Dixon Family Reunion

Dixon Family Reunion
Brothers - Merle and Daryl
If the comments I’ve read online in the past 24 hours are any indication, the much anticipated Dixon Family Reunion that finally occurred in the 11/13/11 episode (Chupacabra) left many fans unfulfilled. Many fans wanted Merle back, but not as an evil Jiminy Cricket telling Daryl to shoot Rick in the face. They wanted Merle back “for real,” not just as something Daryl imagines while drifting in and out of consciousness.

Here in the other camp, I am pleased with the way Merle was worked into the story line and not just because that’s what I predicted in my blog post last week. Michael Rooker is an incredible actor and I‘d love to watch him each week, especially acting opposite Norman Reedus, but I suspect I would be disappointed in how his character was returned to the series if brought back permanently. There just isn’t a feasible way to do it.

Using Merle as the voice of Daryl’s inner struggles was a smart move on the part of the writers. It not only provided a feasible way to bring back a very popular character, but it also propelled Daryl’s character development forward. We’ve seen Daryl becoming a little less angry and a little more human each episode this season. This has been accomplished by both the writing and Reedus’s portrayal of Daryl, which has expertly reinforced the evolution of everyone’s favorite anti-hero. It is Daryl’s conversation with himself, through Merle, that shows us just how far he has really come.

Many of Rooker’s lines were over the top in their silliness, but that is in line with what we have seen of the one-dimensional Merle previously, so it was to be expected. His exact words aren’t really as important, however, as are the sentiments they express. As Merle berates Daryl during his weakest moments, we truly understand what Daryl’s life growing up must have been like, what he endured in the name of making him a “man.” We see Merle literally kick him when he’s down. Most important is the fact that Daryl says them to himself, showing us how this kind of treatment shaped his view of himself and his value to other people. By having Merle say it to him, the writers have allowed us into Daryl’s head without having the character do something unrealistic, like confess out loud all his fears and doubts to someone else.

Merle’s abuse becomes Daryl’s catalyst to survive, to prove himself to himself. Because anger is obviously the only emotion with which Daryl is comfortable, he gets angry at Merle as a way to keep pushing himself on. When Merle tells Daryl how he was the only one that ever cared about his little brother’s “worthless ass,” Daryl snaps back, saying “You never took care of me. You talk a big game but you was never there. Hell, you ain’t here now; guess some things never change.” (Sounds like something he should have told Merle years ago.) In this dialogue with himself, we see Daryl perhaps start coming to terms with his past and admitting that Merle treated him like the dog shit Merle says the others in the group think Daryl is.

Will this be a turning point for Daryl? Maybe not in and of itself. But combine it with things like Carol’s peck on the forehead and her telling him that he is every bit as good a man as Rick or Shane and he may finally break free of Merle’s abuse. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who met both brothers wouldn’t know that Merle beat the shit out of Daryl on a regular basis. Carol would know more than anyone else in the group that long after the abuse ends, the damage remains. If anyone would understand why Daryl would think he was not as good as other men, it is Carol. She would know how someone like Merle would tear you down inside and the high price you would pay just for being in his line of sight. Reassurance like the one from Carol, whether Daryl believed it or not, can only propel him forward even more in becoming what he is capable of being. He may even start to believe in himself and his worthiness to be included in this ad-hock family.

Comments

  1. Great blog! Keep 'em coming.

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  2. Nice... Not sure if what you meant translated in my head properly, but I think this is 100% about what's in Darryl's head and how he feels about himself and Merle... Thats what i think but Is that what was being said? Or was it that Merle was actually speaking as Merle? I believe it was all Darryl's mind and his views... Maybe not necessarily Merle's way of thinking... But who knows since he's not really there!

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  3. Matt,

    Yes, Merle's appearance and everything he said is a product of Darryl's mind. Exhibit A: "Using Merle as the voice of Daryl’s inner struggles ...".

    Also, remember that when last we saw Merle in Atlanta, he'd cut off his own hand to get out of a pair of handcuffs. Exhibit B in proving Merle's 'imaginary' status is that he is once again in possession of his original compliment of two hands (one each, Left and Right).

    Exhibit C is the line, "In this dialogue with himself ...", another indicator that Merle only exists in Darryl's hallucinations.

    Finally, Exhibit D is that in the very quick reaction shots of Darryl's face, Darryl's point of view of his surroundings and back to Darryl's face, Merle pulls the ol' "Now you see me, now you don't" magic trick. If he were really there, he would not have been physically able to disappear so quickly, much less miss yet another chance to harrass Darryl.

    With that in mind, I do admit it was a bit misleading to have Merle able to cup Darryl's face on one occasion and slap it on another. I *can* accept Darryl's mind substituting Merle pulling on his foot for the walker beginning to chew on his boot; we've all had the experience of our minds creating something in our dreams to explain the blaring alarm clock trying to wake us up, or somthing similar.

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  4. WOW!! Yet again, another quality post. We talked in an earlier post about how we would both prefer for Merle to be either a flashback or a hallucination. With a flashback, yes it would have showed us what it was like growing up in the Dixon household. With the hallucination its so much better. It gives the writers the chance not just show us the dysfunctional family dynamic that has existed since Daryls birth, but for Daryl to confront his demons with Merle, rounding out his character some more.It also lets us be reminded of an unresolved conflict between Daryl & Rick over the latters decision to leave Merle chained up in Atlanta. Yes, Daryl confronted Merle in his hallucination and was able to verbalize that Merle was a shit brother that contributed nothing to his upbringing, but he was still kin. The only family he had and Rick took that away. Whatever "Merle" says to Daryl is obviously issues that Daryl is struggling with in his subconscious. Jeff, you put it great saying that the writers were using "Merle as the voice of Daryls inner struggles".The question is, is Daryl harbouring hostile intentions towards Rick and act upon them? It will be an interesting development to see played out, thats for sure!

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  5. I was always under the impression that Daryl would have been upset with Merle taking off and it was confirmed when Daryl told hallucination Merle that he split, that they did come back for him. But I don't know why it never occurred to me that he would continue to harbor some resentment towards Rick for handcuffing Merle in the first place. But Daryl is probably a bit more reasonable and may even understand why it was done, but still, that was his brother and like you pointed out, Mark, the only family he has left. This last episode really set things up for Merle's return. There is definitely going to be a test of loyalties that should be exciting to watch.

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  6. Excellent blog Lisa.

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  7. I am loving all these comments this blog post is getting. It's really great to see a community of fans building up and getting involved, it really does make it all feel worthwhile then. The fact that all these comments are greatly detailed is all the better!

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  8. Really nice blog. I think I'm going to have to make a point to come back and read these after every episode...very insightful!

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  9. When Merle cut off his hand with the hacksaw from Dale's tool-bag to free himself, why did he not just cut the beam-clamp loose from the angle-iron and slip the hand-cuffs off the end of the threaded rod? Hacksaws were made to cut metal. It would have taken less time and hurt much less.

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