Merle first appears in the Season 1 episode "Guts" as a member of the group of survivors from Atlanta. While Glenn guides Rick Grimes to safety inside a department store, Merle stands guard on the store's roof and starts picking off zombies with a sniper rifle. The sound of the rifle firing only serves to attract more of the undead to the vicinity of the store but Merle ignores his companions when they tell him to stop shooting. T-Dog tries to be more insistant only for Merle to turn around and call him a "nigger", prompting T-Dog to lash out. Merle easily beats T-Dog into submission but is beaten to the floor himself by Rick who then handcuffs him to a pipe.
Later, as the rest of the group enact Rick's escape plan, T-Dog is given the key to Merle's handcuffs and goes back up to the roof to get him. In his haste, however, T-Dog trips and drops the key which falls down a drain. T-Dog is forced to leave Merle behind but chains the door on his way out so that the zombies can't get to Merle. After the others have fled, Merle is alone on the rooftop as zombies are pushing against the door. Some scattered tools lie near Merle's feet and he uses his free hand to grab a hack-saw and amputate his own chained hand. Miraculously, Merle survives this grisly self-mutilation and manages to stop the bleeding by burning his bloody stump on a stove, cauterizing the wound. By the time Rick and Daryl go back to Atlanta to find him, he's already long gone with only his severed hand left on the rooftop.
Season 3EditMerle returns in Season 3 and remains a regular character throughout most of the season. It seems that some time after escaping from Atlanta, he found his way to the small town of Woodbury, which had become a safe haven for survivors of the apocalypse. After arriving in town, Merle offers his services to The Governor as a hunter and tracker, as well as dealing with whatever "dirty jobs" need seeing to. To make his job easier, Merle fashions a metal covering for his stump with a bayonet attached to it.
Returning in the episode "Walk With Me", Merle is out in the woods with a Woodbury hunting party when he happens to find one of the survivors from the Atlanta camp, Andrea Harrison, who became separated from that group months earlier. With Andrea and her companion Michonne starving and exhausted, Merle rescues the pair and takes them to Woodbury to meet the Governor.
Merle later finds himself meeting another member of his former group, Glenn, after finding him at an abandoned nursery along with Maggie Greene. He captures the two of them and takes them back to Woodbury, interrogating them in order to learn whereabouts they are camped out. While the Governor humiliates Maggie, Merle beats and tortures Glenn, even going so far as to throw a zombie into the room with him. Glenn survives and he and Maggie are rescued by Rick, Daryl and Michonne. However, during their escape, Daryl is captured and then the Governor forces Merle and Daryl to fight each other while the townsfolk watch. Merle decides to put on a show for the residents of Woodbury and whispers for Daryl to follow his lead, having no intention of killing his own brother. Rick and Maggie attack the Woodbury citizens by shooting the lamps and throwing in a smoke grenade, Merle knocks down a guard and escapes with Daryl, Rick and Maggie. After reuniting with the others far away from Woodbury, Glenn and Michonne are not happy to see Merle and attempt to attack him. After Daryl tells Merle to shut up multiple times, Merle begins insulting the group, but Rick pistol whips him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Daryl later decides to depart with Merle, refusing to abandon him again.
For a time, Merle and Daryl travel through the woods together, attempting to make it on their own. While Daryl is glad to have finally found his brother again, it is clear that the siblings' individual experiences since their separation have created two very different people: Daryl cannot cast off his loyalty to the rest of his group back at the prison and decides to go back to them, but Merle refuses as he knows he won't be welcome there after the things he's done. However, Merle has a change of heart and later follows Daryl back to the prison, just in time to save Rick from being killed by walkers. Rick and the rest of the group are less than happy to allow Merle into the prison given his violent and unpredictable nature, but Rick allows him to stay so long as Daryl keeps him in line. While working with the prison group, Merle warns them that the Governor will be out for blood after their incursion into Woodbury and that he won't stop until all of them are dead.
DeathEditIn the episode "This Sorrowful Life", Merle grows frustrated with Rick's indecision over what to do about the Governor's threats. He understands what needs to be done to keep the prison safe but feels that Rick is too soft to make the hard choices, stating that Rick needs a "bad guy" to get the dirty jobs done.
Merle knocks out Michonne and abducts her, taking her out on the road in order to deliver her to the Governor. Michonne was responsible for taking the Governor's eye and killing his zombified daughter, so Merle decides to sacrifice Michonne in order to save the prison and his brother Daryl. However, on their way to the grain mill where Rick was supposed to meet the Governor, Merle and Michonne discuss the choices Merle has made in his life and the things he's had to do to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. While Merle has always come across as surly, cold-hearted and violent, Michonne can tell that Merle does in fact have a conscience and that he may not be able to live with himself if he goes through with his plan.
Merle decides to let Michonne go and he decides to stick it to the Governor by hotwiring a car and using its radio to attract a large horde of zombies towards the grain mill. When the Governor and his men arrive at the mill, they find themselves combatting dozens of zombies while Merle fires upon them from inside. Merle's plan was to diminish the Governor's forces as best as he could before they attacked the prison the following day. While many of the Woodbury soldiers are killed in the battle, the Governor finds Merle and kills him by shooting him in the chest.
Some hours after the battle, Daryl arrives at the mill to find Merle. He finds that Merle has reanimated and is feeding on the corpse of one of the Governor's soldiers. The zombified Merle notices Daryl sobbing before him and he lurches forward to attack. Tearfully, Daryl puts Merle down by stabbing him repeatedly in the face.