Top 10 Characters in the Television series Merlin

Merlin Characters

Although Merlin has finished after just five short seasons, there is no doubt that it has left a lasting impact on audiences everywhere. A large part of the show’s success can be attributed to the dynamic, colourful characters that grace our screens every week and while each one has its own unique impact on the show I have come up with ten of the very best.

10. Lord Agravaine

lord agravaineWhile Lord Agravaine was only present for one season, he was certainly left a lasting impression. He entered the show as an adviser to Arthur but as we quickly learn shortly after his arrival, he has a hidden agenda that could ruin the kingdom and prove fatal for the King of Camelot. After placing a deadly charmed necklace around Uther’s neck, Lord Agravaine enacted the rest of his plan to help Morgana become Queen of Camelot by influencing Arthur’s decisions when it came to matters of state and it was this influence that led to Arthur almost destroying his own kingdom.

Played by Nathaniel Parker, Lord Agravaine’s  ultimate goal however was to ensure the death of the King in order to get revenge for the death of his own family as well as to make sure that Morgana would take the throne. While his attempts were unsuccessful in the end, it was his hidden evil side that left the audience intrigued and created tension throughout the season. While we felt great frustration that Arthur could not see his true colours, we were always surprised by the new lengths that he would go to in order to get what he wanted. He was a sinister character with an element of charm that captivated the characters as well as the viewers and I think these qualities are what enabled him to be able to play both sides of his character so well.

9. Gwaine

gwaineWhile he doesn’t get quite as much air time as some of the other characters, Gwaine has definitely left his mark as the funniest knight of the round table. He entered the show as a drunken, fun-loving young man with a talent for sword fighting and remained like this the whole way through. We all know Merlin to be somewhat dramatic and dark at times however there is also quite a lot of humor sewn into this and Gwaine is one of the main characters to deliver this.

His presence brings comic relief which makes the show so entertaining and there is never a dull moment when he is around. Played by Eoin Macken, this character is not simply one-dimensional as he proves himself to be a brave, loyal follower and friend of Arthur as well as the other knights. In the final episode in the tragic scene of his death, we are presented with a man who spared his own life in order to save his friends and the kingdom that he protected and it was in this instance that the audience were enable to fall in love with him and remember what a big role he and the rest of the knights played in protecting Camelot.

8. Uther

utherPortrayed by Anthony Head, Uther is the unlikable King of Camelot that hates magic and is ready to sentence anyone with magic to death. As Merlin is a story about a young Warlock whose destiny is to use his magic to save Arthur and Camelot, having a ruler with this sort of attitude is not exactly favourable. While Uther is not a completely evil character like Morgana or Morgause, he is certainly a threat to Merlin’s destiny which makes him the villain. Throughout the series we see him push Arthur away with his cruel treatment of others as well as Arthur himself, especially when he forbids his son from marrying Gwinevere, the love of his life, for the simple fact that she is a servant girl.

Uther’s biggest flaw however as King is his cruel treatment of sorcerers. He is prepared to sentence anyone to death that has magic as he blames magic for the death of his beloved wife. It is because of this hatred towards magic that drives many evil sorcerers to attempt to destroy Camelot and it is for this reason that so many of them have tried to kill the King or Prince. If it weren’t for Uther’s presence, Merlin’s magic may not be a secret and it is this secret that is one of the key aspects in keeping the show interesting. This secret has created so many great moments throughout the series such as in instances where his magic is almost revealed. While there are many villains that stand in the way of Arthur becoming King of Camelot, there needs to be a villain that stands in the way of magic itself and I think that Uther is the perfect representation of this sort of villain.

7. The Great Dragon

great dragonThe Great Dragon, voiced by the great John Hurt, is the creature with all the information and is the one who tells Merlin of his destiny. From the very beginning, he tells the young Warlock everything that he must do in order to save Arthur and bring magic back to Camelot and it is for this reason that Merlin comes to him with every problem he may have. He gives him advice on anything and everything and so we too learn to trust him implicitly, however as we find out rather early on, he has his own hidden agenda.

