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This page lists tropes associated with Merlin, the titular character of the series Merlin.

See the character page for the rest of the main characters of Merlin here.

The main character page for this series is here.


Merlin (a.k.a. Emrys)

Portrayed By: Colin Morgan

"If I can't use magic, I might as well die."

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/merlin-emrys_9883.jpg
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The titular character and the protagonist of the series, Merlin must protect Arthur — who will one day become king of Camelot and unite the lands of Albion — while keeping his magic a secret.


  • Action Hero: In the beginning, magic-wise. However, he quickly learns that subtlety and manipulation is more useful.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Merlin has to hide his true identity as a sorcerer while making Sadistic Choice after Sadistic Choice.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In most legends, the character of Merlin tends to be an old, zany wizard who is significantly older than Arthur. But in this version, Merlin is youthful, adorable, and a Pretty Boy who has a strong female (and male) following thanks to his portrayer Colin Morgan.
  • Adaptational Heroism: In some depictions, Merlin is depicted as either a villain, a dark anti-hero, or a morally ambiguous character. There are even some depictions that suggest that Merlin is the son of The Devil and that he is also a trickster. But in this version, Merlin is portrayed as very selfless and heroic... at first. Later on, he becomes increasingly ruthless, to the point of killing a dozen men in Season 4 without even batting an eyelid.
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  • Adorkable: Merlin is dorky and adorable.
  • Advice Backfire: In the fifth season, Arthur sought out Merlin's advice regarding either bringing magic and the Old Religion back to Camelot or letting Mordred die. Desperate to protect Arthur and avoid the possibility of Mordred fatefully killing Arthur in the future, Merlin tells Arthur that there could be no place for magic in Camelot. This backfired when the Triple Goddesses punished Merlin for his choice by keeping Mordred alive, setting the pathway for him to fatefully kill Arthur in the future. Bad move, Merlin.
  • Aerith and Bob: Merlin is a rather exotic and unique sounding name compared to names like Arthur or Gwen.
  • Aesop Amnesia: He never learns his lesson about falling into self-fulfilling prophecies. Never. It has deadly consequences.
  • After Action Patchup: Merlin is often seen tending to other's wounds and injuries, including Arthur and the Knights of Camelot, mostly after a battle has taken place. This is because Merlin has obtained some medical experience from Gauis.
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  • A Friend in Need: To Arthur. But really, to everyone. He is always willing to help and be there for anyone who needs him.
  • All for Nothing: Arthur dies because of Merlin's actions to prevent it. Although it is implied that Queen Guinevere will bring magic back and lead Albion to a golden age, we never see Merlin enjoy what he waits for all the course of the series on screen.
  • All-Loving Hero: Mostly in the earlier seasons (Season's 1 and 2). Merlin would always try to believe the best in almost everyone, even those who didn't treat him nicely (such as Arthur) and those who were clearly becoming darker and more evil (such as Morgana and Mordred). He has even extended compassion and sympathy to those who were possible foes and enemies of his. Merlin believed in giving various characters second chances especially if he believes that they can be saved or redeemed somehow. This is mostly due to Merlin's idealistic and friendly nature. In fact, many of the mistakes, both big and small, that Merlin has made due to his choices are because of Merlin's compassion, kindness and empathy towards everyone, even those he considers his enemies or possible foes. Merlin has even said in so many words that "everyone matters, no matter who or what they are".
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Merlin has to hide his magical abilities from the people of Camelot because magic is considered evil, despite the fact he saves their lives with it every single episode.
  • Almighty Janitor: His magical prowess aside, by Season 4, he is allowed to listen in during state council meetings and Arthur turns to him for advice. He's still officially just a servant.
  • Always Save the Girl: To Gwen. Merlin has repeatedly gone to extreme lengths to save and protect Gwen as much as possible. He also has a similar mindset toward Arthur.
  • Always Second Best: Sometimes feels this way in regards to Mordred, especially when it comes to Arthur. Deep down, Merlin feels that Arthur appreciates Mordred much more than him.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Merlin would appear to have this. He has to make up increasingly bizarre explanations that are maybe just plausible to deflect suspicion, but earn him many a weird look. Arthur, for instance, thinks he's a cross-dressing woodworm-obsessed pathological snarker who can barely function as a keeper of cleanliness, albeit an excellent judge of character. Justified when nobody points this out often since this is nearly a thousand years before anyone began seriously diagnosing mental disorders. It should be noted that by the end of the series, Merlin has pretty much ceased caring about anything that's not Arthur, to the point of wild mood swings, irrational and irritable behaviour, and selling out his entire people. Many have called his behaviour obsessive.
  • Ambition Is Evil: For someone with his power and position, he is remarkably disinclined to use those advantages to rise in rank or become a ruler in his own right (though as Princess Mithian notes, by Season 4, Arthur greatly values his opinion, meaning that he's effectively the right hand man of Camelot's King).
  • Anti-Hero: Merlin could be classified as a Type III. Not malicious enough to slip into type IV, but his truly horrendous body count (if it isn't in four figures prior to the last episode, it definitely is by the end of it) it doesn't seem to bother him at all.
  • Apologises a Lot: To contrast him with Arthur, who rarely apologises for anything.
  • Arch-Enemy: Morgana, who like him, is also a powerful magic user. Both of them have magic and use it as their preferred choice of combat but Merlin uses his magic for good purposes while Morgana uses magic for immoral or bad purposes. The Great Dragon even describes Merlin and Morgana's relationship as Merlin being the light to Morgana's dark and the love to Morgana's hate. While Merlin uses his magic to protect Arthur and Camelot, Morgana uses her magic to destroy Arthur and Camelot. Both Merlin and Morgana want to bring magic back to the land of Camelot, but how they choose or have chosen to go about achieving that goal are complete opposites.
  • The Archmage: He's destined to become the most powerful sorcerer to ever exist. And he does, in the finale.
  • Asexual: The creators have said that Merlin is mostly non-romantic. Although you can hardly blame him for being put off romance considering what happened the last time (with his First Love Freya tragically dying).
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: In the beginning, Merlin often got easily distracted. He was also rather impulsive and high energy.
  • Audience Surrogate: The story is told from Merlin's P.O.V., therefore, the majority of the audience sympathizes with and relates to Merlin the most.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Merlin. Interesting name, right? If you think Merlin is a cool name, try Emrys.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Merlin and his relationship with Arthur. They may insult each other like no tomorrow, but deep down, they really do love and care for each other and are willing to sacrifice themselves to protect the other.
  • Badass Adorable: Merlin may look cute and dorky, but he can kick anyone's ass (or better yet, kill anyone) in an instant without hesitation.
  • Badass Angster: Merlin constantly suffers heartbreak, both in the romantic and non-romantic department. See Heartbroken Badass.
  • Badass Baritone: Merlin's Dragon-Lord voice. See Power Makes Your Voice Deep.
  • Badass Beard/Badass Mustache: In his Dragoon disguise or as Emrys.
  • Badass Boast: Gives quite a few when he's forced to act.
    Merlin: I am the last Dragon-Lord...
  • Badass Grandpa: As Dragoon or Emrys.
  • Badass in Distress: Sometimes Merlin needs saving too. Not as much as Arthur though.
  • Badass Long Robe: As Dragoon and Emrys.
  • Bad Liar: An odd example. He's very good at keeping his powers secret, but the excuses he comes up with to cover for his behaviour grow increasingly bizarre as time goes by.
  • Bash Brothers: With Arthur, Gwaine, and Lancelot.
  • Battle Butler: Merlin is clearly this to Arthur, even though Arthur doesn't realise it.
  • Battle of Wits: Often against Morgana after her Face–Heel Turn, who later becomes his Arch-Enemy and possesses magic just like him. Before Guinevere becomes Queen, Merlin is practically Camelot's only defence against Morgana's agents.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Whenever Merlin gets caught in a compromising position, cue him descending into increasingly ludicrous and outlandish explanation for what he's supposedly doing. It's clear no-one buys it for a second, but they simply can't be bothered to find out the real reason.
    • Whenever masquerading as the elderly "Dragoon", he takes this to even more absurd levels.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the first episode, Merlin angsts about having no purpose for his abnormal power. The Dragon gives him one, and what follows is endless killing and questionable decisions.
  • Because Destiny Says So: He's smart enough to realize that riding the course and fulfilling his destiny is the best way out.
    • Merlin is told by the last dragon that he is fated to protect Arthur until he can grow up, become king and have his own great destiny, so it's kind of recursive. Also a lot of the decisions he makes to secure this destiny were influenced by this prophesy and the great dragons rather biased directions on how to go about achieving it. e.g. poisoning Morgana in The Fires of Idirsholas to save Camelot even though she had little to no idea of what was actually happening at the time or her role in causing it.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Starts out as an impulsive, clueless teenager who is easily fooled and manipulated by the Dragon. By the end of series 4, he's clearly found his place as Arthur's advisor, spends the finale organizing everything that goes on (except, notably, Arthur and Gwen's reconciliation) in a scheme worthy of a Magnificent Bastard, is one of most intelligent characters, and not only does the Dragon respect him, he obeys him. Probably the closest you can get to this trope without having a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Becoming the Mask: Merlin's initial motivation to protect Arthur is only that Arthur's prophesied to be the one who will bring magic back. By Season 5, he'd forego a chance to let magic return to ensure that Arthur'll live albeit with serious struggles. It's also become disturbingly easy for him to speak of magic as a threat to Camelot.
  • Being Good Sucks: Merlin is undoubtedly a good person who is incredibly heroic and constantly saves people by putting his life on the line for everyone and Camelot. However, all Merlin has received in return for his heroism and courage is mistreatment, suffering, grief, pain, loss, and tragedy. For Merlin, it definitely sucks to be the hero.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: As a servant, Merlin runs around doing Arthur's chores, including extremely demeaning ones, while Arthur insults him and throws things at him. When Arthur wants to shirk his royal duties, it's Merlin's job to cover for him— which has more than once landed him in the stocks. And of course he spends most of the series repeatedly saving Arthur's life. Using his very illegal magic that he could be killed for having. Possibly on the orders of Arthur himself. And he gets no credit for any of this. It Makes Sense In Context why Merlin puts up with all this. Mostly.
  • Beneath Notice: Merlin would often disguise himself as Dragoon, a older version of himself. He did this in 3x10 in attempts to stop Gwen from being executed and from being falsely accused of using sorcery in order to get Arthur to fall in love with her. Merlin also disguised himself as Dragoon in 4x03 when Merlin had told Gaius about a sorcerer that could save Uther's life with the use of magic. Merlin's most notable time being disguised as Dragoon was in the series finale, where he became the most powerful sorcerer ever and defeated the Saxons on behalf of Arthur and Camelot. Even when Merlin is not disguising himself as Dragoon, he is basically disguising himself by keeping his identity as a wizard a secret from everyone in Camelot (as his identity as a magic user could end up getting him executed and punished) and trying to pass himself off as just Arthur's servant. With the exception of Lancelot and Gaius, nobody in Camelot of importance (Arthur, Morgana, Gwen, the Knights of Camelot, etc) are aware of Merlin's true identity as a powerful warlock.
  • The Beastmaster: He commands dragons and wyverns. He's also commanded a snake to attack Morgana once.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Merlin is adorable, kind, friendly, loyal, and somewhat of a klutz, but God help you if you ever try to kill anyone he cares about, because that is last thing you will ever do. His anger is sudden and his powers are fierce and he will blast you off the face of the Earth. Keep in mind that this is the most powerful sorcerer the world has ever known. If he wants to tear mountains apart, he can do it. Please don't make him.
    • He also has the highest body count in the series, can pretty much stop time, and can kill you just by looking at you. And do it with absolutely no emotion. In-Universe, he's a Lethal Joke Character.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Merlin may be humorous, witty and the comic relief, but don't get on his bad side.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Merlin seemed to have this towards young!Mordred, Daegal, and Gilli.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Most of the time, all by himself, but also often with Arthur, Gauis, Gwen and the Knights of Camelot.
  • Big "NO!": Merlin has done this so many times throughout the series to count.
  • Birds of a Feather: With Morgana and Freya. It ends badly in both cases.
  • Blessed with Suck: Oh, you have awesome, mindblowing magical powers? Well, that also means you have to go through every layer of hell the writers can throw on you.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Subverted. Arthur is the best swordsman in the Five Kingdoms and can defeat two other swordsmen blindfolded. He has a servant which watches his back on missions. Subverted in that the servant is Merlin, and can kill you with his brain making him the more badass of the two.
  • Bookends: Merlin says in the pilot that without his magic, he might as well die. In 5x12, he loses it.
  • Bookworm: Merlin reads A LOT. Part of the reason for this is because Melrin is constantly doing research or trying to discover ways in which to save Camelot or protect Arthur. He is often seen in the library reading many books and it seems as though the library is his best friend. Merlin also frequently reads his spellbook for spells that he needs to perform.
  • Boom Stick: Merlin has a magical sidhe staff, that fires a blast of magical energy that can even kill a sidhe. Despite it being a cool and effective weapon, he's only used it in a few episodes (The Gates of Avalon, To Kill The King, The Changeling, Diamond of the Day, pt. 2).
