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"Dragon Age 2" (2011): Merrill, A Character Analysis

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Ash has been playing "Dragon Age" since the first game's release. She enjoys exploring and explaining the characters and lore.

Merrill as she appeared in "Dragon Age 2."

Merrill as she appeared in "Dragon Age 2."

After years of observing the Dragon Age fandom, it occurs to me that Merrill is probably one of the most misunderstood characters in the series.

I don't really blame the fans, though. I always felt Merrill's arc could have been written a little better. Far too many of us were scratching our heads, wondering why Marethari had apparently become an asshole and turned the clan against Merrill. We did not interact with the clan before the demon's influence, so there was no way to know something was different unless you played a Dalish in Origins, and even then . . .

Other fans simply hated Merrill for looking like she was sixteen and behaving like a child. That's understandable, I guess. I, too, was turned off by Liara in Mass Effect before I came to "know" her character for the very same reasons.

I'm not here to convert Merrill haters or anything, though. I would just like to offer a different perspective and/or interpretation from someone who actually liked Merrill's depiction in Dragon Age 2.

"Merrill is Too Childish to Romance"

My screenshot of Merrill and Isabela playing cards. I used a mod to change Merrill's face.

My screenshot of Merrill and Isabela playing cards. I used a mod to change Merrill's face.

This is something I see a lot. Fans say that Merrill looks and behaves like a child, so it makes them feel awkward romancing her. And . . . I don't blame them, really.

When I first played Mass Effect, I felt turned off by the fact that the game put so much emphasis on Liara looking young and being much older than she appeared. Meanwhile, she wouldn't shut up about what an innocent virgin she was. Excuse me while I retch.

Liara's original concept (and the entire asari species) was little more than gross fan service. I remember being surprised when I went on game forums and saw many male players actually hated Liara for this exact reason. Ironically, Liara is my favorite Bioware romance. I'm just not oblivious to her flawed and unfortunate concept like some fans.

Tali was another fine example of this in Mass Effect 2 but was taken to a higher extreme than Liara (her virginity and helplessness was played up times a thousand, to the point that Shepard has to save her repeatedly, not just once). For this reason, a lot of fans compare Merrill to Tali and Liara.

But just as Isabela is a deliberate mockery of the typical objectified female video game character, I feel Merrill is similarly a mockery of the typical pedophilic female video game romance.

I say this because Merrill is actually nothing like Tali (and Liara is not actually helpless or childish. At least not after the first game).

Merrill was deliberately written to seem like she might be helpless and innocent and virginal but she is actually the exact opposite for anyone who is paying the least bit of attention.

Let's break this down piece by piece.

Merrill is Not Helpless

Merrill can't fix the mirror in Act 2.

Merrill can't fix the mirror in Act 2.

Again, Merrill is not like Tali, as she is not helpless and virginal. Merrill is actually more like Liara, a character who was created to seem young and innocent but who actually subverts the player's expectations again and again.

Just like Liara , when Hawke first meets Merrill on Sundermount, Merrill stammers and is nervous about offending her because she's human.

Given all this babbling and stammering from a thin and cute elf, it's clear the writers want you to think Merrill is helpless and in need of your protection. This expectation is subverted in about six seconds, however, once Hawke realizes Merrill is a mage. Hawke will stop the entire journey just to comment on Merrill's battle prowess. So not so helpless after all.

And later in Act 3, if you bring Aveline along on Merrill's final quest, Aveline will marvel that Merrill used to come up the mountain alone, battling waves of demons, darkspawn, and corpses by herself. Merrill is nonchalant about her badassery when she responds, but seriously, take a peep at her abilities. She is a very powerful mage. She just doesn't seem that way next to a mage Hawke.

I also enjoy the fact that Hawke can also be a stammering idiot when they meet Merrill. During the scene where Merrill's clan tells her to GTFO, Merrill gets upset and declares she will one day save her people. Not wanting to embarrass her further, Purple/Sarcastic Hawke will ramble about the weather to draw attention away from the tense moment.

