The Walking Dead (Episode 3.15 “This Sorrowful Life”)TV Reviews The Walking Dead
One of the best things about The Walking Dead is watching the characters struggle with ethical dilemmas that we, who are living through the zombie pre-apocalypse, haven’t yet faced.
The Governor presented Rick with a significant one at the end of the last episode: Hand over Michonne, and the prison will be left alone. Though The Governor has no intention to keep his end of the bargain, the temptation to protect his children is enough for Rick to contemplate sacrificing the soft-spoken newcomer.
The tension is thick as Rick plans to kidnap Michonne. Not only is the audience completely in on The Governor’s double-crossing, but we’re left rooting for the survival of Rick’s soul. It takes a vision from Lori for him to see the light, but by that time, Merle had taken things into his own hands.
And the episode is really about Merle. Ever since his reunion with his brother Daryl, he’s been a man without a tribe. For a while, he had a purpose as part of Woodbury’s death squad. But his actions—murdering 16 people—have weighed on him, and he can’t even find a bottle of whisky to dull the edges.
Like Rick, Merle has a change of heart—if he ever really planned on giving up Michonne—and decides to take the fight to the Governor.
His vendetta is equal parts redemption and revenge, doing what he can to even the odds in the battle that’s sure to come next week as he tries to bring an end to The Governor. And he does it in perfect bad-ass Merle style. Riding slow, blaring some rock ‘n’ roll, he brings a herd of Walkers to the rendezvous.
But for poor Ben stepping into a bullet, Merle would’ve dispatched The Governor. Instead his old boss puts a bullet into his chest and leaves him to become a zombie himself. Daryl finds him chewing on the entrails of one of the soldiers he’s shot. It’s a powerful ending to see Daryl, who loved and was constantly frustrated by his black-sheep brother, have to kill the undead Merle.
The whole affair is enough to make Rick reconsider his whole dictatorship of the group. “I’m not your Governor,” he tells them, apologizing for keeping the truth about The Governor’s deal from them. Meanwhile, Glen proposes to Maggie and Michonne returns, knowing that Rick was planning to sell her out.
The table is set for next week’s season finale, when Woodbury will take the fight to the prison. Andrea is still prisoner. Merle is gone. And Woodbury’s army is a little bit smaller. But Rick has regained his moral compass. The group at the prison has each other to fight for—especially the newly engaged couple of Glen and Maggie. It’s no longer time to wrestle with ethics. It’s time to fight for survival.