The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 9 – ‘The Suicide King’ Review
Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead. Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.
The dead have returned…to television screens. Yes, The Walking Dead has now returned to finish off the rest of the season and that should make plenty of people happy. I was certainly excited, as the first half of this third season was the most consistently entertaining stretch of Walking Dead episodes yet, eliminating many of the problems the show has suffered so far. Regardless of, once again, more behind the scenes drama, the show has returned and now we all get to witness the second half of the season. So was this mid-season premiere an exciting start? Kinda. It is not a bad episode, but certainly not an example of the series at its best. The Suicide King doesn’t have any monumental moments and has the feel of an episode that is necessary to re-establish and shift around some of the characters, rather than serve as any kind of game changer.
The Suicide King begins right where we left off at the end of Made to Suffer, the Governor and his people have captured Daryl and are now forcing him and Merle to fight to the death. Merle starts to pound on Daryl, shortly before walkers are introduced into the scenario. Merle then lets Daryl know that he has a plan for them to get out of there. It is a good thing Rick and Maggie show up, guns blazing, because I have no idea what Merle’s plan was. Daryl and Merle manage to get out of the area, thanks to Rick and Maggie, leaving the Governor in a curious state, as he realizes more aggression on his part may be necessary.
Besides cutting the juicy idea of seeing Merle and Daryl slug it out to the death short, this whole escape scenario brings us to the first of the three big scenes of the episode. The first attempt of assimilating Merle with Rick’s group is a big misfire, as no one wants a jerk like Merle around, but Daryl refuses to leave him behind. It makes sense, based on what we know about these characters, but it is also the first of many scenes that is basically just a bunch of people yelling at each other. I can get to why this is frustrating later on, but for now I can say that at least the chemistry between Andrew Lincoln and Norman Reedus is good enough for me to feel bad that things could not have worked out more amicably. Instead, we’ll have to let the Dixon brothers be on their own for a bit, but I’m sure they’ll be back.
I want to talk about the prison for a bit, namely Tyrese and his crew. This show has not always been the best at establishing characters (that’s an understatement on my part), but I really have all I need with Tyrese and I mean that in a good way. He and Sasha get a chance to share their story of how they have been surviving, there are some hints regarding Tyrese’s past and who he has lost, and it is established that they are well-meaning and understandable people. We also learn that the other members of their group are less inclined to do things the honest way, but for now, Tyrese is running the show and Chad Coleman is doing a lot with the little he has to work with.
Since I am discussing the prison, I want to also shout out the MVPs of this episode. The first is Hershel. Hershel, for a while now, has sat as one of my favorite characters on the show. It helps that he is one of the most consistent, but this show and Scott Wilson have really done a lot to make him a character with true depth. It doesn’t hurt that we are long past him referring to Glenn as “that Asian fella” and are now happy to watch him deliver a lot of sage advice. Given that I have always had issue with the dialogue on this show (we’ll get to where this episode stumbles), it is nice that Hershel was given a lot to do and works well when paired with almost anyone.
The other character I can shout out is Carol. Carol is not a character on the show that one would jump to in regards to The Walking Dead at its best, but despite remaining largely in the background, she has really come into her own and I believe this episode actually brought out some of that. She has conversations with Carl and Beth that reflect who this character is and how she has evolved over the course of this series. Melissa McBride’s acting in this episode seems especially notable, as her world weariness feels earned. Where the show failed with T-Dog, it has remained effective with Carol and all of that can be seen in her reaction to learning of Daryl’s departure from the group and her scenes involving Beth and the baby.
Moving away from the side characters and into the weakest part of the episode, things at Woodbury are quite tumultuous. A lot of what was seen here should have felt more significant and telling for whatever upcoming brutality the rest of this season has in store for the showdown between the prisoners and the town, but instead, the actions of the Governor and Andrea felt laughable. The Governor has done a lot to establish himself as a man not to be messed with, but having him lock himself away in his apartment, only to arrive all the sudden and shoot the bitten citizen in the head came off as comedic, instead of intense or shocking in anyway.
Similarly, Andrea gives an optimistic pep talk that was ridiculous to watch and it comes after her apparently choosing to overlook to obvious chaos around her and put her differences with the Governor aside, so she can inspire the town to continue living happily. This comes after all the yelling and screaming that took place at the gates of Woodbury, with people afraid for their lives and wanting to drive somewhere, making as much noise as possible. They have the right to be upset, given that massive amount of gunfire and death that occurred the previous night, but somehow the random new girl that the Governor has been sleeping with was able to calm them all down with optimistic words in a world where the dead return to life. Yippee!
On a less silly note, bringing it back to the prison and where this episode ends, it does not come as much of a shock that Rick is going through some tough times that appear to be getting worse. We saw Wolverine Shane during the last episode and now we have Ghost Lori driving Rick mad. Now I get that Rick’s character has depended on him becoming worse for wear, as he is forced to make difficult decisions, but I really hope we don’t dwell too long on him accepting Tyrese (and Michonne) into their group. The idea of him going crazy (in front of everyone), by seeing the spirit of his dead wife was a wild way to handle this aspect of Rick’s character, but we know he’s going to have to get it together and lead the group against the Governor, so let’s do that. I will say that the show earned its spooky points for that ending though. It is not something I could have predicted as the next way for the show to torment Rick.
I have gone on long enough, so overall, I would say that the episode does enough to reestablish this (depressing) world that the characters are in and what needs to happen next. Rick needs to get it together, Tyrese needs to work on convincing Rick that he’s a good guy, the Dixon’s are out in the woods somewhere, Woodbury will rebuild!...or something, and Andrea needs to shut up. The Suicide King was not so much an epic return for the series, but it featured a lot of character arguing and hallucinations of lost loved ones, so I guess I am happy with my favorite zombie TV show being back on the air.
3 ½ out of 5 Busters
Zombie Kill of the Week: Glenn did enough head stomping on a zombie to make me think he was auditioning for the role of Isaac in a Dead Space movie. (Sci-fi Zombie Video Game Bonus Points!)
Cold Stare Carl: I loved Carl this week. The way he coldly handled locking up the prison doors, locking Tyrese and his gang out just seemed hilariously dark every time.
Dirty Dixons: What if the brothers just left the show at this point and got a spin-off?
Really Rick, you wouldn’t shake Tyrese’s hand? Really?
In case you missed it, I wrote an essay on what I hope comes from the rest of this season. HERE