where he's offering his favorite pillow to Varric because of an offhanded remark that he's had his eyes on it. It's a seemingly non-important gesture, but from a psychological viewpoint, the fact that a person is suddenly parting from and donating his personal items is a strong warning signal that he is suicidal, and is, in layman's terms, 'splitting his inheritance'. Either Anders is absolutely sure that he will not survive the aftermath of Chantry's destruction, or he isn't even planning to survive it, aiming to make himself a martyr.
Anders approving of Hawke selling Fenris back to his master seems hypocritical; seeking to free the mages from the chantry yet condemning someone else to slavery just because they don't share his viewpoint/he doesn't like them. But it goes deeper than that; he is willing to get rid of anyone who stands in the way of his goal. Since Fenris is a "mages should be locked up" person, technically that includes him as well. Anders isn't being a hypocrite; he's happy because that's one less person to stand against him.
The Circle Tower in Origins was annoying mostly because you couldn't leave once you entered. But what if you could? There would be nothing stopping you from finding Flemeth's grimoire, taking Morrigan's personal quest, and killing Flemeth before the destruction of Lothering, making Dragon Age II a rather short game.
Marethari was after Merrill to stop using blood magic, but in the end, HER pride was the bigger danger to her clan. Not only for taking the demon on, but for also keeping the clan there for so long (Merrill specifically says that the clan should have moved on by the third act), for not stopping the out-of-control rumors of Merrill (which led to Pol running from her and into the lair of the varterral), and for not telling the clan that she was engaging in a ritual that would lead to her death, which could have the result of the entire clan turning against Hawke and Merrill and being slaughtered. All because she had to prove a point to Merrill about the dangers of blood magic. She says that Merrill always knew that there was a price to her blood magic and that she chose to pay it for her. The thing is, Merrill knew of the price as well and was taking precautions by bringing Hawke and company along with her. Merrill was willing to pay the price for helping her people. Marethari was willing to pay the price to protect her protege—and her way left the clan out to dry.
Merill speaks with a Welsh accent, while the rest of the Dalish have Irish accents. This seems like an inconsistency until you remember that Merill would have lived with a different clan during her early years, before her magic manifested.
The Circle of Magi has always seems to be poorly designed. It preaches that mages are dangerous and should be monitored for everybody's sake. Reasonable enough, but it also offers no incentive for mage loyalty beyond survival, stifles most research into understanding magical phenomena aside from the most basic works, applies blanket punishments for the mages, and offers next to no public education about the functions of magic. All while alienating the mages from anybody who isn't a fellow mage (the only non-mages close by being deeply indoctrinated that magic is itself evil and that mages aren't to be thought of as other people). Then we ended up with Fenris as a party member, heard his utterly unbending hatred of all magic and it all made sense. The Chantry was founded by former slaves of the Tevinter Imperium, of course the method they came up with to control future mages would be poorly designed. It was though up by bitter ex-slaves and barbarians driven by fear and hatred. It's just that over the centuries, this fear-driven method has become unquestioned dogma. The fact that actual dangers exist ensure that nobody ever considers designing a different method.
When there was the talk about the lack of a Human Commoner Origin tale, many were disappointed. But looking at Carver and Bethany's induction in the Grey Wardens. That would have been what happened if it was a human commoner, a man or woman driven by the Darkspawn seeking to regain everything suddenly by going into the Deep Roads only to contract the taint and was found by the Wardens and is similar to how every origin story happens in the same time. If it wasn't for the Warden's intervention, you would have died from the taint or reduced to a ghoul.
Anders and Meredith are very similar:
Both of them start out somewhat extreme, but fairly reasonable. Anders doesn't want to start a revolution and the templar atrocities in Act I were carried out by Ser Alrik, who was threatening templars who found out so they wouldn't report him to Meredith.
Then actions occur that make them become true fanatics. For Anders, it is Karl's illegally being made tranquil and subsequent mercy killing. For Meredith, it was Taronhe's attempt to turn templar recruits into demons.
