The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life Review - Mania.com



The Walking Dead Review

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Episode: This Sorrowful Life (Season 3, Episode 15)
  • Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Laurie Holden, David Morrissey Chad Coleman, Dallas Roberts, Sonequa Martin-Green, Daniel Thomas May
  • Written By: Scott M. Gimple, Frank Darabont (developer), Robert Kirkman (series of graphic novels)
  • Directed By: Gregory Nicotero
  • Network: AMC
  • Studio: AMC Studios, Circle of Confusion, Darkwood Productions, Valhalla Motion Pictures
  • Series:

The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life Review

The ballad of Merle Dixon

By Joel Rickenbach     March 25, 2013
Source: Mania.com

The good news is the future of this show seems to be in good hands. Scott M. Gimple, writer of the Morgan-centric "Clear", and this week's excellent tale, definitely has a grasp of what makes these characters tick. Who could have thought we would genuinely be rooting for Merle by episode's end? It's interesting, because the show is mirroring last season's structure. Season 2's penultimate episode featured the death of a major character, and the finale had our heroes running for their lives. If the previews for next week are any indication, the season 3 closer will be similar. It will just be light one beautiful blade-armed bastard. Damn it, Merle, why did you have to go off and die?

It's a shame we have to spend the first half of this episode listening to Rick entertain the Governor's bargain. As both Daryl and Herschel say- "It's not us." And we, as viewers, know it's not Rick. Of course, this is used to set up a very welcome and important change in Rick, it just feel as if Rick was going somewhere he wouldn't to get somewhere he should. He even confides in Merle, which even baby Judith knows is a bad idea. In the end, however, the silent and judgmental phantasm of Lori literally makes him see the light, and he delivers a line we've been waiting to hear all season, and it's a good one- "I'm not your Governor". And just like that all the parallels to the Woodbury psycho fall away, and Rick feels a lot like his old self again.

With all the carnage that is undoubtedly on the horizon, I think we deserve a tender moment, something we can latch on to amid all the chaos. The interesting thing is that moment says as much about the world our characters live in as all the ugliness and violence does. The show has done a good job of showing Hershel's initial dislike of Glenn blossom into full blown respect. His genuine moment after Glenn asks for Maggie's hand in marriage is one of pure happiness, and that's not something we get very often on this show. I will say this- It's going to be a hard road for any post-apocalyptic Kay Jewelers when a man can just lop off the finger of the nearest zombie to get the ice. Valentines day? Chop! Anniversary? Chop! Getting caught with another woman? Chop! Chop! Chop! In all seriousness, the scene where Glenn proposes to Maggie is a great one. Hell, it's not even a proposal, it's an understanding, a bond. It's a new kind of proposal for a new world. It's a bit heartbreaking to hear Maggie say "yes", because instead of deciding to spend the rest of her life with the one she loves, she is accepting that Glenn is the one she is inevitably going to die with, and it's tough to decide which bond is stronger.

A question is posed to Merle- "Do you know why you do the things you do?" Despite Merle shrugging the question aside, it clearly resonates with him. Is he the Governor's obedient lieutenant? Is he the prison's fly in the ointment? Is he a mad dog that bites anyone who gets too close? You can ride doing what feels natural for a long time, but when someone throws a "Why?" at you the train will eventually derail. Merle initially thinks he's doing the right thing, doing the prison's dirty work like he once did for the Governor. He leads a tied up Michonne down the road like she once did her walker pets. Michonne continues to open up as she slowly chips away at Merle's conscience with her words. I always love it when the show uses the "rules" of the world to create a tense set piece, and in this episode we again learn just how deadly a car alarm can be. It's an edge of your seat moment, and it also shows just how efficient Michonne can be without her sword. It's interesting that it's Michonne who bears witness to Merle's change of heart. Will she tell Daryl the crisis of conscience she saw in Merle's eyes? You have to admire a man who's blaze of glory involves a bottle of whiskey, blaring rock 'n roll, and ghosting a car with a parade of zombies into the heart of the enemy. Merle was truly in his element. He tells Michonne he can't go back, that's just not who he is, but he can help by doing things his way. I couldn't help but think, as the Governor bit off two of Merle's fingers, about the mid-season finale, when the Governor accused Merle of being an agent of the prison. It wasn't true, but ironically now it is, and Merle ends up losing his life for it. Will Rick and co. ever know what Merle became in his last moments?

Michonne suggested that the Governor was turning Merle into a monster, and in the end he did. The last scene is one of those moments when the show is at its best, and they are moments that are unique to The Walking Dead. Daryl, who has spent two season's searching for his brother, and even when he found him was still searching, is confronted with the show's ultimate reality. The people you know, whether they were good people or bad, friends or family, will all end up with hallowed eyes and no trace of what made them special to you. It's the most emotion we've seen from Daryl yet, and his overkill of his brother's husk speaks volumes. I liked Merle's character quite a bit, and I love seeing Michael Rooker on screen for any reason. The onus is really on the writers now, as they disposed of a very strong character, one that could literally spice up any situation, and that is something I think everyone will miss.