It's all so awkward and cute. I think fans can forget that Hawke is just as weird when meeting Merrill . . . at least Purple Hawke. It's clear that they like each other but are dancing around it and avoiding it.

For Merrill, behaving like an awkward fool and tripping over herself for Hawke was probably frustrating. She wants to be seen as the strong, intelligent woman that she is. But because she's thin and small and cute (and has that cute voice) she is never taken seriously as an adult by anyone.

Merrill is Not a Child

All the modern elves (not ancient) had slight, "childlike" bodies in the sequels, even the Dalish Inquisitor.

All the modern elves (not ancient) had slight, "childlike" bodies in the sequels, even the Dalish Inquisitor.

When Dragon Age 2 begins, Merrill is very young and very sheltered from the outside world. Again like Liara, she has not interacted with other species much and doesn't know how to behave.

The Warden from Origins is written to be very young, the Dalish Warden especially, and Merrill was about the same age as the Dalish Warden during Origins. This would place Merrill at about nineteen or twenty when the sequel begins, the same age as Carver and Bethany, Hawke's younger siblings. So right off the bat, Hawke is older, more experienced, and more mature, which only makes Merrill seem even more young and immature by comparison.

And to top things off, Merrill's Keeper basically throws Merrill at Hawke and says, "Here. You take her." This immediately creates what would seem to be a power imbalance, except I would argue that people would only see it that way if they really saw Merrill as a child. I think whether or not there's a "power imbalance" depends entirely on how you see Merrill.

When I was nineteen, I was going through boot camp, for god's sake. I'm not saying nineteen isn't very young and immature (it is) but it's not a literal child. And yet, that's how fans (and the characters) treat Merrill.

Yes, Hawke helps Merrill find her way to the alienage, and yes, Hawke helps Merrill get settled there, but Merrill does not depend on Hawke. Merrill takes care of herself and is completely independent. Even if you romance her, she barely moves in the mansion. It's everyone around Merrill who insists on treating her like a child.

I think a good example of this would be Varric.

Varric apologizing to Hawke.

Varric apologizing to Hawke.

Varric, the kind-hearted dwarf version of Sera, treats Merrill like a child. While it's true that Merrill gets lost because she's not from the city, rather than letting her find her way like any normal adult, Varric gives Merrill a ball of twine.

On top of that, Varric wastes huge sums of coin sending bodyguards to follow and protect Merrill at night. In a funny party banter, he begs her to stop walking the streets alone at night. She dismisses him, and he reveals that "nothing ever happens" because he pays people to protect her.

So rather than acknowledging that Merrill is a kickass blood mage who makes deals with demons and can take care of herself, Varric sees her as a helpless child who needs his constant protection. He, like the other characters, insists on infantalizing her because of the way she looks and sounds, completely ignoring her actual intelligence and abilities.

Merrill cries.

Merrill cries.

Varric also calls Merrill "Daisy" because he sees her as a fragile flower that needs protecting. It's patronizing, though he means well. Merrill puts up with this with patience and kindness, but there are moments when we see her grow weary of it.

In Act 2, Merrill is obsessing over the mirror and Varric can be seen at her house, begging her to come outside and calling her Daisy again. Merrill irritably says that she is not a plant and for Varric to stop fussing over her like a child and leave her alone.

If Hawke is romancing Merrill, Varric will ask if Hawke knows that Merrill is working on the mirror again. Merrill will say that she doesn't need permission to visit to her own house and then tells Varric to leave.

Once Varric is gone, Merrill refers irritably to Varric as a "busybody." It's clear that she finds his coddling annoying. But he's also her friend, so she just kind of puts up with it.

Unfortunately, people are always going to treat you the way you look and not the way you actually are. I'm saying this as a woman in her thirties who people still mistake for a teenager. People talk down to me, coddle me, and patronize me all my life instead of recognizing me for the strong, independent, intelligent person that I am. And it's even worse when you're a "minority" because the way people perceive you is further colored by their prejudices on top of your seeming youth.

