|Will Merle return for real?|
Theory #1 - Merle just strolls up to the farm. The reason why it won’t work: The odds against both the group and Merle chancing to go in the same direction out of Atlanta and end up in the same, fairly remote, location are just too great. Sorry, I just can’t suspend my disbelief enough to accept that idea. Yeah, I know, I can suspend it enough to accept zombies, but not that Merle would just randomly stumble upon them … I would be seriously disappointed in the writers if this happened. Disappointed enough that it might make me stop watching. It would be a cop out and lazy writing.
Theory #2 - Merle did, in fact, take the panel truck last season and has been using it to “tail” the group, plotting his revenge. The reason why it won’t work: Too much time has passed for this to happen. He would’ve made his move against them much earlier if indeed he’d been stalking them. Yes, Merle is a hunter; hunters must be patient and remain unseen by their prey, but I just don’t see his character being THAT patient. Considering the circumstances under which he was left behind, I think his rage would overcome patience and he would’ve struck by now. If nothing else, he’d have wanted to get to his saddlebags on the motorcycle and get to his meth.
Theory # 3 - Merle is holding Sophia hostage somewhere and when Daryl finds the two of them, all hell will break loose between the brothers. The reason why it won’t work: See my notes on Theory # 1 and the suspension of disbelief.
In the “exclusive” preview shown during Hell on Wheels and Talking Dead, Daryl is riding a horse through the woods and is thrown from said horse when it is spooked by a snake. He ends up tumbling down a steep and rather a lengthy embankment and landing hard in a stream. (Why is Daryl now riding a horse?) This preview shapes my own theory about what is going to bring Merle back:
Merle isn’t really “back.” Daryl hallucinates that Merle has returned while he is lying in the creek bed, dazed, injured, and possibly even clinging to life. Merle is the embodiment of Daryl’s struggle against himself. Merle represents the part of Daryl that knows he has to move if he’s going to make it; he is the mechanism that Daryl will use to get his ass up and moving instead of just lying there and dying. Now, I don’t think Merle will give Daryl a pep talk – Merle isn’t a pep talk kind of guy – but I do think the things Daryl tells himself using Merle’s voice will be what Daryl needs to motivate himself to survive. Will he do it because of Merle? No. He’ll do it in spite of Merle.
Maybe there will be no flashbacks and it will simply be Daryl getting pissed off enough at Merle to do what he needs to do. Maybe there will be flashbacks to their lives as brothers that lead Daryl to find his inner strength when he needs it most. Maybe it will be a way for Daryl to come to terms with the newfound emotions that were hinted at in the last episode – you know, the ones that AREN’T anger – by confronting his own past, in the form of Merle. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want Daryl to turn all emo and start hugging people, the group definitely needs a bad ass around, but character growth is never bad. Since we were first introduced to him, Daryl has been pretty one-dimensional; it would benefit the character and the show to stretch his emotional limits a bit.
But no matter how the writers work Merle into the script, I am looking forward to the episode like no other episode thus far. I am looking forward to seeing Rooker and Reedus acting together. Both actors play bad asses like few others–after all, Rooker played serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and Reedus played Murphy McManus – and the Dixon brothers are uber bad asses. Just seeing these two actors play off each other will be worth the price of admission!
We’ll see which, if any, of these theories, is correct on Sunday night.