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: With both Gwaine and Arthur. In a series 2 episode, Arthur and Merlin go on a mission to discover what happened to Ygraine (Arthur's mother). On their way to discovering the truth, Merlin asks Arthur what his mother was like and Arthur tells him that he never knew her because she has tragically died before Arthur could open his eyes. Arthur tells Merlin that he can faintly remember his mother and that he has still has a "sense" of her, despite never knowing her because she is a part of him. Merlin then realizes that he shares this in common with Arthur, in that Merlin had never known his father (discovered to be Balinor, who is seen later on) or who he was; that his mother, Hunith, had never spoken about him. Merlin then says that although he never knew his father, he has some faint memory of who he could be, although Merlin chalks this up to just being a part of his imagination due to the desire of having wanted a paternal or father figure in his life. This bonding moment between Merlin and Arthur over the lack of a parent really strengthened the relationship between the two and had showcased that despite the many differences between Merlin and Arthur, they do have something in common that both can understand and empathize with each other over.
  • Boy Meets Girl: With Freya. He meets her, instantly falls in love with her, she falls for him, and the rest is history. Merlin fell so hard for Freya that he was even willing to give up his destiny or fulfilling his destiny (the one in which he walks the same path with Arthur, the Once and Future King) to runaway and be with Freya. Basically, Merlin had chosen Freya over Arthur/his destiny. However, fate ends up changing this for Merlin as Freya is the one that is discovered to be the deadly creature that is killing people in Camelot (the Bastet). Sadly, it ends in tragedy when Freya ends up dying after Arthur mortally wounds her while defending himself against her. See Starcrossed Lovers.
  • Boy Next Door: Appears this way in the beginning. However, he's revealed to have abnormal power.
  • Brains and Brawn: Merlin and Arthur, with Merlin as the Brains to Arthur's Brawn. Merlin is sort of defaulted into the position of brains because (unlike Arthur) he usually knows what's actually going on. Amusingly, Arthur seems to consider himself the brains and the brawn of their two-man band and takes delight in calling Merlin an idiot, useless buffoon, girl's petticoat, etc. — although, if you don't know that Merlin has magic, his antics do seem a bit strange.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: In season four, Morgana captured Merlin and inserted a fomorrah in the back of his neck. The fomorrah controlled Merlin to kill Arthur at any cost.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Merlin goes through endless pain, tragedy and hardships. The boy never catches a break. Although Merlin is a Determinator, so he refuses to break. Although with how much they put him through to prove that he's not going to break, that might be even worse.
    • As of Series 5, Merlin has acquired extremely thick Jade-Colored Glasses, lost his Chronic Hero Syndrome, and despite the fact that he's been putting it on for a while now, Arthur notices that he hasn't smiled in days. When Gaius asks what happened to the boy who stumbled into his chambers all those years ago, this is his response:
      Merlin: He grew up.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Merlin is a genius and extremely intelligent due to being a wizard. However, when it comes to mundane activities such as doing chores for Arthur and Gaius, he has shown to be somewhat lazy, even though he does manage to get all of them done eventually. This is probably because Merlin finds doing chores extremely tedious especially when Merlin could be doing things which he deems more important such as researching or using his magic to save the entire kingdom of Camelot on a daily basis.
  • Broken Ace: Merlin may be a very powerful warlock but the burden of being born with his special gifts has managed to gradually break him down emotionally and mentally.
  • Broken Bird: Merlin has been through so much pain, grief, tragedy and loss, that he becomes a much darker and serious character as the series progresses.
  • Broken Hero: Been through a lot of pain and misery yet still remains rather positive and optimistic regardless. Not to mention that Merlin is always kind to everyone, even those who are mean to him or don't treat him nicely. Series 5 highlights how broken he is with his increasing willingness to Kick the Dog.
  • Broken Messiah: Merlin appears nice and cheerful most of the time but the more tragedy he goes through, the more it becomes just a mask.
  • Broken Tears: Merlin is constantly shedding these, mostly after someone who is close to him dies.
    • Single Tear: Merlin sheds one tear when he kisses Freya, the moment he resolves to leave Camelot.
  • Brooding Girl, Gentle Boy: Gender-Inverted. Merlin is the Gentle Boy to Freya's Brooding Girl. Merlin manages to make brooding, isolated and cursed Freya feel happy and loved.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In 4x01 and 5x12.
  • Brutal Honesty: At times. There are cases when Merlin won't hesitate to tell someone exactly how he feels.
  • Buffy Speak: Merlin practically speaks like this all of the time. Although, the most notable example is when Merlin describes a sword as "very... swordy".
  • Bullying a Dragon: When he is in his Dragoon disguise, the knights attack him even when they know that he is a sorcerer. This trope is also played quite literally and inverted: as a Dragon Lord, Merlin is the one doing the bullying towards Dragons and Wyverns.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: To Arthur. A subversion as even though he has the occasional clumsy moment, he's more competent and quick-thinking than Arthur ever gives him credit for.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Merlin is (to everyone else) a Cloud Cuckoolander with serious mental issues who wanders around the castle at night, has a tendency to mumble complete nonsense to himself for no good reason, and a horrible manservant. However, the emotional support he gives Arthur is invaluable, and he's Arthur's best advisor, even if it's unofficial and Arthur will never admit it.
  • Butt-Monkey: Especially when "helping" Arthur with his training exercises.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: In the beginning, Merlin is scornful of his destiny to protect Arthur, wanting nothing to do with him. The next night, an enchantress makes an attempt on Arthur's life and Merlin pulls him out of the way without thinking. As a reward, Uther makes him Arthur's manservant, so he's going to have to deal with him full time now.
    • Another episode has this trope played as tragically as possible. Merlin falls in love with a fugitive Druid named Freya. After a few days with her, he knows he needs to get her out of Camelot, and decides to leave with her. The night they're supposed to leave, the men hunting her catch up and stab her, causing her to bleed to death in Merlin's arms. It's sad enough, but the man who stabs her is Arthur (albeit in self defense), the destiny Merlin was running away from, and you can't help but feel that this was a case of fate saying They Were Holding You Back.
  • Call on Me: Whenever Merlin is in trouble of some kind or has found himself in some kind of danger, he uses his Dragon Lord abilities to summon the Great Dragon (Kilgarrah) to help him. The Great Dragon does end up saving Merlin's life and saving the day on more than one occasion once Merlin summons him.
  • Call to Adventure: In the first episode when Merlin arrives in Camelot after his mother sends him there.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: In 2x13, Merlin calls out his long lost father Balinor on his lack of compassion and nobility because the old man refuses to help him and Arthur stop the Great Dragon from attacking Camelot. He also asks his father about the abandonment but does not seem to be angry about it much.
  • Came Back Strong: A non-fatal example. In 5x12, when he loses his magic, Merlin regains it and realizes his full potential.
  • Camp Cook: On missions, hunts or battles, Merlin is always the one seen cooking for Arthur and all of the knights. Understandable considering that Merlin is a servant.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: His ability to use magic. Also, the prophecy about Mordred killing Arthur.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Never seen onscreen, but according to Gaius "one whiff from a barmaid's apron and you're singing like a sailor".
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: An odd variation of this regarding Merlin making the decision to save Morgana's life. It's not that he "needs" Morgana, it's that he can't bear the pain of her loved ones as they struggle with their grief over her impending death.
  • Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them: In regards to his relationship with Arthur. Although Merlin can find Arthur arrogant and annoying, especially when Arthur constantly teases him, it has been shown over and over that Merlin does care for Arthur. It has also been shown that without Merlin and his influence, Arthur starts to crack emotionally and mentally.
  • The Caretaker: To Freya and Daegal. Also to Arthur, especially in the series finale.
  • Cassandra Truth: Merlin lives this trope. In every season and most episodes therein, Merlin usually has foreknowledge of the (dis)loyalties of basically everyone. But he can't ever prove this because it variously involves a) exposing himself as a wizard, b) selling out someone he would rather not, or c) being pitted against someone who Uther and/or Arthur trust implicitly. You would think, considering everything Merlin says turns out to be true, people might just start giving him the benefit of the doubt.
    • More conventionally, there's one instance of Merlin bursting into the throne room and insisting he's a wizard.
    • Surprisingly, Arthur finally catches on to this in the season 4 finale. He realizes that Merlin knew, and has always known, about such betrayals. Arthur, meanwhile, always sees the best in people right up until they stab him in the back. He finds it quite frustrating that the people he treats as friends are so willing to betray him. He predictably reacts quite badly to Merlin's confession of having magic at first.
  • Category Traitor: Has been accused of this by other magic users because he works for Camelot. He has also refused to take the opportunity to end the magic ban out of personal loyalty to Arthur at least twice.
  • Celibate Hero: Merlin doesn't do the romance thing that much. He's more married to his destiny and protecting Arthur more than anything else. Because of this, the fandom and even the producers consider Merlin to be asexual.
  • The Champion: Merlin is this in regards to Arthur. Merlin has made it his sole purpose to protect Arthur at all costs. He puts Arthur's safety above everyone else, even his own.
  • Character Development: Merlin goes from an overly idealistic, naive, impulsive teenage youth who has no control of his magical abilities to a mature, wise, pragmatic and very powerful sorcerer during the span of five seasons.
  • The Chessmaster: In Sword And The Stone Part II, where he orchestrates Arthur drawing the sword from the stone so that it will restore Arthur's faith in him being king and rally the people at the same time. And then he removes Morgana's powers to even the fight so Camelot can win. He's come a long way from the easily fooled teenager in Series 1.
  • Chessmaster Sidekick: He has the magic and knows enough about what goes on to become the most powerful person of the land. Instead, he does everything for Arthur.
  • The Chew Toy: Especially when he's around Arthur, and Played for Laughs.
  • Childhood Friends: With Will. They had been best friends since childhood and it appears as though they had a very close relationship considering that Will knew of Merlin's identity and about his magic. Unfortunately, Will ends up tragically dying after he makes a Heroic Sacrifice and saves Arthur's life.
  • Child Prodigy: Merlin could do magic before he could talk. Not only that, but Merlin is a wizard who is very intelligent and wise.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Merlin just can't stand by doing nothing when someone needs help despite the warnings of his mentors.
  • The Chooser of The One: He orchestrated the entire retrieval of the Excalibur sword in the stone. A bit of a subversion in that Arthur is already The Chosen One, but it was Merlin that brought it to light. Also played with in that had it not been for Merlin, it's doubtful if Arthur would have been alive long enough to become King, or that he would have gotten to know his Queen Guinevere and met the Knights of the Round Table, who symbolize a more egalitarian Camelot.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: When Arthur is trying to draw Excalibur, Merlin says that he needs to truly believe he can in order to do it. Subverted since Merlin was just trying to boost Arthur's confidence: once Arthur is sold on Merlin's story, Merlin covertly uses magic to make the task extremely easy for Arthur, thus reinforcing the idea he was trying to instill.
  • Clark Kenting: Inverted. Merlin's Older Alter Ego looks, sounds, and acts nothing like him and yet everyone says his "eyes are familiar". And it's not like he has an unusual eye color or anything, they're standard blue eyes in a cast of blue eyes that everyone picks up on. Even when he disguised himself as an old woman (very convincingly at that), Arthur kept wondering if he'd met "her" before. Although, given that Arthur is extremely Wrong Genre Savvy, whatever guess he had had to be miles off.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: While his actions generally make sense to the audience, to everyone else he comes across as utterly bizarre. But he's right enough of the time that some people still take him seriously.
  • The Coats Are Off: In the Pilot episode, Merlin removes his jacket before preparing to fight Arthur. He ends up having his ass handed to him.
  • Coconut Superpowers: Merlin's ability to slow down time.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Merlin almost always wears the colours red and blue. This seems to mirror the character whom Merlin is modelled off of, Clark Kent / Superman.
    • However, in 4x06, Merlin is seen wearing a purple shirt instead of either a blue or red shirt, indicating that something was indeed wrong with Merlin. This was because Merlin was brainwashed by Morgana into killing Arthur at any cost.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Merlin repeatedly uses magic to gain an advantage by turning the things around him against his opponent. He's also not above stabbing from behind or cursing the enemy.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Gaius teaches him this philosophy in series 1. YMMV on how much he actually succeeds in following it.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The series centres on Merlin growing up from a naive, overly idealistic and optimistic young warlock or wizard to a wise, pragmatic and powerful sorcerer.
  • Commonality Connection: With Arthur. Merlin originally strongly disliked Arthur when he first met him, thinking of Arthur as a arrogant, spoiled, entitled, royal ass. It turns out that Merlin's destiny is intertwined with Arthur's. Later on, they bond over growing up without a parent.
  • Composite Character: In the finale, Merlin takes on the role that is usually allocated to Bedivere in the legends when he throws Excalibur back to the Lady in the Lake.
  • The Confidant: Whenever a character needs someone to talk to, he's always the obvious choice. Even guest characters are much more inclined to talk to him than anyone else. Arthur even invokes this trope in a few episodes by sending him in to talk to people who aren't speaking to anyone else.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Between his personal attachment to Arthur and the desire to end the oppression on magic users. As time passes, he increasingly leans towards the former.
  • Constantly Curious: He gets into troubles because of this.
  • Cool Loser: Merlin comes off as clumsy, dorky and incompetent to others (notably Arthur), not to mention that he comes from a commoner background and is nothing but a servant surrounded by noble figures (such as kings, queens, princes, princesses and knights, etc). However, despite this, Merlin is in fact the most powerful, badass, intelligent and well-informed character in the show. He is also charming, likeable, friendly and makes friends very easily, as evidenced with Lancelot, Gwen, Morgana, and Gwaine. Merlin is also highly respected amongst the Druids and other magic users.
  • Cool Sword: Excalibur. Merlin is the one who created the sword for Arthur. He's also used the sword a few times to defeat the enemy.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Although many of the decisions that Merlin has made has contributed to his own problems, so much tragedy happens to Merlin that it seems as though destiny loves torturing Merlin as much as possible.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: The central focus of the entire series is Merlin evolving from a naive, overly optimistic, and idealistic youth to a powerful, pragmatic, and rather bitter warlock.