My IQ is about twenty or thirty points above average. I attended my first college at 17. So to have people treating me like I'm stupid because I'm black and/or because I look younger than I actually am is all levels of insulting.

Meanwhile, Merrill is a genius level mage who figured out how to cleanse the taint with blood magic. That's not a little thing she figured out there. Yes, the demon told her how to do it, but it likely only dropped a hint so she would keep coming back. It probably never thought she'd figure out how to actually clean the mirror.

Merrill repaired an ancient eluvian and cleaned it of the taint all by herself, with only teasing hints from a demon. The only reason she couldn't activate the mirror was because she needed a key, which she didn't know about (we learn about eluvian keys in The Masked Empire, a book released after the game).

Merrill is freaking brilliant. But everyone around her treats her like a child playing with fire. It's incredibly frustrating to be treated as less than you actually are.

I know exactly how Merrill feels.

I should probably point out that Hawke also treats Merrill like a child. Instead of allowing Merrill to be an adult and make her own mistakes, Hawke has the option of behaving like a helicopter parent.

She can deny Merrill the arulin'holm in an attempt to protect her, but she's really just being patronizing. While it's true that helping Merrill with the mirror is indeed enabling her unhealthy obsession, denying her the tool she requires to fix it is also infantalizing.

It's like walking up to an addict and snatching the drugs from their arm and shouting that you know what's best for them. In doing so, you take away their right to choose to get better in their own time. You can't force someone to change. You can't coddle an adult and try to prevent them from making mistakes, and you can't stand there and enable them either.

The most loving thing you can do for an addict is leave them, allow them to fix their own lives and save themselves, while protecting yourself from the harm of their influence. There's a saying that addicts can't change until they've hit rock bottom. The same applies for Merrill.

I think the problem is that players aren't given a way to handle Merrill's "addiction" well. We either enable her or treat her like a child, and both kind of suck. The only healthy thing Hawke can do is leave Merrill.

But then, none of the romances in Dragon Age 2 were supposed to be healthy. They were just different depictions of very realistic (sometimes abusive) relationships.

Merrill is Not Stupid or Oblivious

 Beautiful Merrill fan art.

Beautiful Merrill fan art.

Another thing about Merrill is that she cleverly uses the way other people see her to f*ck with them and/or avoid conversations she doesn't want. The only people she's straightforward with are Hawke and Carver, mostly because she likes them. Everyone else gets screwed with. If they insist on seeing her as a dumb child, then she will troll them with it.

She is very much like Isabela in that way, given that Isabela takes the perception of her "looseness" and plays it up times a thousand to mess with the other followers as well.

A good example would be Anders. Anders is a human Andrastian who thinks his religion is the one true way. He has little empathy for elves, and even back in Awakening he was always ready to insist that mages have it worse than elves, who are social/economic slaves in Ferelden and literal slaves in Tevinter.

Anders would like nothing more than to be a Tevinter magister. Boggles the mind that he stays in Kirkwall, though I think that has to do with his pinning over Hawke more than anything.

So whenever Anders talks to Merrill, it's as if she's an inferior elf who needs to be taught about the Chantry. Merrill rebuffs him as an equal every time and doesn't even play the oblivious child game. She directly tells him that she has her own religion, she doesn't need his. She directly tells him that, yes, spirits are dangerous and she knows she that; she's just sorry he didn't.

Eventually, it becomes apparent that Anders isn't being a racist asshole on purpose. He's just a typical ignorant Andrastian human who means well and is trying to save her from becoming an abomination like him.

But his arrogance and racism are insulting and he will never see Merrill as an equal but a child that needs a lecture. So Merrill gives up seriously talking to Anders and starts putting on the playful, oblivious child act in conversations with him, rather than speaking to him directly like an adult, as she had before. Anders is annoyed by this and replies with, "Will you stop making fun of my cat?!"