Throughout the first season, The Great Dragon remains in chains in a cave and tells the boy that he has suffered as a result of Uther’s tyrannical reign and so Merlin promises to set him free once Arthur is King. What the warlock doesn’t know however is that he has actually become an evil dragon and his plan once he is set free is to destroy Camelot. From this point on, he can no longer trust the dragon and continues his journey on his own however there are times where he comes to the dragon when he has no one else to turn to and once he discovers he is the only Dragon Lord left, he takes this opportunity to control the Dragon and stop him from destroying Camelot. The Great Dragon’s influence, especially throughout the first season is very important as he becomes the centre of knowledge and he is always aware of Merlin’s destiny and when we learn that he is actually a villain, he becomes a whole new threat not only to Camelot, but to the once and future King.

6. Mordred

mordredMordred is Arthur’s ultimate destiny and therefore the one wizard standing in the way of Merlin’s. He enters the show as a young druid with a mysterious and slightly creepy air about him. He speaks to Merlin using his mind and we immediately know that he too was born with magic. As Arthurian legend tells us, Mordred is Merlin’s greatest enemy and is ultimately the one who kills Arthur and so his presence is rather exciting in the beginning. Portrayed by Asa Butterfield as a young boy, he does not do much to threaten Camelot or anyone in it however as he is a druid we know that he can be up to no good and so we as an audience are weary.

He then returns in season five as a young man who actually saves Arthur’s life, claiming that he is repaying a debt and so he is appointed a knight of Camelot. This however is Merlin’s worst nightmare as he knows of the evil that was within the Druid and believes that he wants to kill Arthur. We are shocked to discover however that he is not in fact as evil as we would have believed him to be and it is only when the love of his life is killed that he turns against the King and helps Morgana in a plot to kill him and take the throne.

While I was disappointed that he was not Merlin’s arch nemesis when it came to the television series, I think that his influence over the story as a whole and indeed his importance in the destiny of Arthur was essential for the show. The key aspect of this character’s influence for me however is the fact that he lingers throughout the show, coming and going without revealing too much of his evil character. This allows for the audience to question him at every turn and as we constantly change our minds about him, what always remains the same is that he is always keeping us interested.

5. Guinevere

gwineverePlayed by Angel CoulbyGuinevere the beautiful, wholesome servant girl turned Queen of Camelot and is greatly responsible for softening up Arthur Pendragon. In the very beginning it seemed as though her and Merlin would make a good match due to their positions in society as well as their good nature, however as the series went on, we discovered that it was this good nature that would grab the heart of the once and future King and help to guide him in becoming a great king.

While she started out as simply an obedient servant to Morgana she proved herself to be strong-willed and brave, unafraid to stand up to her husband and indeed anyone that needed standing up to. What captured audiences for five seasons was the blossoming relationship between the servant and her king. His reluctance to begin a real relationship with her despite their love was what kept the relationship so exciting to watch as we wondered how long it would take for Arthur to stand up to his father.

There is no doubt I feel that her influence on her husband helped him to become the caring king that he turned out to be and if he hadn’t married her, perhaps he would have been a little more like his father than one would hope. The strong friendships she held with characters like Merlin and Gaius made her even more endearing and in some ways she was the glue that held them all together.

4. Morgana

morganaThe most prominent villain throughout the entire series, Morgana attempts to take over Camelot time and time again but to no avail however her constant interference causes much distress to the Kingdom and quite often results in tragic consequences. During the first season we are presented with a happy young woman very close to the king as well as the rest of the kingdom however she soon discovers that not only is she a powerful sorcerer, but that she is also the daughter of Uther Pendragon. Having come to these revelations, Morgana makes it her mission to claim her right to the throne and kill the Pendragons in the process.

