In the midst of a very lackluster Andrea-centric episode last week, this weeks episode of The Walking Dead presented a surprisingly character-centric episode that focused on someone who’s allegiance has always lied somewhere in the middle- Merle.
It was a surprising, and an intriguing choice that the sacrifice of Michonne for a supposed peace treaty with the Governor was more of a redeeming moment for Merle, then for Rick. However, it was unsurprising how quick Rick changed his mind and did not want to sacrifice Michonne. Rick does not want anymore blood on his hands, and so Merle took matters into his own hands, so to speak, by kidnapping Michonne and supposedly bringing her to the Governor. Merle has been a very unmoving character thus far, but the way he discussed the Governor’s character and how he is was alarming. When a character who, since the beginning, has been very unlikable and a villain himself, showed actual concern, and perhaps even fear of another, it made me wonder about the horrendous actions the Governor has committed? If only they would have shown some of these actions, then perhaps viewers would fear him more as well.
Both Michael Rooker (Merle) and Danai Gurira (Michonne) provided some of their best performances in the series. There back and forth banter in the car was touching, as both character are deemed outsiders in the prison, and know it. It was a bitter realization when Michonne pointed out that Daryl no longer needed Merle, and that his allegiance was now to Rick. Merle looked absolutely heartbroken, and perhaps this led him to do his final actions in the episode.
Unlike other action sequences in the series, the car alarm sequence was truly suspenseful and a great moment for both characters. Merle setting off the car alarm, not realizing the walker’s were incoming, and Michonne’s panicked combat led to an absolutely brutal walker decapitation by a metal wire- all the while her hands were tied. I don’t think they can make Michonne anymore badass.
Upon realizing that he cannot go back to the prison or Woodbury, Merle’s release of Michonne and his final stand against the Governor was truly heroic and bitter sweet. There was a slow and deliberate pace to it, as Merle simply drank in his car, the alarm blaring. It looked as if he were about to end it there and then, but as he started to slowly drive and lure the walkers, I wondered what he could possibly be doing. As he drove upon the walker pit where the Governor’s men lay, I realized that this was Merle’s final fight, and he knew it just as well.
Although Merle was never portrayed as the most likeable of characters, he definitely did not deserve to die the way he did. Him talking out the Governor’s men as the walkers distracted them was seriously awesome, as was his subsequent capture and fight with the Governor. The Governor was the most frightening viewers have ever seen in this fight, mercilessly beating Merle and even biting him. It was absolutely disgusting and finally showed why Merle feared him so much. As Merle lay there beaten, waiting for death, I felt a twinge of sympathy for the character. He definitely did not deserve to die this way, but at least he went out doing what he thought was best. However, what ultimately made this bitter sweet was Daryl finally finding his brother turned. The sheer amount of anger, sadness, and frustration that Daryl had was perfectly conveyed in this moment. Although Merle was not the best brother, he was still kin, which made Daryl having to kill him all the more heartbreaking. Although, Merle thought he belonged nowhere, Daryl was always there for him. They were brothers… until the bitter end.
While Merle’s story dominated this week, there were a few other significant moments, but none more important then Glenn proposing…finally! This is one of my absolute favorite moments in the comics, and they nailed it. Steven Yeun as Glenn was once again top notch, sweetly asking Hershel for Maggie’s hand, followed by him eagerly looking for a ring on one of the walkers. The proposal itself was quite simple, but never the less beautiful, as Glenn humbly placed the ring in Maggie’s hand and her quiet approval as the camera zoomed out to show the carnage about them. This scene got me a little teary eyed and made me fear what was coming in the final episode of the season.
Rick’s final speech to the group was a powerful one, although a little different than what fans remember from the comics. It showed how different of a leader he is, saying that he would support them if they choose to leave before the Governor’s attack. “I ain’t you Governor,” Rick uttered as everyone looked up to him. “…We can stay or we can go…”. This was a very empowering moment, as the group decided to stand their ground and ready for battle. However, with the sheer forces at the Govenor’s disposal, the outcome looks very bleak for Rick’s group.
With a very character focused piece this week, The Walking Dead set up the final pieces for the final battle between the prison and Woodbury. While some questions were left unanswered, namely who set the pit on fire, and where Tyreese fits into this final battle, “This Sorrowful Life” turned out to be a bitter-sweet swan song for Merle, who may not have always been likeable, but was perhaps the most realizing of how much the world has changed… as has its remaining survivors.