By Act II, both of them have an external influence causing their mental state to deteriorate. In Act II, Anders loses control of Justice. Sometime before Act II, Meredith receives the Lyrium Idol. However, the inevitable war with the qunari keeps both of them distracted and sane.
In Act III, both of them start pushing friends away. Anders alienates the entire party except Varric and possibly Hawke. Meredith's actions cause even Cullen to question her.
In the endgame both of them choose to kill innocents to achieve their goals. Anders destroys the Kirkwall Chantry to spark the mage revolution. Meredith annuls the Kirkwall Circle under false pretenses to guarantee the deaths of the hidden Malificarum.
Thinking back to Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, during Anders' Joining when he said he would hold the Grey Wardens responsible if he woke up two weeks on a ship to Rivain in small clothes and with a tattoo branded on his forehead, originally sounds like some sort of joke. But now seeing what has been done to mages in Dragon Age II, it seems like he was referring to being made Tranquil.
Most of the staff weapons seem to be designed to serve a double-function as both staves and polearms. Almost all of them have blades and many have cross-braces as well. When one thinks about it outside of game mechanics, though, it makes perfect sense that mages would use polearms. They're an ideal weapon for keeping melee-capable opponents away, thanks to their long reach, which is essential when one is a Squishy Wizard. Use a few sweeps or thrusts with the blade/speartip to ward the attacker off and open up a bit of distance, and then hammer them with a spell. This doesn't come up in gameplay because of the nature of the combat system, but realistically they'd be the best melee weapon a mage could ask for. Also it helps their disguise since a polearm would be significantly less likely to arouse suspicion than a staff.
People who plan on taking the blood magic specialization will tend to favor constitution instead of willpower (which increases mana). The forbidden school attracts mages with lower willpower...
Meredith's behavior. Like every Templar, she's been addicted to a Fantastic Drug: Lyrium. It's side effects include delusions, paranoia, dementia, obsessive behavior, and hallucinations. She didn't even need the Lyrium idol!
Carver has a Meaningful Name - rather than being stuck in Hawke's shadow, he wants to CARVE his own path.
Making potion-brewing/poison-making/etc a separate function from the party seems like just a way of simplifying Dragon Age II so we don't have to use precious skill points on combat-unrelated skills. But if it wasn't a separate function, it would make no sense. In DA:O, you were a traveling party that had no time to find a herbalist willing to follow you through danger. The Warden only got lucky with Bodahn and Sandal tagging along. They could only rely on each other to be traveling herbalists. On the other hand, Hawke stays comfortably in Kirkwall and has more than enough time to find herbalists and rune-crafters.
The dilemma facing the Arishok is emblematic of a flaw within Qunari society as a whole. Qunari society is explained as working like a body, with each part of the body working in harmony. However, when one part of the body is separate from the others, it doesn't work very well. The Arishok's separation from the rest of the Qunari social structure puts him in a situation that, thanks to the rigidity of his society and beliefs, forces him to act in limited ways based solely on his role within the Qun as a warrior. If the Arishok had landed with other representatives from his society with different roles, the entire war could have been avoided, or at least resolved with less bloodshed, but circumstances forced Qunari warriors into one of the worst possible positions they could have been in - and they couldn't adapt. The flaw, therefore, is that the Qunari society only works properly when it is unified, but a section of that society cut off from the others will lead to disaster. Considering the game's emphasis on the flaws of the societies, organizations, and other social structures populating Thedas, this was likely quite deliberate.
