On tonight’s “The Walking Dead,” time has run out for the truce between the prison and Woodbury. With the clock ticking, Rick has a change of heart that could change the group forever, and Merle takes matters into his own hands. Intrigued? Then it’s time to review “The Walking Dead” episode 3.15, “This Sorrowful Life.”
STAY BACK, FOR THERE ARE SPOILERS AHEAD!
The sorrowful life in question turns out to be Merle Dixon’s. And might I just say, it’s about time we had a Merle-centric episode. Among an all-star cast of actors who knock it out of the park every week, Michael Rooker still manages to stand out with his phenomenal performance of one of the show’s most complex characters.
But before we get to the heartbreak and brilliance that was Merle’s final hours, we must take a moment to examine the final hours of the Ricktatorship. After wrestling with the Governor’s ultimatum, Rick decides to turn Michonne over to the Governor in the hopes that he will spare the prison. Any level-headed person knows that the Governor isn’t going to let them live whether or not they hand over Michonne (more’s the pity Andrea never made it to the prison). But Rick has to try. Or so he thinks… and tells Daryl, Hershel, and Merle.
Enter the ghost of Lori, for once with perfect timing. In this scene Lori represents Rick’s conscience. And his conscience is there to say “You’ve gone too far.” He can be a dictator for the survival of the group and the greater good. He can make the hard decisions without input from the others. But the moment he chooses to sacrifice one of their own “for the greater good,” then as Rick puts it in the show, he’s really sacrificing the greater good.
So what can this change of heart mean for the rest of the series? We’ve got one episode left in the season to find out if things take a turn for the better, leadership-wise.
Now back to Merle–layered, oniony Merle. On the surface, it looks like he just bypassed Rick’s orders to kidnap Michonne and deliver her to the Governor. But could Merle actually have had noble intentions all along? His intentions in handing over Michonne were slightly noble in that he hoped it would save Daryl from the Governor. But there’s that whole pesky leading a woman to torture and death thing. So what if Merle really just wanted Michonne as bait so he could kill the Governor and his boys and return to the prison triumphant?
Well, that’s one theory. The other theory is that Merle had a change of heart on the road, due to Michonne’s surprisingly effective nagging. Speaking of which: Merle and Michonne are great foils for each other. I can’t be the only one who sat on the edge of my seat through their little adventure, hanging on every word. Merle has a unique talent for getting under people’s skin, and it was great to see Michonne get under his skin. It was even better watching that unlikely duo take out a couple zombies in delightfully creative fashion.
But I digress. The real tragedy of this episode was Merle’s final attempt to redeem himself by setting Michonne free and going after the Governor himself. He had to know it was a suicide mission. But Merle’s motivation has always, always been to protect his brother. And in this case, that meant his sorrowful life (and a couple fingers, just to add insult to injury).
Seeing Merle come back as a zombie, up to his nose in blood and guts was just heartbreaking. Through the eyes of his little brother we witness the worst. One of the best parts of the episode was watching Daryl sob his way through stabbing his big brother in the face. You can just imagine him thinking with each stab that he’s punishing Merle for all the hurt he’s done to Daryl, even as he’s weeping for all the love he had for him.
On to happier matters: Glenn and Maggie are engaged! And they sealed it with a kiss and a ring torn from the finger of a dead woman. Now that’s romance at the end of the world. It’s also a lovely homage to the comic books in a season that has largely deviated from the source material. In the comic books, Glenn does indeed ask for Hershel’s blessing and pull the ring off a dead woman.
As Maggie and Glenn embrace before the rising sun (and a field full of walkers), it is a beautiful moment. And the audience gets the idea that this will be one of the last beautiful moments in the season–nay, the entire series. We’ve got dark times ahead: Merle is dead, Andrea’s in the torture chamber, and the Governor’s attack on the prison is imminent. At this juncture, what could possibly go right?