Over the last few days set photos from season three of AMC’s The Walking Dead have hit the web showing an old friend, Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker). The network has released the first official photo of Merle. I guess this isn’t a secret anymore.
There’s much speculation about when and where Merle might return to the series. Many suspected he would reemerge as The Governor, a brutal despot who rules over a group of survivors in a small township of Woodbury. When British actor David Morrissey was cast in that role, we all thought that theory had been debunked. And it has, but it wasn’t all that far off.
Merle is definitely kicking it with the citizens of Woodbury. What his actual role in the town is remains unclear, but a man with Merle’s temperament, capacity for violence, and lackadaisical attitude towards human life, would come in mighty handy to a guy like the Governor.
In the last photo it looked like Merle had outfitted his hand—which he hacksawed off on an Atlanta rooftop—with some sort of blade or stabbing implement. From this photo, however, it is clear that he has a knobby, club-like extension. That would be useful for zombie whacking. Maybe he has a variety of different tools and utensils he can attach, like Han in Enter the Dragon.
No matter what, Merle’s reappearance is going to stir up a bunch of shit. Daryl (Norman Reedus) will have some serious soul-searching to do. Where will his loyalties ultimately fall? With his brother or the group? If the Woodbury arc follows the comics closely, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is in for a rough time. Merle, who Rick left handcuffed to that rooftop, is going to be plenty pissed off, and he’s not exactly the forgiving type. That could make Rick’s already tough spot even worse.
Season three already had the potential to be completely badass (and hopefully live up to the promise The Walking Dead has shown at times). It’s one of my favorite storylines. Merle’s return definitely kicks things up a notch or two tension wise, as well as bringing up some interesting emotional possibilities for a number of characters. No matter what, this photo is definitely ominous.