You said the Merle from season three is different from the one we saw in season one. How so?
They toned him down considerably. In the hallucination and on the rooftop, Merle had a harder edge to him….
He was with the Governor. The guy cleaned him up and made him tone down the racism likely (due to Shumpert and Martinez and any other Woodbury citizen of different color) and made Merle into his Lieutenant.
What I’m getting at is that his relationship with Daryl in S3 is a lot different from whatever created the hallucination—that particular impression in Daryl’s mind. We don’t see how they go from point A to point B, or even entirely what either point looks like—even in S3, they spent very little time together. There’s a lot left unexplored and a lot left unexplained. Merle’s role in Woodbury doesn’t go far enough to answer every question. His story isn’t fully told.
You know I totally agree with you about this whole saga Praxid, but while reading the Atlanta magazine yesterday Norman did point one thing out which, while doesn’t make up for any of this is a nice thing to remember, and it was about how in life people do just die and you don’t get their story, it doesn’t end neatly. So maybe that’s how Norman felt about Merle’s demise and the story he knew they could have had, it made sense if he thought about it this way.
It’s a way to deal with the unevenness of Merle’s story, certainly—but stories really don’t follow the rules of life. if something doesn’t have a meaning or a fully developed arc, it really shouldn’t really be shown in a story. Meaningless things, things at loose ends, etc.—those things aren’t where stories focus energy. Most stories only present the moments that communicate something—because each moment onscreen or each sentence on the page is a limited resource for a storyteller. Because stories are about communication, we usually only see things that intend to convey something meaningful.
It’s also why most stories are a little more careful about how they kill characters—The Oscars and Merles and, to a lesser extent, Hershel die to serve a bodycount and create a shock, not necessarily because a full story’s been told. And that’s a sort of unusual way to approach this stuff, and can cut off a lot of storylines and possibilities in ways that might feel premature to us.
Another thing to remember is that Merle was in the Marine Corps (this was confirmed at Philadelphia Comic Con 2013), and the language and attitude Merle was using on Daryl in that Season II episode is reminiscent of what a drill instructor would do as an attempt to motivate his men to get through training.
That was Merle trying to keep his brother from dying out there.
That was older brother helping younger brother to “toughen up” and get his ass in gear so he could complete his mission and get home.
Season I Merle was high.
Season II Merle was a hallucination of Daryl’s, in drill instructor mode.
Season III Merle was sober and a valued member of a group, and then became an unwelcome addition to another group after he discovery his only family was alive.
The way Rooker chose to play his was “Merle does whatever he wants to do.” It’s the apocalypse, and any and all restraints on behavior are defined by the social group he chooses to belong to.
Quick note, Merle also mirrors the “leader” of any group he’s in - he was volatile, like Shane, in Season I; he was an asskicker, like Daryl on a mission, in Season II; he was cold and calculating, like the Governor, in Season III; and towards the end of Season III, he became quiet and desperate, just like Rick.
Merle is the magnification and exaltation of the energy put off by whoever’s leader of the pack.