During her quest to accomplish this however, she is unknowingly prevented from doing so by Merlin who turns out to be her ultimate downfall. Seemingly undeterred by her constant setbacks, she continues to try to enact her revenge. We do however see fear in her once she is aware of the impending doom that comes in the form of Emrys. What makes Morgana such a good villain is her determination and constant presence in the lives of our beloved characters. No matter how successful they are, this sorceress is always waiting to strike and while she never gets the throne, she reeks havoc on the Kingdom and almost breaks up Arthur and Guinevere. Despite her pretty appearance, she is without a doubt, the most evil and unrelenting villain in the show.

3. Arthur

arthurAt the centre of everything, Arthur Pendragon is the reason for pretty much everything in the show. It is Merlin’s destiny to protect him and every villain’s goal to destroy him while he is willing to risk himself in order to protect Camelot. Played by Bradley James, he is the Kingdom’s one and only hope of restoring peace and civility to Camelot. While he starts off as unlikable, arrogant and rude, as the series goes on we are able to see the goodness and bravery within him which is what makes this character so interesting to watch. There have been so many adaptations of Arthurian legend however there have been none quite so daring when it comes to character development. His harsh treatment of his servant makes for one of the most comical aspects of the show and offers a more light-hearted side to the series however Merlin is one of the few people who see past his arrogance to the great king he will someday be.

Seemingly quite cold at the beginning, his hard surface is breaking down bit by bit and a large part of this is down to Guinivere who allows Arthur to be vulnerable for the first time in the show and it is this vulnerability that allows the audience to relate to him as a human and not just as the once and future king of Camelot. His compassion for the common man makes him a refreshing king after his tyrannical father before him and separates him from other rulers in the past. It is because of Merlin’s destiny to protect Arthur that the audience feels so protective over him and so each and every time he is in danger we becomes so deeply involved and we are connected more and more to the story of Arthur and Merlin.

2. Gaius

gaiusPlayed by the excellent Richard WilsonGaius is the heart of the show. Valuable to everyone, he is one of the most important people within the kingdom as he acts as everyone’s confidant and is Merlin’s best friend. His role within the series is not perhaps quite as obvious however he proves himself to be key in helping Merlin fulfill his destiny. The young warlock often comes to Gaius for advice and help and so is incredibly important to the cause. He is the man with all the knowledge and it seems as though there is nothing that he doesn’t have an answer for whether it is about remedies, illness or magic, even though he himself is not a sorcerer.

From the very beginning he has complete and utter faith in Merlin even when he doesn;t believe in himself and his own abilities and therefore he becomes the greatest support that Merlin could ask for. He often guides the sorcerer when he strays away and at times has to act as the moral compass. Arthur and Uther also trust Gaius implicitly and very often come to him with problems and queries and it is his connection to all these different characters that enables him to intervene and steer everyone in the right direction. The main reason I think that he is so loved by audiences however is simply his warm, caring and funny character. His friendship with Merlin is very sweet and almost like a father-son relationship that warms the hearts of the audience and allows for us to see the happier, more light-hearted side to the young man.

1. Merlin

merlinHe is the reason we tuned in every week, the little sorcerer that could, it’s Merlin. He starts of as a young man with magic who if faced with the impossible task of saving Camelot. Making his debut as a cocky servant who challenges Arthur when no one else will, he leaves a lasting impression on the future King of Camelot. Unaware of just how powerful he really is, he seems like a scared warlock with no idea of how to carry out the very difficult tasks he is faced with day in day out however with the help of Gaius and The Great Dragon, he slowly learns how to better his magic and how important the seemingly rude Prince of Camelot will be in the future.

What is so endearing about Merlin is the fact that his power is hidden and that he never ever asks for any credit for saving Arthur time and time again. His relationship with Arthur is one of the most entertaining aspects of the show as their humorous exchanges offer comic relief to the show that is refreshing. With all the insults and ridiculous demands that are thrown him way, Merlin is happy to ignore his harsh treatment as he believes the king to be more than just an arrogant, spoiled brat.

