How to Make Friends, the Merle Dixon Way!

at Entertainment Weekly gives us his take on the man, the myth, the already-legendary Merle Dixon.

Merle Dixon is one of the most insane things ever created by a TV show. I don’t mean that the character is insane — though he probably is, crazypants bananagrams howling-at-the-moon-while-playing-a-xylophone-made-out-of-his-dead-mama’s-rib-cage insane. I mean that his whole place in the show feels lunatic–he’s like a blip in the matrix, or a sudden-onset brain hemorrhage. He was introduced in a single episode of the show’s first season: He threw out the N-word, beat up half the cast, then wound up handcuffed on a rooftop. You could say that Merle was the first “antagonist” on the show — or anyhow, the first sign that the zombies might be monstrous, but the real monsters were HUMANS etc etc. (See also: Every zombie movie. Cross-reference with this season’s tagline: “Fight the Dead, Fear the Living.”) But Merle wasn’t a good man driven mad by the apocalypse; nor, for that matter, was he a bad man who took the end of the world as an opportunity to indulge his every whim. He just seemed like a guy who was absolutely ecstatic that the world was miserable. He was like a minor demon in the background of a Hieronymus Bosh painting, or like the old bad incarnation of Wolverine before Hollywood scrubbed him into respectable man-candy.

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