The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 15 – This Sorrowful Life

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.

So there was a lot of good in this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, the penultimate episode before the season finale.  Unfortunately, that good had a bit of a delay, as we needed to get through some clunky storytelling before it became the Merle show.  Once this episode got going though, everything became much more focused and the big moments hit pretty well.  With the war between the prison and Woodburry on the brink, this week was a fine way to cut out some…dead meat and position these characters a little bit better before all hell truly breaks loose.

Rick is wearing on me at this point; at least the Rick that the writers are providing me with.  This episode begins with Rick making the idiotic decision of giving up Michonne, the woman who saved his son, protected Andrea through the winter, is great in a fight, and a strong contributor all around.  He’s planning to give her up to the man that he knows he cannot trust, previously beat and humiliated two of his people, openly attacked his group with assault rifles, and has posited the idea that giving up a woman who is bound to be tortured will be the best way to achieve peace.  So yes, this is a bad decision, but to make matters worse, this show has us believe that Rick telling Daryl a couple times in different ways was how he was convinced to go along with this plan and that the next idea would be to use Merle as a way to get Michonne over to the Governor.  I am not sure what the plan really is here, but I guess it would have involved the least trustworthy person in the group somehow help rope in a sword-wielding badass, but it ends up not even mattering, as Merle takes things into his own hand.

It is quite fortunate that once the episode gets to what it was interested in doing, putting Merle and Michonne in a situation separate from the others, it gets a whole lot better.  Maybe it sounded great on paper, I’m not sure, but the wonkiness of these people gets to me. Rick learns lessons then forgets them for the sake of getting the story somewhere specific.  Anyway, once we do get to Michonne and Merle, we get to see people have a conversation and focus on who Merle is.  Now, while Merle has also only proven to be an interesting character on a few occasions, rather than just a violent jerk, this episode did a good job of setting him up for death.

For those keeping track, getting to like and understand someone on this series is a bad sign.  While I may not have known how it was going to go down, I had a pretty good feeling that Merle’s number was up, as this episode carried on.  Still, Michael Rooker was given a good chance to really sell who this character was, despite the show eschewing various things about him, such as his ‘oh so hilarious’ racism.  With that said, we got what we needed from Rooker, as he was able to do a fine job of emoting, delivering his lines, and showing the things that were grappling him from within, before going in for his final showdown with the living.

Michonne made for a fine counterbalance with Merle, as she is relatable in her status as a loner brought in from the cold.  Aside from the conveniences needed to get these two together, their scenes worked, as Michonne made several attempts to get through to Merle and get herself freed from delivery to the Governor.  It does not hurt that this lead to a fairly exciting sequence as Merle set off a car alarm, forcing the two to deal with a small onslaught of walkers.  Once we got in the car, the final pay off between them was handled about as well as it could be.  If we had more time (or better writing), Merle could have been portrayed as a much deeper character who earned his change of heart moment in more than just what seemed to be a five-minute conversation with Michonne.  That may not be the case, but Rooker is a good enough actor to sell this moment regardless.

What really helped was Merle’s last stand.  In a clever attempt to thin out some of the Governor’s numbers and make an attempt at impressing Rick and the group, he lures walkers to the Governor’s meeting spot (which he somehow found out about), lets the men inspect the situation, and blasts away at them.  He almost gets away with it too, but those pesky walkers get in the way and the Governor manages to deliver a beating to Merle, bite off two of his fingers, and then deliver a kill shot.  Of course, the Governor is a dick, so he shoots Merle in the chest, allowing for Daryl to discover Zombie Merle and be forced to take him out himself.  It is a dark send off for the Dixon brother’s relationship, as a weepy Daryl finds himself aggressively ending the life of his own brother.

Getting back to the Rick side of things, he gets his chance to have an “I see things” moment, once he considers the obvious and realizes that giving up Michonne would be a colossal mistake.  This is hammered over the head by the sight of Lori, which helps Rick make up his mind.  We get plenty of worried Rick for the rest of the episode, once he realizes that Merle and Michonne are gone, but it does lead to his final speech, which suggests that he has moved on from the Ricktatorship and is now establishing a Prisonocracy.  Everyone gets a vote now, given that Rick thinks it is right.  He believe that his group made it because they are good together, so I just hope he sticks with this thought and is a little more flexible and less rigid in the coming seasons.  One can only hope that Rick turns into an interesting person and not just one who sees things and forgets what he has learned on the road when it’s convenient.

I may be overstating it a bit, because I am sure this episode will have its massive fans, but the pieces do count for me, not just the results.  Yes, this episode did have a very memorable ending, a highlight for the series, I imagine.  However, it did take some lazy steps to get there.  I can commend the direction and technical aspects of the episode, but that seems to go without saying at this point.  There was enough done that I admired overall, because the show is in a good place as far as setup for the finale goes and did provide a great way to close out Michael Rooker’s time on the series.  As far as the show in general is concerned, “The Sorrowful Life” is a better episode than many others, given what and how some things are accomplished, so let’s just hope that next week really delivers big time.

4 out of 5 Busters

Zombie Kill of the Week:  Well it was going to go to Michonne and her fun use of wire on a walker, but I guess I’ll give it to Daryl, since he was such a cry baby about it.

  • Clunky beginning aside, Carol got a good chance to shine, as she told off Merle.
  • I was waiting for Beth to sing at some point. Over/Under on whether she does in the finale?
  • Merle took a telephone from the prison.  Why?
  • So the travel time in this episode was very fast right? Seriously, it took no time for everyone to get everywhere this week, on foot.
  • This week in Gaggie: Glenn proposes.  More engagement rings should have an epic story like, “I had to cut off a zombie’s finger to find the right ring for my girl!”
  • One episode left, I expect to see even more deaths and maybe one cool surprise.  Finish it off write Mazzara, or whoever’s in charge!

Aaron is a writer/reviewer for  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at


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