I know that this is supposed to be a show about the dead rising and society as we know it being irreversibly broken, but god damn the episode titles are a downer. I would like to request that for every “Made to Suffer” or “The Suicide King” there should be episodes with titles like “Keep on the Sunny Side” or “A Glass Half Full.” I’m pretty sure irony would survive in the zombie apocalypse.
Ok, digression over. “This Sorrowful Life” brings a kind of bloody resolution for Merle Dixon, who makes one rash decision after another before deciding that simply surviving is not doing it for a guy like him. We are given a few scenes in which the other members of the prison group talk to Merle, talk about Merle, and fret about what they are going to do about the prison’s problem child. It all conspires to make Merle willing and able to kidnap Michonne, just as Rick changes his mind about giving her to the Governor.
Thinking of the first season, in which Merle was introduced as being the kind of guy you’d cross the street to avoid pre-apocalypse, I don’t recall witnessing him taking any specific action (aside from racist shit-talking) that would have justified being left for dead. We all thought “crap, I don’t want to have anything to do with that guy,” much in the same way one would dismiss a glowering face behind the wheel of a low-rider (or Hummer, depending on your neighborhood). We all learn to rely on our instincts in judging what kind of company we keep, and even though Merle’s misfortune was accidental, the show has been retroactively justifying his entrapment and self-amputation.
When Rick asks Merle point-blank why he does the things he does, Merle responds with “I’m a mystery to me.” This lie is a part of the brick wall that he shows to the world, while on the inside he believes every bad thing that people say about him. When Merle clubs Michonne on the back of the head, he does so knowing that it isn’t in Rick, Hershel, or even his brother to do that which is necessary. It’s unclear as to what changes his mind and makes him let her go, unless he had planned this outcome from the start.
The outcome is that Merle turns the tables on the Governor, luring a lot of walkers into a trap set for Rick and the others. This is enough to catch Team Woodbury unawares, and Merle is able to die knowing that his life, as tragic and small that it was, meant something in the end. Of the handful of militia that Merle takes down in his final blaze of glory, the boy who was part of Tyreese’s group will likely have the most impact in the upcoming season finale.
While on the road, Michonne asks Merle how many people he’s killed, and if he had killed anyone before the dead began to walk. Even if Merle is lying about his past life, it doesn’t matter at this point. He has become what Rick and the others want to avoid becoming. Who everyone was before the apocalypse is irrelevant. Much of this season has been focused on the price of survival: how it changes people, what qualities are valued, and what kind of people rise to positions of power.
It has been suggested that The Governor was a humble drone with a family and a white picket fence before it all fell apart. Now he shares a lot in common with the Khans, Kings, Czars, and Caesars who have historically acquired power through fear and violence. “Medieval” is the best way to describe Woodbury, and the Governor knows that the only way to deal with Merle once and for all is to be seen overpowering him physically. Disputes are no longer settled with words, which was what made the Governor’s negotiation with Rick seem like such a waste of time.
Something tells me that everyone might have been better off listening to Merle, who was gung-ho about hitting the Governor, by the time the dust settles this season. Now Andrea is a prisoner, Michonne knows that Rick was ready to sell her out, and Merle, not the Governor, is dead. In the group meeting that follows Merle’s suicide mission, Rick reaffirms his promise that everyone has a say and looks out for one another. Michonne stays quiet.
Merle’s final words to the Governor, who has bitten off two of his fingers (leaving him with a total of three out of ten, for those keeping score) are “I won’t beg you.” The Governor fires once, and Daryl arrives at the scene in time to witness his brother having his first meal as a walker. Crocodile tears and stabbing commence.
Latest posts by Tom Gibbons (see all)
- Review: Star Trek – Into Darkness – Hip and Trippy - June 9, 2013
- The Walking Dead Third Season, Episode Sixteen “Welcome to the Tombs” - April 14, 2013
- The Walking Dead Third Season Episode Fifteen, “This Sorrowful Life” - March 30, 2013