Next Sunday marks the conclusion to season 3 of AMC’s The Walking Dead and if this past Sunday’s episode is any indication, we’re gonna have one Hell of a nail-biter on our hands.
Episode 15, “This Sorrowful Life,” centers around Merle and his struggle as a man pidgeon-holed into being the bad guy — the heavy lifer doing the tasks that need to be done, irrespective of morality or conscience. We begin as Rick is speaking with Daryl and Hershel, deciding to discretely deliver Michonne to the Governor, with Hershel not wanting any part in it and Daryl reluctantly agreeing to stand behind Rick’s decision. Rick then asks Merle for his assistance, which he agrees to, but not before plainly letting Rick know that he thinks “Officer Friendly” doesn’t have the spine to go through with it.
Merle has a few words with his brother, and simultaneously celebrates and laments his position as a gun for hire, whether to the Governor, or to Rick, who Merle labels hypocritical for his betrayal of Michonne after the events with Glenn and Maggie. Outside the prison, Rick is busy scavenging for wire with which to tie up Michonne when he sees an apparition Lori. According to The Walking Dead director Greg Nicotero, Rick silently recalls a talk that he and Lori had during season 2 where she emphasized Rick’s good nature. This causes Rick to abandon his plan and he goes off to inform the others involved.
Meanwhile, Merle has decided to take matters into his own hands and gets the jump on Michonne, knocking her out, tying her up, and secretly escaping with his captive, heading off to Woodbury. When the two are discovered missing, Daryl heads off to track them on foot.
While on their way, Merle and the captive Michonne speak about the recent turn of events. Merle tries to convince Michonne that she’s just as much of an outsider as he is, but Michonne isn’t buying it. The two run into trouble as Merle attempts to hot-wire a car, setting off the alarm and alerting a group of nearby walkers. After narrowly escaping a horde of the undead, Merle and Michonne continue to have words in the borrowed car. Michonne tries to get into Merle’s head, but big brother Dixon isn’t having any of it. He decides to let Michonne go, telling her to prepare for things to come, and that he’s got a task to do on his own.
Daryl comes across Michonne and she informs the younger Dixon of his brother’s intentions. Meanwhile, Merle is having a bit of whiskey while parked in the car, enjoying some Motörhead. He cranks it up to 11, attracting walkers to the vehicle and proceeds to lead them, like the undead pied piper, to the familiar warehouse that has seemingly become Woodbury’s prep station. Merle, utilizing his military background, sends the vehicle rolling into the complex, walkers in tow, while ducking out and finding cover within one of the buildings.
As Martinez and the others at the warehouse investigate the car and the swarm, Merle begins rifling off Woodbury’s men one at a time, a task made simple by the hail of gunfire directed at the horde of undead by the Governor’s men. Merle comes this close to putting a hot one right between the Governor’s eye, but Allen’s dimwitted son Ben walks in front of the bullet and meets an unceremonious end. Merle gets distracted by a walker, which allows the Governor’s men to put the beat down on him, gangland style. The Governor, smelling fresh blood, tackles Merle into the building and a brawl ensues. In the heat of the struggle the Governor winds up biting off two of Merle’s fingers, gaining the upper hand before putting a bullet in his former mercenary’s chest, killing him.
Back at the prison, Glenn and Hershel have a heart-to-heart in which Glenn asks for Hershel’s blessing in marrying Maggie. Hershel agrees and Glenn goes off to find an engagement ring, which means slicing it off the hand of a walker. He proposes to Maggie during a beautiful sunrise, marred by the presence of groaning undead, but Maggie still says “yes.” Later, Rick calls a meeting where he informs everyone of the deal with the Governor to hand over Michonne, Merle’s involvement, and how Daryl went off to stop him. Rick admits fault and apologizes for not informing the group, telling them that he’s finished being the leader after having the reins since the group left Hershel’s farm, and that this was now a democracy. He puts the fate of the group up to a vote in which they can either stay at the prison or flee. After leaving the group to make their decision, he spots Michonne walking toward the prison from afar.
Daryl happens upon the warehouse grounds and, while surveying the carnage, immediately spots his brother Merle, hunched over Ben’s lifeless body. Merle looks up from his meal, and locks his cold, dead eyes onto his younger brother’s. At this point, Daryl absolutely loses it as the reanimated corpse of Merle Dixon attempts to make Daryl his first known victim. Daryl winds up dispatching his brother in what is quite possibly the most heart-wrenching and gruesome kill yet for the series. The episode ends with Daryl, in hysterics, crying over his brother’s body.
Michael Rooker deserves an goddamn Emmy for effortlessly turning a rascist, misogynistic redneck into a sympathetic, multi-dimensional character whose death got everyone right in the feels. I was worried for a moment that Merle was really going to hand over Michonne, but I couldn’t believe he’d be so stupid. Merle’s character had evolved so much over the course of the season, and he’d certainly come a long way from being the loose cannon we first met on the rooftop in Atlanta. Speaking of the rooftop, I really enjoyed the subtle nod to Merle’s moment on the rooftop as he spoke his last words. “I ain’t gonna beg,” was what he’d mumbled in a haze while handcuffed on the rooftop, awaiting a slow and agonizing end. It made me smile at how badass the character was, right before making my jaw drop wide open when the Governor delivered the coup de grâce.
Throughout the episode I found it interesting at how calm Michonne seemed while being carted off to a fate worse than death. It speaks volumes about her character that Michonne’s experiences have left her with no other choice than to take it on the chin. Things are starting to fall into place with Rick’s group, and Michonne seemed to have no problems with forgiving mistakes. Even after being apparently sold-out to the Governor, upon her release by Merle, she headed back to the prison instead of going off on her own like she may have done in the past.
Rick’s admission of guilt and the denouncement of a Governor-style ruling brought much-needed balance to a group that has seen nothing but turmoil this season. After all they’ve been through, the group seems to have accepted the idea that their time on Earth may actually be up. Meanwhile, if the extended peak at the season finale shown during Talking Dead is any indication, Woodbury’s army is going for a full-on assault on the prison, plowing right through the gates and marching right into the building, guns drawn.
Color me stoked.
I was correct in my prediction that we wouldn’t find out the fate of Andrea during this episode, and I still imagine we’ll find out how she’s faring during the finale. However, I’m no longer so optimistic about the Governor meeting his demise. It seems like this entire season has been a deliberate march toward creating a Governor like the one we were introduced to in the comics, and I imagine he’s going to be a inescapable source of conflict in the next season. We’ll have to wait and see.
An interesting thing to note about Andrea’s capture is that it seems as though the chair may have been meant for her all along. Something I’d completely forgotten about in “Prey” was the Governor posing with the chains. It turns out, as director Greg Nicotero pointed out during Talking Dead, those were actually the chains that Michonne used for her pet walkers. Perhaps the Governor has special plans for each of the ladies in his life after all, eh? I’m hoping that Milton frees Andrea, but I’m not holding my breath. I do think, however, that our friends at the prison have taken the little time they have left to haul ass out of there before the Governor shows up. At this point, though, it’s anyone’s guess.
The season 3 finale, episode 16 of The Walking Dead, “Welcome to the Tombs” airs this Sunday, March 31 at 9/8c on AMC. Click here for the schedule as AMC is counting down with a full marathon of the entire series leading up to the finale.