Fans of The Walking Dead have speculated since at least the third episode that racist meth addict Merle Dixon would turn out to be the television version of The Governor (spoilers at that link!), the Machiavellian -- or possibly just insane -- leader of Woodbury, Georgia.
Although Frank Darabont's adaptation already has deviated in significant ways from the comic series -- Shane is still among the living, the survivors have hotfooted it to the Centers for Disease Control -- molding the elder Dixon brother (played by Michael Rooker) into the seemingly benevolent Governor would transform the latter character to the point that he would be virtually unrecognizable. There's also a relatively minor time line issue -- Merle has been too busy elsewhere, killing Walkers and sawing off his own hand, to establish the Woodbury settlement -- and the far greater matter of The Governor's daughter, whose presence is central to his comic-book storyline.
And then there's Robert Kirkman, writer and creator of The Walking Dead, who is admittedly "cagey" on the subject while gently leading viewers away from the Merle-Governor path.
"There's certainly a possibility of that, but I think people might be thinking a little too hard about it," he tells IGN.com. "I have had fans, after watching the third episode, email me or say something online on a message board about how they think Merle is going to be The Governor of the television show. All I would say to that is that I don't think people are going to be able to figure out this show that early. We have interesting things in store for Merle that will probably surprise you. And The Governor, as he is in the comic books, is a character that Frank [Darabont] really likes and he's very adamant that he wants to get him into the television show. So we wouldn't bring him onto the show in a way that makes him fundamentally different from how he was in the comic."
The Walking Dead concludes its first season Sunday at 10 p.m. EST/PST on AMC.