As the series continues however, their relationship develops as Arthur becomes dependent on his loyal servant and although he never admits it, Merlin has become a friend as well as an employee. While he is the most powerful sorcerer to have ever lived and the reason Camelot is safe, he is still just a young man with real emotions who makes mistakes and I think it is for this reason that he is so likable and that we continually support him until the very end.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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I'm Catherine and my all time love is reading with film coming in at a close second. My favourite films and books range from romance to action to fantasy.

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11 Comments

  1. Hollis Linares
    0

    I thoroughly enjoyed Merlin series all of it very funny at times and was very sad when Arthur died at the end very good actors too and loved Guyas as well.

  2. Enjoyed this show while it aired. It did have some great episodes. I will never get tired of watching The Labyrinth of Geldref.

    It was a great story line. It demonstrated the writers ability to write an original story that didn’t always rely on ‘someone is possessed/influenced/taken ill’ by sorcery.

    Plus character development.

    btw Merlin is my top character too 😉

  3. The Wyrick
    0

    My own view on that ending is that I don’t see Arthur in full control of his thinking process when it came to him actually understanding what all was going on around him. Especially not after Mordred stabbed him and then him learning that Merlin had magic while having to process all this while having to ride a horse for two days or so before he died.

    I mean that had to put a lot of stress on him and shock had to have set in with him being mortally wounded and then the added pressure of learning Merlin had magic. The very thing he had always been taught by his father to fear. I just don’t see Arthur excepting all that realistically in two or three days while he is dying.

    Yes it was a tug on the heart string moment, but it sure was a easy way for the producers/writers to deal with it without having to actually deal with it. I mean when a person is dying they aren’t exactly as alert or able to process things in the same way as they would be if they are perfectly healthy.

    So to me Arthur’s acceptance of Merlin having magic is a bit less than it could have been. Yes as I said…It was a tug on the heart string moment, but I would have loved for the reveal to have happened when Arthur was totally healthy and could process things more fully without being in pain and slowly dying. I just think that could have made him less aware of what was going on and because of that his acceptance of Merlin isn’t so legitmate for me as it would have been had he not been traveling down death’s roadway.

    • Catherine Sweeney

      I wish they had another series after so we could have seen the aftermath of merlin’s confession

      • Lonnie Cath
        0

        The ending wasn’t great, but at least we got an ending. There is plenty of shows that leave fans hanging. Do not blame the writers, blame the key actors. They were the ones who said, “NO” to season/series 6. So the writers had to scramble and re-write the season 5 ending. Remember the writers of the show thought it was going to series 6, as the network offered it. The actors were tired of the show.

  4. Victoria
    0

    Gaius before Arthur? Gaius, “the heart of the show”? Sorry, I watched a completely different program from you.

  5. rosetta
    0

    I’m watching season 3 episode 10 right now, how much fun it must be for old merlin to be able to tell of Uthor and Arthur like that, he cracks me up. really love the old merlin.

  6. Kate Lovatt

    This was one of my favourite television programmes for almost the entire time it ran, however, I couldn’t help but be bitterly disappointed with the ending of the fifth series. There were a number of things I think the writers and producers could have chosen to do differently, (the magic reveal and Morgana’s death being two examples) and these changes would have given the show the stronger ending it deserved.

    I agree with your decision to place Merlin in the number 1 spot – he was the programme’s protagonist, and Colin Morgan really flourished as an actor playing the role. Did you consider perhaps having two spots for Mordred? One for the younger and one for the adult? While I thought the use of him as a young boy was a clever addition to the sub-plot, I preferred his adult character because he carried the weight of villainy much better and posed a real threat to Camelot.

    • Catherine Sweeney

      I did struggle to write about both portrayals of mordred and i think your idea would’ve really helped. I was a little disapointed that they focussed so much more on morgana as mordred is such a good villain

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