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The Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life

Michonne: “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.”

This was another fabulous episode that explored what it means to be a good human being in the face of death and the end of all that we know. What is the good of surviving if it is all grubbing for survival and contributing to the death and destruction?

Merle had to answer that question for himself and he ultimately felt that the only way he could redeem himself was through self-sacrifice. I’m not sure that I agree with him, but the episode was so well-written and acted that it wasn’t the worn out device that I predicted or that it could have been. Although I knew Merle was dead as soon as he decided to take Michonne to the Governor, I actually cared about his death by the end of the episode. And it wasn’t until he let Michonne go that I knew she was safe, although she seemed pretty calm and collected for someone facing death. I think she saw something in Merle that nobody else did, perhaps because she was on the outside, too.

I was even impressed with how they dealt with the decision to not take Michonne to the Governor. Daryl, Rick and Hershel knew that it wasn’t the right thing to do. Daryl was willing to follow Rick’s lead, but was relieved when he changed his mind. I’m not sure what Hershel was coming to say to Rick. It wasn’t clear if he was going to try and talk Rick out of it or say it was okay with him but he didn’t argue with the decision. I think trying to make this decision finally made it clear to Rick that he couldn’t lead anymore, either because he was willing to give up Michonne in the first place, or because he couldn’t, or both. He doesn’t want to be responsible for such things anymore, and who can blame him? It is also clear that all the members of the group are different people now. They can take care of themselves and help to make good decisions. They don’t need a ‘governor’.

The piece with Glenn and Maggie was a lovely counterpoint. Loving and having hope in spite of it all is really the only way to have any kind of life anymore. Glenn’s talk with Hershel was heartfelt and his proposal to Maggie was as good as it gets in the circumstances. I’m glad they didn’t do the whole down on one knee thing. It would have seemed shallow and false. I am concerned that this lovely bit means that we will lose one of them in the finale.

My heart hurt for Daryl in the final scene. Merle wasn’t the best big brother in the world, but Daryl loved him and Merle returned that love in his own way. Merle did the best he could for Daryl in circumstances that were awful before the apocalypse, and they made it clear that although Merle was a redneck jerk before, at least he wasn’t a murderer until he met the Governor. Merle didn’t deserve to be left to turn.

Bits and Pieces

I loved the bit between Carol and Merle. She really has changed.

I was glad that Merle finally realized that Rick came back for him on that rooftop.

Good car casting. That car was perfect for Merle. I appreciate car casting after watching Supernatural (which is also reviewed on this site).

Things I could live without – zombie head popping off, the zombie approach to ring shopping, Merle getting the crap beat out of him.


Merle: “You’re cold as ice, officer friendly.”

Merle: “You’re a late bloomer.”
Carol: “Maybe you are, too.”

Daryl: “You can’t do things without people anymore, man.”
Merle: “Maybe these people need somebody like me around, someone to do their dirty work, a bad guy.”

Daryl: “I’m not saying it was the wrong call, but this is definitely the right one.”

Daryl: “You’re family, too.”

Glenn: “When you gave me this I didn’t fully understand what it meant, such a simple thing. I know what it means now.”

Rick: “What we do, what we’re willing to do, who we are, it’s not my call.”

Rick: “We are the greater good.”


  1. In most respects, I enjoyed watching this episode unfold and Michael Rooker gave a really compelling performance. Michonne was used well, and certainly those final moments packed an emotional wallop.

    But I'm having trouble getting past the basic setup for events. [Long comment to follow. Sorry!] Doc, you note that Rick, Daryl, and Hershel all knew it was wrong to hand Michonne over, but that they felt they had no choice. I agree that's the way it was presented, and that's what the writers want us to buy into. And that's my problem with it. I don't believe that these characters, given this set of circumstances, would decide that this was their only choice. (At the beginning, I actually thought Rick was putting some bit of trickery into motion. To use the offer against the Governor somehow. But no.) There is a difference between characters being in a psychological space where they would believably make poor, stupid, or compromised decisions, versus having characters make irrational or immoral decisions just because that's what the plot needs.

