The Walking Dead: More to Merle Dixon

Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon, AMC
Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon, AMC /

Merle Dixon could easily be misinterpreted as a stereotypical character, but there’s more to Merle than meets the eye. Merle told Rick Grimes that he didn’t know why he did the things he did, that he was a mystery to himself. But Merle did have some rhyme and reason.

I don’t know the reasons for the things that I do. Never did. I’m a damn mystery to me.

Now, I’m not going to make Merle out to be an angel or give him qualities he didn’t have, but after watching the season 3 marathon yesterday, I learned some new things about Merle that I wanted to add to what I wrote about him before in

Who is Merle Dixon


In that article, I mentioned how Merle was uncharacteristically submissive with The Governor. I guessed at that time that he thought The Governor to be a few notches more evil than himself and that threw him a bit. I still think that might have been part of it, but I think his answer to Andrea gave a little more insight.

Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon, AMC
Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon, AMC /

He told Andrea that Phillip was a good man because he picked up Merle when Merle wasn’t in great shape. Now, if we look at the things Merle tells the group about The Governor, we see that Merle knows that Phillip is evil. So why did he say he was a good man?

Was it to keep Andrea there? Partially. But I think Merle was smart enough to know that he was a prisoner of sorts in Woodbury. The Governor had saved him. Merle knew he wouldn’t make it out there on his own; he needed Woodbury. (And The Governor exploited next article!) The Governor gave him leadership of sorts and safety, so he needed to be submissive to a point with old Phillip. He didn’t want to risk his home.

Merle was a racist and a sexist. Stereotypical. But not. I don’t think those views ran as deep in philosophy as they did in Merle’s need for the upper hand (no pun intended) in any relationship or group dynamics. He was used to being looked down upon so he learned to look down on others as a coping mechanism.

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He didn’t grow up with manners and he didn’t get thanked for things. He was probably told by his father that he owed him things. Perhaps his father demanded thanks and gratitude from him and Merle learned that thanks and gratitude doesn’t come free. It must be demanded. From Andrea. From the family on the bridge.

He loved his brother. I don’t think he really thought of him as a wimp. All his high heels, Derlina talk was Merle’s ‘Mike Ditka’ motivational method. Same with the pink frosting cake. Emasculate people to get power over them and provoke them.

Racist comments, especially to men, are a form of emasculation. Take away dignity and humanity. Make people feel less than. Merle felt less than. So he took that and gave it away. It was his go-to strategy. Be prickly enough to get people to do what you want and get what you want.

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He decided early in his life that you need to take what you want in order to get it. Asking, and politeness, kindness showed weakness. His manipulation strategies were exactly opposite of The Governor who used smiles and phony manners as his first option. He resorted to pushing and anger once the politeness failed.

Merle used calm and quiet strategies once his edge and aggression failed. When he saw the writing on the wall and it was his last resort, before begging, which we all know Merle didn’t do.

Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon, AMC
Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon, AMC /

You can see the calm and desperation in Merle’s face when he knows Daryl is going back to the prison. He tells Daryl about almost killing Michonne and Glenn as a way of letting Daryl know that he won’t be welcome in the prison and hopes Daryl will feel sorry for him and stay.

Merle fluctuates between calm and mouthy when he’s back at the prison because he feels some sense of safety locked up there, but wants to gain some power as well. He soft talks Michonne and Carol, but pokes at Glenn and Carl.

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Merle is still a mystery. To himself and to us. And as I mentioned in my other story, I don’t think he changed much at all, and I’m glad. Yes, he gave the prison a better chance, but I don’t think he went into it thinking he was sacrificing himself.

I think he thought he was going to try to take out The Governor himself and the prison would still have to deal with Martinez or other fallout if he was successful. Of course, he knew that there was a chance, as there always is, of getting killed in the battle, but I don’t think he went in with a self-sacrifice mentality.

He let Michonne go back because he knew she could help his brother, not because he was a big angel. He also let her go because he knew that trading her to the Governor probably wasn’t going to have a good outcome. He was often smart in his perception or assessment of a situation, not always smart with his tactics or with his words. Merle didn’t shut up!

Any redemption that Merle had for me came within his own character, not his actions at the end with The Governor.

Michonne and Merle. AMC
Michonne and Merle. AMC /

The fact that Michonne helped him realize that he wasn’t a bad man if he felt the heaviness of his deeds. That was a beautiful gift she gave to him. The gift he gave to Carol calling her a late bloomer. And look at her now! His own knowledge that the group came back for him on the roof.

The gift that Daryl got from Merle in getting his brother back for a bit and in being able to rid himself of some of his childhood troubles. He got to let out some of his anger toward Merle. He got to speak up to his brother, yelling at him in the woods and calmly telling him you can’t do things without people anymore.

And Merle got to see his brother again and died knowing that his brother had grown up and become a respectable and respected man and would be taken care of in this amazing group of survivors that we love.

P. S. That’s my emotional take on it. Merle would be rolling his eyes at me!

Next: Season 5:All Named Character Deaths

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