The Walking Dead: Episode 3.15: “This Sorrowful Life”

And to think, this is the best you'll ever look in this episode!

We open with Rick having made his decision to sacrifice Michonne in the hopes that the Governor will keep his word to eave the prison alone. “It ain’t us,” Daryl pleads with him, but ever the good soldier, stops protesting once it’s clear Rick’s decision is made.

Rick says that they need “someone else” to carry out this betrayal. Merle, the proxy in question, is busy ripping up prison mattresses with his knife-hand, looking for dope.

There are ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** (and monsters)!!

Rick approaches Merle with his plan, and Merle doesn’t sugar-coat what the Governor plans for Michonne. “He ain’t gonna kill her. He’s just going to do things to her.” Things like blinding and torturing her. If Rick would let that happen just on the off-chance that the Governor might keep his word, “you’re cold as ice, Officer Friendly.” When Merle is troubled by your decision, Rick, it’s time to realign the moral compass!

Rick is about to do more to protect Daryl than he does to protect Carl!
Rick is about to do more to protect Daryl than he does to protect Carl!
Outside the prison, Maggie and Carl create a distraction as Glenn and Daryl drop razor wire on the grounds and Michonne walks around beheading zombies with her sword. When they return to Rick, Daryl makes sure to point out that the razor wire was Michonne’s idea. Michonne tells Rick that they just have it to make assaulting the prison more trouble than it’s worth for the Governor.

Merle watches this interplay from inside, and mutters that there “ain’t no way.” Carol, tending to Baby Judith and loading guns for the upcoming battle, overhears and asks Merle what he’s talking about. Merle comments on her changed (and newly awesome) personality from when he knew her at the camp. “Are you with us?” Carol asks, saying that it’s time for Merle to pick a side. “I’m here for my brother,” Merle tells her. “He’s here for us,” she replies.

Daryl approaches Glenn, who’s busy making Molotov cocktails, and asks whether his brother has apologized to Glenn yet. “He’s going to make it right,” Daryl promises. “There’s gotta be a way. There just needs to be a little forgiveness.” I think it’s more like a lot of forgiveness, actually, and Glenn will never be at that place, because he can’t forgive Merle for delivering Maggie to the Governor. Daryl realizes that there’s nothing that can “make it right” between his brother and his friend.

Daryl looks for Merle, who’s still looking for drugs, this time in the boiler room. “I’m in,” Merle assures Daryl about the impending handover of Michonne, but he’s not convinced that Rick will actually go through with it. “Do you want him to?” Merle asks Daryl, who replies that whatever Rick says goes.

Merle mocks Daryl’s “follow the leader” stance, asking “what happened to you?” and Daryl turns his question on its head, asking what Merle did to Glenn and Maggie. “I’ve done worse,” Merle tells Daryl and goes on to point out that everyone’s looking at him like he’s the devil for kidnapping Glenn and Maggie, but now they want him to do the same thing again: kidnap someone and deliver her to the Governor. Merle sees himself as a necessary evil, someone to do the dirty work and be the bad guy.

“I just want my brother back,” Daryl tells him. Merle is tired of all these unexpected emotions and tells Daryl to get out.

Hershel, feeling tremendously guilty about Michonne, reads the 91st Psalm to his daughters. “Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked” Hershel intones as, outside, Rick’s guilty conscience conjures up a vision of Lori as he last saw her.

Rick comes back inside and Hershel walks over to him, saying “what you’re about to do…” Rick tells him “I can’t, I won’t.” Phew! Now I don’t have to hate Rick.

Of course, Rick’s Lorivision came too late, and Merle didn’t get the memo. He lures Michonne down into the basement of the prison, and they kill a couple of zombies before Merle whacks her on the head, takes her sword, pops a pillow case over her face and ties her hands together with wire. Merle’s crime resume now has three kidnappings on it.

On the road, Merle leads a now-conscious Michonne at the end of the wire he’s tied around her wrists, much as Michonne led her own zombie pets. (I’m not really clear on how Merle got out of the prison without anyone being on lookout and noticing but I’ll let that slide.) Merle tells Michonne that he thinks his entire purpose for being at the prison was to do Rick’s dirty work. “He was the guy that came back for me on the rooftop.” A lot has changed since then, Merle!

A zombie approaches and Merle drops Michonne’s wire to cut its head off with her sword. He tells Michonne he figured she’d run when he let her go, but she says she wants her sword back first.

At the prison, Rick seeks out Daryl to tell him that the Michonne handover is off, and Daryl is visibly pleased. Then Rick and Daryl realize that Merle has already kidnapped Michonne; Rick wants to go with Daryl to track the two of them, but Daryl says he’ll do better alone. When he returns, he tells Rick, they should all be ready.

Merle tells Michonne that he wants to be with Daryl, and Daryl wants to be at the prison.  Merle figures that if he can pull off his plan, “maybe all is forgiven.” Michonne keeps talking to Merle, trying to get him to let her go, saying that he clearly feels the weight of what he’s going to do. “A bad man, a truly evil man, they’re light as a feather. They don’t feel a thing.” Merle says he’s killed sixteen people since the zombie apocalypse, so I think he might be on the “truly evil” end of the spectrum, although his one redeeming feature is that he genuinely loves Daryl.

At least a little love happens at the prison!
At least a little love happens at the prison!
At the prison, Glenn tells Hershel that he wants to marry Maggie and Hershel gives Glenn his blessing. It’s a sweet scene, but I really wish Glenn had asked Maggie first.

