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Merle Dixon was a main character and a survivor of the outbreak and older brother to Daryl Dixon in AMC's The Walking Dead. He makes his debut appearance in "Guts". After displaying racist and aggressive behavior to other survivors, Merle is handcuffed to a pipe on a rooftop in Atlanta by Rick. He is forced to amputate his own hand when Walkers are approaching the roof through a door, since T-Dog had accidentally dropped the key to the handcuffs. Merle cauterized his own wounds and survived. Eventually he was found by a man named Philip Blake, aka The Governor, and is taken to Woodbury. However, after Rick's group attacked the town, Merle was considered a traitor and fled Woodbury with Daryl. Merle served as a minor antagonist in Season 1, later the secondary antagonist for the first half of Season 3, and later one of the main protagonists and an anti-hero for the second half of Season 3. Knowing that Rick's group, except for Daryl, would never accept him as part of the group due to his erratic and volatile personality and past wrongdoings towards the group, Merle decided to self-sacrifice himself to The Governor, but not before killing most of The Governor's men and attempting to kill The Governor himself, in order to give Rick's group, especially his brother Daryl, a fighting chance against The Governor and Woodbury.
He is portrayed by Michael Rooker who also portrayed Yondu Udonta from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Appearance and Personality
Merle is a tall, Caucasian male with a rugged build. He has short grey hair and commonly is seen with light facial stubble. His amputated hand is later replaced by a metal sleeve with an attachment for a bayonet.
A stereotypical rowdy Southern redneck, Merle is extremely ill-tempered, racist, misogynistic,violent, volatile and quick to express his beliefs. 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, Morales, and Glenn simultaneously. He also shows his fighting abilities when he took down Caesar 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. However, he later comes across Glenn and Maggie 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 comes 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 racial tendencies. He is even shown to be searching for some forgiveness from those of the group who he had once wronged. 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 time in his life, Merle truly found his place amongst others.
- Merle's words in "Tell It to the Frogs", when he is screaming, are almost identical to his last words to the Governor; in the sense that both times he would not beg for his life against greater odds.
- Daryl's motorcycle was previously owned by Merle, but Merle is never seen riding it.
- The codename "Stoney" was used for Merle by the writing staff as seen on the call sheet for "This Sorrowful Life".
- Merle Dixon was 'The Suicide King,' that inspired the episode titles.
- According to Shane, Merle was a drug dealer before the apocalypse.
- In Merle's bag of drugs, Blue Sky Meth can be seen, a specific nod to another AMC television series, Breaking Bad.
- The scene where Merle Dixon starts shooting off his gun on the roof top in Season 1 caused a little bit of real-life chaos; some people did not know they were filming and thought that the actor, Michael Rooker, was a sniper and called the police. A real SWAT team actually showed up. Fortunately, no one was arrested and filming continued as usual.
- Norman Reedus, the actor for Daryl Dixon originally auditioned for the role of Merle. He was turned down but the creators liked his acting so much that they decided to write in the character of Daryl specifically for him.
- Merle is one of the many amputees in the series, having been forced to amputate his own right hand, and later having two of his fingers bitten off by the Governor.
- Merle has a number of ethnic slurs that he uses against people of different minorities to show his racism.
- Merle also has a tendency to call others with the names he makes up himself:
- Daryl Dixon (Baby Brother, Darlina (in Daryl's hallucination), Little Brother)
- Andrea (Blondie, Sugar Tits, Rug-Muncher, Whore)
- Morales (Taco Bender)
- Theodore Douglas/T-Dog (Spear-Chucker, Mr. Yo, N*gger)
- Caesar Martinez (Brownie)
- Gargulio (Neil)
- Mexican Man (Beaner)
- Mexican Baby (Cinderella)
- Michonne (Mute, Black Bitch, Nubian Queen, Sweetheart, Darling)
- Milton Mamet (Miltie)
- Maggie Greene (The Farmer's Daughter, Honey, Bo-Peep, Love-Birds)
- Rick Grimes (The Sheriff, Sheriff Rick, Officer Friendly)
- Glenn Rhee (Chinese Kid, Love-Birds)
- Merle also has a tendency to call others with the names he makes up himself:
- Michael Rooker lost 28 pounds in order to prepare for Merle's return in Season 3.
- In the The Walking Dead (TV Series), Merle is the first character to have a substitute appendage on an amputated limb.
- Merle is the first original main character in the TV Series, the second being his brother Daryl, the third being Beth Greene, the fourth being Sasha Williams, the fifth being Enid, the sixth being Simon and the seventh being Jadis.
- Merle is also the first original main character in the TV Series to die, the second being Beth and the third being Sasha. Coincidentally, Merle and Beth were both very close to Daryl and their deaths made a huge impact on him. Also, they both appeared in the second episode of a season (The Season 1 episode "Guts" for Merle, and the Season 2 episode "Bloodletting" for Beth), and they both indirectly caused their own deaths and were shot dead by their arch-enemies (The Governor for Merle, and Dawn for Beth).
- "Made to Suffer" is the first episode where Merle and Daryl are physically seen together.
- Prior to his final shootout, he stated that he had killed 16 people since the apocalypse began. All of these were during his time in Philip's inner circle.
- Merle has killed the sixth largest amount of living characters on the TV show with at least 25 (including himself indirectly), while Daryl has the fifth largest with at least 28, Negan has the fourth largest with at least 30, Carol has the third largest with at least 37, Rick has second largest with at least 40, and the Governor has the largest with over 50.
- Although Merle was usually unafraid of anyone that he was shown interacting with in the TV series, the Governor was the first and only character in the TV Series whom Merle was afraid of.
- As said by Greg Nicotero during his, and Laurie Holden's Q&A Panel at Walker Stalker Con Chicago 2014, Merle's death was not planned during the initial writing for the third season, his death came up on the last minutes before the shooting for "This Sorrowful Life" begun. Merle was supposed to be a recurring character in Season 4.
- Merle's outfit is available for purchase on the Xbox Live Avatar Marketplace for 240 Microsoft Points.
- Merle's final lines "I ain't gonna beg, I'm not begging you!" were not directed towards the Governor but rather God as revealed by Michael Rooker.
- Melissa McBride and Michael Rooker reprised their roles as Carol and Merle, respectively, on a 2013 episode of The Conan O'Brien Show, in which the pair disrupts O'Brien's live studio audience under the guise of "hiding from walkers."
- In Season 1, Daryl is quoted as saying "Nobody can kill Merle but Merle". This would prove true as Merle's death is caused by him going on a suicide mission to kill the Governor.
- In an interview with Michael Rooker on comicbook.com, he was asked how Merle would react to Negan and what he has done to Daryl Dixon and the group as of Season 7. Michael responded by saying "I don't know if Merle would actually enjoy seeing his friends being abused." On Talking Dead Micheal was asked if Merle would have sided with Negan, to which he replied "If Negan had something for Merle; Merle would have gone with Negan, yeah. But he wouldn't have completely stayed with Negan especially if his brother is in the prison there. That would have turned it really quickly."
- Merle is the first character on the show to have an antagonistic role for over a season and join Rick's group, the second being Dwight.
- (CONTAINS SPOILERS) The Making of Episode 303, Walk With Me: Inside The Walking Dead The Walking Dead (October 28, 2013)