Thursday 10 November 2011

Is Merle Really Coming Back Or Is It Just A Dream?

Merle and Daryl in Season Two of The Walking Dead
Will Merle return for real?
I’ve been thinking a bit about the much-anticipated “return” of Michael Rooker’s character Merle Dixon that was teased in the final seconds of the promos for the 11/13/11 episode. All around the internet, there are discussions and debates about just how Merle’s return will be worked into the plot. A couple of the more "out there" theories that I’ve read/heard on this topic:

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.


  1. Lisa I couldn't agree more! Seriously. I really do think that Merle will be a hallucination as you have mentioned, it was the first thing I thought when I saw the promo for the episode.

    Also like you have said I really hope that if Merle is actually back that he doesn't just happen to stumble upon them, because that would seriously suck! It would have no thought behind it at all, leaving all us fans annoyed. I really doubt that it will pan out like that, but I guess we will just have to wait and see.

    My bets are on Merle being a hallucination by an injured Daryl

  2. I agree that Merle is probably a hallucination that an injured Daryl comes up with. I think Merle just popping up out of nowhere would be improbable and ridiculous. Especially since so much as happened since they last saw Merle. If he popped up it would mean he's been following them since they left the camp following the walker attack; lost Jim; hit the CDC, lost Jackie; left the CDC in ruins; encountered the highway to hell; and now the farm. It would be a real stretch of the imagination to think he wouldn't have presented himself prior to or after any of these events.

    Merle's out there and I'm sure at some point the group will run into him. I just want it to come out of a scenario that's a little more realistic given their circumstances.

  3. Once again Lisa, a great blog! I also had reservations about lazy writing creeping in and Merle just coming upon the group or his brother. I really like the notion of the meeting being all in Daryls head. He has come a long way from the beginning of the show. We all took him as a junior version of his bad-ass brother, yet he didnt display Merles racist tendencies by
    1:Helping to find Glenn.
    2:Going out of his way on the highway to save T-Dog.
    Personally i would like them to save Merle for a "rainy day" so to speak. How about in the meantime he has been recruiting a team of opportunistic bad ass bikers, constantly on the road. Raiding supplies along the way ( a la the gang in dawn of the dead) and they meet up somewhere down the road. What choice would Daryl make?

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  5. Mark - thanks for the comment. With my blog posts, I very much want to delve deeper into the characters, particularly Daryl, and not just simply retell what happened on the last episode of the show. (There's a place for that, but it's not my place.)

    As the wife of a biker, I personally would really HATE to see that kind of stereotyping of motorcycle riders. That's already been done enough with the Nazi style paint job on Merle's gas tank. We knew he was a racist, but they had to run it in our faces with that small logo...

    Although I'm not living in the "deep" south, I am in a redneckish area. Still none of the bikers we ride with are like Merle. A lot of us ride in mixed race groups and invite anyone who want to ride with us to do so. I'm not saying that there aren't bikers who are racist at best and white supremaists at worst. They are out there, but they are, in my experiences, a minority. No reason to think that particular minority would be more like to be survivors than the rest of the world's bikers!

    I know... I know... plot development, need for drama, etc etc... will govern the scripts much more than any reality of mine! And a violent, racist, biker gang would prove Kirkman's point in the comics that you don;t have to worry as much about the zombies as you do the other survivors!

  6. I love this show - BUT (and this is a huge but) they are probably dropping the ball. There may be some big plans, some secrets, etc... but they really need to explain why this country vet's house is in no way boarded up, why they have electricity, why the zombies are all at the high school and not near the pharmacy, why nobody sent help to Shane when he was late coming back... I could go on. The one that really puzzles me is why the sherrif's wife went out into the cow pasture to take her test in the dark when there was a perfectly good bathroom with hot running water in the house? With a door and lights and everything. My guess is there is no method to the madness - just a good show with some crappy plot holes. I can overlook a lot - but it will be interesting to see what they do with Merle.

  7. Interesting theories and interesting points you've made how they wouldn't work. I really want to see a reunion between Daryl and Merle and I hope it's done right.

    I've actually had a theory of my own. When you think about it, when Merle left in the van they took back to Atlanta to find him, he abandoned Daryl. He certainly didn't go back to the camp. He would have been there before Rick, T-Dog, Glenn and Daryl and even before the zombie attack in the first season. And Merle had to know his brother was off hunting before he took off to Atlanta to find supplies with the others.

    Anyways, I kinda think the group doesn't really have to worry about Merle. Maybe Merle has to worry about Daryl for leaving him behind.

  8. Great blog Lisa. I believe Merle will be a hallucination/dream. Would love to have him back to stay as that would make fantastic viewing~ gotta love those Dixon brothers however him showing up out of the blue does not make sense. He was seething with anger and he would have cleaned house on the camp! You make some interesting points Lisa,Thanks.

  9. Hallucination or not..... i just want to see Merle and Daryl together.

  10. Did anyone else catch the look that passed between Maggie and Hershel when the group was talking about zombie bites? And the way Hershel keeps steering people clear of the barn? They've got someone in there. Merle? Sophia? Someone new? Hmmm.

  11. I hate to brag, but I CALLED IT! :) OK, that's out of my system now!