Merrill again.

Merrill again.

Another good example would be the way Merrill interacts with Aveline and Isabela.

Merrill knows Isabela sees her as a cute child (calling her "Kitten") but it's coming from a place of affection, so Merrill's mockery is playful, asking Isabela if she has a parrot or a peg leg while pretending to really believe she does. Isabela uses the same teasing verbal assaults, so she is amused, saying to Merrill about the peg leg, "You can see that I don't, dear."

Isabela and Merrill become close because they are both defined by the world's perceptions of them based on physical things they can not change (women with big breasts are often sexualized whether they want it or not, so Isabela was always screwed). But rather than be weepy victims, they turn those perceptions back on people and f*ck with them.

Meanwhile, Merrill trolls Aveline by calling her out on what a sh*tty guard captain she actually is, and she earns my respect for having been the only character to do this.

Seriously. I can't think of a single character besides Hawke who calls Aveline out (maybe Anders).

There's a party banter where Merrill will ask Aveline why she looks the other way when Hawke commits crimes. After poking at Aveline and thoroughly embarrassing her (all while pretending she doesn't realize she's embarrassing her), Merrill concludes that Aveline looks the other way because she's fond of Hawke. Aveline warns Merrill to keep that to herself. Merrill ends the banter by saying she'd "rather keep it with Hawke." Ha ha.

A Clip of Merrill Being a Fool

You might be thinking that I'm giving Merrill too much credit. After all, there are moments when she really is, well . . . an idiot. But everything I've said is true. Merrill isn't stupid or oblivious. Yes, she's sheltered and doesn't know much about the outside world, but she plays up her ignorance and innocence to mess with the same people who would infantalize her.

When you first meet Merrill, she appears confused by Hawke's sarcasm. But if you take her over to Master Ilen, the craftsmaster for her clan, the two of them will get in an argument where Merrill will rant sarcastically and spit venom at the man.

It shows that Merrill knows exactly what sarcasm is. She's put off by Sarcastic Hawke because she rarely likes it when Hawke jokes. I've noticed that (like Anders) Merrill will appreciate the occasional joke but she likes Diplomatic Hawke best.

And finally, Merrill using her "oblivious baby act" is played up for laughs yet again in the DLC Mark of the Assassin. If you bring Merrill and Carver and are romancing Merrill, Carver will try to hit on Merrill while he's supposed to be rescuing you (asshole) and Merrill will avoid the conversation by pretending to take interest in the walls. Otherwise, if you're not romancing her, she does the same exact thing and Carver even calls her out on it with, "You're doing that on purpose!"

And, hilariously enough, if you bring Merrill and Carver for the DLC Legacy but are not romancing Merrill, Carver will flirt with her again. But instead of flirting back, Merrill pretends to be oblivious and always somehow brings the conversation around to Hawke.

After a couple recent playthroughs, it's obvious to me that she clearly has no interest in Carver but he just keeps trying. Boggles my mind why fans ship them.

Merrill and Hawke are Equals

Cute fan art of Marian Hawke and Merrill.

Cute fan art of Marian Hawke and Merrill.

Again, the age gap between Hawke and Merrill is trivial. At least it would be in the lesbian community. The lesbian dating pool is so small that older lesbians and younger lesbians will wind up together a lot of the time and it's perceived as normal. Though personally, I won't date anyone more than five or six years older than me. I actually hate it when some fifty-year-old dyke is creeping on me. To be redundant . . . it's creepy.

So I can't speak for Garrett/Merrill (I've only romanced Garrett with Fenris or Anders) but Marian/Merrill isn't creepy at all.

But aside from the age issue, most fans don't like to romance Merrill because she seems to idealize Hawke as a perfect being, while she herself is "dependent" on Hawke both emotionally and financially.

Well, I think I already covered how and why Merrill is Hawke's equal in intelligence and emotional maturity (she only pretends to be an oblivious idiot) and even financially (she doesn't depend on Hawke for money or a place to stay). But let's look at Merrill's self-esteem and sexuality.