  • The Conscience: Often to Arthur. He always tries to prevent Arthur from being overly impulsive in his actions due to his temper. In short, for Arthur, Merlin is the voice of reason, even though Arthur doesn't realize it. However, it's subverted in The Disir when Merlin advises Arthur to do something against his conscience.
  • Cool Old Guy: When masquerading as the 80-year-old sorcerer "Dragoon".
  • Costume Tropes:
    • Badass Long Robe: When he is in his Emrys or Dragoon disguise.
    • Evil Costume Switch: When Merlin traded in his usual red or blue shirt for a purple shirt in 4x06, you simply knew that Merlin wasn't himself. Which was the case considering that Merlin was brainwashed and controlled by Morgana to kill Arthur at any cost.
  • Country Mouse: At least at first.
  • Court Mage: Subverted. He takes care of magical threats, negotiates with other magic users, and if magic is needed he provides it. But no one aside from Gaius and Lancelot know this is the case. Might be played straight as of the finale, now that everyone knows who he is.
  • Cover-Blowing Superpower: Merlin must constantly save the day while keeping his powers and abilities secret, since magic is banned in Camelot on pain of execution.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Half of his spells are so tailored to the situation that either Merlin is making them up as he goes or he really does learn spells just in case he wants a magnetic sword, he needs to drop bed covers on someone, or he needs to throw a bench.
  • Create Your Own Villain: It could be argued that Merlin betraying Morgana by poisoning her in season two had a strong influence on Morgana doing a Face–Heel Turn. Merlin even admits that he blames himself for what she had become in the series finale.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Merlin may be bumbling, clumsy and at times, naive, but I dare you to get on his bad side. He can certainly kick anyone's butt with the use of his powerful and dangerous magic. Especially if you hurt his loved ones.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: A bit of a subversion in that he's not completely a Cloud Cuckoolander, but since nearly everyone else believes he is, this happens nearly Once an Episode. Arthur eventually catches on to this and starts consulting Merlin on everything.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Many times throughout the series. The most notable one is in the series finale when he takes out the entire Saxon Army, Morgana and Aithusa, one after another with his magic, turning the entire battle around in just two minutes. At that point, he officially became the most powerful sorcerer in existence.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast: A non-fatal example, when Merlin releases the goblin in 3x03. Sometimes Merlin's curiosity really gets the best of him.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Merlin is born with magic but sometimes Merlin views his magical abilities as a curse out of fear of being ostracized and viewed as a monster by others. Therefore, Merlin is subjected to hiding his identity, which is a great weight on his shoulders.
  • The Cutie: Especially in the first season before he started to go through endless pain, grief, loss and tragedy.
  • The Cynic: Merlin becomes much more cynical and pessimistic and pragmatic as the series progresses. A total contrast to who he was in the beginning, which was Wide-Eyed Idealist, The Idealist, and Naïve Newcomer. While it is depressing to see this happen to Merlin, it is completely understandable why becomes this way considering all of the tragedy, loss, pain and grief that he has suffered over the course of the series.
  • Darker and Edgier: As the series progresses, Merlin becomes much more dark and ruthless. His body count continues to increase as the series goes on.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Merlin is the epitome of sarcasm, humour and wit. He is always saying a sarcastic and witty statement, joke or catchphrase.
  • Death by Secret Identity: Oh boy, almost everyone who discovers Merlin's secret ends up dying.
    • Almost all the people who have discovered Merlin's secret are dead. Most One-Shot Character, were they Villain of the Week such as Edwin, Sophia, Aulfric, Tauren, Sigan, Catrina, Jonas, Aredian, Grunhilda, and more recently, Borden, Lamia; or Victim of the Week such as Will, Freya, Balinor, the Fisher King and Daegal, have died within the episode. And then we have the few who lasted longer, such as Nimueh, Agravaine, and more recently, proving that Anyone Can Die, Lancelot and Alator.
    • As of the series finale, Mordred, Morgana and Arthur have joined the list.
    • In fact, it's quicker to name the characters that haven't fallen prey to this trope: it's a short-list of Hunith, Gaius, Gilli and (eventually) Guinevere.
  • Death Glare: Constantly shares these kinds of looks with Morgana. Also, with people he doesn't like, trust or whom he's skeptical of.
  • Declaration of Protection: Merlin has made it his life's mission to protect Arthur at all costs because he considers it his destiny to do so.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: No show based in modern times would have a protagonist (Merlin) that is so innocent, idealistic and naive (at least in the first two seasons) with such a horrendous body count that doesn't seem to bother him at all. Why? Because this is the Dark Ages and killing people who are trying to kill you is completely okay. Killing in cold blood is still frowned upon, though.
    • Merlin calling Morgana out in the Series 3 opening for killing can come across as hypocrisy, but if you notice his main problems are that she's killing innocents and her actions will only cause more hatred against magic.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Plenty of times, but particularly in 4x03. Gaius has to end up talking Merlin out of it.
    • Also in 5x12, when Merlin ends up losing his magic. Merlin becomes completely hopeless and feels completely worthless without his magic. It takes his father (Balinor) in spirit form to make him believe in himself again that he is stronger than he thinks he is.
  • Despair Speech: Merlin gives a major one in the series finale when he yells out to the Great Dragon in Dragon Lord language when trying to summon him after Arthur dies. By that time, it was obvious that Merlin had completely lost it.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Only in the first episode. Then the Dragon informs him of his destiny.
  • Destructive Saviour: Although Merlin is the hero and always ends up saving the day, the guy possesses the gift of magic and is also very powerful. Sometimes when Merlin uses his magic to save the day, he can cause quite a bit of destruction at the same time.
  • Determinator: Merlin is probably the most determined character in the entire series. He NEVER gives up.
  • Deus Exit Machina: As the series progresses, he becomes so powerful the writers have to constantly find ways to get him out of the way
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Merlin's romance with Freya. Freya ends up dying.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Sometimes Merlin's big mouth gets him into quite a bit of trouble with his enemies.
  • Disappeared Dad: Until 2x13. Then, he died.
  • Disguised in Drag: When Merlin is dressed as Dolma. It's played for laughs, but Colin Morgan's performance is actually quite convincing.
  • Disney Death: Throughout the series, it has appeared that Merlin has actually died a few times from various different things (from weapons, poisoning, etc). However, after he appears to be dead, he wakes up alive fairly soon afterwards. Turns out that the reason for this is because Merlin is immortal and therefore, cannot die.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Happens frequently with Merlin: every time he first meets a woman, he's momentarily dumbfounded by their beauty. However, when things get serious, he plays the reverse trope. In The Lady of the Lake, after Freya goes back to her human form for the last time, she's completely naked. The moment Merlin realizes this he takes off his jacket and covers her without even trying to sneak a glance. Happens again in The Hunter's Heart, when he finds Gwen injured in the forest. She's wearing something that looks like a harem woman outfit, but he's focused on healing her.
  • Distressed Dude: Sometimes. But most of the time, the one who's always in trouble is Arthur and Merlin has to save him.
  • The Ditherer: Merlin has ten years in which to complete one task: groom Arthur into the type of king that will allow magic back into the land, unite the various kingdoms of Albion, and rule over the Golden Age. He fails for a number of reasons, some external, but largely because of his own inability to act and force Arthur to confront the important issues at hand. If, for example, Merlin had been upfront about his magical abilities at a much earlier stage, the course of his and Arthur's lives would have gone much differently.
  • Ditzy Genius: Merlin is a servant who has trouble cleaning his own room, let alone Arthur's, manages to trip over nearly anything you put in front of him, is a horrible liar (about the little things), gets things thrown at him all the time by the prince, doesn't respect royalty and gets put in the stocks all the time, can barely hold his liquor, rarely varies between the social extremes of over-affectionate and sarcastically aggressive, has a weird penchant for awkward situations... and also happens to be the most powerful, badass warlock the world has ever known.
  • Doom Magnet: Pain and tragedy follow Merlin everywhere he goes. He never seems to catch a break and he never gets a chance to be happy.
  • Dork Knight: Merlin is clearly heroic but at the same time, he's rather dorky and socially awkward.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Played with considering that the entire audience already knows Merlin's true power, but In-Universe, the likes of Arthur and Morgana will inevitably be gobsmacked when The Reveal finally happens.
  • Dragon Rider: For relatively practical reasons.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Knight's protectiveness of Merlin, when you consider that (not counting Mordred's magic, although Merlin would probably win anyway) Merlin can kick their asses to kingdom come without even trying hard.
    • The most powerful sorcerer who is destined to bring magic back serves the anti-magical faction.
  • The Dreaded: As of Series 4, Morgana is frequently haunted by terrifying nightmares of "Emrys", standing over her, seemingly all-powerful and berating her for all the death she's caused.
  • The Drifter: Merlin appears to be this at the very end of the series finale as Emrys.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Merlin is a powerful warlock who has saved Camelot more than once and saved Arthur more times than we can count, but since magic is banned on pain of death, he has to keep it a secret. He's Arthur's manservant, and the two share a very vitriolic friendship, so he gets plenty of humiliating tasks on a regular basis. Though it's usually Played for Laughs, it can be surprisingly poignant at times.
    • Over time, Arthur does come to respect Merlin's opinion and occasionally admits what a good friend Merlin has been. Doesn't stop them from being Vitriolic Best Buds, though.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Merlin has this hard, and there isn't really anything he can do about it since magic is a crime punishable by death. He has secretly saved Camelot itself from total destruction multiple times over the course of the show. He saves Arthur's life Once an Episode, often several times an episode, and aside from the exceptions that can be counted on one hand, either someone else gets the credit or Arthur never realizes his life was in danger in the first place. He's even saved Uther a couple of times, even though the guy's the reason why he has to keep his magic a secret.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: In The Lady Of The Lake. Merlin merely glimpses Freya and instantly decides he must risk everything to save her, though the fact she's being persecuted for magic use might have something to do with it.
  • Dynamic Character: Merlin changes rather dramatically over the course of five seasons. He goes from a overly naive, idealistic and optimistic youth to a much more pragmatic, wise, realistic and powerful individual.
  • Easing into the Adventure: Merlin was sent to Camelot to live with Gauis before knowing his destiny and his true purpose.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Merlin appears this way as Emrys. In original Arthurian legend, Merlin is often depicted as this towards King Arthur.
  • Elderly Immortal: By the series finale and in the present day, Merlin is an old man who is centuries and centuries old. Although, it is uncertain if that is just a disguise that Merlin has used so that he wouldn't be recognized.
    • Merlin is Type C.
  • Everything but the Girl: Even though Merlin continued to get more and more powerful with the series progression, love and romance was something that Merlin didn't have much luck with. He had found happiness when he met and fell deeply in love with Freya but sadly, she tragically dies. Ever since then, Merlin has never fallen for another girl again.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: He has a different hairstyle starting Series 3. This is also the series where he begins acting as Arthur's advisor.
  • Expy: Merlin is influenced by or modelled off of the character of Clark Kent aka Superman from Smallville
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Gender-Flipped. Merlin may the most powerful warlock ever, but he's rather vulnerable emotionally. The amount of torture, pain and suffering that he goes through is endless.
  • Eye Color Change: Merlin's eyes turn brownish-gold when he uses magic.
  • Famed In-Story: The legend of Merlin, the wizard, is widely well-known. His destiny has been foretold since the dawn of Time. He is known amongst the dragons, seers, Druids, the magical peoples and other magical creatures.
  • The Fatalist: In fact, it was probably Merlin's ultimate downfall in the end. Merlin would often take the concept of fate and destiny much too seriously. Merlin became very narrow sighted and had tunnel vision in regards to the subject of destiny. To the point where he ended up creating various (and much unnecessary) Self-Fulfilling Prophecy's throughout the course of the series.
  • Fatal Flaw: His almost pathological habit of keeping Arthur (and everyone else except for Gaius and the Dragon) in the dark about what is really going on, even if it doesn't necessarily involve revealing his magic.
  • Feet of Clay: Out of universe example: Merlin is repeatedly referred to as the most powerful sorcerer ever and frequently shows his skill with housework, but as soon as he is faced with an injury, a troll, other magical creature, a sticky hiding-in-the-cupboard situation, or heaven forbid one of those other witches/wizards who are obviously infinitely less powerful than he, such as Nimueh, Edwin, Cedric/Cornelius Sigan, then he immediately either forgets his 'amazing abilities' or finds himself completely outdone.
    • More a case of Unskilled, but Strong. Merlin possesses a great deal of raw, instinctive power, but lacks training, enabling his less powerful but experienced opponents to gain the upper hand. Best demonstrated when fighting Nimueh: Merlin tries an incantation, and she laughs it off and sticks a fireball in his chest. Then Merlin gets ripshit pissed and blows her into Ludicrous Gibs through sheer willpower.
  • Fights Like a Normal: Has extraordinary abilities and powers and could easily mop the floor with anyone who goes against him, but he chooses to appear weak and an incapable fighter in order to conceal identity and his abilities.
  • Flanderization: Merlin used to be quite good at hiding his magical abilities by rationalizing (or completely avoiding) the odd situations he often found himself in because of them. Nowadays not an episode will go by that doesn't have Merlin getting caught in compromising positions (usually with a dose of subtext), and having to explain himself with increasingly bizarre excuses. By this stage, Arthur thinks that he's an alcoholic weak-bladdered cross-dresser who prowls around the castle at night, is obsessed with pest infestations, and has serious mental problems.
  • Foil:
    • To Arthur. Merlin is the poor but optimistic and self-assured dark-haired servant. Arthur is a blond, rich noble of Royal Blood with a serious inferiority complex. Merlin is a warlock who possesses powerful magical abilities as his Weapon of Choice, while Arthur is a regular human who doesn't have powers and uses swords to defend himself. Merlin helps Arthur become more heroic and idealistic, but he himself gets more cynical and morally compromised.
