Walking Dead, S3:E15, “This Sorrowful Life”

“Do you even know why you do the things you do? The choices that you make?”

Rick has welcomed Daryl into his confidence, and they stand with Hershel, presumably discussing sacrificing Michonne. Daryl is reluctant, saying that “It just ain’t us,” a sentiment that Hershel echoes. Rick insists that to do ‘this’ is to avoid fighting so no one else dies. Inside when Rick looks for Merle he finds him shredding mattresses, hoping to find a prisoner’s dope stash. When he comes up dry he laughs, “This place must’ve been no fun at all.”

Rick explains the situation, asking for Merle’s help to get in and get out quietly. Merle takes a moment to reflect on The Governor’s character. “You know… when he’d go out on runs, he’d bash somebody’s skull, slash somebody’s throat. He’d say, ‘never waste the bullets,’ and I always thought it was just an excuse. You go on. You give him that girl. He ain’t gonna kill her, you know. Just gonna do things to her. Probably take out one of her eyes, both of em most likely. You’d let that happen for a shot? You’re cold as ice, Officer Friendly.” The observation (with Merle it’s hard to tell if he’d condemning or admiring such ruthlessness) is followed by some advice: use wire, nothing Michonne could chew through. It isn’t delivered as a helpful hint, though; rather it sounds like a leading question, to test Rick’s resolve.

“You’re right. I don’t know why I do the things I do. Never did. I’m a damn mystery to me. But I know you Rick. Yeah, I thought a lot about you. You aint got the spine for it.”

While the Prison group works to fortify their home (still against humans instead of walkers), Michonne practically dances through the field killing walkers with her katana. She’s wearing a pale sweater, a far softer and less warrior-like image than how she’s been portrayed previously. She says, “We don’t have to win. We just need to make getting at us more trouble than it’s worth.” Merle watches this, certain Rick won’t turn Michonne over. Carol challenges, “Are you with us? I’m not talking about occupying the same space. Are you with us?” Merle deflects, talking about the change in Carol. He calls her a late-bloomer, to which she replies maybe he is too. He considers this.

Daryl is working desperately to bridge the gap between Merle and his adopted family. He tells Glenn Merle is sorry, and hints that he’d appreciate some forgiveness on behalf of his brother. Glenn insists he’s more angry about what Merle let happen to Maggie than about what he did directly to Glenn, and Daryl goes to find Merle as he thinks on this. Merle is still digging through the prison in search of drugs, joking, “Yeah I know, I shouldn’t mess my life up when everything’s going so sweet, right?”

The brothers discuss Rick’s plan. Merle asks if Daryl wants Rick to buckle, and Daryl says whatever Rick says goes. Merle challenges Daryl’s balls, and the change in his brother. “Your people look at me like I’m the devil, grabbing up those lovebirds like that. Now you people want to do the same thing I did… People do what they gotta do, or they die.” He supposes, “Maybe these people need somebody like me around. Somebody to do their dirty work.”

Hershel is reading the bible with his daughters, while Merle and Rick are grabbing wires. Rick hallucinates Lori, and abandons the quest for a cord to bind Michonne, and as Hershel tries to talk Rick out of what he’s doing Rick admits he’s already reconsidered. Meanwhile Michonne and Merle are spending some quality time killing walkers in the tombs. Merle clubs her in the back of the head and drags her off, securing her with his own stash of wire. He leads Michonne toward Woodbury, waxing on about how Rick would have folded. “He’s the guy that came back for me on that rooftop. It’s all on me. You know, figure that’s why I was back there in the first place. To do the dirty work.”

He takes Michonne’s katana to kill a walker, laughing about how she doesn’t try and run while he’s distracted. It’s clear she won’t leave without her sword. Back at the prison Rick realizes Merle and Michonne are missing. When Daryl can’t find him he explains what Merle said about Rick and they realize what’s happened. Daryl goes after him, warning Rick to be ready in case they follow him back. “You’re family too.” he adds. Merle tries justifying his actions as an attempt to redeem himself to the Prison set so he can stay with Daryl. “You’ve gotta play the hand you’re dealt… I only got one.”

“You talk about the weight of what you have to do, how you can handle it. A bad man, someone truly evil, they’re light as a feather. They don’t feel a thing.”

In response to Michonne’s assertion, Merle reveals he knows exactly how many human lives he’s taken since the world crumbled.

Glenn sits with Hershel, talking about the watch Hershel gave him and the responsibility it symbolizes, and says he wants to marry Maggie. “I want her to know, before… who knows.” Hershel gives his blessing.

Merle hotwires a car with admirable ease for a man with one hand and a car that hasn’t been used in a year. The alarm (who puts an alarm on that car?) alerts walkers, and Michonne is tied to a post and relatively helpless. He can’t hear her warnings over the car’s alarm. Michonne manages to kill several with her wire and boots, but they’re in a bad spot. Merle cuts her free and they scramble into the car (On second thought seeing those rims I guess the alarm makes sense). Michonne and Merle’s hostile banter is adorable, and Michonne tries to explain Rick’s respect for Daryl. “This could have been your shot. With your skills? A whole new beginning. But you choose to stay on the outside.”

“You’re as much on the outside as I am, girl.”

Glenn is at the fence, ring shopping.

Michonne asks if Merle killed before this thing started. When he says no she presses, asking how many before he met GOV. She says they can still go back. Ultimately Merle lets Michonne go and refuses to return to the prison because he’s got a score to settle. When Daryl finds Michonne in a field, he knows if Merle let her go then his brother won’t be chasing her.  He moves on, tracking Merle. Meanwile, Merle has found some liquor and is blasting some Motorhead to lure every walker in earshot (walkers love Motorhead, it is known). He leads them to Woodbury and springs a pretty tidy trap for The Governor and his soldiers.

The situation spirals quickly out of control and though Merle has a good run he is discovered by GOV and loses a few fingers on his remaining hand. When Daryl finally catches up to his brother, he realizes in horror that the walker chowing down on a carcass is Merle. Oh, Daryl.

So once again, the Walking Dead has brought Merle back, only to make short work of him. I suppose it’s difficult to write an unlikeable character for any long amount of time, but let’s have a moment of silence for our dear departed. Merle Dixon, you were a caricature of a redneck. You liked pills and booze, had an SS logo on your chopper, drawled sexist and racist statements like they were of no more significance than the weather. Myopic as you were, you were a man of conviction. You believed in the importance of family (even if you treated them like crap) and women who gave you the clap. You believed in being bigger, louder, and better armed than everyone else, and used those traits to intimidate people into seeing that you were just as lost and scared as everyone else. I won’t miss you as a person, but I’ll sure as shit miss you as a catalyst.

Daryl… At least you acknowledged before Merle’s death that Rick and company are family now too, so we know just how far your grief bender will take you.

Oh, and Maggie said yes.

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