The Walking Dead recap: The Devil and Merle Dixon

Merle kidnaps Michonne for the greater good of the group. Or maybe he's seeking redemption. Or maybe he just wants to find a place that still serves whiskey
Ep. 15 | Aired Mar 24, 2013

SUGAR AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING KNIFE Merle died doing what he loved: Bleeding profusely from stumps that used to be important body parts.

Gene Page/AMC

Merle was feeling restless. He asked Carol: "We got any whiskey? Hell, I'd even drink vodka." Carol frowned at him, as if Merle was an annoying drunk cousin and not a maniac who tried to kill two members of Tribe Grimes in the last fortnight. "Are you with us?" asked Carol, channeling Judgmental Ghost Lori. "I mean, are you with us?" Merle told Carol that she had come a long way from the little mouse he remembered from the campsite. Then he told her: "Also, you're still alive after three seasons? Would definitely not have called that!" Carol smiled, utterly charmed by the elder Dixon brother. (ASIDE: I feel like we need to give props to Melissa McBride, who plays Carol; she barely gets anything to do, but somehow, she seems to have a slight spark of romantic chemistry with every male actor on the show. END OF ASIDE.)

Meanwhile, Merle's brother Daryl went to Glenn and had the single craziest conversation that has ever happened in the history of the world. Basically, here's what happened:

Daryl: "Did Merle say he was sorry yet?"
Glenn: "Did he say he was sorry? Did he say he was sorry for tying me to a chair, beating me, and throwing a walker at me? Did he say he was sorry for letting his boss do terrible, emotionally devastating things to the woman I love? No, Daryl, he hasn't apologized for that yet, no."
Daryl: "Oh. Well, he's sorry."

Look, I'm not saying that Merle isn't awesome. Merle is awesome. But he is also, very clearly, a terrible person. You can justify his actions any way you want to, but those justifications fundamentally circle back around to two conclusions: A) he was only following orders, which isn't actually a justification and is also patently untrue, or B) it's a zombie apocalypse so there's no such thing as "Good and Evil." This latter explanation is actually totally true, and one of things that makes The Walking Dead comic book such an addictive read is that it buys into that amorality wholesale.

Of all the differences between graphic novel and TV show, the main one is that the graphic novel has almost never made the argument that its lead characters are good people. They do what they have to do to survive; sometimes, they purposefully do it in the most violent way possible. But The Walking Dead TV show is VERY interested in morality. On The Walking Dead TV show, we're told again and again that characters are doing bad things for the right reasons; in The Walking Dead comic book, the characters do bad things, and sometimes they live, but mostly they die. In America right now, we're positively in love with the idea of morally ambiguous heroes, so long as they are still demonstrably heroes.

Lest this all sound too heavy or too thematic, I'm basically just rehashing what Merle said explicitly in the episode. Daryl found his brother trying to find some crystal. Merle told his little bro that Rick didn't have the stones for Operation Michonne. Daryl shrugged: "Whatever he says, goes." Merle told him bluntly: "Do you even possess a pair of balls, little brother? Are they even attached? I mean, if they are, they belong to you." Daryl shrugged: Rick was the leader. "You used to call people like that sheep."

Daryl made a counter-argument: "You can't do things without people anymore." But Merle was on a roll: "Y'all people look at me like I'm the devil," he said, listing off his prime sin: Bringing a member of the group to see the Governor. "But now, you all wanna do the same thing I did. Maybe these people need somebody like me around to do their dirty work. A bad guy." Daryl shrugged that off, too: He just wanted his brother back.

BEEPBEEPBEEP Pause For Your Weekly Greene Family Update: Hershel read Psalm 91 to his daughters. Maggie agreed to become the future Mrs. Glenn Rhee, after Glenn proposed to her with a ring he chopped off a blonde walker. Beth did not sing. This Concludes Your Weekly Greene Family Update BEEPBEEPBEEP

Now, Merle had his own plan for Operation Michonne. He asked Michonne to follow him into the tombs, because, um, there were zombies down there that they needed to kill. Now, keep in mind that it's been just a little over a week in Dead Time since Michonne was fighting for her life in a man-to-man battle against Merle, and keep in mind that the whole central plotline of Michonne this season has been her inability to trust anyone. Now: The guy who tried to kill her, and who coincidentally regularly throws racial epithets in her direction, walks up to her and says, "Hey there, honey, would you mind coming to a dark and remote corner of the prison, far away from anyone who hasn't tried to kill you?" And she apparently says: "Sure." She was knocked unconscious immediately.

NEXT: Special Limited Edition Merle Dixon Samurai Action Figure

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