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  • I Did What I Had to Do / Kill the Ones You Love / Shoot the Dog: Merlin poisons Morgana — who was unaware that she was the vessel of the Knights of Medhir — because he did what he had to do in order to save Camelot, but at the price of killing his friend and someone he cared about. Many fans, while praising the acting of Colin and Katie, did not agree with Merlin's actions.
  • Idiot Ball: Morgana seems to have read the Evil Overlord List, but it looks more like she's trying complete each item rather than avoid the mistakes. One example: Morgana says, "So, you have failed me again," to Agravaine no less than three times.
    • Uther is frequently called upon to ignore perfectly reasonable warnings or explanations in order to keep the plot moving.
  • I Have No Idea What I'm Doing: Arthur wasn't entirely sure that his plan to smear himself in Gaia berries to confuse the Wilderen would be successful. Merlin is not hugely pleased when he finds out.
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    • Arthur also gets a moment of this when his father starts dying.
    • Arthur in 4x11 when faced with marriage to a lovely princess or seeking out the woman that (he thinks) betrayed him, tells Merlin that he has no idea what to do.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Yeah... looks like they're going to spend the rest of season 4 messing with poor Gwen.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Merlin, at the start of the series.
    • Occasionally, Arthur.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Merlin tries this on Morgana in 3x02. It doesn't work.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Arthur begins to fall for Guinevere after she calls him out on his rude behaviour and he realizes that she's the only one who doesn't just tell him what he wants to hear.
    • Also the reason why Arthur and Merlin get along so well.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Merlin tries to lampshade this in "The Coming of Arthur" when Arthur refuses to tell him the destination of their latest secret mission. Arthur responds by telling him that yes, he would have to kill him if he divulged that information.
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: In The Secret Sharer. Also said by one of the knights in verbatim to Gaius in Goblin's Gold.
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  • Immortality Inducer: Morgause creates an army of immortals by dripping soldiers' blood into the Cup of Life. However, this also gives her the ability to control them.
  • Improbable Weapon User: In 1x10, Gwen attacks one of Kanen's men with a shovel. It's a good idea.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Nobody on this show cries nicely. Which makes Tear Jerkers that much worse.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Excalibur.
  • Info Dump: Uther's speech on the balcony in the first episode. He's been king for twenty years? Check. There's a dragon under the castle? Check. Magic is outlawed? Check. Thanks writers!
  • Informed Ability: Uther's ability to stamp out or indeed recognize magic in his kingdom. Basically, he can be as competent at this in the back-story as the writers need him to be, and as incompetent at it in the present as the writers need him to be.
    • Gaius describes his past love thusly:
    I was just a novice, but Alice's power and ability was uncanny. She had the gift. Soon she had mastered every aspect of sorcery, healing above all.
    • She spends the entire episode helplessly under the Manticore's power, and all of her healing occurs off-screen.
  • Informed Attribute: In Sweet Dreams the main villain remarks about how every girl in Camelot is attracted to Prince Arthur. Though Arthur's attractiveness is the general consensus among fans, the show never shows Arthur being unusually popular with the girls of Camelot, possibly because of his station.
    • Though as Bradley James has pointed out on more than one occasion, there only seem to be a total of two women in Camelot, one of which is his sister. As of series 4, this has been whittled down to one.
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    • Excalibur is described constantly as a powerful and dangerous sword that can only be wielded safely by Arthur. Yet not only is it used by both Uther and Merlin in two separate episodes with no drastic consequences, by the time Arthur finally gets his hands on it at the end of series four, nothing particularly exceptional is done with it. He can't even defeat Helios without help. The sword lives up to its reputation of being able to kill the dead, but it's neither as awesome in the right hands or as dangerous in the wrong ones as its maker would have you believe.
    • Because of the change in actors, Mordred's youthfulness is often mentioned throughout series 5 in a bid to remind viewers of the significant age difference between Mordred and the other characters. However, Alex Vlahos is only two years younger than Colin Morgan, and very much looks the same age as him (and everyone else).
    • Likewise, 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.
  • In Name Only:
    • Take everything you thought you knew about Arthurian Legend and throw it out the window. Arthur is a Prince right from the start, there's a dragon under the castle, Merlin is Arthur's servant who is around his age rather than much older, magic is outlawed, Morgana is not a villain, Gwen is dark-skinned... then again, the Arthurian Mythos has been doing this with every iteration of King Arthur since before the written word, so it's tradition.
      • As of series 3, Morgana is, in fact, a villain — and, to be fair about that, the seeds of her Face–Heel Turn were planted with the introduction of Mordred in series 1.
    • For further deviations from previous versions, however, a number of the named Knights of the Round Table are killed off over the course of the series, well before the Round Table is formed. (EG: Owain and Pellinore at the hands of the Black Knight.)
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Merlin, Arthur and Mordred (when he was a child. Mordred's eyes become Icy Blue Eyes as he gets older.
  • Inter-Class Romance: Gwen (poor servant) and Arthur (rich royalty).
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Gaius with Arthur and Gwen. Merlin falls into the Like a Son to Me category with Gauis.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Merlin, who is a warlock and a Dragon Lord, is friends with Arthur, Gwen, Lancelot and Gwaine, who are all humans.
  • I Owe You My Life: Merlin's main reason to help Lancelot become a knight.
  • Ironic Name: The villain called Valiant used underhanded tactics to cheat in a tournament.
    • It's unclear if it is intentional, but a Pendragon (meaning "son of the dragon") nearly wipes out the dragons and Dragonlords.
  • 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 Has Been an Honor: Arthur says this to Merlin just before battle in The Moment of Truth.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Arthur to Merlin in the forest in episode 3x12.
  • In-Series Nickname: The Great Dragon often calls Merlin "Young Warlock".
    • Kilgarrah's nickname is The Great Dragon.
    • Arthur's nicknames include "Clotpole" and" Dollophead", both coined by Merlin.
    • Almost everyone calls Guinevere "Gwen", with the exception of Arthur.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Lancelot, upon seeing that Gwen and Arthur are close, decides to not get in the way of their relationship.
  • I Will Wait for You: The trope is first invoked when Arthur claims that he can't expect Guinevere to wait for him, but in series 3 Gwen tells him that she will "count the days" until he becomes King, at which point he can change the customs that keep them apart.