One of the things that bother fans a lot is the fact that Merrill appears to have "low self-esteem" when romancing female Hawke. She goes on about Marian being beautiful and perfect and never making mistakes . . . but what about the other romances? All of them are like that!

Isabela gets angry and tells Hawke in Act 3 that she and Hawke have nothing in common anymore. She calls herself a lowly thief while Hawke is a champion. Then later, she asks Hawke if she even has a chance with her.

Anders also idealizes Hawke. In Act 1, he goes on about how beautiful, kind, and wise she is, even if she has committed crimes in front of him! And Fenris is willing to ignore that Hawke is a mage despite his very extreme hatred for mages. This after decades of being abused.

Merrill is not the only one to idealize or worship Hawke. When Hawke tells Merrill that she is not some sort of goddess, Merrill states that some people "worship from afar." And I don't know why, but I've always had the impression that Merrill was not merely talking about herself but all the people who have crushes on the protagonist.

If Merrill actually had low self-esteem (which I don't believe she does) she wouldn't be so arrogant and proud. Someone who doesn't know their own worth is not going to be proud unless it's an act. I don't believe Merrill's pride is an act. In fact, it's the entire reason the demon was able to trick her.

No, Merrill thinks a lot of herself. She just believes Hawke is better.

Merrill despairs at the foot of the mirror.

Merrill despairs at the foot of the mirror.

That said, though Merrill is proud and thinks a lot of herself, she is not unaware of her flaws. I think she just feels helpless to change, to let go of the past and move forward.

There's a banter in Act 3 between Merrill and Aveline that says it all. Merrill asks Aveline what she sees when she looks in her mirror. Aveline will say that she sees a warrior, a wife (if you put her with Donnic), and a woman who's made mistakes and is trying to fix them. Like Merrill, Aveline is also self-aware (Aveline is a crappy guard captain).

Aveline will then ask Merrill what she sees in her mirror. Merrill answers that she sees cracks mostly. Then she asks if she can borrow "Aveilne's." She doesn't mean Aveline's mirror. She means the way Aveline sees herself. Aveline tells her she can borrow it and adds (very kindly) that it will be all right.

In other words, Merrill can't let go of the past and sees herself as broken because of it.

Merrill and Marian after sex.

Merrill and Marian after sex.

As for Merrill's sexuality, I don't believe Merrill is a virgin. Again, like Isabela (and Liara), her character is about subverting expectations. Everyone thinks Isabela sleeps around a lot, but she reveals in party banter that she doesn't as much as people think. She just plays on people's expectations to mess with them.

Because Isabela and Merrill are so close, it seems that they share a lot of things with each other. So when Hawke romances Merrill, Isabela confronts them, asking Hawke to be good to Merrill because she's "been alone too long."

The fact that Isabela assumes Hawke is the one who will hurt Merrill says a lot as well. Isabela assumes Hawke has more power in the relationship because she views Merrill as a child, and yet Hawke is the one who is put through hell while Merrill obsesses over the mirror.

Merrill asks Hawke to kill her if she becomes an abomination, which is a really horrible thing to do (creating a situation where your loved one would have to go through that is f*cked). Merrill also puts Hawke through constant worry and anguish by sneaking out of the house at night to obsess over the mirror. If Hawke protests, they argue, and Merrill yells at her and kicks her out of her house.

The entire relationship is very much coded as romancing someone with an addiction. There's even a moment where Anders says to Hawke, "She'll always choose the demon over you." You could easily substitute "drugs" for "demon" in that sentence.

And though Varric does indeed see Merrill as a child, he seems to be the only one (aside from Anders) who realizes that she's hurting Hawke and is the only one (aside from Anders) who expresses concern about it. Despite the fact that he enjoys blowing Hawke up to be this great hero, Varric still recognizes her vulnerability and humanity.