Cassandra knew to connect the Orlesian sanctions against Kirkwall to Chateau Haine because she had an inside source, albeit one who "didn't have [Varric's] access." If they didn't have Varric's access, then it needed to be an undercover servant (unlikely, as Chateau Haine was merely a well-built fortress that served as keep and mansion for a spoiled Orlesian lord, as well as the fact that the servants could easily con the guard out of the key, thus granting them full access) or one of the guests at the party (which means that Cassandra knows anything about the heist by sheer dumb luck). So, which of the guests would Cassandra know, as the Seeker for the Chantry? Most of the guests are a) Orlesian, which might justify her knowing them by name if not by face depending on upbringing, and b) not connected to the Chantry higher-ups in any way. There are also a few cameos from Origins sprinkled through that section, including Teagan and Leliana. Leliana recognizes Tallis, to which Tallis hides "Oh Crap" behind polite conversation. As evidenced by the endgame, Leliana is an associate of Cassandra's, and is assisting in the investigation of the Champion's whereabouts. Connect the dots and suddenly it's a lot less contrived that Cassandra knows just enough about Chateau Haine to get Varric rolling.
The reason for the lack of becoming an Arcane Warrior actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The Arcane Warrior specialisation was taught to the Warden by a spirit trapped inside of a gem, it was literally the last keeper of a long-forgotten Elven school of magic which they passed onto the Warden before its death. No mages in Kirkwall would know of this form of magic and with the heavy Templar presence, are not in a position to gain access to any tomes the Warden may have written that detail how the technique is achieved. Even after a Mage Hawke becomes so well known they could have gotten access any possible instructions, most mages are implied to have distinctive fighting styles they are comfortable with and adept at, so Hawke would likely haven't seen the need to learn it.
Why did Anders trust Justice enough to let the latter possess him in the first place, and why does he seem to think back on their friendship so fondly when they actually argued a fair bit? But looking back at the party dialogue in Awakening, Justice is the only one of the group (other than potentially the Warden) who seems to sympathize with Anders' bad treatment at the hands of the templars, and treats his opinions on the matter with some respect. He grows to trust Justice so much for the same reason that he trusts a pro-mage Hawke—they seem to be the only people in the world he can trust to hear him out.
Hawke can invite Anders or Merrill to move in with him/her, while Fenris or Isabela don't get the option. But it's because Anders and Merrill are mages—the Champion inviting them to live in their home is sending a message to the templars not to mess with these apostates or you mess with the Champion. Fenris and Isabela don't need the same sort of protection from the authorities of Kirkwall, so they don't need to move in for the explicit protection that living with Hawke offers.
Also, regarding the above, Merrill and Anders are generally the cuddlier version of each gender, and would enjoy staying in the same house as the person they loved. Fenris wouldn't want to feel like he needed to rely on Hawke for anything, including housing, and may stay in his mansion purely because it felt like something that was all his own. Something he owned, even if technically he doesn't own it. It was his own space; Fenris is the kind of man who needs that, not to feel controlled whatsoever. And Isabela also isn't someone willing to be tied down easily. She's a pirate, a drifter, and feeling domesticated by living in the same home as her lover is probably something Isabela will have to be eased into.
Regardless of Duncan being there in the Dalish origin, the Eluvian is smashed before the clan moves on, resulting in Merrill getting a shard of the mirror. For the next seven years, up until the death of the Keeper, Merrill has a pretty crappy life. She suffered seven years bad luck from breaking the mirror!
From the Mage Pack DLC, "Malcolm's Honour", the Staff that Hawke's father crafted actually begins to make sense when you consider why he'd risk constructing one in Lothering with all of the Templars milling around. Its described as "deceptively simple" in the codex, which fits, as Malcolm knew that with the ornate engraving Andraste adorning it, should he or his children ever be caught with it, it'd be rather easy to pretend that it was merely a fancy club.
How did the gang of Guardsman Pretender's get such perfect replicas of the Kirkwall Guard uniforms and why were they in Hightown? Its because they are working for Jeven.
Why is Mage Hawke's Mantle of the Champion only lightly covered in armour, containing one gauntlet with the other sleeve missing? Because Hawke needs to be able to use his/her staff easily, something they couldn't do encumbered by lots of plate-mail.