  • Jerkass: Uther. The Dragon has his moments too, though one could argue that being chained up in a cave for twenty years will do that to you, but it is no reason to destroy Camelot. Just take Uther and go! You'd have done us all a favor.
    • To be fair to the dragon, even after only watching the first season, I'd have said, at least once: "Tell me the truth kid, you come down here to ask my advice so you can go do the opposite." The dragon isn't quite that blunt...yet in the first season.
    • Morgana is starting to fall under this category too. Her animosity towards Uther (and Merlin) is understandable but her treatment of Arthur and Gwen is down right cruel.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Arthur
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Morgana. Possibly justified, since in-show, she was with Morgause a whole year and was probably thoroughly indoctrinated in that time — but from the viewer's perspective, she ended one series as conflicted and unhappy, and returned at the start of the next series as pure evil.
  • Just Eat Gilligan: So many of the problems on the show could be solved if Merlin would just let one of the many people who want to kill Uther succeed, putting Arthur on the throne and allowing him to become the great king he's supposed to be. But this never happens only because of Merlin is a weird brand of Technical Pacifist, who regularly kills Mooks and nonhuman villains but has moral qualms about letting Uther die.
    • But if Uther were killed by magic, Arthur would likely become just as fanatically anti-magic as his father when he gains the throne. The Dragon says as much in Sorcerer's Shadow. And it finally happens in 4x03.
    • Morgana’s Face–Heel Turn could have been avoided if Merlin had told her about his magic or at least treated her better. Her bonding with Mordred and Morgause was mostly caused by her confusion and sense of loneliness.
  • Just Friends: Merlin was teased with Gwen by Morgana in 1x03 and Lancelot in 1x05 because of Gwen's obvious crush on him and Merlin's semi-obliviousness to it. When Merlin secretly helps Morgana in 2x03 when she discovers that she is a seer, Arthur is under the belief that Merlin is in love with Morgana and warns him Uther would have his head for it.
  • Just Hit Him: All.The.Time.
  • Kick the Dog: In The Poisoned Chalice, Arthur rushed to get the flower to cure Merlin, despite his father telling him not to. However, as soon as he came back, his own father imprisoned him for disobeying him. Even when Arthur begged his father to at least deliver the flower to Merlin, he crushed the flower, told him to get another servant and dropped the flower just out of Arthur's reach.
    • In Love In The Time Of Dragons Uther is poisoned by a witch who was under the thrall of a magical creature. Despite Gaius saying that the woman had no choice (and implying that she was forced to do magic), Uther decides to kill her anyway, as she still practiced magic even if it was out of her control. This is on top of his hypocrisy earlier of being willing to heal Morgana with magic but wanting to execute whoever was healing other people.
  • Killed Off for Real: King Uther. And by the time the series wraps up, the list includes Elyan, Lancelot, Gwaine, Mordred, Morgana, and Arthur. And that's not even counting the smaller characters!
  • Kill 'Em All: The ending. Three main characters kick the bucket. In fact, given that the very last scene shows a (VERY) old Merlin walking down a rural street in modern times every single person in the series, Gwen, the knights, and everyone else, have all been dead for centuries.
  • Kill It with Fire: Or rather, drive it off with fire. The flying ghost skull Dorocha can pass through solid matter and are totally immune to harm. They even negate magic. Fire, however, disperses them for a while.
  • Killer Rabbit: Young!Mordred. As a child, he was cute, adorable but very creepy and dangerous.
  • King Arthur: Or rather Prince Arthur.
    • As of 4x03, King Arthur.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Arthur and Vivian in Sweet Dreams, as a result of the enchantment placed upon them.
    • Lancelot and Guinevere in Lancelot du Lac
  • The Klutz: Merlin. See Cute Clumsy Guy.
  • Knighting: Happens quite often, usually by Uther, but most notably by Arthur in "The Coming of Arthur" when he does this to the new knights of the Round Table.
  • Knight Errant: Lancelot and Gwaine, before they became Knights of Camelot.
  • Knight, Knave and Squire: The Power Trio of Merlin (Magic), Arthur (Courage), and Gwaine (Strength), with Merlin as The Squire, Arthur as The Knight and Gwaine as The Knave.
  • Knight Templar: Uther, at least in regards to magic.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Uther in regards to both Arthur and Morgana.
  • Kudzu Plot: Especially anything involving the Druids. It's difficult to gauge just how much they know about Merlin's destiny, what they plan to do about it, and why they keep calling him "Emrys".
  • The Lady's Favour: Gwen gives Arthur a handkerchief for him to wear during a tournament, for luck.
    • As does Morgana for Sir Owain in his fight against the undead Tristan.
      • A deleted scene for "The Shadow of the Sorcerer" reveals that the sash Arthur was wearing around his arm in the melee came from Morgana.
  • La Résistance: And they're the bad guys.
    • Until The Coming of Arthur when Arthur and his loyalists become La Résistance.
  • Lady and Knight: Played remarkably straight with Lancelot and Guinevere, even though they aren't a lady or a knight when the show begins. However, Lancelot always makes a point of referring to Gwen as "my lady" and by the end of the third series he's been permanently knighted and by the end of the fourth season, she is "my lady" as she's Queen!
    • There's a little of this with Gwen and Gwaine as well.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Nimueh initially, then Morgause and at the end Morgana.
  • Large Ham: A number of characters, including Georgia Moffett as Lady Vivian.
    • Nimueh, especially in early episodes where every time she was defeated she would stand over her bubbling cauldron thingy and yell "Merlin!"
    • Merlin, when masquerading as Dragoon. He's quite obviously enjoying every minute of it.
  • Last of His Kind: The Great Dragon. And Merlin in 2x13, when he becomes the last Dragon Lord.
    • As of Aithusa, Kilgarrah is no longer the Last Dragon.
  • Left for Dead: The third season premiere had Morgause decide that the best way to keep Merlin from foiling her plan to conquer Camelot was to leave him in magical chains to be killed by poisonous beasts while she went on her way. Of course, the titular character of the show escapes, much to her surprise.
  • Legendary Weapon: Excalibur, which Arthur is going to rip out of that stone as revealed by the series trailer, and Lancelot's sword, Arondight.
