This character was so annoying, we would have served him up to the walkers on a silver platter.
The Big Picture
- Michael Rooker’s Merle Dixon in The Walking Dead has an abrasive and toxic personality.
- Merle’s racism and selfishness immediately makes him unlikable.
- Merle’s influence on his younger brother Daryl is evident, with Daryl’s traumatic upbringing partly attributed to Merle’s negative attitude and narrow-minded outlook.
Robert Kirkman‘s The Walking Dead had an impressive run that lasted over a decade, introducing dozens of characters we both love and love to hate. Some were integral, like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). Others were fan favorite supporting players that left an indelible mark on the show with notable performances like Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, and Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee. Then there are characters that are more annoying than they are impactful, and really didn’t add much of anything to the show. The one character that we repeatedly wanted to be bitten or just straight up eaten was introduced in the second episode of the very first season. It is none other than that loudmouth, obnoxious as hell Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker), Daryl’s older brother.
Michael Rooker Does His Best With ‘Walking Dead’s Merle Dixon
We have almost always enjoyed the work of Rooker, both before and after his role as a misogynist racist on The Walking Dead. Most notably, as Yondu Udonta in the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies in 2014 and 2017, respectively. He’s also proven his dramatic chops in big films like JFK opposite Kevin Costner, Eight Men Out, and Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise. And to be fair, there are a number of other The Walking Dead characters that are quite annoying. Josh McDermitt‘s Eugene could never be trusted and waffled on every decision. Tara (Alanna Masterson) was constantly acting and looking like she wished she had more of an important role in the apocalypse. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) spent so much of his time trying to be a leader, but ultimately being a coward. No question, though, Merle easily lives up to the moniker of most annoying.
Merle Dixon Was Introduced in Season 1 of ‘The Walking Dead’
In Episode 2’s “Guts,” Rick narrowly escapes a hoard of walkers around the tank sitting in an intersection of abandoned downtown Atlanta. This is also the first time we had the misfortune of meeting Merle Dixon, and he wastes absolutely no time making his presence known as the loudest member of the small group that is forced to retreat to a nearby department store rooftop. Always abrasive, selfish, toxic, and racist, Merle let us have it right from Episode 2 when he is already so unruly that Rick has to cuff him to an exposed pipe just to keep him from sabotaging the whole group.
And he’s already made his thoughts known about people like T-Dog (Irone Singleton) and his dislike for people that don’t share his skin color. He pulls a gun on him and sticks it in his face within 30 seconds of appearing on-screen. The fact that we’re saddled with this bigot from so very early in the show makes us despise him even more. When the group returns to the rooftop (at the request of younger brother and Walking Dead fan-favorite Daryl) where they should have left him for walker food, we don’t want to say we were necessarily happy to see that he had cut off his hand to spite his arm, but we weren’t that upset about it, either.
Merle Was a Horrible Brother to Daryl on ‘The Walking Dead’
Maybe the worst thing about Merle Dixon is the fact that he is one of the main reasons that Daryl, a guy that we unanimously rooted for each season, turned out to be as traumatized as he did even before the zombie apocalypse. Can you imagine having Merle as a big brother? Daryl never had a chance. From the moment he was born, Merle was probably poisoning this poor kid’s mind with his narrow-minded outlook and racially charged opinions. The fact that Daryl isn’t a raging jerk as well is a testament to the inherent good that he has in him. And why couldn’t we just have been done with Merle after his death? His coming back in the form of Daryl’s hallucinations and nightmares is just further punishment. And for good measure, he even tortures his younger brother as a walker, forcing Daryl to put down his own sibling for a final time in Season 3.
Merle Teamed Up With ‘Walking Dead’ Villain Governor
Birds of a feather, right? Who’s surprised that Merle fell in with The Governor’s (David Morrisey) diabolical crew in Seasons 2 and 3? Not us! These two are a marriage made in hell. They are perfect for each other. The now one-handed Merle is eager to please someone like The Governor. He finds purpose as his lackey because he can sense a kindred soul that is as dead and despicable as his. There is no one that Merle cares about more than Merle, and that alone makes him annoying, but to be willing to kill your own blood like he nearly does later with Daryl? That takes an annoying monster, which is what Merle Dixon is. He showed it from the first time he opened his mouth. And his hard, nasally drawl just makes him harder to stomach. Seeing him beg for his life on that rooftop with T-Bone holding the key is one of the sweetest moments of karma in the show’s entire run. We’re grateful Daryl’s the Dixon brother with The Walking Dead spin-off.