Isabela will echo her concerns again in party banter to Merrill, saying she's happy for Merrill and that Merrill has been alone too long, the implication here being that Merrill is actually experienced romantically and even sexually.

To me, it also says something that Merrill takes the lead during her romance scene with Hawke in Act 2. It's Merrill who grabs Hawke and kisses her, and it's Merrill who leads Hawke to the bed upstairs.

This isn't to say that virgins can't be aggressive or eager, but every romance scene in Dragon Age 2 was done in a way that deliberately reveals something about the character and the way they feel about Hawke.

Fenris and mage Hawke fan art. (I hate Fenris, though.)

Fenris and mage Hawke fan art. (I hate Fenris, though.)

Fenris' love scene, for instance, shows that he is deeply in love with Hawke. It's been three years, after all, and in all that time, she's the only person he makes an effort to get close to. This is apparent in the way he treats (poor) Isabela who obviously has a crush on him.

There's a scene where Isabela is in Fenris' mansion with him. She's trying to talk to him and tell him a funny story, but he doesn't want to talk to her and seems to have zero interest in it. He cuts her off the second he sees Hawke walk in, and it's apparent Hawke is the person he really wants to talk to. Because Hawke is the person he trusts and loves.

Fenris can have sex with Isabela, but because he's not in love with her, it doesn't cause him to remember his past or to start becoming in touch with himself. With Hawke, it does.

For the record, all of the romanceable followers are in love with Hawke. They have all known her for three years by the time they sleep with her. Some of them just hide it (Fenris and Isabela) while some are forthright (Anders and Merrill).

Meanwhile, Anders and Isabela are very aggressive when they sleep with Hawke. They are more aggressive sexually, throwing her against the wall (Anders) or pinning her to the bed with their mouth (Isabela).

Merrill's romance scene shows that she, too, wants Hawke badly sexually, which is why she goes for the kiss first and leads them to the bed. But at the same time, she is also very gentle and loving about it because that's her personality.

Add in her Legacy comment about going through Ander's books for sex spells, and it's obvious that Merrill is not some submissive child but an eager and enthusiastic woman, even while being loving and gentle in bed.

All that being said . . .

Merrill is Still a Flawed Person

Merrill weeps for Marethari.

Merrill weeps for Marethari.

Merrill is clearly locked in an unhealthy obsession with the mirror. There's a scene in Dragon Age 2 where she first shows Hawke the mirror and she says, "It's beautiful, isn't it?" This is the exact line that Tamlen says back in Origins when he and Mahariel are approaching the mirror. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" Clearly, Tamlen is under some kind of spell, as he tells the Warden he can not look away from the mirror. Merrill is likewise "under the influence" and can not let the mirror go.

She's an addict.

I'm not one of those fans who blindly worships a fictional character while ignoring their flaws. The fact is, Merrill is a very flawed individual. Anders is right about her: she's proud. She thinks that what happened to Anders couldn't possibly happen to her because she's so smart and strong (but just in case, she wants Hawke to kill her . . .ugh). And while she is a remarkable woman, Merrill is still just a flawed person and refuses to see it.

This is the kind of overconfidence and pride one would typically find in someone Merrill's age (so it's hilarious that it would be the key defining characteristic of Solas). She refuses to listen to everyone in the party, as well as Hawke and Keeper Marethari, and in the end, her pride leads to her downfall.

Marethari as she appeared in "Dragon Age 2."

Marethari as she appeared in "Dragon Age 2."

I'll admit, I didn't get it in the beginning. I thought Marethari was just mean, stupid, and possibly crazy. I mean, she turns the entire clan against Merrill, then begs Merrill to return to a hostile environment that she created. She also complains about the demon but refuses to move the clan away from it for six years. I mean . . . what the hell?

I didn't make the connection that it was the demon controlling Marethari all along because I was too busy being angry about what I thought was a silly retcon of a character that I loved.

As I mentioned in other articles, my very first Warden was a purple Dalish elf. The character creator is always crap in Bioware games, so the bad lighting led me to believe I had a brown elf. Got in the game and she was . . . purple.

