The Walking Thread

image of Daryl kneeling over a dead body, looking sad
Who needs all the hugs? Daryl does, that's who!

(Spoilers are lurching around undeadly herein. CN: Violence.)

Previously on The Walking Dead: Clues to what will happen in this episode of The Walking Dead! Can you guess what things will happen in this episode, based on the scenes just shown to you? I SURE CAN! RIP Merle. Thank you for the very obvious foreshadowing that Merle was totes gonna die in this episode, producers of The Walking Dead. Your terrific storytelling is excellent, as always.

The title of this episode is "This Sorrowful Life," which is a pretty apt title for every episode, and could only be more accurate if it was "This Sorrowful Attempt at Great Storytelling with Rich Character Development and Solid Internal Consistency." That's a bigger mouthful than Merle's fingers, though, so I will be satisfied with "This Sorrowful Life." Because I'm charitable like that. Ahem.

When the episode opens, Grimes is telling Hershel and Daryl that turning over Michonne to Governor Cyclops is "the only way" to keep them all safe, because Grimes is super stupid and still imagines there a way in which Governor Cyclops will leave them alone. This fucking guy. "Well, Governor Cyclops has been totes operating in good faith so far, except for all the murder and rapeyness and zombie heads in aquariums and letting loose a van-load of zombies on our property OH OKAY I SEE YOUR POINT," Grimes DIDN'T say.

Instead, despite Hershel's and Daryl's expressed reservations, Grimes trots off to find Merle, who FOR REAL is tearing apart prison mattresses in search of drugs, and tell him all about his genius plan to turn over Michonne to Governor Cyclops. Grimes, wicked judgy about Merle's dope-search, asks him with a sneer if he "even knows why you do the things you do, make the choices you make," which HA HA is a little like the pot asking the kettle if it knows why it does the things it does and makes the choices it makes. Merle responds by telling Grimes he doesn't have the spine to turn over Michonne, and Grimes yells, "SHUT UP I DO SO!" before running away with windmill arms.

Ha ha just kidding. Grimes stays put long enough for Merle to tell him, CORRECTLY AND WISELY, that Grimes is a dipshit if he thinks Governor Cyclops is going to kill Michonne, when obviously he is going to torture her mercilessly, and that Grimes is "cold as ice" if he turns over Michonne knowing damn well that's going to happen. Grimes huffily tells Merle they need to get Michonne "to the Governor by noon," and THEN he runs away with windmill arms.

Meanwhile, Michonne is killing zombies with Glenn and Daryl, because she is awesome. She comes up with a good strategy to protect Grimes Jail from Governor Cyclops, and when Grimes says it's a good plan, Daryl underlines that it is Michonne's plan, because he is awesome. But Grimes will not be deterred. He yells, "STOP TRYING TO CHANGE MY MIND, DARYL! SHUT UP, BUTTHOLE!" and then runs away with windmill arms.

Back inside Grimes Jail, Merle's hunting for booze, and Carol, questioning his loyalties, tells him, "It's not time to do shots; it's time to pick a side." I know that probably sounds like some made-up dialogue that I inserted in place of the real dialogue, but NOPE! Those are the real words that come out of Carol's mouth in that scene!

Elsewhere, Daryl asks Glenn if Merle has apologized to him yet, and Glenn is silent. Daryl presses on, saying he'll make sure Merle makes up for tying Glenn to a chair and beating him up and handing over Maggie to Governor Cyclops, but also Glenn has to be forgiving. Whoooooooooops Daryl! That was a shitty thing to say! Glenn reminds him that Merle tied him to a chair and beat him up and handed over Maggie to Governor Cyclops, and Daryl makes a whoopsface, because what else is he gonna say? Aside from, "Yeah, fair point, I'm sorry I just said you should forgive my brother. What I MEANT to say was: Thanks for not stabbing my brother in the throat like he fucking deserves."

Daryl then ambles off to confront Merle, now on the hunt for drugs in Ye Olde Gaol Apothecary, and Merle makes a speech about how Grimes Gang looks at him like he's the devil for handing over Maggie to the Governor, even though they're now planning to do the same thing with Michonne. GOOD POINT, MERLE! Someone give that guy a candy cigarette. (His disappointment will be priceless! Do it!)

