|By Kate McKendry|
Although Daryl and Hershel clearly don’t agree with the plan, Rick goes to Merle (Michael Rooker) for help.
Letting Merle in on the “inner circle” of his plan, Merle tells Rick that the Governor wouldn’t kill Michonne – he would just torture her instead.
Merle accuses Rick of being cold as ice, but then tells him he doesn’t have the spine to go through with the plan. Although his face agrees with Merle’s statement, Rick tells him that they need to get Michonne to the Governor by noon.
Outside, Rick sees Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Michonne, Daryl, and Glenn (Steven Yeun) lay down a homemade barbed wire tack strip – trying to slow down whoever speeds up through the gates again. Daryl informs an impressed Rick that it was Michonne’s idea.
Inside the prison, Carol (Melissa McBride) asks Merle if he’s with them. He responds with saying he’s there for his brother. Carol tells him it’s time to pick a side. Slightly taken aback, Merle is surprised she’s not the timid woman he first met. He tells her she’s a late bloomer, and Carol tells him that maybe he is, too.
Outside, Daryl approached Glenn while he’s fixing a door. He asks Glenn if Merle had apologized for everything yet, saying that Merle is sorry. He tells Glenn that he’s going to make Merle make it right, but Glenn has to open up with some forgiveness. Glenn tells Daryl that he can’t forgive him for giving Maggie to the Governor.
Daryl moves on to find Merle, who claims he’s looking for drugs. Merle asks if Daryl agrees with Rick’s plan. Although he doesn’t, Daryl tells Merle that whatever Rick says goes. Merle questions where Daryl’s balls are, and Daryl brings up the Glenn and Maggie situation in retaliation. Merle tells Daryl that the people at the prison look at him like he’s the devil even though they’re going to do the same thing with Michonne. Merle tells Daryl that he’s come to the conclusion that maybe he’s supposed to be the bad guy – Daryl tells Merle that he wants his brother back. Teary eyed, he tells Daryl to get out. He packs up a secret bag with weapons and a telephone.
Meanwhile, Hershel is reading a Bible passage to his daughters. His reading is used as a voice over as Rick prepares to capture Michonne. While packing things up, Rick sees a vision of Lori. Although he tells himself she’s not real, Lori doesn’t go away. Realizing that Merle is right and that he’s not like the Governor, Rick drops everything he’s doing. As prayers finish up, Rick tells Hershel that he’s not going through with his plan.
Merle and Michonne go into the tombs, where he knocks her out with the telephone. Taking matters into his own hands, Merle ties Michonne up with the telephone cord.
After Michonne has woken up, Merle is leading her through a neighborhood. He tells Michonne that if he can pull this plan off and save everyone, then maybe everyone will forgive him. Michonne points out that Merle isn’t a bad man because bad men don’t carry the guilt that Merle does. Although Michonne’s words hit Merle’s emotion, he tells her that since Woodbury started, he had killed sixteen men.
At the prison, Rick tells Daryl it’s off, but they can’t find Merle or Michonne. Daryl leaves to track Merle.
At the same time, Glenn pulls out the pocket watch that Hershel gave him, telling him he finally understands the true meaning of the gift. Glenn says he wants to marry Maggie. Hershel gives him his blessing.
At an old Motel, Merle leaves Michonne tied to a support beam. Helpless, she turns into potential Walker bate as Merle sets off the alarm of a car he hotwires. Doing her best to defend herself with the phone cord, Merle cuts the cord and they speed off in the car.
On their ride, Michonne tries to get under Merle’s skin by telling Merle that he’s the person that takes out the piss bucket for both Rick and the Governor, telling him that no one will mourn him. She tells him that he could have been a better person with his skills, that he would have no longer been an outsider. Continuing to act like she can’t break through to him, Merle tells Michonne Rick’s exact plan for her, accusing her of being an outsider, too. She says to him, “Maybe... but at least when the Governor is done with me, I won’t have to live with myself”.