  • 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.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Merlin brings Freya to the lake so that she dies in a place similar to her home.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Gwen and Morgana in The Moment of Truth.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Gaius insists on this to Merlin when forced to romance a troll.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Guinevere (light) and Morgana (dark), somewhat ironically considering the actresses, who are mixed-race and uber-pale, respectively. The trope is somewhat played with, considering Guinevere is aligned more with love and romance, whilst in the later seasons, Morgana is practically asexual.
  • Like a Son to Me: Gaius sees Merlin more of a son than his nephew.
  • Like Brother and Sister:
    • Gwen and Merlin's relationship is like this. (At least, ever since the peculiar about turn in the series 1-2 transition saw the previously hinted Merlin/Gwen relationship effectively killed.)
    • Arthur and Morgana are put into this in Series 2. According to Bradley James, the reason why they put a halt to Arthur/Morgana was to not get the impression of Brother–Sister Incest (since she is like his sister-in-law), and because they wanted to start the Arthur/Gwen romance.
    • And as of Episode 3/05, it turns out they actually are half-siblings.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Merlin and Arthur, in spades. Their bickering starts in the pilot and continues throughout five seasons. By season five, it's reached ridiculous (and hilarious!) proportions.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: The Dragonlord abilities are said to be passed from father to son.
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards: At the start of the show, Arthur is the best knight in Camelot by a long shot and Merlin has virtually no magical training. As such, in the earlier seasons it would often be Arthur going out to slay the monster while Merlin figured out his spells at home and turned up for the final blow. 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.
  • Line in the Sand: Arthur gives one in the Series 3 finale to Merlin, Gaius, Gwen, Lancelot, Percival, Gwaine, Leon and Elyan. They then proceed to each stand up and give a speech about why they refuse to leave Arthur, one by one, until it reaches Merlin who remains seated and jokes, "Actually I don't really fancy it."
  • Lip-Lock Sun-Block: Arthur and Gwen's first kiss.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: With the court genealogist Geoffrey of Monmouth; the real Geoffrey of Monmouth was a 12th-century bishop who named the character of Merlin, and was one of the earliest writers of tales of King Arthur and his father Uther, along with a whole host of other legendary British kings.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood: Morgana narrowly avoids this fate in The Nightmare Begins after escaping to the forest in a bright red hooded cloak.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Gwen's brother Elyan.
    • And in a way, Morgause to Morgana.
  • The Load:
    • Subverted Trope with Merlin. He's the king's clumsy manservant who can't hold a sword to save his life, and yet the Knights of the Round Table all insist on bringing him along on dangerous missions. However, when the Knights turn their backs, Merlin turns out to be an extremely badass mage who has singlehandedly saved all of Camelot multiple times and is the only reason Arthur survives these dangerous missions. Problem is, magic's illegal on pain of death, so no one is aware of this except the audience.
    • Depending on the Writer, Guinevere. On one hand, her quick mind has proven useful on several occasions, on the other, she's still a relatively small and untrained peasant girl who often winds up being a Distressed Damsel.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Locked in the Dungeon: Every single major or recurring character (except Percival) has spent at least one night in Camelot's dungeons. Every single one.
  • Look Behind You: Arthur pulls this on Merlin when they're arguing over who gets to drink from a poisoned goblet.
  • The Lost Lenore: Freya to Merlin. In the backstory, Igraine to Uther.
  • The Lost Woods: Jam-packed with magical critters and evil bounty hunters lurking behind every tree.
  • Love at First Sight: Lancelot toward Guinevere. Notably averted with Arthur and Gwen, who knew each other for years before starting to take notice of each other.
    • Also, with Merlin and Freya.
    • Played with between Arthur and Mithian. Were you to watch the beginning of The Hunter's Heart completely out of context, you'd probably assume that this trope was being played straight, what with their initial Meet Cute and Birds of a Feather similarities. They're obviously attracted to each other at first sight, and find themselves increasingly well-suited to each other as the episode goes on, but Arthur's prior feelings for Guinevere puts a halt to their relationship before it ever really gets started.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Averted. Though the likes of Agravaine argue that Guinevere is unsuitable, she ends up being a very effective Queen.
  • Love Theme: Arthur and Gwen have a very lovely motif that recurs throughout the series.
  • Love Triangle: Gwen, Arthur and Lancelot: Triang Relations Type 1.
    • More like a Type 7, since they both like her, in addition to her liking them.
  • Loveable Rogue: Gwaine. Also doubles as the Plucky Comic Relief / The Prankster of the Knights.
    • Even more so in Season 4.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Uther and Morgana.
  • Madonna–Whore Complex: Inverted. It is the unambiguously moral Guinevere who is linked with love and sex (desired by both Arthur and Lancelot) whilst the more dubiously good Morgana becomes more asexual as the show goes on—she begins as a flirty and good female version of The Charmer, but loses all interest in men by series 3, at which point she's a Wicked Witch. Even more interestingly, Morgana's evil plan to discredit Guinevere revolves around making Arthur believe that she's cheating on him with Lancelot. Morgana initially dresses more revealingly, and then during her descent into darkness she comes to wear long-sleeves exclusively, while Gwen goes from modest servant dresses to fancy, low-cut gowns.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: While the magic system is not as fleshed out as it could be, there is definitely a rule that one sort of magic cannot affect a being of another magic. And every kind of magic is practiced in a different language.
    • Magic A: Human magic. The language is Old English. Gaius mentions at one point that Merlin's powers protected him from getting harmed by the Sidhe, and his wooziness in The Gates of Avalon seemes to stem less from getting a bolt of magic to the chest and more from getting thrown into a wall.
    • Magic B: Sidhe magic. The language is Old Irish. Any time we see Merlin engage them, he uses one of their own staffs.
    • Magic C: Dragon magic. The language is Homeric Greek. The dragon was immune to Merlin's magic until he became a Dragonlord and the enchantment Morgause put on the chains to make them unbreakable didn't seem to stop Kilgharrah from breaking them.
    • Magic D: Troll magic. We don't know very much about this one, as it only appeared two episodes.
  • The Magic Comes Back: Merlin's ultimate goal for Camelot.
  • Magic Feather: The sword in the stone, apparently. At least, the "pulling it out makes you a king of Camelot!!!" part is.
  • Magic Is Evil: When Morgana, Morgause, Nimueh and Mordred all use magic.