Meanwhile, Hershel and Maggie and Blonde Sister hold hands around a table while Hershel reads Meaningful Passages aloud from the Bible. His droning recital continues in voiceover as Grimes picks through garbage looking for cordage to tie up Michonne, during which he sees Pregnant Ghost Lori, i.e. the projection of his garbage conscience, and then throws down the cord and walks away to tell everyone THE PLAN IS OFF. Ixnay on the Idnapkay.

But whoooooooooooooooooooooops Merle didn't get the message, because he's off killing zombies in the bowels of Grimes Jail with Michonne, whom he thunks on the head and drags off to bind her up and start walking her to Unpleasantville. By the time Grimes locates Daryl to give him the GREAT NEWS about how he's not quite as terrible a garbage monster as he was five seconds before seeing his dead wife's pregnant ghost, Merle and Michonne are long gone. Daryl takes off after them, while Grimes stays behind to give a poignant barfy speech to everyone else in which he confesses he was going to sacrifice Michonne for their safety without telling them, and declares Grimes Gang is now a democracy. "I'm not your governor." He is definitely still the meter maid of their emotions, though.

On the road to Unpleasantville, Merle and Michonne have a lot of great conversation which reestablishes that Merle is a dirtbag and Michonne is underutilized on the show. He ties her to a post like a dog while he hotwires a car, setting off the car alarm in the process. OH NOES ZOMBIES! Even tied to a post, Michonne kicks ass, and after a scuffle that is no more or less exciting than every scuffle exactly like this one in every episode, they manage to get in the car and drive away.

Michonne tells Merle they can just turn back, and makes the point that it would actually restore some goodwill with Grimes Gang if he returns her unharmed. He says he can't go back, but cuts the binds around her hands, gives her back her blade, and lets her out of the car. Awhile later, Daryl finds her in a field, and, after establishing she has not murdered the fuck out of Merle, he continues on the search for his brother, while she continues on back to Grimes Jail.

Speaking of, back at Grimes Jail, Glenn has a great conversation with Hershel about how he now understands that when Hershel gave him a watch, it was more than just a watch he was passing on—it was the ownership of and responsibility for protecting Maggie's vagina. Hershel tells him that he has his blessing to marry Maggie, so Glenn runs outside and cuts a diamond ring off the finger of a lady zombie, then presents it to Maggie, who says yes without his even asking. I guess the good thing about the zombiepocalypse is that you don't have to worry about the pesky ethics of blood diamonds anymore!

Meanwhile, Merle is drinking booze straight from the bottle in the car, from which he's now blaring music through a cracked window and slowly creeping forward down the road with a gaggle of zombies in tow. The zombies follow him to UN Barn, where Martinez & Co. are lying in wait to ambush Grimes Gang when they show up for the scheduled confab. Merle jumps out of the still-moving car, somehow managing to not impale himself on his own knife-arm, and hides in another building, setting up kill-shop in the window.

When Martinez & Co. come out of hiding to kill the legion of zombies he's brought along for the ride, Merle picks off their faceless minions one by one, until Governor Cyclops finds him. They fight, and Merle somehow manages to not stab Governor Cyclops on his knife-arm, either. Instead, Governor Cyclops bites some fingers off Merle's remaining hand, and then shoots him. RIP Merle.

Well, except for how he's now a zombie. And Daryl, upon arrival at UN Barn, finds Zombie Merle munching on a corpse. He cries, and it is very sad. And then he kills Zombie Merle, because he has to and because he needs to violently vent the lingering emotional turmoil caused from his family of origin, and his regret at how things turned out with Merle, and his fury at how fucked-up the world is.

And we are probably meant to be left thinking, "At least Merle sorta redeemed himself by doing the right thing in the end," but of course Merle didn't do Grimes Gang any damn favors at all, because now Governor Cyclops can return to Unpleasantville with a solid justification for attacking Grimes Jail, as he can report Unpleasantvillagers were killed by Merle, acting on behalf of Grimes Gang.

At least letting Michonne go was a rare moment of decency. Good job, Merle. And goodbye.

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