    • To Morgana later on in the series. Merlin is the warlock to Morgana's witch. They both have had to keep their identities a secret from everyone and hide who they really are in the land of Camelot for if their true identities were ever revealed, they would have both faced execution. Both are prophesied to bring magic back to the land. But the way they want to go about bringing back magic are completely opposite. Kilgarrah has said that Morgana is the dark to Merlin's light; the hatred to Merlin's love. While Merlin is poor and comes from a commoner background, Morgana is a noble and comes from Royal Blood.
    • To Mordred. Both are warlocks who possess magical abilities. Both Merlin and Mordred are from poor or a commoner background. Both have a bond or relationship with Arthur. Both of them have had their love interests (Freya in Merlin's case and Kara in Mordred's case) slain by Arthur's hand. Both Merlin and Mordred want to live in a land where the magical people are free. Merlin is born with magic and is a very powerful sorcerer, while Mordred is a Druid. While Merlin had Undying Loyalty for Arthur, Mordred chose to have a Face–Heel Turn and side with Morgana. While Merlin protects Arthur with his life, Mordred is the cause of Arthur's ultimate downfall.
  • For Great Justice: Merlin's primary reason for wanting to fulfill his destiny (so that he could help Arthur lead Albion into a Golden Age where the magical people are free).
  • The Force Is Strong with This One: Comes with being the most powerful sorcerer to ever exist. Other magical people can sense how powerful Merlin is.
  • Foregone Conclusion: It was pretty much predicted that Merlin would become the most powerful sorcerer and wizard to ever walk the Earth. Also, Merlin becomes Arthur's most trusted advisor.
    • Merlin was also the one to hint the idea that Arthur and Guinevere will eventually fall in love and that commoners will become Knights of Camelot.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Merlin decides that POISONING Arthur is necessary to fake his death, when there have to be a million other ways to do it. Arthur gets bonus points for going along with it.
    • After the first few episodes, Merlin also completely forgets his original innate power of stopping time and telekinesis with nothing but a glare. As soon as he starts learning some spells that don't even have a fraction of this power, he only uses spells which could have him executed if anyone listens to his muttering.
    • Lampshaded in The Darkest Hour, when Merlin uses a spell to light the fire while the other knights are gathered around. Lancelot, the only knight who knows about his magic, glares at him. As we saw in series 2, Merlin can light a fire just by moving his hand and there is no need to risk the knights overhearing him.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • In the trio of himself, Arthur, and Gwen, Merlin is The Spock/Superego (calm, secretive, has made at least one Sadistic Choice in which he sacrificed a dear friend in order to save a greater number of people) to Arthur's The McCoy/Id (arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, driven by his emotions, usually puts the individual before the bigger picture) and Gwen's The Kirk/Ego (The Heart, motherly, adored by both men as a Love Interest/Sister Figure. See The Spock.
    • In the Power Trio of himself (Magic), Arthur (Courage), and Gwaine (Strength), Merlin is The Kirk/Ego (balanced, neutral, the mediator between the opposing personalities of Arthur and Gwaine, friends with both Arthur and Gwaine) to Arthur's The Spock/Superego (stoic, serious, strategic, noble, courageous) and Gwaine's The McCoy/Id (fun-loving, roguish, carefree, rebellious, daredevil).
    • Merlin could be seen the Ego mediating between the magical power represented by the wise Gaius (Superego) and the human world of the impulsive Arthur (Id).
  • Friendship Moment: Many times with Arthur throughout the series. Also with Gwen, Gwaine and Lancelot.
  • Future Badass: According to the Dragons and the Druids, the arrival of Emrys has long been prophecised.
  • Geek Physiques: The skinny or slender type. It is especially noticeable in the first few seasons. Merlin does buff up later on in the series.
  • Genius Slob: Although Merlin is hygienic in the sense that he bathes and takes care of his personal hygiene, his room is an absolute mess. It is probably understandable why Merlin isn't particularly tidy and neat because Merlin is too busy either cleaning for or doing chores for Arthur and Gauis, saving and protecting Arthur and using his magic to protect Camelot at all times. Arthur tells Merlin in a season one episode when he looks searches his room that there are closets which are meant to be used to put all of his clothes in. Even Arthur acknowledges how untidy Merlin is and calls him out on it.
  • The Gift: Merlin is born with magic and is basically magic itself. Unlike regular magic users who must learn and master magic to become stronger, Merlin didn't need to learn magic at all. He is destined to be the most powerful sorcerer to ever walk the Earth. Merlin is also a a genius and highly admired by magic users and the Druids.
  • Giving the Sword to a Noob: Merlin doesn't have much experience in sword fighting. However, in 3x13, Merlin retrieved Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake (Freya) in order to defeat Morgana's immortal army. Kilgarrah had told Merlin that in the wrong hands, the sword was capable of doing great evil. But at that particular and crucial moment in time, the sword was used by Merlin to defeat the enemy (Morgana's immortal army), even though the sword is meant for Arthur.
  • Goal in Life: To reinstate magic in the kingdom and to protect Arthur long enough for him to fulfill his destiny (and by proxy, protect Arthur's family members, particularly his father and his wife).
  • Go Through Me: So much, in regards to Arthur and everyone else that he cares about. Merlin even says that if someone wants to kill Arthur, they would have to kill him first.
  • The Good Chancellor: Bonus points for qualifying without even having rank.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Merlin wears red and blue, which are both Hero colours. If he's not wearing those colours, you'll know something is wrong with him.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He's one of the sweetest characters on the show, but that compassion does not always extend to his enemies. To put it flatly, go near his friends, and you will die. If you threaten him, he won't worry about killing you, either. He befriends nearly everyone he meets and bonds tightly with them, and is putting his life on the line just by being in Camelot because he believes that when Arthur becomes the Once and Future King, magic will return to Albion peacefully. Yet when the time comes to kill the monster, he will. No regrets, no hesitation, just "You threatened my friends. Bye." followed by instant death. Best demonstrated in the series 4 finale, when he is cornered, unarmed, and there's no way out except to use his magic. He tries to talk them down, even though he knows it's futile, but fails. When they finally close in, he flicks his eyes and kills five guards without hesitation.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Merlin receives a book of magic from Gaius in the first episode, and he learns almost everything he needs about spells or magical matters from it.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The boy wizard is definitely a good guy. But he supports a Knight Templar king (Uther) who would execute him if he knew the truth, often against designated villains with a legitimate grievance, and Merlin often makes some questionable choices to balance his nature against his support of the king. Why? It's just Because Destiny Says So ("destiny" in this case being a dragon with a fairly major and deserved grudge against Uther himself).
  • Guile Hero: After a few close calls, he matures into this from a reckless teenager who thinks magic can solve everything. He increasingly relies on his wit and manipulation, and magic is simply a tool for his plan.
  • Half-Human Hybrid/Human Mom Nonhuman Dad: Merlin is the son of a human mother (Hunith) and a Dragonlord father (Balinor). Technically, he is a creature of the Old Religion.
  • Hate at First Sight: When Merlin first met Arthur, he admitted that he couldn't stand him. However, this has changed, as Merlin and Arthur have become very close and attached with one another as the series progresses.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: After years of making Sadistic Choice after Sadistic Choice under the tutelage of morally questionable mentors like Gaius and the Great Dragon, Kilgarrah and also suffering endless heartbreak, grief and tragedy, he becomes noticeably similar to Morgana (and by extension Uther) in the ease with which he jumps straight to highly questionable actions and finds justifications for them.He is also both directly and indirectly responsible for both Mordred and Morgana doing a Face–Heel Turn and turning against Arthur and the rest of Camelot. He also contributes to the continuing oppression of magic users, the very thing he fights to end.
  • Healing Magic Is the Hardest: Seems to be the case for Merlin. He could not heal Arthur in 3x05, and has difficulty with healing spell again in 5x07.
  • The Heart: Merlin is the centrepiece and the emotional aspect of the series. He brings everyone together and the story is from his point of view. Therefore, most of the audience tends to sympathize with him the most. He shares this role with Gwen.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Merlin has suffered so much heartbreak, loss, grief, tragedy and pain that it is a surprise that Merlin hasn't completely broken down.
  • The Hero: Merlin is practically the only thing that stands between Arthur and the many manners of death, and he protects Camelot by extension.
  • Heroic Bastard: Ironically, he might not have been been a bastard at all had it not been for Uther's interference, and his father is unaware he exists until the Series 2 finale. All the better to contrast with Morgana, who becomes a Bastard Bastard after her Face–Heel Turn, and Mordred, who isn't one at all in this version.
  • Heroic BSoD: Many times throughout the series, but particularly after Arthur's death in the series finale. In fact, Merlin basically loses it.
  • Heroic Fatigue: Initially an optimistic boy who happily uses his magic for anyone who needs help, Merlin nurses quite a resentment and bitterness after years of cleaning up after Arthur, hiding his magic and making Sadistic Choice while receiving disrespect in return.
  • Heroic Lineage: Merlin discovers that his long-lost father, Balinor is a Dragon Lord.
  • Heroic Resolve: If any of his loved ones are threatened, he will find the strength to keep going and defeat his enemy no matter how powerful for cunning his enemy is. Best seen in 1x13, 2x07, and 4x03.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Too many throughout the series to count, and almost for every single character on the show, but primarily for Arthur.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Doesn't think that much of himself for a guy who saves the kingdom on a regular basis.
  • Heroic Spirit: Merlin has it more than anybody.
  • Hero's First Rescue: In the Pilot episode, when Merlin saves Arthur by pushing him out of the way when Marry attempts to kill Arthur by throwing a dagger at him. As a reward, King Uther makes Merlin Arthur's personal manservant.
  • The Hero's Journey: Merlin's main purpose in the series.
  • He's Back: At the end of "Diamond of the Day Part 1", when he regains his powers once more.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Arthur, in a Vitriolic Best Buds way.
  • Hidden Badass: Merlin doesn't physically look intimidating, but he can kick anyone's ass, including the much bigger guys.
  • Hidden Depths: Merlin may look like a naive and clumsy servant boy but he's actually a very powerful warlock. He's also probably the most well informed person in the cast given his position.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: He's the savior of the magical race, living in the most anti-magic place he could be in as an innocuous servant.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: If Merlin had just ignored the visions, namely in Crystal Cave, he wouldn't have fallen into the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy loop.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Merlin has this with almost every single male character that he has interacted with, especially with Arthur.
  • Honest Advisor: To Arthur, though subverted in that he seldom tells Arthur the full extent of the deal, especially when magic is involved.
  • Honor Before Reason: Believes in doing the right thing, regardless if it is foolish or dangerous. However, it remarkably doesn't prevent him from making morally questionable choices that he himself hates, such as poisoning a scared and helpless Morgana or leaving a young Mordred to his death.
  • Hope Bringer: Merlin is this to everyone around him, but especially to Arthur. On the cosmic scale, he embodies the promise that magic will return and Albion will enter a golden age.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Even though Merlin was born with magic and had never been taught magic, he still needed guidance on how to use his magical abilities effectively. This is what Gaius' main role was in regards to Merlin.
  • Humble Hero: He is a highly powerful warlock who has dragons at his command, yet is content to be Arthur's servant.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick/Sidekick Ex Machina: Merlin is always saving Arthur, much to Arthur's unawareness.
  • I Gave My Word: Merlin in his second What the Hell, Hero? moment of 2x12 when he frees the Great Dragon (Kilgarrah), who then proceeds to attack Camelot.
  • I Have Many Names: Emrys, among others, according to Mordred and the Great Dragon. Somewhat inverted as Merlin himself is unaware of most of them.
    • He has also given himself a name for his Secret Identity as an old man: "Dragoon".
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Played straight. Merlin's main goal in life is to be free to be who he is, which is a person who practices magic within Camelot without being persecuted or executed.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: In the pilot, Merlin is worried that he's a monster because of his magic. He plays with this again in 2x09 when the situation with Freya gives him a reason to quit the destiny business and get out of Camelot.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Merlin tries this on Morgana in 3x02. It doesn't work.
  • I Know Your True Name: Many Druids and Creatures of the Old Religion refer to Merlin by his true name of "Emrys". This doesn't give them any power over him, though.
  • I Owe You My Life: Why Merlin tries so hard to help Lancelot become a knight.
  • I Should Have Been Better: In the series finale, Merlin tells Kilgarrah that he feels that he failed in his destiny because Arthur died. Kilgarrah reassures Merlin that he didn't fail and that he did the best that he could. Although, it could be assumed that these were just kind parting words Kilgarrah was telling to Merlin as a way of making Merlin feel better about Arthur dying.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: To Freya. Her happiness is part of the reason he was willing to give up his grand destiny and ran away from Camelot with her.
    • Platonically, he has also done many risky things for Arthur.
  • Iconic Outfit: Merlin's infamous red or blue neckerchiefs, as well as his boots and the hat he wore in The Poisoned Chalice.
  • The Idealist: Especially in the first season. Merlin becomes much more of a realist and more pragmatic with a good dose of cynicism as the series progresses.
  • Idiot Ball: Merlin kick-starts an episode's plot by conjuring the smoke of a campfire into the image of a galloping horse. A woman sees it, tells King Uther, and a witch-hunt begins. Merlin spends the remainder of the episode lamenting just how stupid he was.
    • And in another when Morgana has gone to see the Druids for advice, Uther thinks she has been kidnapped and so Merlin has the bright idea to cause a big commotion escaping the locked up city (as opposed to trying to sneak out quietly) and for no reason at all lights a fire in the middle of the forest thus leading the knights right on his tail to where the Druids are hiding.
