Merle Dixon: The Apocalyptic Anti-Hero

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Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon

Merle Dixon was put in his place, handcuffed to the pipes of an Atlanta department store’s rooftop. After attempting to assume authority, drawing the undead towards his fellow group members, possessing a loud mouth personality with unpredictable ways, he was left abandoned to face his own demise.

Michael Rooker, who played the ruthless, racist, bigot, Merle Dixon, created a character known for embracing his own evil. Crafting the practical bad guy, who could get the dirty work done, even his brother Daryl Dixon, said it himself, “Toughest asshole I ever met my brother. Feed him a hammer, he’d crap out nails.” He’s the character on AMC’S drama The Walking Dead fans loved to hate, but whom Rooker said, “Was a misunderstood character.”

In the development of the series, we saw Merle as a reckless criminal. Refusing to die alone on an empty rooftop, hardened not only by a rough upbringing, but also what is currently a zombie apocalyptic world. Developing quick survival instincts, he saws off his hand which is later replaced by a metal sleeve bayonet with a weapon attached, Merle eventually became a right hand man (no pun intended) to “The Governor” in a town called Woodbury.

Striving for vengeance against Rick, the man he attributes blame for his amputation, and seeking to be reunited with Daryl, Merle runs into Glen and Maggie who he takes to Woodbury as prisoners to gain information on their established whereabouts. Brutally beating Glen while The Governor makes a mockery of Maggie, it isn’t until the group comes to save Glen and Maggie that Merle’s forced out of Woodbury.

 When Merle joins the group it is then we see character development from reckless delinquent turned anti-hero. Merle talks to group members about the extensive reading he did at Woodbury, even reading the bible. His erratic personality even began to slightly shift, losing some of his violent and racial tendencies. He even sought forgiveness from group members he had previously done wrong, shedding his black sheep persona.

Though there’s a brief moment, when Merle decides to take part in a potential trade with The Governor to create peace between his brother’s group and Woodbury, he had a change of heart, opting to plan an ambush. Creating a kamikaze attack on a group of Woodbury soldiers, Merle’s final act of redemption came to an end, when The Governor killed Merle only to resurrect as a zombie and be put down by his own brother.

Finally, we were able to pull back the layers to the notorious racist, foul-mouthed, that was Merle Dixon and in a single moment saw him turn into a respected anti-hero with a true moral code. When Merle died, I know I took a pause, and realized a character I was so eager to hate, placed the needs of one ahead of the rest of his group, this being his brother, especially.

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