Their fashion sense may be the same, but deep down they’re nothing alike. In this review of The Walking Dead, we’re talking about the differences between brothers Merle and Daryl.

daryl merle

A lot of the explosive action in “Home” took place between two brothers, on a mental level.

Review – The Walking Dead – Season 3 Episode 10 “Home”

Early on in this episode, Daryl (Norman Reedus) was walking with Merle (Michael Rooker.) And he heard a cry he correctly identified as a baby. (It’s worth noting that Merle is so closed off he immediately disregarding the idea that it could be anything that would need his attention.) He rushed to help, seeing a family fending off walkers. And he went into action, helping take down the threat. In the process, he protected a terrified woman holding a baby, more or less trapped in a car.

Meanwhile, Merle grumpily watched. He voiced his disinterest in helping people who’d never even “cooked him a meal” and refused to help. That is, he took down one or two, mostly to help Daryl rather than protecting any close-calls the family was having.

And then, Merle decided he needed a reward, and went into their car rudely. The entire family was scared, unsure of his intentions. And all the while, Darryl knew it was wrong. He didn’t want to take anything from the family. He helped because it was the right thing to do. And if he had been with his group and needing help, he would have wanted people to help him. His heart is open. And for this reason, he took a stance against Merle, insisting he leave the family be.

Most of us can understand why the scene went down the way it did. We haven’t been tested, and I’m assuming most of you gentle readers are open-hearted souls. (If not, consider adjusting the width of your compassion. It won’t hurt you.) What we have to try and understand, instead, is Merle’s pov. What was he seeing and why did he have those actions?

He saw a burden. He saw a problem that wasn’t his. And for all the time he had a community in Woodbury, he lacks a community feeling. He won’t help someone without getting compensated. But did this harsh new world make him that way? Isn’t there an argument for sticking to yourself and your group as a way to reduce possibilities of getting hurt? Sure. And if you can live with that kind of selfish behavior, it’s probably one that will keep you safer than should you engage in other battles.

But what does Merle lose out on? By not being the type to help, he misses out on the human connection that in this world he so badly needs. (Especially as more humans are dying all the time. How many still roam the earth at this point?) Merle will never make friends, be taken in by new groups, or get offers of assistance from others.

As for why Merle is the way he is, it’s likely both nature and nurture. His personality was already formed and he was a tough SOB. And this is why he was so easily turned toward a harsh way of living in the new zombie world.

It seems people have gone in one extreme or another (and it changes at different times) in terms of whether they’re going to be friendly and helpful to others, or not. In fact, most personality quirks are magnified now. If a person was a control freak, like The Governor, well… you see how he is now. And if they were prone to violence, they’ve become a renegade solider for any leader that’ll have them. Rick, of course, a law man, has tried to use logic and reason at most times.

For this reason, it’s the people whose pasts we don’t know that are so interesting. For Michonne, we don’t know who she was in the world before. What was her job, what was she like? And this is why the prisoners (already found guilty in such a big way) have been so hard to trust.

Of course, we finally found out that Axel was a pretty good guy.

And now he’s dead.

I’m curious to think about whether you’d turn into more of a Merle or Daryl in a zombie world. And you don’t have to lie to give the answer that sounds better, it’s more important that I know what kind of world I’d be facing out there. For instance, would you  loan your neighbor a cup of sugar …and a handgun?