Joel Rickenbach is a curator of cult cinema at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA, and can be heard every week talking film, TV and other geekery on the You’ve got GEEK podcast. Follow him onTwitter and hilarity will no doubt ensue.


COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 57
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CaptAmerica04 3/25/2013 7:26:48 AM

 Norman Reedus deserves at least an Emmy nomination after last night.

aegrant 3/25/2013 7:27:45 AM

 damn, next week is the last episode... that sucks!

RedHood2010 3/25/2013 7:40:53 AM

A deserved 'A'. 

**Spoiler**

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Merle takes out 8!  8!  His plan was an AWESOME plan.  Using the sound of gun fire to hide his!  Sweet!  The shot of his eyes at the end was well done and I do hope Michonne shares his change of heart and I do hope that Daryl uses his skills and sees what his brother was able to do before his demise.  To know he gave his life doing the RIGHT thing.

Rick - totally agree.  Welcome back!

As for next week, I was really really hoping that the Gov didn't have any explosives.  Damn.   lol

DarthBob 3/25/2013 7:57:10 AM

SPOILERS

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At least Merle went down in a blaze of glory. I guess what Carol (you need to choose a side) and Michonne had to say to him really resonated with him in the end. He ended up taking care of his family, Merle's way! Glenn's proposal to Maggie was well done, very much influenced by the world they live in. Glenn's resourcefulness comes out again through his procurement of an engagement ring. And it's great to see that the Governor's ways, Morgan, Lori's ghost etc. have brought Rick back to his senses just when the group needs him the most.

Bryzarro 3/25/2013 8:13:39 AM

 One of the best eps of the season so far IMO.  I have to admit up until a couple episodes ago I thought Merle was a plant from the Gov as a way to get the lay of the inside.  But he completed his redemption in my eyes.  His training will be sorley missed in the upcoming fight.  He was brilliant in taking out the guys he did.  

Spoilers

 

 

And I want them to kill the Governor even more for not finishing him and allowing him to turn.  

But Goddamn is the Governor messed up.  Biting fingers, just brutal in taking apart Merle.  And Darryl.  Everyone loves him and how can your heart not break seeing his reaction to that.  It seems now everyone has had to put down one of their closest loved ones at some point.

redhairs99 3/25/2013 8:19:31 AM

It was a truly great and redemptive send off to our "kinda" friend Merle. I think it needed to happen this way. There was just no "real" way for him to fit into the dynamic of our group after all that has happened. The end scene you knew would be gut-wrenching from the moment we saw Daryl enter that field. It wasn't going to be pretty.

Even if Michonne shares her experience with Merle to the others, I don't think any of them will truly know his sacriface for his brother and the group. By now, the bodies are all eaten or half eaten and/or turned into walkers, so they wouldn't know how many guys Merle took out. I didn't realize the dude who stepped in front of the governor was Ben. Surely his father will be pissed and probably try and take that out on Tyress next week as well.

My only gripe with this episode is the first half with Rick. Was it just me or did he really back-track to last week's episode (or maybe 2 weeks ago, can't recall now)? I thought it was pretty obivous at the end last week that Rick knew the deal with The Gov was a trap and that he wasn't going to give up Michonne. Then this week he's all gung ho on turning her over if it will save the group. Again, I felt this was a bit odd after the conversation between he and Herschel about the deal being a trap and The Gov would kill them all anyway.

Just a little gripe in an otherwise fanastic episode. I'd say A- just because of the backtracking, A for the rest.

 

blankczech 3/25/2013 8:24:42 AM

 I won't miss Merle.  Good riddance.  His acceptance into Rick's group never made any sense to me. None of this stuff happens if it hadn't of been for him.  Oh by the way Merle...when you make someone your captive and  tie their hands...you tie them behind their back...not in front of them and if your original plan was to deliver Michonne to the governor alive and well  severe blunt force trauma to the back of the head was probably not wise because it can kill or severely brain damage the victim.  

This impending battle seems stupid.  The prime directive in this post apocalyptic world seems to be to survive at all costs.  Why this rag tag crew would stand and fight a larger better equipped force seems odd. They run from weak, slow, dumb walkers but dig in to fight against smart, quick, strong humans with automatic weapons.  If I was Rick I'd appropriate as many vehicles as possible...pack up all the supplies I could carry and take off.  Maybe there's a better life waiting for them somewhere down the road.   

 

makabriel 3/25/2013 8:54:19 AM

You can't lead a prisoner with their hands tied behind their back.

TheMovieGuy28 3/25/2013 9:10:52 AM

 I cried. 

 

There. I said it.

 

Reminded me of when Rick found the bicycle girl in the first episode. 

 

When a show like this can bring a full-grown man to tears, resonating through my own life and the loss I know people have felt, there really is no point in watching anything else on tv (save for GoT)

violator14 3/25/2013 9:27:10 AM

 ... Ya big baby!!!

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