The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life

Michaela Murray

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead is titled “This Sorrowful Life,” and the story lives up to the title. While it was a bit slow paced at the beginning, the end made it one of the strongest episodes in this very competitive season.  If you like Daryl (in other words if you are a human person) then this episode is going to hurt. On the Brightside, if you like Glenn and Maggie, this episode will hurt just slightly less.

This episode picks up with Rick having decided to turn Michonne over instead of risking an all our war. The only people he has told about this are Hershel, Daryl and Merle for some reason. It’s clear that Michonne has become a part of the group, and Daryl wants her to stay. Rick is extremely conflicted about turning over Michonne, but insists that it is better to lose just her than risk all of them dying.

Merle doesn’t believe that Rick will actually get the job done, so he takes matters into his own hands. What ensues is a morally ambiguous emotional roller-coaster that manages to do the impossible—make us root for Merle Dixon. Already aware that no one in the group trusts or even likes him, Merle decides that he has to be the bad guy and deliver Michonne to the Governor himself. While driving Michonne to Woodbury, Merle has a change of heart. He frees Michonne and puts together a plan to kill the Governor himself by attracting a group of walkers and the Governor’s men to the sound of a car alarm and then shooting them all from a “safe” distance.

Meanwhile, in the lighter storyline, Glenn decides that he wants to marry Maggie. Glenn being a traditional fellow, firsts asks Hershel for his permission then goes ring shopping and proposes. Of course in the world of The Walking dead, nothing is quite that simple, so his ring shopping consists of drawing the walkers towards the fence and then cutting off the finger with the shiniest ring. The proposal was much less gory.

Back with Merle, after narrowly missing a shot at the Governor a walker attacks him. While Merle is distracted fighting the walker, the Governor takes the opportunity to kick the shit out of Merle. The Governor beats Merle ruthlessly, with no remorse before going full Gollem and biting his fingers off because he just can apparently. The governor had always shown some signs of being mentally disturbed, but this scene elevated him to a full on deranged sociopath (but whatever, he’s still a darn good villain and a badass).

The biggest surprise of this episode [obvious spoiler alert] was the decision to kill off Merle. After the Governor beats Merle and takes away half of the fingers on his good hand, it seemed like he was going to shoot him in the head and finish him permanently. But when Daryl tracks Merle to the warehouse we see the heartbreaking truth. The Governor, in his most twisted move yet, deliberately avoided shooting Merle in the head so that he would come back as a walker.

When Daryl discovers that Merle has turned he is devastated. At first, when Merle hungrily lumbers towards him, he just pushes him away. Daryl then shoves his knife through his older brother’s head before collapsing on the ground and making every single viewer want to leap through their TV to give him a hug. Daryl and Merle’s relationship has been a driving part of both of their characterizations throughout the series, even during Merle’s two season absence. While Daryl quickly became the show’s resident badass, no fan ever really loved Merle that much, until this episode. “This Sorrowful Life” offered Merle an excellent redemption arc, right before it killed him off. But the biggest reason that Merle’s death was so tragic was its effect on Daryl.

No matter how much fans like the dynamic villainy of the Governor, he crossed a line here. Hurting Daryl like this will likely get a lot of fans amped up for his impending death. However, the decision to kill Merle and the Governors inevitable death do raise the question of who the villain of next season will be. The first two seasons relied primarily on the walkers as the antagonists, but this season’s more intense pace and interested developments stemmed from conflict between the living. It will be interesting to see how this season ends, as well as what direction Scott Gimple, who wrote this episode and will be taking over as the showrunner for season for season 4, will take the show.

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