    It's not unreasonable that Rick would briefly flirt with the idea of accepting the Governor's offer, as he seemed to do with Hershel two episodes ago. But --- knowing what he knows about the Governor, and having seen him do his lying, manipulative son-of-a-bitch routine --- the Rick we've come to know (mental damage and all) would not treat the deal as a viable option and go so far as to try to make the trade. Rick's not perfect, but he's not stupid enough to trust that the Governor would hold up his end of the deal. He spent the whole season struggling with trusting outsiders, but now all of sudden he's decided to trust the Governor, even knowing he's an untrustworthy scumbag? Please. And, quite frankly, he's not desperate enough to believe that trading Michonne is their only option, because they can always LEAVE THE PRISON if he doesn't want anyone to die.

    I also don't find it believable that Hershel and Daryl would just go along with him on this decision, when both were obviously bothered by it. Maybe the point was to underscore the "Rick leads, we follow" dynamic, but it seemed inconsistent with what we've seen, even this back half season, for them to not talk him the hell out of it. Hershel knows Rick is mentally compromised and has often spoken out for taking their chances back on the road. And Daryl wouldn't let his brother rob strangers, so why would he now agree to go along with a worse decision, which he clearly thought was the wrong call?

    Sigh. I liked where the episode eventually went, and thought there was some nice resonance with Glenn saying he cares more about Maggie than himself and Merle deciding to put his brother's safety ahead of his own. But I was REALLY bothered by the point where things kicked off. I just don't find it believable that these characters ever would have gotten to that point. I appreciate the attempt to address the potential moral choices and compromises our crew might face, but the writers need to do a better job of setting these situations up as believable dilemmas.

    [Okay. Rant done. Again, sorry!]

  2. I liked the proposal, too. Glen didn't even need to ask, he just silently gave Maggie the ring and she said yes. You're right, Doc, a one knee job would have been out of place. But it was nice to have something good happen for a change. Even a small victory eases the tension.

    And I'm loving smiley Michonne. Ten weeks ago she would have just scowled at Merle. I like that she's more animated now. Clearly she's smart, and I'm so glad we didn't lose her.

  3. I have to agree with Jess a bit that I had a hard time believing that Rick would (1) give Michonne to the Governor in the first place, and (2) believe that the Governor would keep his word. But At the same time, I also thought this was a strong episode. I loved that Merle came all the way over to the light side of the Force to the point where he was unable to take Michonne to her death, and that he was ready to sacrifice himself for Daryl -- which he did. Merle as a character has been slowly changing this season, and I was actually proud of him for making those two huge choices.

    The Glenn/Maggie proposal was lovely. Please don't let one of them die in the finale!

  4. If Jess hadn't said/written it, I would have done it. I agree a 100%.

    And can we please have the damn "war" next week? Feels like we're waiting forever. But at the moment I wouldn't even be surprised if they drag it out till next season.

    I also don't get the timeline in this show - so confusing. But overall I enjoyed this episode and its flaws although I thought that Merle/Rooker was not convincing as a walker.

  5. I find that most of the regular actors don't pull of being a walker as well as the normal walkers. It could be because we're focusing on them more or they're just not used to it. I just make up the excuse in my head that if they recently turned they retain some of their "human characteristics". It's probably just me fooling myself but whatever.

    I enjoyed this episode a lot though. I think the writers and Michael Rooker did a great job of instilling some pathos into Merle, even if it was during his swan song. It says a lot if you can make me like a racist redneck drug addict. Seriously by this point in the show I actually liked Merle more than Andrea.

    These are the kinds of episodes that keep me coming back to The Walking Dead. I still can't take the Governor seriously though. I find him too cartoonish. And I still maintain that these jokers don't seem like much of a threat to Rick's group, which is sad because I'm pretty sure we're supposed to feel like they are.

  6. Excellent episode, review and comments.

    But, please everyone, there's something vital we need to talk about. A cast-member who is totally overshadowing everything at the moment and annoying me to the point where I no longer can be silent.

    Yes, you are correct, I'm talking about Daryl's hair.

    What are they thinking with it? It's impossible for a character like Daryl to have hair like that. He looks like a biker so how in the hell can his hair be so stylish?
    It should be worn, torn, messy and grubby. Not carefully laid into place.

    Seriously people. Srsly.

  7. I often noted to my brother how glorious Daryl's hair looks.

    I's pretty much just straight up anime at this point though. He's got a real J-rocker look going on haha. I suppose it's to appease his oodles of fangirls.

  8. The hair is definitely becoming distracting. I can't decide if it's the color or the cut that bothers me more. It seems too dark all of a sudden.