Merle tells Michonne that he had never killed anyone before the sixteen he mentioned. Michonne tells him they can go back. Merle refuses, saying he can’t. Merle cuts her hands free and tells her to go back and be ready for what’s next. He lets Michonne out of the car, telling her that he has something he has to do on his own. He continues on by himself, visibly heavy with guilt.
While walking back, Daryl tracks his way to Michonne. Telling him that Merle let her go, Daryl runs on to find his brother.
Drinking whisky and listening to loud music, walkers paw at Merle’s car. He rolls the car forward slowly, leading the walkers straight to the barn where Rick is supposed to meet the Governor. Turning the music up and rolling out of the car, the zombies become a distraction to Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) and his crew as Merle makes his way inside. Merle takes his gun and starts picking off everyone outside.
Merle has the Governor in his sights but Ben (Tyler Chase) steps in front of the Governor and takes a bullet to the face.
Martinez attacks Merle inside, but the Governor takes over. They wrestle with each other, the Governor biting off Merle’s fingers.
Merle refuses to beg the Governor to go back. The Governor shoots Merle in the chest.
Back at the prison, Glenn proposes to Maggie with an engagement ring he romantically cut off of a walker’s finger. She says yes. They head off to meet up with the rest of the group.
Rick tells everyone about the deal he made with the Governor. He tells them that he was going to do it to keep everyone safe, but couldn’t. He informs them that Merle took Michonne to complete the deal and Daryl went after them, but doesn’t know if it’s too late. He apologizes for not telling the group his original plan, and says that their group is no longer a dictatorship. He says he can’t sacrifice any one person for the greater good – that the entire group is responsible for the entirety of their survival. He tells everyone that they all need to stick together, claiming that he doesn’t want to be their governor. He says everyone needs to vote on staying at the prison or leaving, then heads to the lookout tower.
Up at the lookout, he sees Michonne coming back to the prison.
Meanwhile, Daryl comes upon Merle’s abandoned car. Making his way past the walkers that are feeding on Merle’s victims, Daryl finds Merle, now a Walker.
Crying, he starts shoving him, not able to kill him at first. He then takes a knife to Merle’s face, completely mutilating him and breaking down.
Merle-centric, This Sorrowful Life was a heavy hitting, upsetting episode.
For the first time in the existence of the series, Merle finally began to shed his thick skin and acknowledge his actions and behaviors over the course of his life. Wanting to finally show the prison that he’s not the awful man they think he is, Merle’s character easily becomes a fan favorite.
Having been rooting for Merle to become a part of the group since he reconnected with Daryl, I was really hoping for Merle to kick some ass when he got to the barn. Not that he didn’t, but getting killed by the Governor wasn’t how I saw the episode ending. Merle’s death came as a complete shock – I truly began believing that Merle was going to eventually integrate himself into Rick’s group, given that he had such valuable skills and deep down, had a good heart.
Since we’re getting toward the last episode of the season, the audience can fully expect an important character or two to die. I expected this episode to be an anxiety-building episode so that the last one will be an explosive confrontation, but I did not see any of those characters dying in this week.
The writers completely toyed with the viewers’ heartstrings, making them finally root for Merle. Having him want to make everything right to gain everyone’s acceptance and forgiveness was a huge, character-building step and to have him killed in the same episode by the most evil character in the series made me feel as if the episode was almost unfair. For weeks, I’ve been hoping for Merle to do something great and, although he does, he gets murdered in return.
Watching the beautifully done scene of Daryl finding his brother as a walker (Norman Reedus’ performance was quite touching, I tip my hat to him), I felt heartbroken staring into Merle’s lifeless eyes.
The difficultly of having to watch Daryl kill his own brother was almost as heart wrenching as watching Carl having to shoot his own mother earlier this season.
The shit is going to hit the fan next week and if the Governor ends up dying, I fully expect it to be a no-holds-barred blood bath at the hands of an emotionally unstable Daryl Dixon.
Next week’s episode is going to be nothing short of exciting, shocking, emotional, and angering and all I have to say it… is it Sunday yet?