  • 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).
    • Morgana knew how to use a sword effectively before she ever discovered that she had magic.
    • Morgause is a witch and also a very skilled swordswoman.
  • Magic Staff: Merlin has the Boom Stick he appropriates from the Sidhe though he seldom uses it. Alator and the three women representing the Triple Goddess are also staff users.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: In Camelot magic is a crime, leading to Gaius to occasionally urge Merlin to seek solutions through more ordinary means.
  • Magnetic Hero: Merlin is definitely this. He repeatedly befriends everyone, no matter their standing.
  • The Magnificent Seven Samurai: The Moment of Truth.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: As a prince, Arthur has several duties (such as training the other knights and going on quests) that seem way outside the jurisdiction of someone of his status. Moreso, Merlin and Gwen are meant to be Arthur and Morgana's manservant/handmaiden, but seem to have a lot of other duties to perform, such as serving the royal family at the dinner table and cleaning out the stables.
  • 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 villainy 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.
  • Mama Bear: Morgana's strong attachment towards Mordred causes her to become very protective of him and a willingness to do anything for him in order to keep him from harm's way.
  • Man Hug: Sadly, but hilariously subverted by Arthur at the end of 2x06.
    • But thankfully, played straight with Merlin and Gwaine in 3x08.
    • Also one between Uther and Godwyn in 3x06.
    • And finally one between Arthur and Merlin in 4x06. And it was Arthur who went for it, no less.
  • Master Swordsman/Master Swordswoman: Uther, Arthur, Lancelot, Leon, Gwaine. Also Morgana and Morgause.
  • Mauve Shirt: Sir Leon. Admit it, when they said he was dead at the beginning of 3x12, you actually believed it.
  • May–December Romance: Implied between Uther and Catrina.
    • A deleted scene from series four has Agravaine confessing his love for Morgana.
  • Meaningful Name the name that Merlin bestows upon the baby dragon turns out to mean 'Light of the Sun' in dragon-speech.
    • Merlin means sea fortress or fortress of the sea.
    • Arthur means noble.
    • Emrys means 'Immortal'
    • The name Pendragon means Chief Dragon or Head Dragon.
  • 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, and Freya. Colin Morgan lampshades it in an interview.
  • The Medic: Gauis. He is the court physician.
    • Also Merlin, he has learned some medical experience from Gauis.
  • Medieval European Fantasy
  • Memetic Badass: Merlin (Emrys) is this to the Druids. invoked
  • Merlin Sickness: Averted, Merlin doesn't have it in this version.
    • Although it's hinted that Taliesin might. Though it might be his close proximity to the crystal caves, he also makes several pointed remarks about time and memory that suggest he's intimately aware of the future.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Arthur, in The Gates Of Avalon.
  • Missing Mom: Gwen and Elyan's mother never appears in the show, only their father Tom. Eventually it's revealed she apparently died sometime in the past, since after Tom's death Morgan says Gwen is now an orphan.
  • Missing Trailer Scene: In the official trailer for series three, there is a scene with Uther and Arthur embracing while wearing their crowns. It doesn't appear in any episode or deleted scene.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Gwen.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: Naturally includes a few of the traditional mythological ones. Arthur also makes one up to find an excuse to leave the castle, simply by listing random animal bits as he thinks of them.
    "It is said to have the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle ...and the ...face of a bear."
  • Modest Royalty: In stark contrast to Uther and Morgana, Arthur usually wears simple tunics or battle-stained armour.
  • The Mole: Agravaine. And previously, Morgana to a point.
  • Moment Killer: Poor Arthur and Gwen have to suffer through dozens of these. Possibly the most hilarious was when a quiet moment between them at Gwen's house is interrupted by Merlin crashing through the door and shouting: "There's an assassin in Camelot trying to kill you!" The WTF expression on their faces is priceless.
  • Monster of the Week: This was a big part of the first series, and the Big Bad only appeared in 4 of the 13 episodes. From series 2 onwards the writers concentrated more on a singular villain (Morgause, Morgana and Agravaine, though occasionally a one-off monster will appear for a Filler episode.
  • Monster Vision: In 2x09, right before the Bastet kills the couple and the guards, we see the scene through its eyes.
  • Mood Whiplash: Lancelot and Guinevere. One minute, Gwen's in mortal danger, declaring her undying devotion to Lancelot. Next, some of the funniest banter of the entire series.
    • Done deliberately in Queen of Hearts. At first, Uther thinks it's hilarious that Arthur has been making out with a serving girl in the woods (and gives him a congratulatory pat on the back because of it), but he soon turns nasty on realizing that his son is serious about Gwen and ends up banishing her from Camelot in the very same scene. In fact, the entire episode is made of this trope considering Arthur and Gwen go from loafing about in the sun to having Uther accuse Gwen of witchcraft and ordering that she be burnt at the stake in the space of a day.
    • Also in Excalibur. It goes from light-hearted banter between Gwen and Merlin about washing Arthur's socks to a freaking undead knight bursting through the window.
    • The Darkest Hour Part I has Arthur, Merlin and the knights investigating an empty village, tension is mounting and they don't even know what the monster looks like. Then they are startled by Gwaine taking a large bite from an apple. It switches back as Elyan finds the village people dead, covered in frost.
    • The Witchfinderhas a terrifying scene where the Witchfinder in question tells Uther that there is a sorcerer in the room. The music is chilling, a still sympathetic Morgana looks petrified and then he points at our hero and accuses him of using magic. And then music stops and you have Arthur's reaction.
      Arthur: *with a look on his face of pure skepticism* Mer-lin. You can't be serious.
  • Morally Ambiguous Mentor: The Great Dragon knows a lot and likes to talk big about Merlin's glorious destiny, but as the first series goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that he is also ruthless, utterly selfish, and carries some major grudges.
    • And as of the second series, Merlin sees (through a soothsaying crystal) the Dragon helping to burn Camelot to the ground once he releases him. And then the Dragon asks for Merlin's end of the bargain... Which Merlin honours in the finale. Fire ensues. Lots of fire. Lots.
    • Gaius is also morally ambiguous (though by no means evil). He focuses on Merlin's safety to the point of denying help to other magicians who need it, including Mordred and Morgana, which brings him into conflict with Merlin's Chronic Hero Syndrome. It's also implied he betrayed Nimueh and his other fellow magic-users to Uther as a young man.
