The Walking Dead: ‘This Sorrowful Life’ Has a Hollow Ring to It

By  · Published on March 25th, 2013

Um… where to start? We got a double-crossing, a marriage proposal, a death of a main character and his subsequent zombification. A lot of stuff happened this week. But did any of it need to happen? Was there enough payoff?

In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “A Sorrowful Life,” we said goodbye to Merle. Though, while he was a racist, and somewhat of a slippery character, did they have to take Merle away from us? He was one of the show’s most interesting, multilayered characters. He certainly had his demons, but he strongly desired to be a part of a tangible community, hence his willingness to contribute to both Woodbury and the prison. He was also a fiercely loyal brother to Daryl, always having his back and leaving his lofty position in Woodbury to stay at his brother’s side.

When Merle went rogue and took Michonne off on his own after Rick changed his mind, it was initially a bit confusing, considering he was somewhat against Rick’s plans to give Michonne to The Governor in their episode-opening chat. And taking Michonne at all was a bit strange, since he just let her out of the car. Did he do so to leave her free to exact revenge upon The Governor herself? Huh.

Anyway, Merle returning to Woodbury was clearly a suicide mission, if not only for Merle’s moment of pumping up the jams in the car while guzzling some whiskey. It’s the little things. He used the jams to lure the zombies into Woodbury… though doing so really didn’t accomplish much, other than causing a bit of a ruckus. And given that it’s the zombie apocalypse, everyone is pretty much accustomed to a ruckus. Merle quickly falls victim to The Governor, even though he could easily kick The Governor’s ass, and The Governor bites off like three of his fingers. Is that even possible, for a human to so easily bite off another’s fingers? Did The Governor have his teeth filed into points for battle preparedness? I am all for gross scenes on this show, but this was somewhat lacking logic in its grossness.

For a character as strong as Merle (and an actor as strong as Michael Rooker), it would at least have been more satisfying if his death had a greater purpose. He goes to Woodbury, it would seem to do the prison a solid and perhaps kill The Governor, though his execution of his plan is halfbaked and it therefore doesn’t accomplish all that much. If only he had offed some major characters in the process, causing some irreparable damage to Woodbury’s “society?” No. The only payoff in Merle’s death is the powerhouse acting moment from Norman Reedus (with his insane, highly-stylized hairdo) when he discovers the zombified Merle at the episode’s end. Though I am mixed on having Merle “turn,” because it’s pretty sloppy of The Governor not to shoot him in the head, right? I hope Rooker had some fun playing a zombie for a few minutes though.

RIP, Merle. You will be missed.

Beyond Merle, Glenn decides that he wants to marry his special lady, Maggie. Being a traditionalist, he first asks Hershel’s permission. Permission granted. He also gets Maggie a ring. In perhaps one of the cheesiest scenes ever on The Walking Dead, Glenn goes ring shopping by looking at lady zombie fingers with rings though a chain link fence. Which shriveled zombie finger looks to be around the same size as Maggie’s? Hmm… choose wisely, Glenn. She is going to have this ring for LIFE. The proposal itself was not cheesy – Glenn didn’t even get on one knee.

Though it brings forth two options for the season finale next week. One, that the season will end with an emotional wedding ceremony. Or two, that in the face of wedded bliss, one of them will die. I almost hope that it is option two, since ending the season with a wedding seems like too cheery of an end for a show about the zombie apocalypse. Though Lauren Cohan is really shining this season as Maggie, so this ending would have mixed results… and it’s harder to imagine that the show would off Glenn.

Oh yes – and Rick officially ended the Ricktatorship with a public declaration that he wanted to encourage a more democratic environment in the prison community. Okay. Well, he was acting like doing this was a conscious choice on his part, given that he so nobly decided not to offer up Michonne… and that offering her should have been a group decision in the first place. I guess he’s pretending that he just didn’t see the Lori ghost a few minutes prior and that he’s still kinda crazy. No, he’s still perpetuating the fact that he is very much in control, which definitely isn’t true. And it’s frustrating that the group is so wholly enraptured with his words that she just stare at him, quasi-adoringly as he tells them that he was willing, at one point, to offer up a contributing member of their community to a madman. Yes, Michonne was never exactly Miss Congeniality at the prison, but she always had their backs. At least some reaction shots of shock would have been nice.

In sum… if Merle had to die, his death should have been worth something more. I gather that his was the “sorrowful life” referenced in the episode title, but he should have therefore had some value in death.

Too little, too late, Rick, re: the ending of the Ricktatorship. And nice acting skills, Reedus and Rooker. I am sad that tonight was the last Dixon brothers episode… those two sure loved each other.

The Upside: Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker killed it in the acting department.

The Downside: Merle’s death should have had a greater purpose. Also, the marriage proposal. No thanks.

On the Side: Again… humans can’t readily bite off fingers, right? Still wrapping my mind around that one.