Last week, the Collectiva Diva kicked off our Villains of Note blog series with a post about the King of Hell, Crowley. This week I’m focusing on a villain who is not the series arch-villain, but rather a man whose most defining attributes are his racism and his Captain Hook-esque stump arm. Better known as Daryl Dixon’s a-hole big brother.
How He’s Called:
Merle Dixon the One-Handed. Older brother of Daryl.
Racist, homophobic, bigot with a knackering for violence and Zombie Fight Club. Extremely attached to and protective of his younger brother.
Sun don’t shine on the same dog’s tail all the time, Merle (a brief bio):
The Dixons are products of an unhappy childhood, and it shows. Like his brother Daryl, Merle is extremely skilled at hunting and tracking. He is positively lethal with almost any weapon handed to him (pun intended). When we first meet Merle, he is abandoned on a rooftop by his zombie survivor companions because his aggressive racist attitude and chained to a pipe. For the better part of two seasons, we don’t know what happened to Merle (almost everyone except Daryl assumes he’s dead), and then, in season 3, we find him again in Woodbury as the Governor’s left-hand man (get it?).
In season 3, we find a Merle who’s bitter, cruel, and more than a little bit conflicted between his love for his brother and his loyalty to the Governor. At one point in the third season, Merle’s former apocalypse-mate, Glen, and Glen’s fiancee, Maggie, are taken prisoner by the Governor and Merle shows no mercy to his former companion.
Perhaps the most interesting development in Merle’s character is when he joins the prison group (headed up by Sheriff Rick) and is forced to interact with the same people he used to ridicule and torment. The result? A lot of awkward and a lot of Merle refusing to apologize for who he is. Like a Dixon (cuz Dixon = bad ass…get it?)
Merle is a prick. Merle (who unfortunately reminds me of people I wish I weren’t related to) is never going to be the guy you call up to have a beer with or the guy you ask to be your baby’s godfather. But, if you’re on Merle’s very-short “people I love or at least don’t hate much” list, the man has got your back. Merle’s final hurrah cements his place at the top of the list of “people zombies don’t want to fuck with.”
This scene demonstrates everything I love about Merle: he’s still a drunken bastard, but he’s a smart one. By leading a pack of zombies to the Governor’s hang-out, he gives his brother and Sheriff Rick’s Band of Sort-of Honourable Men a fighting chance. And in a weird moment of prophecy-fulfillment, Merle’s slow drive to self-sacrifice brings to fruition a quote that Daryl said in season one. “Nobody can kill Merle but Merle.”
The most heart-wrenching moment of the season was when Daryl confront his zombified older brother, who now exhibits none of the few morals he had to begin with.
A crying Daryl Dixon confronting what the rest of us already knew about his brother? Well, shut my mouth. That hurts.
Not So Bad or Snake in the Grass?
Neither. Merle is not good, but he is human.
The strength of his character shows in his love for his brother BUT it’s hard to dissociate from the extremely negative and racist image we first see of him. So, he’s human, and the flaws we see in Merle are ones that we’re likely to encounter, even without the zombie apocalypse.
P.S. I do not apologize for my heavy-handed puns (heheh).
Disclaimer: All images and film clips are the property of AMC. Edits have been credited to the source.