The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life – Merle’s Time to Shine (and Die)

Michael Rooker, AMC's The Walking Dead
Michael Rooker, AMC's The Walking Dead /

The Walking Dead isn’t just about the group, but also the individual. Merle sure was one of those, and he kind of redeemed himself toward the end.

The Walking Dead generally supports Rick as its main star, and charismatic leader. However, as the series moves from season to season, something happens; Rick sometimes steps back so others may enter the spotlight.

In episode 15 of season 3, the spotlight definitely shines on Merle Dixon — the former redneck henchman of the Governor, and Daryl’s brother. Sure, Glenn and Maggie technically get married, but it’s not quite the meat and bones here.

The Backstory

In this episode, Rick’s group is at a crossroad with the Governor. They have been given two options by the Governor: (1) They can either turn in Michonne and be left alone or (2) be faced with an annihilative war. When made aware of this, Merle believes Rick lacks the guts to do it. He also recognizes that, if Rick turns Michonne over, it’s not entirely different from his kidnapping of Maggie and Glenn. This probably fed his decision to kidnap Michonne. He knows he can do it, though he doesn’t know if it’s the right thing.

He may not always be right.  In fact, he seldom is. However, he is capable of growing as a person and understands the Governor perhaps better than Merle does himself. As the episode progresses, moral and tactical decisions blend for Merle, and he sees the futility of playing by the Governor’s rules. He knows the Governor will probably kill them all, even if he turns in Michonne. The decision then becomes, kill or be killed. Either take it to Woodbury or be on the defensive. Merle is definitely more of an offensive type!

Could Daryl have been His Brother’s Keeper?

When the freed Michonne encounters Daryl, it’s a surprisingly casual moment. She just tells him where Merle’s headed, and Daryl instantly sets off to track him down. Although she shrugs off Merle’s fate, Daryl is obviously concerned. It gives the sense of unconditional love and a strong sense of family loyalty. It seems that, over time, the prison could indeed find a place for the troublemaker — the delinquent ruffian.  Still, Merle’s the type to blaze his own trail, with or without his brother.

Merle’s Last Stand

Zombie Merle! (AMC’s The Walking Dead)
Zombie Merle! (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

Merle’s final scenes show what he’s all about. He’s not quite Rambo, but an anti-hero capable of bordering on “hero.” Also, as he cranks out Motörhead’s “Fast and Loose” in his decoy car, it’s clear that he’s not one for subtlety. He only sneaks in and out of places when he must. Otherwise, he’s a loud, boisterous S.O.B., ready to rumble at any time.

He’s also not bad tactically, except he ends up with the wrong result. The walkers aren’t enough to distract the Governor’s crew from his gunshots and the Governor himself savagely retaliates against Merle. After the Gov’ bites off two of his fingers, you know he didn’t quite make it work. Still, when he says, “I ain’t going to beg,” it’s one last moment of defiance before death. Then, when Daryl finds his brother as a lowly walker, complete with human remains dangling from his mouth…it’s just a real tearjerker!

Merle was definitely not ideal. He was obnoxious, racist, sexist, what have you. However, in this particular episode, he was by no means simply a villain. Although he didn’t actually win, his actions still spoke louder than his words, and it was a declaration of defiance and hope (or close enough). Yes, Merle is missed, and not just by Daryl.

Next: Looking back at 'Prey'

What are your thoughts? Did Merle redeem himself toward the end? Let us know in the comments!