  • Idiot Savant: Appears this to others, especially Arthur.
  • Ignored Epiphany: The Crystal Cave seems to be one long lesson to him about the dangers of blindly trusting destiny, and how it can easily turn into a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. If he had remembered this in Season 5, Mordred wouldn't have turned and he'd have gotten exactly what he wanted: a magical Camelot with Arthur as its king.
  • Immortal Hero: Merlin can never die because he is an immortal.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Colin Morgan doesn't do Single Tears. When he's crying, he's crying.
    • In A Lesson In Vengeance, Merlin nearly breaks down because it appears that his spell has failed to heal Arthur. Partially done to contrast with Gwen, who was brainwashed the episode before and has spent the entire episode crying Crocodile Tears to get everyone to follow her.
    • Merlin revealing his magic to Arthur in the series finale almost doesn't come to pass since Merlin is crying so much.
  • Informed Attribute: Merlin is described as weak and scrawny. Maybe in the first and second series that was true, but the actor has since filled out and it barely applies. Loose clothing seems to shake this somewhat, but whenever you see Colin Morgan out of costume it's blatant that he's just as big as some of the other knights that are described as muscular.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: In the first few series. Changes into Icy Blue Eyes when he becomes more cold and ruthless towards those he considers enemies.
  • Instant Expert: At casting certain spells. Some can be slightly more difficult though. Justified because he is, well, Merlin.
  • Insult of Endearment: Frequently refers to Arthur as either a "Clotpole" or a "Dollophead", although there are other insulting nicknames that Merlin likes to throw at Arthur. Of course, Arthur is never amused by any of it.
  • Internalized Categorism: Merlin has a mild case of this. Merlin is a powerful warlock and a wizard who is a genius. But he conceals and hides his identity out of fear of being shunned, ostracized, seen as a freak or abnormal and most of all, out of fear of being either banished from Camelot or executed. It doesn't make Merlin feel any better about himself and who he is when Merlin is constantly told or reminded on a daily basis by both Arthur and Uther that magic is evil. Plus, Merlin has also seen that many magic users abuse their powers and use their powers as a force for evil (such as Morgana, Morgause, Edwin, and Mordred for example). It is no wonder that Merlin is sometimes ashamed to have magic considering that many magic users have a rather bad reputation, especially within the land of Camelot.
  • Interspecies Friendship: With Arthur and Gwen primarily. Merlin is a powerful warlock and Dragon Lord (a supernatural species) with magical abilities and Arthur and Gwen are both regular humans.
  • In-Series Nickname: Kilgarrah, the Great Dragon, often calls Merlin Young Warlock.
  • In the Blood/Lineage Comes from the Father: Merlin's dragonlord powers and abilities, which are described to be a sacred gift, have been passed down from father to son for thousands of years. Balinor, Merlin's father, was a dragonlord. After Balinor died, Merlin inherited the dragon lord powers. Merlin is currently the last dragon lord in existence.
  • Invincible Hero: There is literally nothing he can't do. Merlin was born with the gift of magic and has even been described as being magic itself. as the series continues, Merlin has shown that he only continues to get stronger and stronger and by the fourth and fifth series, his power is immense. Not to mention that not only his his power as a warlock one of the greatest and most powerful ever, but he is also highly intelligent and will often use his intelligence to outwit and out gambit the enemy along with using his magic to protect Camelot. By the series finale, Merlin is the most powerful sorcerer to ever walk the Earth.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Merlin has to keep his abilities a secret within a land that condemns magic and views magic as evil. At times, Merlin feels like an outsider and an alien.
  • It's All My Fault: Sometimes Merlin blames himself for things that aren't even his fault. For example, Merlin blamed himself for Uther's death, even though he was only trying to save Uther.
  • It's for a Book: Merlin uses a variation of this, ("it's for homework") in ''Lancelot'', to excuse his unlikely interest in the library.
  • It's Personal: Merlin is a fairly calm person, generally speaking, but if you dare to threaten someone he cares about, he will hurt you.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: He has become noticeably pragmatic and jaded during the course of the series. By season 5, he has advised Arthur to abandon the quest to rescue the captured knights and to shoot a defenseless man. It's played for laughs but he is completely unenthusiastic to investigate the scream of a woman in 5x03, a remarkable change from a young man who is eager to help in the beginning.
    Gaius: What happened to the young boy who came into my chambers just a few years ago?
    Merlin: He grew up, and learnt the meaning of duty.
  • Jumped at the Call: In the Pilot, he despaired that his magical power made him a monster. The Dragon gave him a purpose and he committed to it after some initial misgivings about Arthur Pendragon.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: Merlin's steadfast refusal to tell anyone about the fact that he has magic has caused more problems than it's solved. In particular, his treatment of Morgana led at least partially to her Face–Heel Turn. Particularly as she likewise discovers she has magic in the second series. Her neck is on the line just as much as his, as it doesn't seem like that Uther would have been merciful.
  • Keet: Especially in the beginning. Merlin was very optimistic, fun loving, bubbly, cheery, impulsive and enthusiastic with high energy. This often contributed to Merlin getting easily distracted as well as his endless Buffy Speak and Motor Mouth. Averted later on in the series. Merlin becomes much more mature, cynical and pragmatic as the series progresses.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Although the character of Merlin has a strong adult following due to the Arthurian legends, Merlin in this version strongly appeals to the much younger demographic just as much as the adult demographic. Part of the reason for Merlin appealing to the younger audience is because in this version, Merlin is much more youthful, attractive, and lovable in comparison to the Merlin of the original legend.
  • The Klutz: Merlin's clumsiness is a defining characteristic.
  • Knight, Knave and Squire: Merlin is The Squire to Arthur's The Knight and Gwaine's The Knave. They are also known as the trio of Magic (Merlin), Courage (Arthur) and Strength (Gwaine).
  • Language of Magic: Merlin seems to use Old English for this purpose. This is weird, given that Old English would have been the language of the Saxon invaders that King Arthur fought against. Chalk it up to Translation Convention.
    • The one exception is when he's in Dragon Lord mode. It's Homeric Greek then.
  • Large Ham: When he's in his "Dragoon" disguise.
  • Last of His Kind: Merlin's father is revealed to be the Last of the Dragon-Lords, Magi who possessed the ability to command and bend Dragons to their will. Upon his father's death, Merlin inherited the gift and the responsibility of being the Last Dragon-Lord.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Merlin's default state, even to those who knew he had magic, was a clumsy, silly moron who was just as likely to screw things up as make them right. But threaten his friends, and you won't last five seconds. He also became more mature, edgier, serious and much more wiser as the series progressed.
  • Let Them Die Happy: In 2x09, Merlin takes Freya to a place that reminds her of her home.
  • Lethal Joke Character: In-Universe. Out of any number of elite knights, it's Merlin who ends up getting dragged along whenever Arthur goes on a solitary mission. Arthur seemingly does this because Merlin makes him laugh and provides moral support. He's completely unaware that Merlin is the only reason he survives these missions.
  • Like Brother and Sister: With Gwen.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Merlin has only one red shirt, one blue shirt, two neck scarves and a brown jacket that he wears through all five seasons. This may be deliberate. Merlin is a servant, and probably doesn't have a lot of money.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: Merlin has gone from no magical training at all (the only thing he can do is telekinesis), to causing earthquakes, summoning gods, commanding freakin' dragons to do whatever he wants, and in the finale, he beats the entire Saxon army, a dragon, and a High Priestess almost casually with lots and lots of lightning. As Merlin started to get more experienced though, he was more proactive in fights and took out way more guys than Arthur. By seasons four and five he was the main powerhouse of the group, and in season five finale curbstomps an entire army, Morgana who's the closest in power to him, and a dragon all at once. Arthur gets one level-up (Excalibur), and that's it. And even at the start of the show before his development, it's clear Merlin would beat Arthur in a fight if the gloves were off.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Believe it or not, to Arthur. It has been shown that without Merlin, Arthur would be very vulnerable emotionally and physically. Although Arthur may not realize it, he strongly depends on Merlin for many things.
  • Living Foreveris Awesome: He leads a high-risk lifestyle and immortality allows him to come back every time the odds aren't in his favor.
  • Lonely at the Top: Merlin eventually becomes the most powerful sorcerer to ever walk the Earth. But he ends up completely alone in the end due to everyone that he loves and knows dying. Heartbreaking.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Merlin is this to Balinor, his birth father. Merlin first met Balinor in the season two finale. Sadly, Balinor ends up dying.
  • Love at First Sight: With Freya. Sadly, it ended in tragedy when Freya ended up dying..
  • Love Hurts: His relationship with Freya, The Gwen Stacy.
  • Love Martyr: Even though Arthur doesn't always treat him nicely and almost never acknowledges his worth in a straightforward manner (especially jarring when compared to how Arthur treats the knights and Guinevere), Merlin still cares about Arthur and is always there for him no matter what.
  • Love Or Destiny Decision: Merlin must chose between Freya and Arthur. He actually chooses Freya, but destiny puts a stop to this.
  • Loyal to the Position: Played straight in regards to Arthur. Merlin has told Arthur that he is glad to be his servant till the day he dies. In the series finale, Merlin flat out tells a dying Arthur that he was born to serve Arthur, that he is proud of that and he wouldn't change anything.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Merlin meets his long-lost father, Balinor, for the first time in the season two finale. Balinor had no idea he had a son. Sadly, he ends up dying in the episode.
  • Made of Iron: Merlin been sliced open by a mace, taken fireballs to the chest, poisoned, and been hit by freezing spirits that killed everyone else.
    • Turns out that Merlin is indeed an immortal being according to the series finale and therefore can't die.
  • Made of Magic: According to Balinor, Merlin is magic himself.
  • Magical Gesture: Sometimes Merlin uses his hands when using his magic.
  • Magical Incantation: When Merlin casts spells.
  • Magic Knight: By Series 3, Merlin seems to use sword and sorcery equally well together to take down his enemies. It's likely he picked up fighting techniques purely in self-defense from a combination of always being attacked and Arthur's insistence upon using Merlin as a sparring partner (or practice dummy).
  • Magic Staff: Merlin has two staffs, a Sidhe staff he's used on a couple occasions, and a staff from the Crystal Cave in the series finale. Both are capable of channeling lightning (or at least something that looks like it) and utilizing it as a weapon.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Merlin's ultimate goal for Camelot.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: Because of who Merlin is, who is a powerful sorcerer, he ends up attracting endless and different magical creatures who pose as threats to him and to Camelot. This is the price that comes along with Merlin's identity. He is known to good and bad magical monsters, creatures and beings alike.
  • Magic Is Mental
  • Magnetic Hero: Merlin is definitely this. He befriends nearly everyone he meets and others always seek Merlin out for help or advice.
  • The Magnificent: Merlin disguised as Old!Merlin calls himself "Dragoon, THE Great!"
  • The Man Behind the Man: Merlin is this to Arthur, so much it's practically a Central Theme. Arthur's going to rule all of Albion, the greatest kingdom that ever was or ever will be? Yep. He's the Chosen One? Yep, so much that he has a Chosen One chosen to protect him. Merlin, on the other hand, is partially responsible for Morgana and Mordred's eventual Face–Heel Turn via Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, got Arthur and Gwen together, made friends with Lancelot and Gwaine and ignited the idea of commoners being knights, put the sword in the stone, put the lady in the lake, convinced the dragon to forge Excalibur, and is responsible for a lot of Arthur's Character Development into the Once and Future King he was supposed to be in the first place.
  • Married to the Job: More like married to "destiny".
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Merlin is constantly willing to trade his life in order to save others. He often offers himself up to be sacrificed without hesitation, especially if it is someone that he loves and cares about (examples include Arthur, Gaius, his mother, etc).
  • The Masquerade: "Keep the magic secret".
  • The Masquerade Will Kill Your Dating Life: The reason why Merlin doesn't get romantically involved with anyone is because he has to keep his magic a secret both to survive and to achieve what he's destined for. Also, everyone who knows about his secret and whom he can depends emotionally on (sans Gaius and the Great Dragon) inevitably dies.
  • Meaningful Name: The name Merlin means "sea fortress" or "of the sea fortress" in Welsh.
    • The name that Merlin bestows upon the baby dragon, Aithusa, turns out to mean 'Light of the Sun' in dragon-speech.
    • Emrys: Means 'Immortal'.
  • The Medic: Not as experienced as Gaius, but he knows the basics and has learned a lot from him. Mordred even comments on how much of a skilled physician Merlin is in the fifth season.
  • Meet Cute: It's played with. Whenever Merlin meets a pretty girl, he shows interest, evident with his encounters of Gwen, Morgana, Nimueh, Lady Catrina, Sefa, and Freya.
  • Messianic Archetype: Merlin is destined to become the greatest and most powerful warlock or sorcererto ever live on Earth. His role is to guide Arthur to a Golden Age where the magical people are free. His destiny has been foretold since the dawn of Time and he is known to the likes of Druids, dragons, seers, the magical peoples and other magical creatures and beings. YMMV on how much he fulfills this role.
  • Merlin Sickness: Averted. Merlin doesn't have it in this version.
  • Moral Dissonance: Merlin and Morgana have a huge Not So Different thing going on. Anything she's done, he's done as well. Attempt to murder an innocent to prevent a prophecy, take away free will, betray a close friend, killing lots of people.
  • Morality Pet: He brings out the best in the Dragon, although only so far.
