Last nights episode of The Walking Dead was arguably one of the best this season has had to offer. The 15th and penultimate episode of the season had some serious ground to cover and it delivered a few high-points and emotional lows. Is Rick really going to take the Governor up on his (fake) offer of peace in exchange for Michonne? Writer Scott Gimple and director Greg Nicotero delivered a nice mix action and interpersonal drama as well as wrapping up a long running plot with the death of a character we all knew was on borrowed time.
Let’s run through ‘This Sorrowful Life,’ and yes this is spoiler country. You’ve been warned.
The biggest problem leading into the final two episodes of The Walking Dead is that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) seems to be taking the Governor’s (David Morrissey) offer of peace in exchange for Michonne (Danai Gurira) at face value. This begs the question, is Rick and idiot or a dick? Sure Michonne hasn’t really fit in with group since her arrival, but at this point no one ‘fits’ anymore. The turmoil and complete lack of cohesion within the prison has started to wear really thin at this point. Rick’s eventual 360 or turning Michonne over wasn’t really much of a surprise, but the fact that talking with Merle (Michael Rooker) planted the seeds of doubt was. Yes, both Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) made it clear that is was not the ‘right’ thing to do, but when the trouble Dixon brother calls you cold and heartless, that is time to re-evaluate yourself.
Of course, this also lead to Merle deciding that he was the only one that could get such a dirty job done. Taking it upon himself to deliver Michonne to the Woodbury and start his own twisted road to redemption.
When you are a character on The Walking Dead and you get a whole episode centered on you, panic. Since the start of the season I was guessing that Merle would meet with a tragic end, most likely sacrificing himself to save his brother or something similar. When he decided to go rouge and kidnap Michonne on his own so that the prison would be left alone… well that is just stupid. Seriously, who in their right mind would trust the Governor? Especially Merle since he knows what that sociopath is capable of. Regardless, this does start a mini-road movie between two of the biggest bad-asses the show has to offer. What we get in return is some of the best dialogue the show has had yet. As the two exchanged barbs through grit teeth, we see that Merle knows full well that he is on a one way trip no matter what happens, that he is actually trying to do something ‘good’ in some twisted way… the big dumb racist slowly moved towards redemption.
When the pair face down the zombie herd at the rundown motel, we get our action for the week. Tell me that Michonne garotting a walker with her telephone wire bonds was not one of the more magical kills we’ve seen. The scene was to short though. Honestly, when Merle cut Michonne I had half hopped that a full 5 minute gore fest was about to happen, with the two of them cutting through the horde of undead to make their escape. Not to sell the scene short by no means, director Nicotero gave the whole episode a nice even pace and in this scene especially, that quick adrenaline charge that works so well (when we get it.)
It was abundantly clear that this was going to be Merle’s final episode. This show has a tendency to work through a rush of character development right before dropping the axe. When Merle releases Michonne because he had ‘something he had to do‘ is where writer Scott Gimple shines. Merle was on the road to redemption, his character had to make some valiant sacrifice and how it unfolds is the best possible way. Free of any real cheesy about-face, Merle stays an asshole to the bitter end. A Motörhead based zombie pied piper chugging whiskey as he lead his own little undead parade towards Woodbury’s finest. His eventual and savage death at the hands of the Governor lead to one of the most emotionally charged scenes The Walking Dead has ever had.
If the big reveal of zombie Sophia -oh so many episodes ago- had half of the emotion of Daryl finding his recently turned brother, well season 2 would have been a lot better. It was heartbreaking to see the finality of it all. Again, we all knew that Merle was destined to die. How it was handled gives credit to the show. When Shane turned, admit it, we were all happy. The image of zombie Merle being taken out by his grief stricken brother was the emotional kick to the gut that makes this show damn good. Personally, I am going to miss that bigoted methhead bastard. He was vile and terrible, easy to hate and really just an ass, but he was still Daryl’s big brother till the end.
Of course, not to glaze over to other major events from the episode, the proposal/marriage of Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) – remember guys, a good engagement ring should be two months pay or two zombie fingers. While its been on the back burner for that last few episodes, their relationship stands as the last vestige of hope in this new undead overrun world. Assuming they both live through the final (sadly this is The Walking Dead, where character development means impending doom) I hope the writers use Glenn and Maggie to remind us that there is still hope.
Last but not least, very glad that Rick finally ended his Ricktatorship and publicly admitted to the rest of the group that he’s been messing up, a lot. Rick and now slowly start to rebuild himself and maybe even become a decent character again. That is… after the final showdown with the Governor happens next week.
It comes down to this. The Walking Dead season 3 with the finale ,’Welcome to the Tombs.’ Are you ready?