The Walking Dead delivered a cliffhanger two episode ago regarding if Rick would turn Michonne over to the Governor. It felt more like the last step on a flight of stairs rather than a giant cliff. The end game has always appeared to be Rick’s crew vs. the Governor’s crew. The “Will Rick betray Michonne?” question seemed to have the obvious answer of “No” and to be a plot element to just drag things out to the finale. I was right about Rick’s decision, but “This Sorrowful Life” offers up some huge plot and character developments.
Merle’s Final Trip
Halfway through the episode, I remark to my wife that there have been a lot of scenes with Merle. She then responded that this will follow my theory that a character who suddenly gets a lot more screen time is making a bloody exit from the show. Even though it was my theory, I didn’t think this could be Merle’s swan song quite yet. An arrow to his zombie head says it is, unless he joins the Lori ghost crew. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Rick tells Merle the plan of turning Michonne over to the Governor. Merle responds by making it clear he doesn’t think Rick can go through with such an act. I wouldn’t taunt season 3 Rick who puts machetes in between the eyes of those that cross him, but in this case Merle ends up being right. He doesn’t stick around to find out that fact, because he does the kidnapping deed by himself.
The capturing of Michonne turns out to be one of those annoying “Characters do something against type because it moves the plot” moments. Michonne is the person that sniffed out the Governor’s garbage right from the start. She is slow to trust anyone. She also appears to have a built-in lie detector. Merle is crafty, but nowhere near as smart as Michonne. Yet for some reason, Michonne agrees to wander down a dark hallway with the guy who once tried to kill her. Did she let it slip her mind that this guy was the enemy only a few weeks ago? Michonne decides to turn her back on Merle to fight some zombies, and then is treated with his knife appendage across her head.
This leads to a Merle and Michonne road trip. You can sense a small bond between the two characters. They both really are outsiders in the prison crew. Their scenes do fine jobs of digging up the buried respect the two have for each other. You’re left wondering why Merle really was handed over Michonne. Was he trying to win over the respect of Rick? Did he think he was protecting his brother Daryl? Was he only doing the evil deed, because he feels his soul is already lost?
This leads to Merle finally having a moment of redemption. He lets Michonne free. He sacrifices himself to try to help the prison crew. Michonne constantly tries to change Merle’s mind about turning her in, but I feel the moment of release is a little sudden. I also admit it’s a moment that they’d been building toward the entire episode.
Merle has three major scenes that are about forcing him to confront his past actions. Daryl confronts him on his awful assault on Maggie and Glenn. Carol essentially challenges Merle to change his outlook, so he has an opportunity to truly join the group. He obviously ignores both, because he then captures Michonne. Michonne then talks about how truly evil men don’t feel guilt. It’s these scenes that lead to Merle’s inner turmoil and ultimate decision to free Michonne.
Merle leaves the show an action hero. He lures an army of zombies with music coming out of his car. This act distracts several Woodbury goons, and allows Merle to pick them off with his rifle. I’m not quite sure how the goons don’t notice that one by one a buddy is falling to the ground. Merle is laying waste to the small army, until he gets an uninvited guest in a wandering zombie. Who would have thought zombies could do sneaky and that Merle wouldn’t have noticed it until it’s ready to chew on his arm?
Merle is able to overtake the zombie. He does still get chewed on. It just happens to be by a human known as the Governor. The Governor discovers Merle when he tumbles out of his hiding place. It appears the Governor has not had lunch yet, because he dines on Merle’s fingers. Governor gives a beating to Merle and then ends the occasion by shooting him.
Governor may be the one who kills Merle, but it isn’t the final time we see him. Daryl goes looking for his brother, and he finds him. Unfortunately, his brother is now sporting the zombie look. Daryl is forced to jam an arrow into the head of his own brother.
How will killing Merle affect him? Will it spiral Daryl? Will he blame Rick? Will he respond similar to how Rick did after he lost his wife? The next episode should be an interesting revelation of the true character of Daryl.
Rick Steps Down
The big decision over Michonne’s fate ends up being really important to the character of Rick. It is obvious that Hershel and Daryl don’t want to turn on Michonne. This season has been about the Rick dictatorship. It has also been about a man who has had some very dark moments and drifted away from being a once noble man. Rick finally decides he won’t sacrifice anyone to save the group, but he also arrives to an even bigger decision.
Rick reveals to the entire group what he plans to do with Michonne, but explains why he realizes it’s wrong. He then reveals he is ending the dictatorship, and that now his group has the chance to decide if they stay to fight or hit the road. This season has been about how Rick being in charge has been destroying his mental state. It’ll be interesting to see how this decision shapes the character going forward.
Love is in the Air
There is one other really important thing from this episode. Glenn proposes to Maggie. It isn’t one of the major moments of the episode, but it is sweet. Or at least as sweet as something can be that contains a guy giving a zombie’s wedding ring to the girl he loves. This relationship has always been about the hope and the goodness that is still left in this world. It is nice to see those two kids so happy with each other. Hopefully, the honeymoon doesn’t end with a zombie buffet.
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(Image courtesy of AMC)