  • Motor Mouth: Merlin. Once Merlin gets talking, especially when he is either excited or panicked, he just can't stop. Hence, Arthur's catch phrase "Shut up, Merlin."
  • Mr. Exposition: All things considered, Gaius's full name could well be Gaius Exposition.
  • Moral Dissonance: Arthur in 3x12, when he threatens to kill an innocent druid boy who's obviously scared out of his wits unless he answers his questions, and then continues to hold a sword to the kid's throat long after it's clear that he's no threat and the Druids intend to give him what he came for anyway. Seriously, the kid's what, ten? Not cool, buddy.
    • Although Merlin calls him out on it. And as these are Druids and he's the son of a magic-hating king, he might have felt the need to make an example.
    • 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, the works. note 
    • When given the opportunity to prevent Morgana from assassinating Uther, Merlin is conflicted (since Uther is a tyrant and assassinating him is pretty justifiable), but ultimately decides that he would be a "murderer" if he didn't do everything he could to save him. However, he casually kills Mooks and sapient, named non-human villains on a regular basis, despite knowing a harmless sleep spell.
  • Motive Decay: Morgana initally wanted revenge against Uther for the genocide against her people, as of late she's more interested in offing her half-brother so that she can claim the throne of Camelot.
    • Although she technically gets her revenge in the season three finale, as her betrayal breaks Uther's spirit so it's more of a case of her first objective is completed, onto the next one. She also claims she wants the throne so she can bring magic back to Camelot, rather than just for the power. But by the end of the series she has seemly forgotten this.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Bradley James' (Arthur's) shirt collar becomes progressively more open with each episode. Episode one? Could barely see his clavicle. Episode 9? A good third of his (admittedly quite nice) chest is exposed. The first episode of series 2 is reliably following this pattern, with multiple shots of Arthur bare-chested and then the bath scene.
    • In the cast commentary of the series 2 premiere, Bradley and Colin count the number of times Bradley appears shirtless. Apparently he needs to be shirtless to put a key in the drawer.
      • Series 3 got off to a good start with him taking his shirt off quite early on in the first episode.
      • And then for every episode since. (Except 3x04, "Gwaine" — in this one, Gwaine gets plenty instead.)
      • Also Arthur is pants-less in two consecutive episodes, 4x03 and 4x04. Pants-less Arthur seems to be the new shirt-less Arthur.
    • Cenred wears awfully tight leather.
    • Merlin's adorkable smiles and expressions are their own form of fanservice. As is his general adorableness and likability. Also, his Innocent Blue Eyes which are large and puppyish, his magical abilities, his intelligence, his sense of humour, and his naive, optimistic, happy and quirky personality are all seen as fan service for the fangirls. On another note, Merlin was the first male character in the show to get a Shirtless Scene, before they caught on to what the fangirls wanted. Let's not forget that he is also Camelot's resident Pretty Boy. Merlin, as a character, is Mr. Fanservice Central.
      • There are also A LOT of people (meaning: fangirls) who think his Dragon Lord voice is total hotness.
      • Fangirls even frequently gush about how sexy Merlin/Colin's ears are. His EARS.
      • Let's not forget Merlin's cheekbones. Dear God, his cheekbones.
    • The first episode of series 5 gave the fangirls some wonderful shots of Gwaine and Percival hot, sweaty, and shirtless.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Nimueh and Morgana.
    • To some, Morgause as well, whether in her red dress or her armor.
    • Guinevere, especially after she becomes Queen and starts wearing dresses and outfits that show off more of her upper assets.
  • Mugging the Monster: A very common trope in this series. Merlin is a small, untrained peasant boy who often goes unarmed, so he looks like a good target for attack. But as those who are unlucky enough to try soon find out, Merlin goes unarmed because he is completely capable of killing you with a thought.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Gwen's reaction after Arthur witnesses her and Lancelot kissing the night before her and Arthur's wedding. Made all the worse because only the audience knows that she was under a spell the entire time and she actually believes that she willingly betrayed Arthur even if she doesn't understand why.
    Gwen: I was drawn to him, I couldn't stop myself, I don't know why!!
  • Mysterious Parent: Igraine, possibly Gorlois.
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: Guinevere's remark about having to never choose between Arthur and Lancelot. However, recent episodes suggest this was more Foreshadowing.
    • An early episode also has her sarcastically mutter: "Who would want to marry Arthur?" Well, actually, Gwen...
    • 1x10: "In this circle, we are all equal."
    • The frequently shown long, rectangular table (which always has Uther sitting at its head) is also an allusion to the Round Table. They contrast the tyranny and elitism of Uther with the fairness and equality of Arthur's future reign.
    • Arthur's and Morgana's flirty repletion in Series 1 is possibly a reference to how in some of the myths Arthur was tricked into sleeping with Morgana so she could conceive a child with a right to the throne.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Merlin is often instinctively aware of magical activity around him, most notably in To Kill The King with the Expy of the Philosopher's Stone, and in "The Tears of Uther Pendragon" when he recoils in the same moment that Morgana drives the staff into the ground in order to raise the dead (and even Breaks The Forth Wall while he does it, considering he seems to be staring straight at the camera). He also seems to sense that there's something a bit off about the bracelet that Arthur is wearing when he leaves for his quest in "Eye of the Phoenix."
  • Naked People Are Funny: This scene. Arthur usually has no problem strutting around his chambers naked, but when Gwen is there to see him, Hilarity Ensues.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Lamia. Anyone whose name has "Mor" as its first syllable.
  • The Needs of the Many: A Central Theme. Uther and Merlin will usually adhere to this line of thinking; Arthur will usually chose his friends, family, or personal honour over the greater good (so far it's worked out for him).
  • Never Found the Body: Morgana and Morgause in the series 3 finale.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: More like "Never Trust A Promotional Picture." In the promo pictures for 3X13, Arthur was shown holding Exacalibur, something he never does in the episode itself.
  • New Neighbours as the Plot Demands: There seems to be no shortage of other neighbouring kingdoms.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Merlin, although since he's unsure of even his own powers, its justified that he can get away with this.
  • Nice Guy/Nice Girl: Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot and Mithian are all genuinely sweet-natured and friendly people — though the first two are also cases of Good Is Not Soft as the series goes on.
