Another seriously good episode of The Walking Dead sees an unexpected departure. With the exception of last week’s somewhat hokum cat and mouse tale, The Walking Dead is back in form. “This Sorrowful Life,” as the penultimate episode of the season was called, certainly delivered on its title.
The time is up for Rick Grimes to make his decision on giving up Michonne to the Governor, and surprisingly he’s going for it. Why he thinks that eyepatched bastard will be good on his word is anybody’s guess, but he gets Hershel, Daryl and Merle to try and hunt her down. Merle, however, takes matters into his own hands by knocking her out and taking off with her to deliver her himself.
On the way, the two have about as close to a bonding moment as they’re ever going to have, with some zombies getting smashed and some words being exchanged. Merle realizes that he can’t go back, which is true – the Governor won’t ever forgive him in Woodbury, and he’s not liked much better around the prison. So he lets Michonne go and tries to do the one thing that will fix matters: kill the Governor.
What follows is one of the most badass ways a character can go out on a show like this. Our one-handed hillbilly hero pumps up the volume on his Chevy Caprice’s stereo to attract a horde of zombies, which he then steers to the Governor’s rendezvous point. While the Governor’s goons are dealing with the walkers, Merle snipes them one at a time from the cover of a nearby barn. Unfortunately, just as he’s about to pop the big bad, that dumbass Ben steps in front of him and takes the bullet.
It’s not long before the Governor and his men flush Merle out and give him an epic beatdown, punctuated by the Governor actually biting off one of Merle’s fingers on his good hand. Like father, like daughter I guess. He then shoots him, but not in the head so Daryl can come by later and see his brother all zombified. That then led into one of the season’s darkest and most f-ed up moments as the younger Dixon boy had to finally end his older sibling once and for all.
There was some other stuff in this episode – Rick seeing Lori’s ghost again and making a speech, Glenn cutting off a zombie’s finger to get a wedding ring for Maggie – but it was really the Merle and Michonne show, and much better for it. These tight, focused episodes are what the show needs to be doing. Let’s hope next week’s finale keeps up the good work.