This elf romanced Alistair and committed the Ultimate Sacrifice (for the drama). As it turned out, I had the perfect set up for the future release of Dragon Age 2 and didn't know it.

Mahariel official concept art.

Mahariel official concept art.

When you play as a Dalish Warden, you get to Dragon Age 2 to discover that Merrill is obsessed with the mirror because she wants to save the Warden and Tamlen. Her desire to "help her people" is just a bullsh*t excuse for her obsession. The reality is, she is obsessed with trying to the fix past because it caused her so much pain.

Again, there is a lot of Liara in Merrill, not Tali. After Shepard's death, Liara likewise becomes obsessed with killing the Shadow Broker and the reapers, who both royally effed up her life.

Merrill is obsessed with Mahariel because it's my belief that she was in love with them. Whether or not her affections were returned, her very first love is either dead or was taken away from her forever to become a Grey Warden. She wants to fix the pain somehow but can't. And so she becomes fixated on the past.

The pride demon can sniff out this pain and uses Merrill's pain and pride to try and gain control of her, a powerful mage. Merrill goes along with it, not because she is stupid but because she is obsessed with bringing back her dead and/or gone love.

I say I had the "perfect" setup for Dragon Age 2 because I love Merrill and her arc doesn't make much sense without a Dalish Warden. The Warden is her motivation.

It also makes romancing Merrill more dramatic because she's basically torn between Mahariel, her old love, and Hawke, her new love. By romancing Hawke, she has made a step toward moving forward with her life. But the mirror (and her memories of Mahariel) still holds her back.

Merrill isn't a child because her obsession leads to Marethari's death. We see blood mages twice her age make the same mistakes throughout Dragon Age 2 again and again. The fact is, mages are just flawed people who can make mistakes like everyone else. The only difference is, their mistakes can cost a lot of people their lives.

If Hawke doesn't take responsibility for Merrill's mistake, then Merrill is forced to kill her own clan. So on top of getting the keeper killed, Merrill's obsession with fixing the past kills her people as well.

Again, Merrill being flawed and making mistakes doesn't make her a child. Plenty of characters in the game make mistakes and they are still treated like flawed adults because they look like adults.

For example, no one ever patronizes Anders, not even after he kills/nearly kills Ella. They warn him over and over or even comfort him and try to cheer him up, but they don't try to control him, lecture him, or talk down to him. Anders looks like an adult, so he is treated like one regardless of his mistakes.

The way Merrill looks defines her in the eyes of the other characters and the fans. She looks like a child and is treated like one.

Merrill and Marian Hawke fan art.

Merrill and Marian Hawke fan art.

So Merrill wasn't a child, she wasn't helpless, there was no power imbalance in her relationship with Hawke. . . Merrill was coded as a drug addict mourning her dead/lost love and that's it.

Her entire arc can be read as the dangers of drugs and how they hurt everyone around you. And a Hawke who romances her is her helpless partner, trying desperately to save her either through supporting her or berating her.

In the end, Merrill does what all drug addicts do: she hits rock bottom, loses the one person she cares about the most, nearly loses her lover (again), and only then does she come to the realization that she needs to get her life together . . . which is why her last personal quest is called A New Path.

It would have been nice to have Merrill in Inquisition during the temple of Mythal quest. Fans keep saying it makes "sense" for the Dalish Inquisitor to not know who Mythal is (actually it doesn't) when Merrill can spend all of Dragon Age 2 giving Hawke lectures at Mythal's freaking altar.

Given that What Pride Had Wrought was supposed to be Dragon Age 2 DLC, it's highly likely that Merrill was supposed to fill Morrigan's role while guiding Hawke, who would have been Inquisitor, through the ruins. The second game certainly sets her up to be an expert on Mythal and the eluvians.

But ah well. No sense crying over spilled milk.

I love Merrill flaws and all and I'm very happy and grateful to say that I was able to romance her as a lesbian gamer.