Here’s the thing for me. About those scenes with Merle and “John.”
At the start, I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed that Clint wasn’t asking different questions. Travis clearly had the same thoughts I did–tactically, Merle was playing it poorly. He gave more information than he needed and asked vague questions that didn’t yield practical intel on how to fight the Hunger.
If it had been Taako, he’d have asked clever questions and been focused on getting info out of the Hunger, on besting it. If it had been Magnus, he would have straight up asked, “how do we kill you” and likely learned at least something from that. But this wasn’t Taako’s or Magnus’s role to play.
Merle was approaching parley the way it was meant to be approached. Not as a warrior looking for a way to kill the Hunger, but as a diplomat trying to understand it. He approached it with an open mind. To the point where he was eventually able to ask “are you my friend?”
He asked that of this nightmare entity, this thing that’s caused so much death and suffering–that’s killed him dozens of times. Maybe he’s just that able to open his heart. Or maybe despite the religious ideals he tries to project as a cleric, he’s someone who–whether the person in question is a human, or a god, or a sinister consuming force—just wants people to like him.
Whatever the reason, he was able to look at the Hunger and try to reason with it. To talk to it earnestly about the value of life, and hope.
It didn’t listen. And when it didn’t listen, I actually believe Merle was disappointed. That for a moment he had hoped the Hunger could be better. Instead, he told the Hunger off, and said he didn’t want to see him anymore.
And the Hunger is sad. For the first time in who even can guess how long, the Hunger feels sorrow, and regret. Because for a moment he had a friend, and then he lost that friend. Because of his own actions.
Merle didn’t learn how to kill the Hunger, he didn’t learn any information that could help them slow it down or get to the Light of Creation faster. But what he did hurt it more than any weapon ever could.