The Walking Dead has not been the same since Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) left.
Merle was an absolute jerk back in Season 1 (remember how he treated T-Dog?) but you could say he paid for those sins … or at least his hand did. He was also pretty awful through parts of Season 3 (remember how he treated Glenn and Michonne?) but you could say he redeemed himself when he sacrificed his life to try and help Team Prison — especially his brother Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) — win the war against The Governor (David Morrissey).
Merle is a complex, complicated guy, but do you think we’d still care so much about him if he was played by someone other than Michael Rooker? That guy has been mesmerizing fans for decades now, usually playing polarizing characters you’d be hard-pressed to pin down. As Rooker recently told the Philadelphia Daily News — in advance of his upcoming Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con appearance — "I like characters that are on the edge. You don't know if they're good or bad."
Good, bad, or just human, the love for Merle Dixon has been “absolutely through the roof,” Rooker said. He told the Daily News that military personnel and law enforcement officials are particular fans of his, since they can relate to the fierce loyalty of his characters — from TWD to Call of Duty. "Because Merle Dixon . . . paid the ultimate price to help his brother survive in this new world, every Marine in the world gets it," Rooker said. "That's what they do every day in real life."
Rooker said a “bad ear” kept him out of the military himself, but he has great respect for the troops. "I love these guys and I love their commitment and what they have done for our country and what they are still doing for our country.” He may not have served himself, but he said he’s a family man who would give his life for his wife and two daughters.
He’s a pretty fascinating guy, not unlike Merle. Merle was hardly Captain America, but he was a brave wiseass — and fiercely loyal to his baby brother. Half of what he did wrong he did out of desperation to reunite with Daryl. (Part of the other half was because he was racist, but … here’s to the good half!)
The Walking Dead Season 5 premieres in October on AMC.