  • Nice Hat: The official servant's ceremonial clothes include a huge feathered monstrosity of a hat. Gwen even comments, "nice hat," in between giggles.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Freeing the dragon is not Merlin's best idea ever. Merlin's treatment of Morgana and Mordred is a contributing cause of her Face–Heel Turn and his Start of Darkness. To some extent perhaps, Merlin trying to heal Uther — even though Uther's death isn't his fault, Merlin/Dragoon's price to gain peace for the magic-users may be lost.
    • Works to Merlin's benefit when lifting the dragon's egg causes the tower in which it was hidden to collapse. Evokes a Nothing Could Survive That from one of the knights.
    • Uther's crusade against all magic only seems to create more enemies than it eliminates. By killing all the minnows in the pond, he's effectively left the sharks. And they are clearly not happy.
    • Everything that happens in 3x05 and 5x05.
    • In the last episode, Gwen successfully manages to feed a spy false information and send Morgana looking for Arthur and Merlin in the wrong place. Gwaine and Percival then think it's a good idea to chase after her, get captured and tortured and tell her where they really are, allowing Morgana to stop Merlin getting Arthur to Avalon in time.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Inverted. Uther's genocide of the dragonlords actually causes the birth of Merlin, who is destined to undo all his work.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Arthur flip-flops with this in regard to Merlin. While he clearly assumes he's the superior and constantly insults and berates Merlin while Merlin's trying to do his job, he has shown that he cares about the common people and occasionally shows Merlin some measure of affection and respect.
    • He's also willing to risk his life to protect or save Merlin without a second thought.
    • Mithian shows that she's a genuinely nice person through her treatment of Merlin, a servant.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Used several times. One time with skeletons, one time with technically undead (the Cup of Life was used to make an army immortal, and they counted as undead), and one time with actual spirits. In the latter case, it wasn't so much an army as a swarm of angry ghosts attacking at random, but the spirit is the same.
  • Noble Demon: Uther might be a genocidal tyrant but he's also a loving parent and a brave warrior who will put himself in harm's way to protect his kingdom.
  • No Hero to His Valet: The show is built on this trope. As Arthur's manservant, Merlin sees him at his worst — and most vulnerable.
  • No Man of Woman Born: You can't kill a High Priestess with a mortal blade. As the show demonstrates, however, this is quite easy to poke holes in if you're feeling creative. Lightning, wall-smashing, and magical blades have all been used to dispatch high priestesses.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Katie McGrath's native South County Dublin accent. Interestingly the accent is so unfamiliar outside of Ireland that some fans assumed it was a deliberate move to highlight Morgana's Mysterious Past.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Most magic users want to kill/over throw Uther for killing hundreds of witches and sorcerers. But they use incredibly dodgy tactics and dark enchantment and spells that often involve in innocent people getting killed, basically proving Uther's point that all magic is evil. Also applies later to Arthur as well.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Merlin and Arthur.
    • Throughout series one the most important person in Gwen's life was Morgana.
    • Morgana and Morgause.
  • Not So Different: Said almost word by word by Agravaine to Merlin. They're both close to Arthur and both betray his trust one way or another.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: A variant. Agravaine is quick to say that he personally has no problem with Arthur's relationship with a servant when he advises him to break things off with Gwen.
  • 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.
  • Now, Let Me Carry You: Mordred is glad to take care of an injured Morgana, in thanks for her previously caring for him.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Deconstructed. All the characters who aren't Lancelot, Gaius, or Gwen seem utterly convinced Merlin's a moron. Merlin is occasionally bumbling and clueless, but since he keeps his more deductive, perceptive, and wiser side hidden from the other characters, when it shines through they acknowledge it then immediately forget it. You'd think that since he's always right, someone would catch on, but Status Quo Is God.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Uther to Morgana.
    • This happened several times to Merlin, whenever someone (usually Arthur or Uther) complimented him for helping them in the fight against magic.
  • Oblivious to Love: Guinevere is a little oblivious to Arthur's feelings for her between episodes 2.02 and 2.04. She's astonished by their First Kiss and gobsmacked by the fact that he came to rescue her from Hengist's fortress. By 2.10 she seems to have caught on...
  • Occult Detective: Gaius and Merlin.
    • 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: Arthur and Merlin. They have vastly different backgrounds and personalities yet they have a very strong and unbreakable bond.
  • Odd Friendship: Arthur and Merlin again. Merlin and all of the Knights at the Round Table could count as well.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Guinevere's corsets get more and more noticeable as the seasons go on, until we reach this. They also present a case of Costume Porn.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: How about the entire Golden Age of Camelot? It (apparently) occurs offscreen in the Time Skip between seasons 4 and 5.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: In the season four finale, Merlin magically throws Morgana backward, at the same time knocking down part of the ceiling. Morgana is apparently knocked out. What can't be more than ten seconds later, Morgana has completely vanished, even though she was already badly injured and in a castle full of hostile soldiers.
  • Off the Rails
  • The Ojou: Guinevere, especially before she became Queen and Hunith, despite not coming from wealth.
  • Older and Wiser: The changing of the Opening Narration in Series 4, a subtle indication that the Great Dragon considers Merlin as a young man, rather than a "boy".
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: So far, the second series breaks into this at the slightest provocation.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Between Gwen and Arthur in Sweet Dreams, when, without Gwen's knowing, Arthur's been enchanted to fall in love with Lady Vivian.
    Gwen: What is it, Arthur? You look like you have something on your mind.
    Arthur: You read me like a book. I've made a fool of myself, that's all. That's everything.
    Gwen: I'm sure that is not true.
    Arthur: You have a good heart, Guinevere, but I'm afraid it is. I have made a gesture, but it was not well received.
    Gwen: You sure?
    Arthur: Pretty sure.
    Gwen: Then you are wrong.
    Arthur: You are very close to the lady in question.
    Gwen: Your token was much appreciated. But the situation is delicate, and it is not always easy to express what is really in one's heart.
    Arthur: You think there's hope?
    Gwen: There is always hope.
    Arthur: If only I had some way of knowing.
    Gwen: Indeed, My Lord.
  • One Steve Limit: There have been two Tristans on the show; Sir Tristan de Bois and Tristan (of Tristan and Isolde fame).
