|Merle Dixon... where are you?
I want to take some time and talk about Daryl and his relationship with his brother Merle. Daryl’s a fan favourite of The Walking Dead, and I’m glad he his, (I thought I was the only one!). As such, I think it’s best to study the character, find out what makes him tick, and where Merle fits into all of that.
Now we’re not given the gritty details, but we can infer quite a bit about the two brothers:
Merle’s attitude proclaims his racism; he says what he wants when he wants, and he’s more than willing to fight any who oppose him. He’s crass, belligerent, and regrettably obstinate. I mean, you’d pretty much have to be to sever your own hand to survive!
Merle is a crude individual who looks out for número uno para siempre, (roughly translated to “number one forever”). If someone was on fire, Merle’s the kind of guy who would put it out only if he had to piss. An opportunist through and through and Daryl knows it.
Conversely, Daryl is a good-hearted man. Daryl is the guy who would watch a bar fight out of the corner of his eye, interrupting only if it wasn’t a fair fight. Under his tough exterior is a saint, (see what I did there?).
Daryl is defensive, he’s self-reliant, but he’s generally a loner. He appears aggressive as a defence mechanism because he doesn’t do well with emotions. Everything is logical and has a purpose in the cold world. He’s observant, contemplative, and deep down, someone longing for a place.
Daryl knows that his brother is good for nothing; in Chupacabra, Daryl confronts a fictional Merle that represents his psyche. He fights his survival instincts that tell him Rick is no good; the group is a ragtag bunch of city folk that look down on him; he’s nothing but an errand boy, worth less than the dirt they walk on. He fights these thoughts just as much as he fights his guilt for “abandoning” Merle.
That’s what the episode was about. Hell, that is what the search for Sophia is about. To Daryl, finding Sophia will absolve him of his self-inflicted guilt. Guilt that he carries, not because he failed to find his brother, but because he gave up willingly. He gave up because he knows Merle is a liability. He left Atlanta with Rick, Glenn, and T-Dog in Vatos because he knew in his heart that Merle wasn’t worth the trouble.
But here’s the rub: all of the progress that Daryl’s made these sixteen episodes is about to be put to the test next season with the return of Merle Dixon. If we assume that Merle is indeed alive, there’s no telling what kind of havoc he will wreck on the group, but more importantly, how he will affect the crossbow wielding survivalist.
As much as he believes his brother to be a bastard, Daryl is a man of honour, conviction, and most of all loyalty. He is a man head and shoulders over Merle, Shane, and in some instances, even Rick. This endearing and admirable quality could spell demise for Daryl; on the one hand, he has his loyalty to Rick and the group, a loyalty that was restored by Dale; on the other hand, Merle is still his kin, and Daryl will be the better man to a fault for that blood bond.
So will Daryl embrace his brother with open arms, or will he finally beat the cold bastard at his own game, in order to protect what’s his? My greatest fear for The Walking Dead is losing Daryl. Especially to his demons, and to Merle.