AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 3, Episode 15: “This Sorrowful Life”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Prey” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 finale, “Welcome to the Tombs” – click here
Back at the prison, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) talks with Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). He tells them about the deal with Michonne (Danai Gurira), having to give her over to the Governor (David Morrissey) if they want to call a truce. The two of them don’t think it’s right. But they understand the stakes, too. A lose-lose, either way. This way they lose morality. The other way, they lose lives. It isn’t an easy choice, certainly nothing is in this post-apocalyptic landscape.
Rick then goes to talk with Merle (Michael Rooker). They need him to help out, coincidentally. Rick tells him the deal and how they need to keep their transfer of Michonne quiet. This makes Merle feel like part of the group, in a dark, dark way. At the same time he relays the savagery of the Governor, the sickness in him. If any of them’s good for this job though, it’s the older Dixon. He’s not quite THE bad guy, but he is certainly a bad fuckin’ guy.
Merle: “You‘re cold as ice, Officer Friendly.”
So now it’s play along for everyone, particularly Michonne, until the dirty deed is done. Carol (Melissa McBride) starts questioning Merle: “Are you with us?” He doesn’t show any specific loyalty, only to his brother. Like she makes clear, though – Daryl’s one of them. It’s interesting to see Merle notice the change in Carol since last they were together as a group. She’s grown, for the better. She also knows everyone deserves a chance. Maybe Merle will have his; to prove he’s still human, unlike the Governor.
Nice moment with Glenn (Steven Yeun) as Daryl asks if his brother’s apologised. Yeah, like that’ll happen. When Glenn talks about what Merle did, not to him but to Maggie (Lauren Cohan), it’s clear the damage is much too deep for an apology to fix. Daryl is a good man and despite his brother being a pile of garage it can’t be easy to hear that from someone he considers a friend.
Merle gives it to Daryl hard when they’re alone, chastising him for going soft in his eyes. The younger brother’s not impressed with what Glenn told him, of what Merle did and nearly let happen to Maggie. “People do what they gotta do, or they die,” he tells Daryl. The older of the two sounds like a zombie king Scarface echoing “Say goodnight to the bad guy” as he takes credit for being the type of guy they need around to do the dirty work.
Although I’m not religious, whatsoever, I actually admire Hershel for the way he holds to his faith. After all he’s been through, what he’s seen close up, all they’ve managed to survive, somewhere deep inside him that faith clings. And there’s an admirable quality about that, because he still, even with one leg, kicks ass.
It looks like the plan’s in motion at the hands of Merle. He and Michonne are in one of the prison corridors alone, and he takes the chance to knock her out, tying then dragging her away. Back to Woodbury. When she’s awake he walks her toward death, through the barren streets of the wasteland. All the while he cackles, taunts, and tries out her sword for fun. At the prison, Daryl and Rick find out what’s happened. The brother insists he’s the one to go find them.
Glenn sits with Hershel and talks about the watch he was given. He’s understanding the responsibility the old man is giving him, and asks for her Maggie’s hand in marriage. Of course, he gets the blessing. A bit patriarchal, if not still sweet.
On the road trying to steal a car, Merle sets off an alarm. This brings out a bunch of walkers. A tied Michonne manages to fight off a few before he notices. They get in the car before it’s too late and speed off together. But he’s still bringing her to a horrible fate.
She tries getting under his skin on the trip to Woodbury. She asks him question after question. Until he reveals a few of his genuine emotions, that he can’t go back to that prison. Then he cuts her loose, tells her to go back instead: “I got somethin‘ I gotta do on my own.” So he IS a human after all. She walks on back over the road while he drives over the horizon, heading for his old pal the Governor.
Michonne runs into Daryl on her way, and he speeds on after his brother – who’s busy listening to some Motörhead and drinking a bottle of booze, sitting in a car surrounded by walkers. He drives slowly forward, stops. Letting them crowd the car again. He moves like this on and on and on until he reaches abandoned buildings. He hops out letting the car roll on with Ted Nugent’s “Turn It Up” playing loud on the speakers. This draws the walkers on further, as well as alerts Caesar (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and his men who find the zombies approaching. This lets Merle pick a bunch of the boys off from afar.
Then the Governor appears. The oldest Dixon tries getting a line of sight on him, but a walker stumbles in distracting him. Then the Governor and the lads find Merle, too. A fight breaks out. We see the viciousness of the Governor even more, as he bites off two of the digits on Merle’s good hand. Before putting a bullet in him.
In better news, Glenn pops the question to Maggie with a ring. She says yes, and at least SOMETHING is good in the world. Amongst death and tragedy and pain everywhere else. They all gather together in the prison where Rick tells them about the Governor’s deal, if they gave over Michonne. He admits to wanting to take that deal for their safety. He tells them what Merle did, that Daryl went after him.
Rick: “I couldn‘t sacrifice one of us for the greater good, because we are the greater good.”
Daryl gets to where all the carnage went down after Merle showed up, finding walkers and blood and guts everywhere. Worst of all, he finds his brother. Reanimated. Eating a corpse. Such a horribly tragic moment for Daryl, as dead Merle walks toward him. He pushes the zombie away, not wanting to have to put one in his head. But he does, he takes out all kinds of aggression, stabbing him in the head, weeping as he does it. So goddamn sad. Poor guy.
Such an intense ending, one of the most emotionally shattering things character-wise that comes along. Daryl is a great character, and just as Merle was turning a corner, in such a selfless, brave way after all he’s done, he meets his end. Nicotero directs some of the best episodes! Next is “Welcome to the Tombs” and it’s the finale for this season. Prepare for a life changing episode to follow this heart breaker.