    • There have also been two Caras (though one was spelled Kara): One in The Poisoned Chalice though she is Nimue in disguise and the other in The Drawing of The Dark
    • There have been three Marys: Mary the tavern-keeper, Mary Howden, and Mary Collins (though the last was never named on-screen).
  • Once per Episode: Merlin cries. Morgana gives an evil smirk. Arthur mocks Merlin. Arthur gets conveniently knocked out.
    • And in the first season especially, a monster appears Camelot's best knights try to fight it and fail, Gaius does some research and tells Merlin "It can only be killed by magic," Merlin uses his magic powers to slay the monster, and everything is back to normal.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted every single time. If you get stabbed, you'll pass out pretty quick from blood loss. Even a small wound has to be treated and can be infected if you aren't careful. They do use this to knock people out at plot-convenient moments, but to their credit it's always realistically played.
  • Only Friend: Will is implied to have been Merlin's before he came to Camelot.
    • Gwaine tells Merlin that he is the only friend he's got in 3x08.
      • Arthur also considers Merlin to be his only true friend, despite being surrounded by many people.
  • Only One Name: Merlin, Nimueh, Freya, Lancelot, Percival, Gauis, Elyan, and Guinevere (although subverted in Gwen's case after she marries Arthur and becomes a Pendragon.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Colin Morgan. In the episode Lancelot & Guinevere, his Irish accent slips through a bit in this line:
    Merlin: Is it really that hard to admit you like her?
  • Opening Narration: As seen at the top of this page.
  • Opposites Attract: Arthur and Guinevere.
    • As far as friendships go, this also applies to Arthur and Merlin, with the former being a rich and cynical blond, and the latter being a poor but optimistic brunet.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Intelligent and talkative.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: The traditional Manticore is a reddish lion with a head resembling a bearded man's, either a scorpion's tail or a dragon's tipped with poisonous barbs and three rows of razor-sharp teeth in its mouth. Here, it's a tiny frilled lizard with a man-ish head.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: Green skinned, greedy and love to eat rotting fruit and vegetables. They're able to use potions to take on human form and enchant humans.
  • Our Wyverns Are Different: Wyverns appear in "Eye of the Phoenix". They're a lot smaller than dragons and act more like a pack of intelligent, but not sapient, animals. Gwaine mentions that they are distant cousins of the dragons, but it seems wyverns are at least closely related enough that a dragonlord may command them.
  • Out-of-Character Alert:
    • Subverted when Arthur offers up his right to the throne if Uther only spares Guinevere's life. Uther declares that this is something that Arthur would never say were he not under an enchantment — only Arthur isn't under a spell, and he does mean it.
    • Played straight in season 4 when Arthur breaks up with Guinevere at Agravaine's insistence. Though Arthur claims it's his own choice, Gwen immediately realizes that someone else put him up to it.
  • Overly Long Tongue: Grunhilda in "The Changeling". Ew.
  • Parental Abandonment: None of the four main characters has a complete set of parents: Arthur, Morgana and Gwen have all definitely lost a parent. The status of Gwen and Morgana's mothers remains unknown, but they are presumably also dead. Merlin's father is not a straight-up example as he was forced to abandon Hunith to flee from Uther before he even knew that she was pregnant, and thus has no idea that he has a son. Then he died when Merlin finally met him.
    • Morgana views Uther keeping the secret that he is her real father explicitly as this.
      • Which is Morgana's view, but probably shouldn't be anyone's else's. Her father dotes on her in not just "I'm giving you riches, be nice", but actually and very willingly spends a lot of time with her; he even spends a whole year having the kingdom searched and sacrificing a lot of men to retrieve her, he also listens to her advices, something he's not always done for Arthur, and while he has on occasions "punished" her for standing up to him, he has also acknowledged that this standing-up to him is vital to him running a fair and just kingdom. Plus, it's not like Arthur hates or even dislikes her, and like the prince would throw her out had he the chance. In short, Morgana is literally living like a princess and she is set for a life as such, but she's ready to kill her father because he won't jeopardize his position (and hers, as been pointed in the Succession Crisis entry below ). Yes, Uther is a hypocritical tyrant on many levels, but while his treatment of magical people or even of Morgana's "father" (Gorlois) are very slow in turning her against him, as soon as he declines recognising her as his daughter, she immediately tries to kill him. Spoiled child's tantrum, much?
  • Parental Favoritism: Played with, for either Arthur or Morgana could be described as Uther's favorite. Although Arthur is considered the most important of Uther's children (being the heir to the throne), Uther excessively dotes on Morgana and gives her far more leeway than he does Arthur. In light of recent events, this has come back to bite Uther in more than one way.
  • Parental Substitute: Gaius is this towards Merlin.
  • Patricide: Morgana has a definite hand in finally killing Uther.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Merlin and Morgana. Any high-level mage, especially if they get creative, can raise hell.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Sophia and her father come across as standard villains, but at the conclusion of the episode there is a surprisingly touching scene in which Sophia's father gives up his immortality in order to secure his daughter's.
    • Uther genuinely cares about his children. He also tends to acknowledge Merlin's loyalty to Arthur and just how extraordinarily far it goes — sometimes, in the first two series, more openly than Arthur himself.
  • Phrase Catcher: "When you are king, things will be different" to Arthur.
  • Pietà Plagiarism:
    • In Le Mort d'Arthur when Uther carries Arthur across the courtyard.
    • Happens again with Percival carrying Merlin in 04x01, and Merlin in Emrys form carrying a mortally wounded Arthur in series finale.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Merlin and Gwen.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Happens often to Uther, most heartbreakingly when Arthur begs for Guinevere's life after Uther has her pegged as a witch.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Two of which serve as Book-Ends: Ygraine's death, which served to turn Uther against magic and start the conflict of the series, and Kara, who turned Mordred against Camelot.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Merlin, Gwaine, Arthur, especially as a Power Trio.
  • 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). Later Morgana plays this trope straight when it comes to killing a man who would have otherwise been able to identify her as the traitor.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Arthur does this to Merlin. However, he did it to ensure that Merlin wouldn't get the poison and that he would, to save his friend's life.
  • Poisonous Friend: Merlin, in a very literal sense.