Why does the Mage version feature a frayed and somewhat charred tailcoat? While it's clearly ancient, you could argue that it's because Mage Hawke is often either dishing out or on the receiving end of a ton of fireballs!
Why is Merril able to stay sane, unlike all the other blood magic users who seem to transform into abominations at the slightest provocation? Because she treats blood magic as a dangerous but rewarding discipline, so she presumably uses it in a calm state of mind after taking every possible precaution. For the others it's a technique of last resort, which they use when they're scared and furious, with no protections whatsoever. Merril's approach to blood magic might have saved her life!
If you walk to the end of the Sundermount path in Act I, you'll find a cave blocked by a magical force field. In Act III you find out that the cave contained the demon Merrill was communicating with and the Keeper got there before you. But if you visit the cave in Act II, the force field is already gone and replaced by an awkwardly positioned ox cart. That's also the time you find out the Keeper's been spreading nasty rumors about Merrill. The Keeper broke the defenses on the demon's resting places even before Merrill went to ask her for the instrument she needed, and was probably under the demon's influence even back then!
Having spent the entirety of Dragon Age II seething over how my Warden's good friend Anders, who had always been a level-headed guy—a shallow, selfish, unrepentant horndog, but a level-headed guy—could ever be stupid enough to think getting possessed was a good idea. But there's a reason for that. Fade spirits are so dangerous because they are not only powerful, but incredibly persuasive. Add that to the Warden (Anders' main support system as per Bioware-protagonist tradition, and maybe his only close friend at Vigil's Keep) running off to do his or her own thing, the trauma of being forced to give up his beloved kitty, and—taking the interval short story into account—the fact that he's still being bullied by Templars, and you've got one hell of a recipe for disaster. And having Awakening Anders who wouldn't had been traumatized would be just as awful for Kirkwall. He will simply exploit the freedom movement to become famous when he gets to the top. And Hawke is simply a stepping stone for him.
Why is the statue of the Champion in Kirkwall Docks shown as a Knight, even if Hawke is a Mage? Because it's overlooking the Gallows and the Templars are embarrassed that the Champion of Kirkwall is a member of the very people they are sworn to hunt. Every time Mage Hawke encounters Meredith we see she has a single emotion...pissed off.
How and where did Anders learneto make explosives, seeing as gunpowder seems not to have been invented in Thedas's human society and the supposedly stolen qunari formula turned out to be fake... but then you recall that Anders was at Vigil's Keep with Dworkin the Mad, the dwarf who loves to blow stuff up, and may have learned picked up a few tricks from him.
It's very easy to miss, but if you take Carver or Bethany with you for the Deep Road expedition, when the party finds Sandal after the first encounter with Darkspawn, he/she stay a few steps behind, putting their hand on their forehead like they are suffering from a fever or a headache: That's—very early during the expedition—the first sign he/she been tainted by the Darkspawn. Count as a stealthy Moment Of Awesome as well, as it means that they kept pulling their weight during the whole expedition and its numerous battles despite being eaten away by the taint.
One wonders why the Libertarian Fraternity in the Circle is populated by such assholes as Uldred, Anders, or Adrian from Asunder or more importantly, why a party which advocates mage emancipation is allowed to exist. The answer is simple — the Libertarian Fraternity is actually a sting by the Chantry. Having a political party whose goals run contrary to Chantry doctrine means that the Knight-Commander has an easy way of weeding out potential troublemakers. Any Genre Savvy mage would join the Aequitarians (the party of Comes Great Responsibility) or Loyalists and remain off the Chantry's radar. Those two fraternities probably have a lot of members in name only. Only the real fanatics would hold mage freedom views and be open about them.
The reason Varric is so universally awesome is because he is essentially Hawke's Deuteragonist masquerading as a regular party member (downplaying his role is easy for him to do, being The Narrator and all). But even in his own narration, Varric is almost as important to the plot as Hawke: it is his (and Bartrand's) expedition that brings the lyrium idol to the surface, it is he who introduces Hawke to Anders, he keeps the whole Hawke Enterprise going from the shadows, and in the end, he is the only companion who will always survive (unlike Carver), under no circumstance betray Hawke (unlike Isabela), and stick with Hawke regardless of loyalty and what side he picks in the endgame (unlike every other companion). Another really subtle clue is that only Hawke (with Bethany/Carver) and Varric ever get a Tall Tale segment in the narration.
