First of all, I did not expect my first Character Comparison post to become so popular. So finally, eight months later, I’m writing a part two!
This time, we’re going to take a look at two more characters: Merlin and Peter Parker.
(a.k.a. The battle of the cinnamon rolls.)
If you haven’t seen Merlin by BBC or all of the Avengers movies, I’ll put a green bar next to the spoilers,
So you can skip over them if you want to.
And just to clarify again, I’m referencing Merlin as played by Colin Morgan, and Peter Parker (Spider-Man) as played by Tom Holland.
Let’s get started!
First impressions are everything.
How does the writer introduce their character to us? Do we bond with the character right away? What emotions are introduced?
The first time we meet Peter Parker (in the MCU) is in Captain America: Civil War.
The first time we see Peter Parker, he is coming home after a long day at school. He starts to tell his Aunt about a “crazy car parked outside,” and he looks over to see Tony Stark, Iron Man, one of the Avengers (!!!), sitting in his living room.
Tony pulls Peter aside and asks him about his spider powers, but at first, Peter stammers and tries to downplay himself.
Of course, Tony sees right through this and
convinces blackmails Peter to come on a special mission to Germany.
The viewer learns several things about Peter from this scene:
- Peter is a bit star-struck, a theme that affects his character for the rest of the movies.
- He is way too young to be an avenger.
- He has skills, powers, and a good heart.
- He’s going to be the cinnamon roll of the MCU.
Something that I found interesting in this scene is that Peter Parker stammers a couple of times. Not every character is articulate, and it can really affect what the reader/viewer thinks of a character.
In contrast, Merlin usually doesn’t stumble over his words. Merlin has a slightly different problem, where he speaks loud and clear but says the wrong things at the wrong time.
Not every character has to struggle with communication, I just thought it was an interesting aspect that I should point out.
We meet Merlin for the first time in season one, episode one.
The very first episode opens with Merlin walking across the countryside, and a voiceover says, “No man, no matter how great, can know his destiny.”
When he reaches Camelot, Merlin passes a public execution for a man accused of sorcery. (Very important foreshadowing for the rest of the series.)
After watching the execution, Merlin has to ask for directions to find Gaius, the court physician. And once he finds Gaius, he doesn’t even have time to introduce himself before he saves the old man’s life.
Some things we learn about Merlin from this scene:
- Merlin is alone in a place he’s never seen before. (As the viewers, we also don’t recognize Camelot. This is a nice way of getting the viewer to bond with the character.)
- He has magic, and he’s not afraid to use it, even though it could cost him his life.
- He will risk himself to save a stranger.
- He’s not 100% sure what he’s doing.
Unlike Loki and Snape, who I wrote about in THIS POST, Merlin and Peter Parker have very similar beginnings. They both make viewers connect with them. We want to see if they’re going to be okay.
Hidden powers. Both Peter and Merlin have a special superpower that they don’t tell that many people about.
Since this is a longer post, and I’m running short on time, I’ll keep this section short.
Obviously, Peter Parker is Spiderman. That’s his big secret. Which, you know, since he’s in high school, makes sense because he wants to seem like a normal kid.
However… the reason he’s so protective of his identity is so he doesn’t get embarrassed at school. The bad guys always find him anyways, so it’s not like keeping his identity secret is a big deal.
Maybe that’s just me. Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.
Merlin can do almost unlimited magic, and by season five, it is obvious that he is the most powerful sorcerer ever to walk the earth.
If Uther finds out that Merlin is a sorcerer, he will be sentenced to death. There’s a lot more than just Merlin’s reputation at stake.
Parental Figures Who Aren’t Parents
This is one of the first similarities I noticed between Merlin and Peter.
They are both fatherless, until an older character takes them under their wings and raises them like a son.
Of course (spoilers), Peter Parker lost his mentor and father figure in Endgame, and in Merlin’s case, he found his real father and lost him within forty minutes.
So let’s take a closer look at the differences and similarities here.
Merlin – Gaius
As my brother and I like to say, there are only a couple of characters in the Merlin series who have actual brain cells. One of these characters is Gaius, the physician.
Gaius takes care of Merlin from day one, eventually becoming less of a teacher and more of a parent. Merlin comes to Gaius for help, advice, encouragement, and support when times get tough.
Also, when it comes to magic, Gaius can hold his own, even going head to head with the sorceress Morgause at one point.
Gaius is the main voice of reason in Merlin’s life. He’s the one who says, “Don’t do the thing, it’s too dangerous. You could get hurt.”
