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Merle Dixon

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Now... How's about a hug for your old pal Merle? heh heh heh...
~ Merle to Andrea

Merle Dixon was a main character from AMC's The Walking Dead. He served as a minor antagonist in Season 1, later the secondary antagonist of the first half of Season 3, and later an anti-hero protagonist of the second half of Season 3. He also made a cameo appearance in Season 2, as a hallucination to his younger brother, Daryl Dixon.

He was portrayed by Michael Rooker.

Storylines

He appeared briefly in the first season, where he was handcuffed to a rooftop by Rick Grimes after displaying hostile and racist behavior. The group had left him there when they escaped from Atlanta, which Merle had remained extremely resentful of. Believing no one will be coming back to help him, he is forced to amputate his own hand in order to escape the horde of walkers and blistering heat, from which he nearly suffers a heat stroke. As he is dying, he is discovered by The Governor, who takes him in to Woodbury.

In the first half of season 3, Merle appeared as an antagonist, following The Governor's orders without question. He discovered Andrea and Michonne hiding from The Governor and his men as they are foraging a downed military helicopter. After he discovers them, The Governor allows them into Woodbury. However, after Michonne later tried to kill The Governor, she leaves Woodbury and is hunted by an assassination squad lead by Merle. When she finds them, she kills all of them except for Merle, who managed to shoot her in the leg. She escapes and hides in a mini strip plaza, when she sees Glenn and Maggie looking for baby formula. As she attempts to slip by them, Merle storms from a corner and takes Glenn and Maggie hostage into Woodbury. In Woodbury, Merle brutally tortures Glenn in an attempt to find out where the rest of the group are holed up. After Maggie is nearly raped by The Governor, she tells the Woodbury soldiers that they reside in the prison. As Glenn and Maggie are about to be executed by Merle's command, Rick, Daryl, Michonne, and Oscar raid Woodbury to find them. Michonne fights with The Governor in his quarters and manages to stab him in the eye with a piece of glass. Michonne gets away after Andrea discovers her and The Governor fighting and almost shoots her. Blaming Merle for the attack on Woodbury, The Governor labels Merle a traitor, and forces him and his captured brother, Daryl, to fight to the death. Instead, him and Daryl tag-team to attempt to ward off the "entertainment" walkers, and as they do so, Rick and the rest of the group shoots into the crowd, allowing Merle and Daryl to escape.

WalkerMerle

Merle as a walker

In the second half of season 3, Merle became a protagonist, saying that his loyalty lies with his brother. However, most of the prison group is extremely distrustful of him, and keep him in a different cell block than the rest of the group. Eventually, Rick goes to Merle and tells him to hand Michonne to The Governor, who Rick believes will spare the prison from future attacks. Merle agrees, and leads Michonne to a vulnerable part of the prison, where he knocks her out and ties her hands to prevent escape. As they are traveling to Woodbury, Merle sets Michonne free, saying "there's something I gotta do by myself." When he reaches the rendezvous point, he creates a walker bomb by playing loud music and leaving a car in the Drive gear. As the walkers follow the car and discover the Woodbury soldiers, Merle hides in a shack and begins to pick them off. However, he wrestles with a walker that he didn't notice, and is then discovered by two Woodbury soldiers, who begin to beat him. As The Governor walks in, he begins to fight with Merle, breaking his blade arm and biting off two of his fingers off his good hand. Accepting defeat, Merle doesn't resist when The Governor shoots him in the chest and kills him. Later, as Daryl is looking for Merle, he notices the carnage caused by the walker bomb, and then sees a re-animated Merle feeding on a corpse. Breaking down, Daryl wrestles with the walker-Merle and stabs him multiple times in the face, putting him out of his misery.

Merle's attack on The Governor and his soldiers marked the beginning of the end of Woodbury, as The Governor was no longer able to overwhelm the prison survivors with his sheer amount of resident soldiers. The residents that he did gather to fight did not possess the willpower to kill the prison survivors as they were completely inexperienced and ignorant to The Governor's true nature. 

Personality

A seemingly stereotypical Southern redneck, Merle is extremely ill-tempered, racist, misogynistic, violent, volatile, and quick to express his beliefs. However, Merle is also extremely humorous in nature and is a thrill seeker, who gets joy by mentally and emotionally toying with others. Much like his younger brother, Merle is an expert tracker and hunter. He is deadly with firearms, and in the third season, his hand-blade attachment proves to be one of his deadliest weapons. He is an experienced bruiser, showcased in the first season when he dominated T-Dog in a fist-fight, and at the same time was able to fend off Rick Grimes, Morales, and Glenn Rhee simultaneously. He also showed his fighting abilities when he took downCaesar Martinez in the brutal battle-royal event in Woodbury, and was able to fend off Michonne's sword attacks with his hand-blade. Merle was the Governor's right-hand man, all the while striving to find his brother and take vengeance on Rick and T-Dog, who left him for dead on the roof of a building in Atlanta. However, he later comes across Glenn and Maggie Greene and takes them back to Woodbury as prisoners, going as far as to brutally beat Glenn into revealing information about the prison.

After the prison group came to the rescue of Glenn and Maggie, Merle was then branded as a traitor and a terrorist by The Governor, and became an enemy of Woodbury.

While he was staying in Woodbury, Merle read many books, including the Bible, and even memorized verses of the Bible, showing that he is intelligent, and also possibly religious. He has also claimed that he liked Woodbury's library and it is one of the few things he missed about Woodbury.

While in a heated argument with his younger brother, Daryl, he knocks him down and, in the process, rips his shirt, revealing Daryl's scars, revealing that their father beat and abused them both to a somewhat high degree.

After joining the prison group, his personality began to slightly change, appearing to lose some of his violent and racist tendencies. He is even shown to be searching for some forgiveness from those of the group who he had once wronged, although his attempts are in vain for some of the group members, notably Glenn. He later attempts to fulfill the potential deal made by The Governor and Rick, which was an exchange of Michonne for peace between the two groups. However, he has a change of heart and releases her, instead opting to take on the group of Woodbury soldiers who had been planning an ambush. This would be his biggest and final act of redemption, as after taking down eight Woodbury soldiers, he is killed by The Governor, reanimates and is finally put down by his own brother.

To the end of his life, Merle was a flawed man with issues that he kept himself from facing, but was never truly evil.  He loved his brother and it drove him to keep fighting in a world filled with despair. His final act of courage gave his brother and the rest of the prison group a fighting chance and, perhaps for the first and only time in his life, Merle truly found his place among others.

Episode appearances

Season 1

  • 1x02: "Guts"
  • 1x03: "Tell It to the Frogs"

Season 2

  • 2x05: "Chupacabra" (Hallucination)

Season 3

  • 3x03: "Walk With Me"
  • 3x04: "Killer Within"
  • 3x05: "Say the Word"
  • 3x06: "Hounded"
  • 3x07: "When the Dead Come Knocking"
  • 3x08: "Made to Suffer"
  • 3x09: "The Suicide King"
  • 3x10: "Home"
  • 3x11: "I Ain't a Judas"
  • 3x13: "Arrow on the Doorpost"
  • 3x15: "This Sorrowful Life"

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