We know Varric likes to embellish but Isabella flirts with Varric a fair bit. Now she's a flirt and does it with most of the other male characters. But when tells Varric to petition the Dwarven Assembly to be declared the Paragon of Manliness, because he truly is the paragon of all that is manly, suddenly all their flirtations become suspect.
Very tiny and very, very silly: Anders is a cat person. Fenris = wolf = dog. No wonder they're at each other's throats all the time...
Merrill's naivete is played up enough to make her come across as being childish and being manipulated by the demons she refers to as spirits. However, her naivete is about social customs and behaviors (especially human ones, due to being Dalish and having little to no contact with humans prior to joining Hawke) and, as we see with the other mages of Kirkwall, blood mages require a LOT of mental fortitude and strength to resist the demons. Merrill only calls upon blood magic when she has no other option and remains calm. She is a blood mage all through the time she is with Hawke, roughly seven years, while almost all other blood mages we meet in the game get possessed upon their use of it or shortly thereafter. We're supposed to underestimate Merrill because that's what every other character does as well because we're used to the human customs/behaviors that fly right by her.
Many players interpret Merrill being an adorably sweet person despite her practice of Blood Magic as a sign that Dark Is Not Evil in the DA universe, after all. However, her character arc actually disproves this. Blood Magic is not bad because it is inherently corruptive (although human/elf nature is definitely inherently corruptible by such easily accessible power)—it's bad because the vast majority of populace fears it (admittedly, for a good reason) and believes it's bad. In other words, a blood mage may not do anything bad to the people around her but they will expect her to and will do stupid and harmful things to her and to each other out of fear. If you use blood magic, you lose either way.
It's a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, essentially, which fits right into a trend with various other prejudices playing out the same way. The actual dangers of mages and prevalence are often direct results of many people fearing them and those fears driving people in positions of power to lock them up, dehumanize them and mistreat them, instead of properly teaching them how to avoid possession and making them believe themselves to be the ticking bombs everyone says they are, and then force them into positions where they have no choice but turning to immoral measures out of pure desperation. The Arishok came to Kirkwall with absolutely no interest in conversion or conquest, until fanatics, pressure, and the knowledge that he can never return no matter what because of the relic drove him to launch a suicide attack on Kirkwall and turn him into what he was believed to be. There is a definite theme here with how outside forces whose prejudices and fears essentially forced them to prove their beliefs as to be correct, and then nobody remembers or considers how they were originally or knows the true story.
It also speaks of Merrill's Fatal Flaw of Pride. Merrill's spin on this flaw is somewhat unique as she is a kind, considerate person, far from vain or arrogant and very sweet. But it comes across in how she fails to take other people into consider; while she has demonstrated that she is more than aware of the risks and has done well in taking every precaution and doing everything possible to prevent a catastrophe (such as taking Hawke with her to kill her if she is possessed), her pride comes across in how she considered that enough and has not taken into account that it is not only her that's affected by her actions and how it can also have an effect, indirectly or not, on other people, and the possibility that they might also act and be hurt.
The Emergent Compendium from the Black Emporium DLC is a very peculiar artifact. The Codex entry describes it as a book full of thousands and thousands of blank pages, upon which seemingly random images magically appear accompanied by a seemingly random line of gibberish, then vanish just as quickly. The images glimpsed by the writer include "a dragon in flight, a man in regal robes but of a complexion I have never seen, countless peoples at the moment of death, and no end of devices I cannot fathom in the least." Though the pictures appear randomly, the writer confirms that they are in fact images of real things. One of them, in fact, was his own wife! The writer describes with great flair his bafflement and maddening frustration with this marvelous object. To hold the Compendium in one's hands is to be granted a universe of knowledge, and denied it at the same time. For no library in Thedas could possibly hold all the knowledge contained in the tome and no man could ever hope to learn more than a fraction of its contents even with a lifetime of study. In the words of the writer himself, "I know so much is there, but can never know it, myself. It makes one feel very small, indeed." The Emergent Compendium is the internet.