Over the course of the show, Gaius morphs from a grumpy old man to a mentor to a father figure to a friend and trusted ally.
Fortunately, Gaius does not die in the end.
Merlin respects Gaius, and often seeks his advice on things, but it doesn’t take long before Merlin starts making his own decisions. Gaius will say, “don’t do this, it’s too dangerous,” and Merlin straight up ignores him.
However, Merlin loves Gaius, and will do anything to make sure he’s okay.
Peter Parker – Tony Stark
In spite of his unconventional people skills and borderline blackmailing, Tony Stark quickly establishes himself as Peter Parker’s mentor.
This is most obvious in the movie, Spiderman: Homecoming. When Spider-Man’s battle with the bad guys spirals out of control, almost destroying the cruise ship, Iron Man comes to the rescue to help pick up the pieces.
Peter gets a scolding afterwards, and Tony threatens to take away the Spiderman suit because, in Tony’s words, “If you’re nothing without this suit, then you shouldn’t have it.”
The dynamic between Tony Stark and Peter Parker is one of the most interesting ones in the MCU (in my opinion). Almost immediately, they fall into the roles of father and son, even though
Peter has to wait until the end to get a hug from Tony Stark.
Even though Merlin and Peter Parker have similar relationships with their respective mentors, this is character comparison. I have to break it down a little further and see which one works better.
- Gaius is always a mentor and ally in Merlin’s life. Merlin can take his advice or not, and Gaius is more likely to recommend ideas than to get mixed up in Merlin’s adventures himself.
- Tony starts off as a mentor, but quickly becomes the overprotective dad. In Homecoming, Peter Parker tries to do his own thing apart from Tony Stark, but Tony is already too emotionally invested in Peter and physically interferes, becoming the overprotective parent.
Oh The Trauma
Do fangirls love or hate it when authors are mean to their favorite characters?
We feel sorry for the characters, but in the end, the suffering makes the story better. And that’s what we’re looking at next.
In the MCU, Peter Parker’s suffering isn’t over yet. (Fingers crossed that the new Spiderman movie comes out this year!)
But in case you forgot what he’s endured thus far:
(It’s implied that he’s already lost Uncle Ben before the start of Captain America: Civil War.)
His girlfriend’s dad turns out to be a villain who won’t hesitate to kill him.
He sneaks onto the spaceship and ends up facing Thanos, the most terrifying enemy the Avengers have ever fought against.
It has been confirmed that due to his Spidey senses, Peter could feel himself starting to dust, unlike the other characters who just disappeared.
Five years later, in Endgame, Peter Parker comes back to live, reunites with Tony Stark, and promptly watches Tony die just a few minutes later.
In Far From Home, he is still traumatized from the events of Infinity War and Endgame when “Mysterio” shows up to ruin his life even further. (See the post I wrote about Mysterio HERE.)
I think it’s interesting to note that Peter Parker’s suffering is based on a lot of bad luck, being at the wrong place at the wrong time, etc. A lot of stuff happens to Peter. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, take a look at how it compares to Merlin’s suffering.
Merlin suffers a lot throughout the series, specifically in seasons 3-5. And season 5 is almost nothing but suffering.
First, Merlin starts losing a couple of friends, the girl he loves, etc. Pretty tame stuff from the writer’s perspective. He can lose more.
Then, the writers pile on more suffering. Merlin finds his long-lost father, develops a bond with him, is overjoyed to finally find his father… and his father is killed right in front of him.
In another episode, he accidentally kills Uther and turns Arthur against magic forever.
Oh, because Merlin let Morgana and Mordred live, Arthur dies, just like the prophecies foretold.
No matter how hard he tried, Merlin still lost. Or did he? Was the goal of the series to prevent the inevitable, or was it more about the journey than the final episodes?
In contrast with Peter Parker, Merlin’s suffering is often a result of something he does, not something that happens to him.
- When you’re writing about your characters suffering, make sure to include a little bit of both. The character should suffer, make decisions to try and avoid that suffering, and end up making the situation worse. Some suffering comes from within, other suffering is external.
Since the next Spiderman movie has yet to be released, I won’t go over the characters’ endings in this post.
Overall, it’s a tough call, because I love both Peter Parker and Merlin. However, my final choice is Merlin.
While Peter Parker is a lovable cinnamon roll, there were a few stylistic choices made by the writers of Merlin that really elevate Merlin’s character arc and bring him to life really, really well.
What do you think about these characters? Leave a comment and let me know!
Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back in the near future with a new post!
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