  • Politically Correct History: Comments have been made on the ethnicities of Gwen (Guinevere) and Lancelot but there have been black people in Britain since the Romans conquered it and southern Europeans tend to be darker than those in the north (in reference to Lancelot, not Gwen).
    • All the angsting over Arthur being in love with a servant girl. Love marriage is a rather modern phenomenon especially for royalty. A true prince of that (or most) ages would marry for politics and have Gwen on the side for romance. This is brought up in the show itself by Uther, who's outraged at Arthur for doing it.
  • Posthumous Character: Igraine and Gorlois.
  • Power Glows: The eyes of magical people/creatures briefly glow during spellcasting.
  • Power Incontinence: Merlin initially. As he points out in the first episode, he's never studied magic, or knows any spells, but his power... just sort of happens.
    • Morgana is a better example. She has no control over her seer powers at any point, and has to wear a special bracelet to keep them away unless they are really important, such as prophecies. When she first uses actual magic, she has no control over it, and even after training for a year with her half-sister, she still loses control once and tosses Merlin into a wall.
    • Mordred as well. It doesn't look like he meant to break those mirrors.
    • Alternately, you could say Merlin is notable for averting this, since all the other inherit magic users need training to get control of it, whereas Merlin was able to move objects at will even before he could talk.
  • The Power of Love: The Dragon instructs Merlin to use this to break the enchantment that has left Arthur infatuated with Vivian. A True Love's Kiss from Gwen does the job.
  • The Power of Trust: Is a Central Theme in season 4, when Arthur finally assumes the throne. He spends most of the season under the pretence that he can trust no one. In a cruel twist, his uncle, the one person that he really can't trust, actually uses this to get him to mistrust everyone else. When he realizes this in the finale, he goes in complete Heroic BSoD, and it takes pulling the sword from the stone to make him believe he can be a king again.
  • Power Nullifier: In the season 4 finale, Merlin uses a mandrake doll placed under Morgana's bed to (temporarily at least) completely block her magical powers. Needless to say, she reacted poorly when she tried to use her magic later. Also a Call-Back to Season 3 when Morgana put a doll beneath Uther's bed and made him go crazy.
    • In Series 5, Morgana has a magic-eating slug to de-power Merlin in the Grand Finale.
  • Power Trio: Merlin ("Magic"), Arthur ("Courage") and Gwaine ("Strength"). Arthur, Gwen and Merlin also form a trio.
  • Pretty Boy/Bishōnen: Merlin. In contrast to Arthur and all of the Knights of Camelot who are all Hunk's.
  • Pretty in Mink: Morgana.
  • Primary-Color Champion: Merlin. He is always seen wearing The Hero colours of red and blue (similar to that of Clark Kent). If he is NOT wearing those colours, you will know that something is wrong with him (like when he was brainwashed by Morgana and was wearing the purple shirt in 4x06 for example).
  • Professional Killer: Myror
  • The Promise: played straight many times, from Freya to Merlin ("Someday I will repay you"), Arthur and Gwen ("I can promise you that when I am King, things will be different"), Merlin's promise to the Dragon that he will free him, and mentioned with Uther's promise to Gorlois about taking care of Morgana. And every promise has been kept, or at least it has been hinted that they will.
    • Lancelot was not able to keep his promise to Guinevere that he would rescue her from Hengist's fortress. Though he tries his best, it is Arthur who saves her. This leads to Lancelot's decision to leave in the middle of the night, feeling himself unworthy.
    • Arthur broke his promise to Guinevere that her home was hers for life when he banished her from Camelot. Yes, there were mitigating circumstances, but the promise was still broken.
  • Proper Lady: Morgan, Guinevere and Mithian.
  • The Prophecy: The prophecy about Merlin helping Arthur become the great king who will unite all of Albion.
    • And the prophecy that Morgana is now spending all her time trying to prevent happening: that Emrys (Merlin, though she doesn't know it) will be "her destiny and her doom."
  • Prophecy Twist: The series ending. After five series and ten year in-show worth of promise that Arthur is the one who will bring magic back and lead Albion to a golden age, it's Guinevere who will achieve those things. Arthur merely makes it possible to happen by making her his queen, repeals the oppression on the Druids (magic is still banned), and maintains cordial diplomatic relationship with leaders like Queen Annis.
  • The Protagonist: The story and series centres on Merlin, his journey and his relationship with other characters.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Too many examples to list, but there's a lot of this. For instance, Merlin repeatedly kills supernatural antagonists in cold blood, even when said enemies have understandable or admirable reasons for opposing him; these slayings are portrayed as triumphant or even humorous. The best example, though, has to be when Merlin frees the dragon to fulfill a vow and save his mother's life, despite being perfectly aware that it will put everyone in Camelot at risk (including other people's mothers, who apparently aren't important). Sure enough, hundreds of civilians die. Merlin never displays any real remorse, most of his angst during the carnage has to do with his daddy issues (at one point he actually pretends he's worried about the people in Camelot, to hide that he's actually sulking about his mystery dad), and the narrative generally treats the event as a tragic inevitability rather than an act of reckless, destructive selfishness. Of course, if the Monster of the Week had done the same thing for the same reasons...
  • Protectorate: For Merlin, it is Arthur and Guinevere, the former because of his destiny and the latter because of their pre-existing friendship and her eventual relationship with Arthur. His protection also extends to anyone with magical abilities, such as Mordred and Freya.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Excalibur in the episode of that name. Also, who wants to bet that the Cup of Life in "Le Morte d'Arthur" is actually the Holy Grail?
    • We've now also seen the Round Table.
  • Public Execution: Tons of 'em, either by beheading, hanging or pyre. In fact, the very first thing Merlin sees on arriving in Camelot is a magic-user getting his head cut off.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Lancelot du Lac has the scene where Arthur is rather calmly confronting Gwen after catching her kissing Lancelot the night before their wedding, coldly trying to supply reasons for why she did it. When she fails to come up with a rational, coherent answer, he just snaps:
    Arthur: Then forgive me! Because I must be really stupid! WHAT! WERE YOU DOING!!!
  • The Purge: Known as "the Great Purge", this is the time in which Uther had all those who possessed magic executed.
  • Put on a Bus: Unfortunately, Asa Butterfield (Mordred) won't be in Series three because of scheduled filming conflicts. Also doesn't appear in Series four, and is too young when season five rolls around.
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