  • Morality Tropes:
  • More Expendable Than You: In the Series 1 finale, this happens twice, first with Merlin declaring that Arthur's life is worth a hundred of his own and then - when it becomes clear that the deal was for a life, not necessarily Merlin's, and his mother becomes dangerously ill - Gaius sacrifices himself in Merlin's place. It doesn't last, as Merlin realizes that killing the witch who cast spell in the first place also worked and used her as the sacrifice.
    • Happens again in the fourth series premiere. They need to sacrifice someone to heal the veil between the worlds, and Arthur thinks it should be him. Merlin wants to take his place, since, as a servant, his life is more expendable. When the time comes to sacrifice someone, Merlin knocks Arthur out, and offers himself to the gatekeeper of the spirit world. As they're talking, Lancelot sneaks behind him and walks through, providing the necessary sacrifice.
  • Motive Decay: Merlin begins the show by wanting to protect Arthur so that one day he can accept magic and make it legal. By the end of the show, Merlin has explicitly redefined his destiny as simply serving Arthur.
  • Motor Mouth: At times. Sometimes when Merlin gets talking, he just can't stop. Hence Arthur's catchphrase of "Shut up, Merlin."
  • Mr. Fanservice: Downplayed. He was the first male character in the show to get a Shirtless Scene.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Merlin is a skinny, lanky and even scrawny built guy but he could easily kick anyone's ass, including Arthur and the Knights of Camelot, who are all much broader, muscular and huskier built than he. Merlin may not be very buff and muscular but he is still by far the most powerful character in the series due to being the most powerful sorcerer ever.
    • Although Merlin does buff up later on in the series. It is especially noticeable in season five.
  • Mugging the Monster: All the freaking time. If you want to survive in the world of Merlin, please do not attack the scrawny guy on the ground who has clearly never had a day of combat training in his life. Odds are that a spear will fly out of nowhere and stab you.
    • In the Series 4 finale, Arthur, Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde are trying to escape from Agravaine in a series of tunnels. Merlin doubles back, intending to lead them away, but gets cornered. He tries to convince them to leave him alone, but Agravaine decides to kill him anyway. Left with no other choice, Merlin uses his magic to defend himself, and kills all but one of the men in an instant with a flick of his eyes. The surviving man dies less than two minutes later, again by Merlin.
    • This actually happens to Merlin a lot, as in this version of the legend he's a peasant teenager who often goes unarmed. By Series 5, he's grown so tired of this that when a group of bandits tries to mug him and his companion, he just tells them to back off and sends their leader flying when they don't comply. Give them credit, though, they're smart enough to get out of there once they realize who they're up against.
  • Mundane Utility: Merlin often uses his magic to do household chores, to the great distress of his mentor figure (magic is illegal in Camelot, and anyone caught using or even knowing magic is put to death).
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Substitute "country" for "kingdom" and "future king."
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Plenty of times throughout the series, but especially after Merlin tries to save Uther with magic and Uther ends up dying instead.
  • My Greatest Failure: Merlin takes the biggest risk of his life in order to save Uther with magic and convince Arthur that magic can be benign. However, Morgana and Agravaine's actions prevent his spell from working and Uther dies, seemingly hardening Arthur's heart against magic forever.
    • Also, not being able to save Arthur from dying in the end.
  • Mysterious Protector: Inverted with Merlin's alter-ego Dragoon. Though he's trying to save Gwen's life, his plan involves him making everyone believe that he's their enemy.
  • Naïve Newcomer: In the beginning, when Merlin leaves his childhood in Ealdor for Camelot. He's inexperienced in court life and constantly finds himself in troubles.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: In a meta sense, "Merlin" is synonymous with "insanely powerful magic".
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: Merlin confesses to Arthur that he never really felt as though he belonged in Ealdor.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Although since he's unsure of even his own powers, its justified that he can get away with this. An example is Merlin's mind's eye. Kind of justified in that he learned about it from a very obscure source and so couldn't use it before this episode, but it still fits the trope. Time will tell if this is brought up again.
  • Nice Guy: He will not be unnecessarily mean unless provoked first and is a bad case of Chronic Hero Syndrome especially in the beginning. However, his kindness isn't extended to whom he considers enemies.
  • Nice Hat: In 1x04, the official servant's ceremonial clothes in which Merlin has to wear include a huge feathered monstrosity of a hat. Gwen even comments, "nice hat," in between giggles, much to Merlin's embarrassment.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • 2x12 has a double whammy — he releases the Great Dragon and poisons Lady Morgana. The former allows the dragon to finally take revenge on Camelot and King Uther, while the latter is a huge reason behind Morgana's Face–Heel Turn from the side of good to the side of evil.
    • In 3x5, "The Crystal Cave", he Morgana has a fall, ends up in a coma and his slowly dying from internal injuries. Merlin and Gaius know she's turned evil by this point, but the other characters don't. Merlin can't stand the grieving of his friends and orders Kilgharah for a spell to save. The Dragon point blanks tell him that whatever evil Morgana from this point on will be his fault.
    • 4x03 In disguise, he accidentally kills King Uther with magic and in front of Arthur: Arthur has now lost both his parents to magic and he knows.
    • 5x05 When the Disir told Arthur they'll save Mordred if he bring back magic, Merlin told him magic has no place in Camelot hoping to Screw Destiny. Result: the Disir heal Mordred as a punishment so he will, in time, play his part in Arthur's death. Merlin's mistake basically condemns Arthur to die.
    • And the biggest on the whole series, hatching Aithusa from his egg. Not only does Aithusa saves Morgana from dying, thus giving her more chances to threaten Camelot, but later Morgana uses his fire to create the sword that Mordred used to injure Arthur. Since it was a magical blade blessed with dragon fire, Gaius was unable to heal the wound and Arthur died.
  • The Nicknamer: Merlin has nicknames for Arthur which include "Dollophead", "Prat", "Cabbage-Head", "Turnip-Head", "Simpleton", "Clotpole".
  • Noble Male, Roguish Male: Merlin could be seen as the Roguish Male to Arthur's Noble. While Merlin is all about doing the right thing, he is more willing to use underhanded means, while Arthur is more upstanding, chivalrous and noble.
  • No Badass to His Valet: Merlin is almost completely immune to Arthur's royal demands and complaining, largely due to the fact that Arthur cannot intimidate him. He's also totally willing to knock the royal prat down a notch or twenty whenever he becomes too unbearable, punishment be damned.
    • It helps that, while Arthur is a Badass Normal and Master Swordsman, Merlin could still kill him without lifting a finger. Arthur may not be aware of this, but Merlin definitely is.
      Arthur: "I could take you apart with one blow."
      Merlin: "I could take you apart with less than that."
  • No Hero to His Valet: As Arthur's manservant, Merlin sees him at his worst - and most vulnerable.
  • Non-Action Guy: Only in the very beginning. Especially when he goes up against Arthur in the Pilot.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Merlin may use his magic to save Camelot on a daily basis, which is a good deed on Merlin's behalf. However, if it were ever discovered that Merlin uses his magic to do good deeds for Camelot and its inhabitants, Merlin would be punished by law, either by being banished or executed (burned at the stake, hanged, beheaded, etc). Hence, why Merlin keeps his magic a secret despite using his magic to do good. Basically for Merlin, saving Camelot and protecting its inhabitants with his magic is punishable by law.
  • "No. Just... No" Reaction: This was Merlin's reaction when the Great Dragon told him that his (Merlin's) destiny is tied to Arthur.
  • No Respect Guy: Despite being the show's most competent hero, and regularly saving people's (especially Arthur's) life, he's still treated like the resident Butt-Monkey. Justified, because no one knows Merlin's secret except Gaius and Lancelot, and to everyone else he's just Arthur's servant.
  • No Sympathy: Although Merlin is a highly empathetic person to generally everyone, he doesn't always extend compassion to his enemies. In regards to his enemies, Merlin shows very little to no remorse after killing them, especially in the fifth season. When Merlin killed Morgana in the series finale, he didn't even shed a tear or show one ounce of guilt or remorse for doing it outside of blaming himself for letting her get this bad. In fact, Merlin seemed very satisfied with himself for killing her after many attempts.
  • Not Himself: In 4x06, when he was being controlled by Morgana to kill Arthur at any cost.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Merlin to Arthur. However, many fangirls may disagree...
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Merlin decision to poison Morgana. He was exhausted, out of options, and had been told to do so by the dragon, but the act has far-reaching consequences.
  • Not So Different: To Morgana, obvious considering she is traditionally his Shadow Archetype.
    • Best shown in 5x02 when Arthur calls Morgana out on being virtually unrecognisable anymore, and in 5x05 when Gaius notes that Merlin has gotten a much darker personality from the innocent boy he first met, both respond to the criticism with;
      Merlin / Morgana: I grew up.
    • Agravaine says this almost word by word to him as they both have a Dark Secret to hide from Arthur.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Merlin frequently gets walked in on in various compromising-looking situations, usually by Arthur or Gwen. Not only does he have to explain that it's not what it looks like, he usually can't even tell the truth and so has to come up with another (comedically improbable) excuse. While they usually don't believe him, they trust him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Often happened unintentionally in Series 1. Nowadays, he actively exploits it.
  • Oblivious to Love: Merlin was completely oblivious to Gwen having a crush on him.
  • Occult Detective: Often with Gaius.
    • Some fans would say also Merlin and Gwen, who have teamed up on more than one occasion to investigate the fantastical mysteries in Camelot, earning them the Fan Nickname of "Camelot's Detective Agency."
  • Odd Couple: With Arthur of course.
  • Odd Friendship: With Arthur of course. They have different backgrounds, personalities and outlooks, yet they are extremely close and attached to one another. This is because ultimately, Merlin and Arthur's destinies are intertwined.
    • Merlin and the various knights also count, since they generally have very little in common but all seem to like him quite well and are rather protective of him.
  • Old Master: When Merlin is in his Emrys or Dragoon disguise. He may look old, but he can kick anyone's ass easily.
  • Older and Wiser: Played straight. Merlin not only becomes significantly stronger in regards to his magic and his power, but he also gains significant wisdom and intelligence as the series progresses. He also becomes less naive and idealistic and much more serious and pragmatic. Hard to believe that Merlin goes from a naive warlock to someone who is much more pragmatic, powerful and wise.
  • Older Than They Look: Although Merlin's age is vague in the series, he has always looked baby-faced and younger than his actual age. It seems as though Merlin hasn't aged all that much in the span of a decade. This is subverted in the series finale when Merlin is seen as an immortal old man.
  • Omniscient Morality License: Merlin has been told by The Great Dragon to do some incredibly morally questionable actions, including letting a child (Mordred) die, letting the King (Uther) die, and poisoning a woman (Morgana) for the greater good. There are times when Merlin will listen to the dragon and other times when he rebels and does what he feels is right for him. Either way, it doesn't always end well for Merlin, whether or not he listens to the advice of The Great Dragon. At the end of the day in many situations, Merlin is in a lose-lose situation.
  • One-Man Army: As Diamond of the Day can attest, you do NOT want to be on the receiving end when Merlin decides to fully unleash his power. In a matter of minutes, he single-handedly manages to obliterate most of Morgana's army (the Saxons) and sends the rest scurrying into full retreat. To give some perspective, before the battle, Morgana's army outnumbered Camelot's nearly 5-to-1 and was told to contain thousands of men. Oh, and he finishes it off with taking down Morgana, who is the closest next to him in power, with one shot AND also commanding Aithusa to leave Camelot and never return using his dragonlord powers.
  • Only Friend: To Arthur. Arthur has even admitted that Merlin is the only true friend that he has, despite being surrounded by many others. Also to Gwaine. Gwaine admits so himself in 3x08.
  • The Only One: Merlin is the last Dragonlord. It is revealed when Merlin's dad dies that there can be only one and the power passes from one individual to another father-to-son upon death. Therefore, when the Great Dragon was attacking Camelot and was going to destroy it, Merlin was the only one who could stop the dragon with the use of his dragon lord power.
  • Only One Name: Although Merlin has many names or aliases, Merlin's surname or last name is never mentioned and remains unknown. It's either Merlin or Emrys.
  • Only Sane Man: To Arthur and his knights, who're obsessed with the Knight Code. Merlin never hesitates to point out the holes and impracticality in their course of action.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Merlin magically embeds Excalibur in a stone, to keep it safe until Arthur is meant to wield it. In a subversion of the norm, Merlin's magic isn't emphathic in any sense: the sword is impossible to remove by hand, and Merlin simply tricks Arthur into thinking he is the only person able to do it. Merlin loosens the blade with magic once Arthur is in the right mindset.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When walking back to Camelot in 3x05, Merlin is either quiet or laconic, lies rather well, and when Arthur compliments him, he ignores him. Arthur is immediately suspicious, but doesn't investigate. Reappears in 5x05 when Arthur comments that Merlin doesn't rise to his jibs and it means something is wrong.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: On occasion. Colin Morgan gets better at hiding his accent as time goes on.
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: Merlin often has a habit of saying what's on his mind, even if it sounds stupid or foolish. Hence, the catchphrase: "Shut up, Merlin".
  • Opposites Attract: Merlin and his relationship with Arthur, with Arthur being a rich and emotionally repressed blond, and the latter being a poor but easy-going brunet. As the series goes on, however, it becomes Arthur being the idealistic king backed by Merlin's pragmatic and secretive sorcerer
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Mentioned frequently, in that Merlin knows he's the most powerful person in any given situation, but will always be considered a lowly servant in amongst all the kings, princes and knights.
  • Papa Wolf: A non-parental example, but he is fiercely protective of Arthur, Gaius and Gwen.
  • Parental Abandonment: Didn't know his father or where he was until 2x13, then he died afterwards.
  • Perma-Shave: Merlin seems to be lacking in the facial hair department. He is always smooth-faced.
