12:03pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Walking Dead's' Norman Reedus: Daryl Wants a 'Ferocious Revenge' on the Governor
The Walking Dead is down a Dixon brother.
During Sunday's penultimate episode of season three, Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) took it upon himself to deliver Michonne (Danai Gurira) to the Governor (David Morrissey) and paid the price for going head-to-head with the Woodbury leader. In a heroic -- and some would say insane -- decision to make the trip solo to take out the Governor and repair his image among the prison set, Merle instead frees Michonne and attempts to kill the Governor and as many of his soldiers as possible.
When a walker forces him to reveal his location, the Governor winds up shooting Merle in the chest and leaving his younger brother, Daryl (Norman Reedus) to find him reanimated as a member of the undead and to make the most difficult decision of his life: killing his zombie brother.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Reedus to discuss Merle's loss and how his death will impact Daryl leading up to Sunday's season three finale.
The Hollywood Reporter: How will Merle's death change Daryl?
Norman Reedus: He's going to become quiet and it's going to harden him. He grew up a lot in that moment and he's truly on his own. He has the group, which has become his new family, but as far as reconnecting with his brother when they got back together, he had it in his mind that it could be a new beginning. Merle could change, Daryl definitely changed, and they could be different people now; he had this hope. It was the same thing with finding Sophia -- she was the symbol of hope for the future, and Daryl was holding on to it. Now he's going to be real dark and he'll withdraw a bit. He definitely wants revenge, but at the same time, he's just becoming hardened by life. Daryl stabbing Merle in the head over and over like that wasn't anger toward his brother: It was at the situation, the world we live in. Frustration and a lot of rage comes from a fear-based place. Daryl has always been full of fear and rage. At the same time, he fights because he's always had to, he's always had his back up against the wall, and that makes you a ferocious fighter. But there's also elements of fear that cause you to be like that. All those feelings are hardened now, and he's going to get stone-cold for a while. There's also a part of him that thinks maybe he can grow from that a little bit, too.
THR: We've seen Rick haunted by visions of Lori as he coped with her death. How will Daryl handle it? He's seen visions of Merle before.
Reedus: It would be fun wouldn't it?! (Laughs.) I don't know if that's going to happen. Certain things will definitely remind Daryl of Merle all the time -- he has his bike, too. It's almost like losing a father figure: There are so many questions you wanted to ask and you don't quite get there. I'm sure he'll be haunted by the death of his brother. I don't know if we'll see the ghost of Merle come back, but it would be fun.
THR: Will Daryl turn to anyone for support -- ahem, Carol -- or might he go it alone?
Reedus: He's a loner, and I'm sure he would welcome it more now in his life than he would have before this happened. This guy could definitely use a break.
THR: Will Merle's death be in vain? How will the group receive news of his death?
Reedus: I've heard people question if Daryl blames Rick for letting this happen and starting this plan and getting Merle riled up and sending him out, but Daryl knows Merle, and Merle does whatever he wants to do. I don't think he blames Rick, Michonne or anyone else for that. His brother always made on-the-spot decisions, he never asked for permission to do anything. Merle, in the scene with Beth singing, inched his way into the room; he was like a lion, announced he was here and wanted to come into the warm room, but he wasn't a threat and had his paws up in the air. Carol (Melissa McBride), Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne eventually saw the goodness in Merle -- Glenn (Steven Yeun) probably doesn't think there is, but some of the prison group saw and knew it. In a world with so few people around you, you hope everybody has it in them to be able to change and not be the same person they were.
THR: Do you think the group will recognize that Merle died a hero?
Reedus: I don't know, that's the tragedy of it: No one really saw it. Michonne saw it a bit when he let her go, but nobody knew it. Daryl knew what Merle was doing when he saw Michonne on her own. Daryl knew Merle was doing it just to end this and protect his brother. Whether Daryl decides that's anybody's business but his is completely up to Daryl. I don't think he's going to go back and say, "My brother's a hero." I think he'll keep that to himself. You hold secrets close in this world.
THR: Will Daryl realize that it was the Governor who shot Merle -- and knowingly allowed him to turn into a walker?
Reedus: Daryl can look at a situation and know what happened. I don't know if Daryl is going to dig the bullet out and figure it out or is just full of grief and will walk away. He holds the Governor completely responsible for the situation. The situation that the Governor brought to the table has threatened everybody, and it got his brother killed. Daryl definitely wants to cut the guy's face off. He wants a ferocious revenge, he doesn't just want to see justice -- he wants to rip his head off.
THR: How will the group respond to Rick's choice -- stay and fight or leave?
Reedus: Right now, we're ready to fight.
THR: Could the group use the booby-trap lessons Rick learned from Morgan to set a trap for the Governor when he attacks the prison?
Reedus: It's possible. It's one thing to set up sticks and booby traps against non-thinking hungry zombies. It's another thing when you have a conniving leader like the Governor who is manipulating all these people who have weapons. You can't set up pointy sticks in a circle and hide in the middle against automatic weapons and bazukas. It has to be a little more thought-out than that. They've all adapted and become very good at using what they have around them to protect themselves. But it's definitely a possibility.
THR: How will Daryl help the group prepare for the pending war?
Reedus: I don't think anybody needs a pep talk right now to go to war. Everyone is furious. Daryl has come back and he's furious, Michonne is furious, Glenn and Maggie are pissed. We fought hard to get that prison, and we don't want anybody telling us what to do, and it's become very personal for everyone. That's what the finale is about; everybody's toes have been crushed and everyone is ready to rip each other apart.
THR: How deadly is the finale? Will there be major casualties on both sides?
Reedus: It's a full-blown war. You have two herds of wild animals charging at each other and everyone has guns, knives and explosives. People will definitely die.
What do you think will happen when the groups face off? How do you think the attack will go down? Hit the comments with your thoughts. The Walking Dead season finale airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.