|Brothers - Merle and Daryl
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.