  • Perpetual Poverty
  • Person of Mass Destruction: He's the most powerful warlock or sorcerer to ever live on Earth who can take out armies and cause disasters like earthquakes.
  • Please Don't Leave Me: As Arthur is dying in the series finale, Merlin tells Arthur to stay with him.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Camelot's cells have no defense against magic, which means that whenever he's in there, he can leave whenever he wants.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Much of humour of the series comes from Merlin's antics. Especially as his older alter ego, Dragoon The Great.
  • Poison-and-Cure Gambit: In 2x12, Merlin turns Morgana's poisoning into this when Morgause bursts into the room, offering to tell her the poison if she removes the spell over Camelot.
  • Poison Is Evil: Inverted, as it is first the heroic Merlin who uses it for morally-dubious means (killing Morgana in order to break a fatal spell upon Camelot).
  • Poisonous Friend: In a very literal sense to Morgana.
  • The Pollyanna: For all the tragedies in his life, he remains optimistic that one day Arthur will end the oppression on magic and leads Albion to the golden age as the prophecy promises. He's also most of the time (and at times inappropriately) cheerful and upbeat. When he stops joking around, even Arthur knows that something is wrong.
  • Power Incontinence: Notably averted. All other magic users have their powers go out of their control, but Merlin was using magic on purpose since before he could talk.
  • Power Makes Your Voice Deep: When he's speaking the dragon tongue, his voice is notably deeper.
  • The Power of Friendship: Merlin's undying loyalty to Arthur stems from his very close friendship with him.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Merlin poisons the innocent Morgana to save the good future he works for. Gaius encourages him on this way, and they both end up talking about how hard making difficult choices can be, but how it becomes necessary.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: He can pull them off on occassion.
    Merlin:You should not have killed by friend. *cue lightning*
  • Pretty Boy
  • Primary-Color Champion: Merlin usually wears the colours Red and Blue (The Hero colours) together.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: As Arthur's servant, he's supposed to be this.
  • The Promise: Merlin made a promise to Kilgarrah that he would free him one day.
    • Also that he would ensure that he would find a place to keep Excalibur in a safe, hiding place. Merlin put the sword in a stone.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: At least Merlin used to believe so. At times, Merlin took the subject of destiny and fate much too seriously. One could argue that it ended up being his downfall.
  • The Protagonist: The story centres on Merlin, his heroic journey and his relationships with other characters.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Merlin is Audience Surrogate and The Hero of the series who saves the kingdom of Camelot, however, his endless body count and the amount of people (although they are enemies) he has killed over the course of the series cannot be overlooked. In fact, the amount of people Merlin has killed in order to save and protect Arthur and Camelot is rather morally questionable. Understandable but again, very morally questionable. Although, Merlin's body count could be seen as I Did What I Had to Do.
  • Protagonist Title: The series is named after him.
  • Protectorate: Of Camelot, the knights, but especially Arthur and Gwen. His protection also extends to anyone with magical abilities, such as Mordred and Freya.
  • Puberty Superpower: Averted. Merlin could use his magic 'before he could talk'.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Merlin's eyes are large, blue and twinkling. His eyes make him all the more adorable, even if you want to yell at him for his choices and decisions sometimes.
  • The Quest: In 3x08, Arthur goes on a Quest to get the Golden Trident and prove himself worthy of the throne. Subverted as it turns out Merlin was the one really on the Quest and the Fisher King gives him water from the Lake of Avalon. Arthur still gets the Trident and Merlin, Arthur and Gwaine are named Magic/Courage/Strength as a Trio by Grettir, the watcher of the bridge.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Merlin has a lot of grievances, but he explodes exactly once. It was both funny and awesome.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: What makes Merlin appear so ethereal and unusually beautiful.
  • Reality Ensues: Merlin told Arthur that there should be no place for magic in Camelot due to Merlin secretly not wanting to save Mordred from dying in order to avoid the possibility of Mordred killing Arthur from coming true. However, after Arthur took Merlin's advice to not accept magic, The Triple Goddesses ended up saving Mordred, setting the path for Arthur's downfall.
  • Really 700 Years Old: In the Distant Finale, he's clearly lived through the centuries.
    • Red Baron/Superhero Sobriquets: In a sense, Emrys. The Druids hold this name in reverence, and it strikes fear into Morgana's heart every time she hears it. It also describes what Merlin is, namely an immortal magical being.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Merlin gets to tell Uther's ghost a piece of his mind in 5x03. Earlier, under the Dragoon guise, he says some scathing things to both Uther and Arthur, calling Uther a "tyrant" and Arthur a spoiled, arrogant brat who treats his servants like crap and has the face of a toad.
  • Red Is Heroic: Merlin is often seen wearing the colour red. Often combined with blue.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Merlin is the Blue to Arthur's Red.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Probably the only reason Merlin keeps his job is because of this.
  • Refusal of the Call: Merlin refused to accept his destiny when the Great Dragon had told him that his destiny was tied to Arthur Pendragon, someone whom he immediately disliked. It didn't take.
  • The Reliable One: Merlin is the one whom others can always depend on, especially at a time of need.
  • The Resenter: Towards Morgana and Mordred, for good reason in both cases.
  • Resurrective Immortality: Merlin is still alive in the present day. He's taken fireballs to the chest, swords, and huge slash wounds, and yet has gotten up again. It was confirmed in a Distant Finale that he really is immortal (his name, Emrys means "immortal") like his mythological roots.
  • Ritual Magic
  • The Rival: Merlin became a bit of this to Mordred in the later seasons.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: In the third episode of the first season, Merlin — who has mostly averted this trope by wearing typical clothes — sarcastically argues that he should wear a pointy hat to convince Arthur that he's a wizard.
    Merlin: He thinks he is so sharp. Even when I told him I was a wizard, he still couldn't see it.
    Gaius: Sometimes it's pretty hard to spot.
    Merlin: Maybe I should go around wearing a pointy hat?
    Gaius: I don't think you'll find one big enough.
  • Sad Clown: Sometimes Merlin will use wit and humour to hide how he is really feeling, especially if he feels overwhelmed in any way.
  • Sadistic Choice: When Merlin claimed the the wine from a visiting king was poisoned, Uther calmly gave the cup to Merlin to drink. If it was poisoned, Merlin would die. If it wasn't poisoned, Merlin would be given to the infuriated visiting king to do whatever he wishes to Merlin.
    • Towards the end of series two, Merlin is given the choice of either allowing Camelot to be destroyed by some freaky enchantment placed on Morgana or personally trying to kill her. Ouch.
    • The Disir is about him making a choice between a chance to lift the oppression on magic and preventing the death of Arthur. He chooses Arthur. It backfires spectacularly.
  • Samaritan Syndrome: Merlin will always go out of his way to help others.
  • Sarcastic Confession: In "The Darkest Hour", Merlin tells Arthur "You have no idea how many times I've saved your life". Arthur's response is that when he's king, Merlin can be his court jester.
    Sir Leon: (about a fancy crossbow) Will that do the job?
    Merlin: Oh, yes. That will do the job nicely.
    Sir Leon: Er, what is the job, exactly?
    Merlin: To kill Arthur.
    Sir Leon: He's driving you mad, is he?
    Merlin: Not for much longer.
    • Also in 5x11, Merlin telling the knights he's the best tracker out of all of them. Given his magical GPS, this is completely true, but they take it as a joke
  • Save the Villain:
    • Has saved the Big Bad Morgana on a few occasions, despite the fact that she is his arch-enemy. In the series finale, Merlin does end up finally killing her though.
    • Has also saved Uther.
  • Say My Name: "Emrys!" In the finale, Merlin just zaps Morgana unconscious and continues owning the Saxons.
    • Merlin's whole Arthur! Go faster! thing kind of has its own merits...
    • And the way Merlin pronounces Freya is quite lovely.
  • Scarf Of Asskicking: After 4 seasons of uncontested scarf-badassery, Merlin finally meets his match when Mordred reappears with an even bigger, more awesome scarf.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Merlin has magical GPS, which allows him to track, see and map out paths and directions ahead of him.
  • Screw Destiny: He wants to prevent the whole 'Mordred killing Arthur' thing. He fails.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Merlin's decision to forge Lancelot's credentials in order to bypass the First Code of Camelot.
    • Using magic in Camelot definitely counts.
  • Secret Keeper: He's the only one who knows about Lancelot's feelings for Gwen. He also grudgingly keeps quiet about Mordred's magic.
    • He's also one of the first ones, along with Gaius, to discover that Morgana has magic.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: His actions against Mordred and Morgana, at the guiding of the Dragon, are significant factors in driving both to become the very evil the Dragon predicted in the first place. Series 5 is all about his efforts to prevent Arthur's prophesied death backfire on him.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Merlin is the Sensitive Guy to Arthur's Manly Man.
    • Also Merlin and Gwaine with Merlin as the Sensitive Guy to Gwaine's Manly Man.
  • Servile Snarker: His default mode towards Arthur.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Merlin becomes this in the series finale. He walks the Earth a lonely, cynical and miserable immortal old man, spending centuries and centuries waiting for Arthur to return. The fate of Merlin is really tragic when one looks at it.
  • Shipper on Deck: He ships Arthur/Gwen, probably more than they do themselves.
  • Shock and Awe: He rains lightning down upon Morgana's army during the Battle of Camlann, which forces them into full retreat.
  • Shoot the Dog: Merlin is forced to poison Morgana, who he has been lying to about her magic and hiding his own from, because she is the vessel for a curse that has caused all of Camelot to fall into a sleep they cannot awaken from. Admittedly, his hand was forced by Kilgharrah the dragon and Morgause only made things worse, but up until that point, he had viewed Morgana as a great friend and there was even a little bit of romance between them. He also betrayed the location of a Druid camp that he'd led Morgana to in hopes that she would learn more about her magic because Uther was hunting down innocent people and killing them to find her. This also kickstarted Mordred's hatred of Merlin.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: He fails in his mission to bring about a golden age with Arthur. He gets one with Gwen, but...ouch.
  • Sidekick: Arthur sees Merlin as this to him.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: When Merlin refuses to save Mordred's life because he's destined to kill Arthur, Gaius asks what happened to the young boy who first arrived in his chambers. Merlin replies, "He grew up. And learnt the meaning of duty."
  • Simpleminded Wisdom: Arthur credits him with this.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: The closest he's come to having a relationship other than Freya was some very mild flirting with Sefa over five years since her last appearance. Even in the finale, when her arm grabs Excalibur, he has a brief Longing Look.
  • Sixth Ranger: Merlin can be seen as this to Arthur and the Knights at the Round Table (Gwaine, Elyan, Percival, Leon). He's a servant who tags along to take care of duties like cooking or preparing camp, though in fact he also protects them with magic in secret.
  • Skyward Scream: In series 1 finale when he thinks Gaius is dead. A big one in the Grand Finale when Arthur is dying.
  • The Smart Guy: He's definitely this (especially when compared to Arthur), as he is one of the most perceptive and well-informed characters.
  • Smart Ball: In 5x09, Merlin tells Arthur that Gwen is enchanted, and manages to prove it to him. This is an incredibly rare thing by this show's standards. In fact, the last four episodes are pretty much an abridged version of season 3, except with competence instead of idiocy.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Arthur frequently says this about Merlin as a way of giving him a backhanded compliment regarding Merlin's intelligence and wisdom.
  • The Snark Knight: Under the burden of his destiny and the questionable choices he makes, snarking is Merlin's way of coping.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Often with Arthur.
  • The Sneaky Guy: On missions and battles, Merlin is sneaky in regards to using his magic to outwit his enemies during combat with Arthur and the Knights.
  • The So-Called Coward: According to Arthur.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: Not afraid to be brave, heroic and courageous when it comes to saving the day, but can be incredibly awkward and clumsy in everyday life.
  • So Happy Together: With Freya. Sadly, it doesn't last.
  • Squishy Wizard: Goes from this to Magic Knight as the show goes on.
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Merlin can communicate with dragons and wyverns in dragon language or dragon tongue.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Freya. It ended in tragedy in 2x09 when Freya died.
  • Status Quo Is God: Merlin is forced to go back on his vow not to speak to the dragon again; Merlin gets a girlfriend and vows to run away with her, but by the end of the episode she's dead, and he gets over it within less than a week.
    • The status quo of no-one knowing about Merlin's powers was kept right up until the end: Morgana didn't find out until the end of the antepenultimate episode and Arthur and Gwen didn't find out until the last episode, during which Merlin and Gwen never meet anyway.
  • Stepford Smiler: Sometimes. In 2x08, he manages a genuine smile while fighting back tears.
    Arthur: It has become clear to me that those who practice magic are evil and dangerous. And that is thanks to you.
    Merlin: Glad I could help.
  • Stepford Snarker: Uses sarcasm to hide how he's feeling sometimes.
  • Stock Punishment: A lot in series one. It was used as a Running Gag in "The Gates Of Avalon" (S01, E07).
  • Story-Breaker Power: Take a shot for every problem that Merlin could have solved if magic wasn't punishable by death and he wasn't restricted by his lack of training.
    • He does get his full power and training in the Grand Finale and owns the entire Saxon Army at Camlann.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: In regards to his hometown of Ealdor. In the series finale, it seems as though Merlin is a drifter who doesn't call Camelot home anymore and only passes through Camelot to see if Arthur has risen again.
  • The Strategist: Merlin can be very strategic and calculating when he wants to be.
  • Stronger with Age: Merlin was born with magic, but as he got older, he became increasingly more powerful. By the end of the series, Merlin is the most powerful sorcerer to ever walk the Earth.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: When using magic.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Merlin inherited the special Dragon Lord powers from his father Balinor, who was also a Dragon Lord.
