I am a fan of The Walking Dead. Apparently, I’m not the only one. I love the show because it goes where no other zombie movies go; after the apocalypse. The only other example I can think of is World War Z, which deals with it, but only to a certain extent and do to the nature of the novel, across a wide variety of situations, so not in depth. TWD does a great job of establishing a universe where zombies, or “walkers” (“biters” in Woodberry), are de rigour. So humanity and society have fundamentally changed and we see the impact to the characters. I find the best example of this new, zombie-filled world is young Carl, Rick and Lori’s son.
However, Merle is the topic of this little rant. SPOILER!!!!
Poor Merle passed away this most recent episode (3/24/2013; sniff, my mom’s b-day). Unfortunately, there were some stupid plot points in this last episode that almost ruined it, but in the end, it was a very emotional scene as Merle’s brother, Daryl (one of my, if not my absolute, favorite characters). Merle having, at long last, succumbed to humanity in setting Michonne free and trying to eliminate the current villain of the show, the Governor. Merle failed, unfortunately, and was rewarded with a bullet to the chest. He died as hard as he lived.
Now, the character of Merle, is not very deep. He’s generally a bully and a redneck. He hates everyone, it seems, except for Daryl, who, it’s hinted, he did not treat very well either. Merle’s an asshole of the highest order. A man consumed by envy and meanness. That’s what bugs me about the way he went out. He goes out after he finally shows some humanity. I don’t think Merle would have done that. Michael Rooker, the actor who plays Merle, on the other hand, would have done just that. That’s the dilemma. I like Michael Rooker. I think he’s a fine actor, and frankly, brought the depth to the character that the writing did not. I’m sad to see him go, as he was a colorful addition to the show.
The bigger problem I have is that I would suppose that Merle and Daryl would be the most likely to survive the zombie apocalypse. Both men have the necessary skills with weapons, hunting and or military background, and they’re rednecks. Most of all, they have a deep self-involvement, which would be necessary to make the tough choices to survive. Daryl has lost some of that as he as become a major player in the group (obviously something he’s been missing most of his life). Daryl is the most conflicted when Merle comes back. He tried to walk in his brother’s shoes in the beginning, being cold and hard in the new dynamics of the TWD universe. He slowly became an essential member of the group; a leader, and that changed his perspective. Merle returning force him to face who he was and who he’s become. I love the character for that, and it makes this latest episode all the more heart-wrenching, as Daryl has done everything to try and make Merle and the group work. In the end, Merle turned, in essence, from a zombie to a human. His reward is becoming a “walker” and having his own brother have to put him down (and quite a grisly death it is).
This is why I love TWD. Not because of the gore or the zombies, but because of the humanity. We are at our best and or worst when we are under the gun, it would appear. In the zombie apocalypse, you really find out where you stand in those extremes.