Merle and Michonne find an abandoned motel with a number of cars parked outside the rooms. Merle ties Michonne to a post while he hotwires a car, setting off its very loud alarm in the process and attracting an ever-increasing number of zombies. Michonne kills two zombies even while wired to a post; Merle takes care of the rest and they head out with their borrowed wheels.

In the car, Michonne takes a different tack with Merle, asking if he’s the trash collector. “Anyone needs their piss bucket emptied and you come running.” She says things are different for Daryl, and Merle replies that Daryl is completely under Rick’s thumb. Michonne demurs saying that Rick needs and respects Daryl, which is why Daryl didn’t get the betrayal job. She goes on to say that Merle could have had a new beginning, instead of choosing to stay on the outside. The way things are, no one will mourn Merle, not even Daryl, because he has a new family now.

Merle counters that Michonne is just as much on the outside as he is since Rick is handing her over to save his own ass.

“Maybe,” Michonne tells him, “but once the Governor’s done with me, at least I won’t have to live with myself.”

We cut to Glenn, who is going shopping for an engagement ring for Maggie amongst the zombies at the fence. When he finds one he likes, he cuts the zombie’s finger off, ring included.

Elsewhere, Michonne and Merle’s road trip is drawing to a conclusion. Michonne asks Merle whether he ever killed anyone before the zombie apocalypse or before he met the Governor. The answer on both counts is “no.”

“Why would you kill someone else for him?” Michonne asks Merle. They can just go back, both of them, she pleads, but Merle tells her he can’t go back. Michonne asks why, but Merle can’t answer. I think it’s because he can’t face his failure to be the man Daryl wants him to be if he stays at the prison, and because he’s found a way to do something for his little brother at last, to make up for the abandonments of their childhood and for what he’s become. “You go back to him,” Merle tells Michonne, cutting the wire from her hands and handing back her sword. “Get ready for what’s next; I got something I gotta do on my own.

Daryl, tracking Merle and Michonne, comes across the zombie Merle beheaded. As he’s examining it, Michonne turns up. Daryl asks whether she killed Merle, and she tells him that Merle let her go. Daryl tells her to go back to the prison, and not to let anyone come after him.

In the car, Merle downs a bottle of liquor (presumably rescued from the motel), and cranks up the radio, attracting a sizable group of zombies. He slowly leads the zombies to the rendezvous with the Governor, rolling out of the open door while the zombies are distracted.

Gotta get your protein where you can?
Gotta get your protein where you can?
The Governor’s troop, including Tyreese’s companion Allen and his son Ben, and headed by Martinez, is waiting, ready to ambush the Michonne delivery. Instead, Merle, who’s found a great vantage point starts shooting at the Woodbury crew as they shoot the decoy zombies. Merle takes out several Woodburyians before the Governor shows up; just as Merle has the Governor lined up in his sights, Ben stands up, and is shot in the face. Merle is forced to abandon his position; Woodburyians find him, and start kicking and beating him until the Governor tells them to leave Merle to him. Merle and the Governor fight, with the Governor biting off Merle’s fingers before getting the better of Merle. “I ain’t begging you,” Merle snarls at the Governor before the Governor shoots him.

Back at the prison, Glenn asks Maggie to marry him, pressing the ring (sans finger and hopefully thoroughly disinfected) into her palm. Maggie, of course, says yes, and I slowly let out my breath when it finally becomes apparent that this rare moment of happiness won’t be interrupted by anyone’s grisly death.

Meanwhile, Rick decides that confession will be good for his soul and hopefully end his visions of Lori. He outlines the Governor’s putative deal and how he initially accepted it. He tells them that he changed his mind, but it might have been too late. “I was wrong not to tell you and I’m sorry.”

Rick goes on to renounce the Ricktatorship, saying that who they are and what they do can’t be his call alone.”I couldn’t sacrifice one of us for the greater good, because we ARE the greater good.” He’s not the Governor, however close he may have come to becoming like him, and he tells the remaining prison crew that they can vote whether to stay or go. As he turns away, Rick sees Michonne walking back to the prison.

If you’ve ever watched TV, you know that if a secondary character suddenly gets lots of screen time and interactions with other characters, he or she is on the chopping block. “The Walking Dead” is no stranger to this cliche, so at about the ten-minute mark of last night’s episode, I began to worry about one of the more charismatic characters and actors of our cast and alas, I was right. RIP, Merle Dixon. He was a racist, sexist, creepy-as-hell bad boy with a heart of pure evil, but he was also mesmerizing to watch and I’ll miss the dynamic the amazing Michael Rooker brought to the show.

Poor Daryl!
Poor Daryl!
Daryl approaches the warehouse, where hungry zombies are feasting on the dead. Daryl disposes of a couple of them before he finds what he was looking for. Daryl’s face crumples at the sight of Zombie Merle, yellow-eyed and bloody-mouthed; for a fraction of a second it looks like Zombie Merle recognizes Daryl too but then it shuffles toward the fresh meat. Daryl pushes Zombie Merle down, and weeps as he stabs the thing that was his brother over and over again.

Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.

Read all posts by Regina Thorne for Criminal Element.


  1. MarkBlemish

    I kind of figured that the zombie leak in the prison was also Merle’s escape route. I didn’t quite buy Rick’s decision to give up Michonne but it was a good way to finally dispose of Merle, somewhat logical and a kind of redemption for Merle.

    That engagement ring, not exactly a family heirloom but…

    Back to Merle, I think maybe he was just a little to hard to keep, to write transformation that didn’t involve his death. I enjoyed the episode, it’s been a great season.

    I’d like to see some more gorilla warfare tactics ala Merle, maybe not suicide missions but surprise attacks, use of zombies and traps and how about the silent kill of a crossbow. Can’t wait for what’s coming up.

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