From the very beginning, The Walking Dead has been a show that has shocked it audiences and left us with jaws on the floor wondering what will come next. The latest episode, “This Sorrowful Life,” is about the most aptly named of all the episodes. We opened on Rick telling Daryl “it’s the only way.” From the past few episodes, we know that he is talking about giving up Michonne. He has been very choosey with whom he has told about the meeting with The Governor, and it appears to be coming back to bite him. Ultimately, he knows that Merle would be the one to know how to get Michonne there and get back without a confrontation, however, that thought is about to backfire. Merle reveals The Governor’s penchant for causing harm when they would go out on runs and suddenly the wheels in his mind begin to turn.
As if she knows that they are planning something, Michonne comes up with an ingenious idea to place tire spikes on their driveway so that no vehicles can approach the prison. Daryl appears to be the peacekeeper, telling Rick that it was Michonne’s idea and then asking Glenn if Merle apologized. Naturally, Glenn cannot forgive what was done to him and to the woman he loves, but Daryl wants to try to make it right. No wonder Rick needs him.
Harkening back to his old ways, Merle is tearing apart the prison in the hunt for drugs. Or is he? Daryl finds him in the generator room still claiming to be on the hunt for some crystal escape. Forever brothers, Merle provokes Daryl and they have it out, which results in Merle emotionally telling Daryl in as many words that he is tired of being the bad guy, the guy that gets stuff done for the greater good but that gets all the flack. Even tough guys get tired.
Across the prison, in their new home, Hershel reads from the Bible to Maggie and Beth, giving them some small piece of humanity to hold on to during such a trying time. As Rick marches through the room, Hershel stops him and he confesses that he cannot hand Michonne over to The Governor. An internal war rages across Hershel’s face in a split second as he realizes what those words mean.
Like the good dog that he has been trained to be, Merle loses Michonne into the bowels of the prison and knocks her senseless before marching her out of the prison to the meeting location. Exchanging words only when necessary, they come upon a motel and we get our first good walker battle of the episode (the decapitation with the phone chord being the highlight of it). Once again, Michonne saves Merle’s hide and they drive off toward their intended destination. Tied up and without her weapon, Michonne turns to another form of battle: psychology. Ultimately, Merle makes a decision and releases Michonne, telling her he has something of his own to take care of.
The sweetest moment of this episode comes when Glenn sits down with Hershel and produces the pocket watch the had been given to him. He tells him he understands it now and knows what it takes. Very sweetly, he asks to marry Maggie and Hershel offers his blessing. While marriage in the zombie apocalypse may seem a bit trivial, these people need some bit of their humanity to hang on to, and Glenn just wants to make Maggie an honest woman. Without the options of the local jewelry store, Glenn charges into the yard, finds a female walker with a ring and chops off some fingers to get his girl a nice ring. Lovely.
Meanwhile, Daryl, having run off to find Merle, meets up with Michonne on the road. Brotherly love being what it is, Daryl goes after Merle, saving Michonne to make her way back to the prison. We find Merle sitting in the car, music blaring, a bottle of alcohol in his fist and walkers closing in. He hits the gas and slowly leads a horde of walkers to the meeting area where The Governor and his men are waiting to take custody of Michonne. He rolls out of the car, takes shelter in the barn and begins picking off The Governor’s men one by one. It all seems too good to be true until a walker attacks him, distracting him, and The Governor takes over. As they struggle, The Governor bites off Merle’s fingers, disfiguring his remaining hand before landing a few more jabs. Merle goes down fighting, claiming he won’t beg The Governor for anything. In the soul-twisting moment of the episode, The Governor levels his gun at Merle and with a smirk pulls the trigger, ending his life.
Back at the prison, Rick gathers the troops and tells them everything about the meeting and Michonne. He admits that he was wrong and that he cannot be the one to call who they are as a group. He wants a vote on whether they stay or go and it appears that the vote was to stay. As Rick takes his post, he sees Michonne coming through the woods and a small smile of gratitude graces his lips.
Across town, Daryl approaches the meeting place with his bow raised and spots walker after decimated walker. As he happens upon one feeding, it hits him and the viewers who the “meal” is. As the walker raises his head, Merle’s face is now the gray, blood-covered face of a zombie. Daryl knows that he needs to make this choice and knows that he must kill his brother, but that does not make it any easier. As he shoves him away repeatedly, grief twisting his face, he finally pulls his knife and ends it. As Michael Rooker said, “Merle came in a badass, and went out a badass.”
Tune in to next week’s season finale as we watch The Governor torture Andrea and gear up for war.