  • Superpower Lottery: Comes with being the most powerful warlock ever. Pretty much the only thing he can't do within the limits of human sorcery is to predict the future without aid such as the crystal like Morgana.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Sort of played with. Although Merlin is often seen as The Protagonist of the series as it is Merlin's story, and he really does seem to be The Chosen One. But once you step back and look at what he's been chosen for... His entire purpose in life, his reason for existing at all in the threads of destiny is to protect Arthur. Arthur's destiny is to be the greatest king Albion has ever known. Who's the Chosen One now? By the start of series 5, Arthur is King Arthur, with a Cool Sword (Excalibur), Hot Consort (Guinevere) and Badass Crew (The Knights of Camelot) seated at the Round Table. Merlin is still a servant, much to the fandom's dismay.
  • Super Mode: The eventual result of Merlin reaching his full potential.
  • Sword and Sorcerer:
    • Merlin is the Sorcerer to Arthur's Sword, although throughout the series, Arthur doesn't know it or realize it. Not until the series finale.
    • Better fit is Merlin and Lancelot with Merlin as the Sorcerer and Lancelot as the Sword. Lancelot is knows about Merlin's magic, whereas Arthur is completely in the dark about it for the entire series until the series finale.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In the beginning of season three, Merlin tells Gaius that when he thinks of Morgana, who has done a Face–Heel Turn, all he feels is sadness. This attitude changes quickly when she begins targeting Arthur, Gwen, Uther, and the rest of Camelot in later episodes.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Merlin is one of the most sarcastic characters on the show.
  • Take a Third Option: Often when Merlin is faced with a tough decision, he will want to try this approach as much as he can. Unfortunately for Merlin, when he does attempt to do so, the problem ends up becoming worse. Basically when it comes to making tough choices and decisions, it's often a lose-lose situation for Merlin, hence why he tends to make repeated Sadistic Choices.
  • Take Me Instead: Merlin spends most of 1x13 offering his life in exchange for Arthur's after Arthur suffered a mortal...bite from the Questing Beast. In the same episode, we have Merlin trying to offer himself for his mother, Gaius doing so instead to protect Merlin, Merlin offering himself in exchange for Gaius, and ultimately the price paid is the life of the big bad of that season. Balancing Death's Books indeed.
  • Tearful Smile: Sometimes Merlin smiles when he cries, whether they be tears of sadness or tears of joy.
  • Technical Pacifist: He prefers to just knock people out rather than kill them. If he has to kill them though, he will.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Merlin has a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time quite frequently. Most of it is because of Merlin's case of Motor Mouth.
  • Theory Tunnelvision: His attitude towards Mordred in season 5. He is hellbent on believing that Mordred will cause Arthur's death, even if there are reasons to give the guy the benefits of the doubt as Gaius points out.
    • He was told that he was destined to protect Arthur and that Arthur would eventually bring back magic, and he repeatedly and solely sticks to that particular prophecy, disregarding any other method and even turning down other opportunities to repeal the magic ban.
  • Think Nothing of It: Merlin saves Camelot on a daily basis, yet he never sought any glory, power, status or credit. Arthur tells Merlin this in the series finale in a rather admirable tone. Merlin responds to Arthur by saying that he doesn't save people and Camelot for credit or glory.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Merlin may have permanently turned Arthur against magic. But in 4x04, he's actually continued the race of dragons, and, according to the Great Dragon, the birth of a white dragon (whom he named Aithusa) is an omen of good fortune.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Merlin has faced many of these types of situations in the series. The most notable one is in season two when Merlin had to stop Morgana and Morgause from completely destroying Camelot. He had to resort to going against his personal feelings and morals and doing what he felt was right for the greater good of Camelot, which was poisoning Morgana.
  • Token Super: Merlin was the only one of Arthur's allies to possess magic. Technically Morgana always had magic, but didn't know it until much later, by which she had betrayed Arthur. While Gaius performed magic in the past, but had given up these habits and only used it as a last resort. So overall Merlin is still the only one who actively uses magic to help Arthur.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Merlin goes from moving things with his mind and no magical training at all to earning the title of "most powerful sorcerer ever" throughout the series. Morgana is the only one who poses any threat to him, and he takes her down with one shot in the Grand Finale. Oh, and remember how he got stuck in the crystal cave and missed Camlann in the original legends? In this version, he not only shows up to Camlann, but he curbstomps the entire Saxon army by making it rain lightning on the enemy troops. Too late for Arthur, unfortunately.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Fitting his Not So Different with Morgana. Her Start of Darkness coincides with him becoming more wily and ruthless.
  • Tragic Bromance: With Arthur. Merlin watches his best friend die in his arms and there is nothing that he can do to stop it.
    • Also with Lancelot.
    • And Gwaine.
    • And let's not forget his childhood friend, Will.
  • Tragic Hero: Let's see, he loses everyone he loves, everyone that he loves and knows has died, has to keep his abilities a secret from the outside world and he spends the rest of his immortal life walking the earth lonely, waiting for Arthur to rise again. Tragic is an understatement to describe Merlin's ultimate fate.
  • Tranquil Fury: If Merlin is yelling at you, trying to hit you, or insulting you, you're completely safe. If Merlin has no expression on his face at all and you've just pushed his Berserk Button, ask for five minutes to set your affairs in order and then submit quietly to your doom.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Everything bad happens to Merlin. In the series finale, Merlin spends centuries and centuries as an immortal alone and miserable. All of his friends and loved ones have died. See Doom Magnet.
    • In Series 2, Arthur regresses to being a Jerkass to him in the beginning after the whole build-up in Series 1, his mentor Gaius nearly gets burned at the stake due to his moment of carelessness, his first love dies, he has to make a Sadistic Choice and poisons Morgana under extreme duress, and he finds and loses his father within the span of one day.
  • The Trickster: combined with Trickster Mentor at times, when Arthur starts seeking his advice, due to his witty, carefree and joking attitude. This trait comes from the source material. As the series goes, he relies less on his magic and more on his wit and manipulation to get things done. Particularly when masquerading as the elderly "Dragoon", he seemingly revels in this role.
  • True Companions: With Arthur, Gwen, Gwaine, Lancelot and Morgana before her Face–Heel Turn.
    • In 5x12, It doesn't matter that Arthur doesn't know how Merlin contacted him... the fact that it was Merlin was incentive enough for him to rally his army.
  • Trying Not to Cry: Many times. The most famous one being he holding back his tears when his father dies to keep their relation from Arthur.
  • Tsundere: Merlin is Type B. Primarily towards Arthur.
  • "Uh-Oh" Eyes: Whenever Merlin's eyes start to glow gold, you know that he's going to strike you with magic.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Everyone does this to Merlin, except maybe Lancelot and Gaius (who know his secret) and Guinevere, who has teamed up with him in several dangerous situations.
    • "So? What can a serving boy do?"
  • Understanding Boyfriend: To Freya. Not every guy can accept that you're a giant winged panther.
  • Undying Loyalty: To Camelot and to his friends and loved ones. Merlin will never turn his back on his friends. To the point where he's still alive, hanging in there after centuries, just so he can be there when Arthur returns.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Especially in the earlier seasons. He has trouble enchanting a lance, but get him angry enough and he will blow you to bits with lightning. He's since gotten better.
  • Vague Age: Merlin's age can be roughly worked out from canon info: Merlin was conceived at the end of the Great Purge which was described as having taken place 20 years ago during series one when Arthur is 21. So Merlin must be roughly a year and nine months younger than Arthur.
  • Verbal Backspace: When Merlin suggests disguising Uther as a woman...er, a servant.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Arthur.
  • Vocal Evolution: Merlin's voice got progressively deeper and huskier as the series progressed.
  • Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World: Substitute "run after Arthur and do chores for Gaius" for "school".
  • Walk the Earth: His ultimate fate in the end of the series.
  • Weapon of Choice: See Magic Staff. Although, sometimes aside from his powers and the magic staff, Merlin can be seen using swords, standard weapon in the show.
  • Weirdness Censor: No one notices either Merlin mumbling nonsense to himself or his eyes turning gold, even if he's right in front of them.
  • Weirdness Magnet: With all the stuff going on, one has to wonder if it's Merlin as a person or just the whole of Camelot that's attracting it. Lampshaded by Bradley James: "When something is wrong, blame Merlin".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Over the course of the series, Merlin has been forced to do numerous morally questionable things and has either directly or indirectly killed a lot of people along the way, simply because his destiny is to protect Arthur.
  • We Used to Be Friends: With Morgana, who used to be kind-hearted and compassionate before her Face–Heel Turn. When Merlin asks her this question in series 3, she replies that she hasn't forgiven him for poisoning her.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Merlin's eyes are widely popular with the fandom and makes the fangirls go crazy.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, did Merlin ever go back to Camelot after Arthur died?
  • What the Hell, Hero?: He's been called out by Arthur (5x02), and Gaius (5x05) for his ruthlessness towards Mordred. Mordred himself confronts him in 5x09
    Mordred: Everything I do, you think of the worst.
  • What You Are in the Dark: In regards to many of Merlin's enemies. Often, it involves his enemies finding out about Merlin and him possessing magic.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: In the series finale, it appears as though Merlin has been living for centuries and centuries due to being immortal. Although, what is heartbreaking about Merlin being an immortal old man is that not only is he a hobo and The Drifter, but he is completely and utterly alone because every single person that he loves and knows has died. Being immortal is certainly not a blessing for Merlin at the end of it all, especially when he spends his immortal life waiting for Arthur to return. Let's just say by the looks of it, Merlin is one lonely and miserable immortal.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: In the beginning. As the series progresses, Merlin becomes much more cynical, darker and edgier.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: The Euchdag commends him on this in 5x02.
  • Witch Species: Merlin is born with having magic, as opposed to having to learn it like most magic users. Balinor, his father, tells Merlin that he is magic itself.
  • With Friends Like These...: Arthur. In response to Arthur's bullying him, he has humiliated Arthur behind his back several times.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Perks: Merlin uses his magic to do chores, and occasionally humiliate Arthur when he's getting on his nerves.
  • Wizard Beard: When disguised as Dragoon.
  • Wizard Classic: Subverted most of the time as he's just a young man, but played straight when he's in disguise as Dragoon, who has a long white beard and robe.
  • Worth Living For: Merlin seeks to fulfill his destiny out of the strong belief that one day, he and the rest of the magical people will be free as he and Arthur bring about a Golden Age in Albion.
  • Worthy Opponent: Merlin is strongly feared by his enemies. And rightly so.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He's never actually hit a girl - but he's dropped a chandelier on one, blown up at least two more, electrocuted a third with a lightening bolt, poisoned Morgana before later causing a roof to collapse over her head and then throwing a snake at her, and hurled Morgause into a pillar so hard that she was left disfigured and dying slowly over the course of the following year. Finally, in a literal example of the trope, he stabs Morgana in chillingly cold blood in the series finale.
  • Would Hurt a Child: While he never lay a finger on Mordred, he used magic to prevent the kid from escaping some knights who were going to kill him.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Something good happened to Merlin? Open up the Tearjerker page, cause he's not going to be happy long. He's reunited with his childhood friend (Will) who knows about and accepts his magical powers? He dies. He falls deeply in love with a pretty Druid girl (Freya)? She dies. At long last, he meets his long lost father (Balinor)? He dies. Arthur begins to think that maybe, just maybe, Uther's wrong and magic isn't inherently evil? Merlin has to lie through his teeth and convince him otherwise in order to stop him from murdering his own father. Lancelot, who is Merlin's close friend, is the only person who knows about Merlin's magic and accepts him but what happens to him? He dies. And Arthur finally discovering about Merlin's magic, accepting Merlin for who he is as his best friend and companion, finally appreciating and thanking Merlin for all that he had done for him over the years but Arthur ends up dying in the end. Pretty much every time something significantly nice happens to Merlin, he gets the rug yanked out from under him.
  • You Are Not Alone: Merlin never leaves Arthur as he is dying in 5x13. He says this almost word-for-word to Arthur in 4x03 when Uther dies
  • You Can't Fight Fate: He's constantly finding this out the hard way, starting from the very first episode in which he rejects the idea of Arthur being his destiny, only to instinctively save his life and thereby become his manservant as a "reward".
    • The entirety of the last season. In the first episode, Merlin is shown a vision of Arthur being fatally wounded by Mordred. Try as he might, he ultimately failed in preventing it and actually cemented its coming through his actions.
  • You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good: What Merlin basically tells Morgana in season three. It doesn't work unfortunately.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: His usual line of argument, though no one ever believes it. He never has any proof, because obviously A Wizard Did It, and so it never works. You'd think he'd learn after a few tries. Or alternatively, you'd think the other characters would learn that no matter how insane Merlin's initial claims may seem (or however badly he goes about explaining it), he's always — always — proven to be right by the end of the episode.
    • Although this is finally subverted by The Dark Tower, when Merlin is trying to get the Knights to follow him. Arthur, being his usual Genre Blind self, starts to ignore him, but the Knights point out that it can't hurt as they're already lost, and ask Arthur to give him a chance.
  • You Must Be Cold: Merlin did this plenty of times with Freya in 2x09, often using his jacket to cover up Freya and keep her warm.
  • Younger and Hipper: In this series Merlin is a young man about the same age as Arthur, not an old man with a beard.
  • Zen Survivor: Merlin has spent the entire series going through endless loss, pain and tragedy. In the series finale, he ends up an immortal old man who is completely alone with all of his loved ones dying. Merlin refuses to be a mentor to anyone else until Arthur rises again. He ends up spending centuries and centuries waiting for Arthur's return so that he and Arthur will be reunited once more.
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