    I also found Maggie's weird outfit kind of distracting this week. What was that? Some kind of workman's overalls? Where did it even come from? She looked like she should be working the flight line at a military airfield. In the '40s!

    And the way they are trying to elide the timeline kind of bugs me, too. It seems they are trying to suggest that is has been a year since the farm exodus, which would make baby Judith about 4 months old all of a sudden. I'm assuming it's because of the timing of their shooting schedule. It's probably been an actual year for the production team (hence the return to cooler weather clothing), but it hasn't been quite that long for the characters. It's not a deal breaker or anything, but it does niggle a little bit. Probably because of the baby in the mix. Then again, Chandler Riggs keeps getting noticeably older, so I guess they are going to have try to keep show time/real time somewhat similar. Unless they kill off Carl.

  9. Maggie's outfit made her look like a henchman from a Bond movie.

    I dunno much about the time stuff and I tend to ignore it. But sweet sassy molassey that baby is friggin' huge. You'd think she'd be all tiny and malnourished.

  10. Thank-you for your comments everyone. So much fun! I know I was cranky about the show last week but this episode felt like they were back on track. I don't agree that it is stretch that Rick, Hershel and Daryl might agree to give over Michonne. The prison may not be paradise but they have had time to rest and enough to eat. This wasn't true on the road and now there is a baby. I think Hershel's comment said it all when he said he would do anything to protect his girls. The same is true for Rick. I think Daryl was pretty sure that Rick was going to change his mind so he went along to see what happened. Desperate times, desperate measures. I'm not sure the Lori ghost was necessary but it did give a turning point moment.
    I imagine it is hard to shoot a series with kids. They're always peskily growing and stuff. As for Daryl's hair, of course it is beautiful - he is awesome and it would be expected that he could shoot zombies, ride a motorcycle, live in an abandoned prison and still have great hair - isn't that what superheroes are about?

  11. OK. I get that Daryl is hot, that's not the problem. But wouldn't he be even hotter if he were even scruffier and not have well manicured helmet hair?
    The same applies to Charlie in Revolution btw, well almost everyone in Revolution actually, but they're really doing Charlie a disfavor by having her hair look perfect the whole time.

  12. @Henrik - oh yes, I agree totally. I was just pointing out that they were following a time honoured tradition. Perhaps they do not have the courage to mess with the genre :).

  13. Norman Reedus (Daryl) got "performer of the week" at TV Line for this one.


  14. Has anyone else noticed that in the heart-wrenching seen where Daryl slays his zombie brother there's some form of aircraft flying overhead?

    Look on the left side of the screen when Daryl is stabbing Walker Merle in the face - looks like an airplane flying over to me. I just don't know if it was intentional or not...

  15. Wow. What an episode. Now this is what I'm talking about. I would NEVER have thought that I would ever gain sympathy for a character such as Merle, like to be honest when I found out he was coming back and that he was, in fact, alive, I was dissapointed. I hated him in Season 1 and I wasn't interested in reconciling. However his arc this season has been a slow burn and it truly was worth it. I'm actually so glad he came back. I was literally cringing towards the end of this episode when I knew what had happened to Merle. At first, I assumed Daryl would just find a zombie eating at a dead Merle but a zombified Merle was probably a worse kick in the gut.

    (These TWD writers know how to hit where it hurts, don't they? ;))

    Anyway, the ending added some much-needed pathos to Merle's story and it was a satisfactory, if a tinge depressing end to the character. He killed 16 men. He was a terrible brother. He got what he deserved. Well, I guess nobody deserves getting zombified, oh well. Dare I say, I may miss what Merle brought to the show.

    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE KILL THE GOVERNER NOW? LIKE ASAP. Ugh. Just... Gah. I've had enough of his weirdness to last a lifetime. They way he bit Merle's fingers off. Ehrm, Gross! I need him dead. I don't think he works as a villain, I prefer villains who I will learn to love to hate. I don't particularly enjoy anything about this character. I simply want him gone. This takes me back to Shane during Season 2, he got so frustrating towards the end of his arc that I just wanted him gone and I actually breathed a sigh of relief when they killed him off. I don't know, TWD needs to work on offering us more compelling villains.

    I know I'm really late with this comment, since I'm like 2 seasons behind but I just wanted to add my 2 cents. Wonderful review as always. :)


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