Party Banter during Act I has Varric saying that Merrill has never seen a dwarf because all she and the other elves did was frolic in the woods, to which Merrill answers that they indeed frolic, just not in the woods because otherwise the trees might get jealous. At first, this seems like just another Cloudcuckoo Lander remark, but when you think of the Sylvans in Dragon Age: Origins, this makes perfect sense. Sylvans are trees possessed by demons and spirits from the fade, who have gone mad from the lack of sight and voice, not to mention the difficulty of getting a tree to uproot and move. Just imagine you're such a spirit trapped in a tree and you're confronted with a bunch of frolicking elves; wouldn't you be jealous? Add to this that there are especially many Sylvans in the Brecilian Forest (with the veil being thin there), precisely the place where Merrill and her clan lived for many years. Frolicking in those woods would indeed be a bad idea.
It may be All There in the Manual, but what "World of Thedas" has to say about Rivain explains Isabela's disinterest in mage-templar debates. Besides her "I'm just that shallow" front, it really isn't a big deal where she comes from. Rivain is pantheistic rather than Andrastian and the Circle's main purpose is to keep the Chantry happy. Rivaini mages stay in touch with their families, and female mages have the opportunity to train as seers (who often end up community leaders).
At the beginning of Act II, if you have the Exiled Prince DLC, you can go talk to Sebastian in the Chantry to formally recruit him. You find him talking to the Grand Cleric about his distress regarding the deaths of Flint Company three years before. Elthina tells him that "death is never justice". Three years later, she'll be murdered by someone who supposedly is seeking justice.
Although they might not be shown in the game (save for the occasional adolescent), little children as early as six are taken to the Circle as soon as their talent is found. This makes the Rite of Annulment even more horrifying.
Bodahn doesn't mention his wife this time around. His wife was in Denerim in Origins. Which got attacked by darkspawn at the end of the Fifth Blight.
So, after the main story Merrill can never return to her clan, for whatever reason. That's bad enough, but if you don't romance her, she ends up entirely on her own with no clan and forced to leave her close friend/respected rival.
Origins: If one chooses a mage and report Jowan to Irving, telling him that making sure that Lily's fate is not better than Jowan's is a rather vicious ploy makes him answer "Do you think Chantry and Templar are models of magnanimity? They would make us all tranquil if they could, and call it a kindness": Once you've played through Dragon Age 2, this sentence will send chills down your spine.
The way the games are going, it's almost like it's becoming a theme to potentially wipe out an entire Dalish clan on each game (including Velanna's small clan). One wonders how far the genocide might go before the Dalish are either wiped out completely or rise up.
It's strongly implied that Corypheus can brainwash and control Wardens because of their taint. Corypheus!Posessed!Janeka/Larius was going to report to the Warden Commander. Which Warden Commander they are talking about? The First Warden? The Hero of Ferelden? Now imagine Corypheus gaining control of such prominent figure within the Order, then slowly brainwashing other Wardens to do his bidding. Now image what effects could be if he possessed, say, the Queen of Ferelden?
The entire game falls into the realm of Fridge Horror when you stop to think just how much torture and pain and insanity there is in Kirkwall, and how many of the quests deal with those same themes — the Bone Pit, Quentin, the schizophrenic murderer Kelder, and many others. It gets even worse when you realize this probably all stems from the attempts of the ancient Tevinter Imperium to summon the Forbidden Ones by turning the entire city into one huge, horrific blood ritual. Meaning Kirkwall has always been this bad, for over a thousand years.