‘The Walking Dead’ – S03E15 – ‘This Sorrowful Life’

NOTE: Let’s be mindful of all the new viewers participating in this conversation and try not to spoil plot points taking place deep into the run of the comic series. Mild speculation is fine and encouraged, as well as talking about things that have happened in the comic up until the point they are at in the show, but don’t get too explicit with regard to future surprises. They will be deleted. Thanks!

The Walking Dead_This Sorrowful Life

“This Sorrowful Life”


“On the Zombiefront”

Last week, Andrea finally wised up and tried to leave Woodbury only to end up the shackled test subject in The Governor’s torture and rape room that he built for Michonne; Milton found his conscience and tried his best to thwart The Governor’s plans to unleash zombies on the prison; and Andrew Lincoln made the easiest episode check he’s ever had with this show.

This week, the grim triumvirate of Rick, Hershel, and Daryl debate handing Michonne over to The Governor. Rick is willing to hand her over to avoid all-out war but Daryl has reservations. It’s too bad those same reservations didn’t extend to the boy band haircut he’s suddenly sporting. After convincing Daryl that it’s the smart play, Rick goes to get Merle’s help in handling Michonne and Merle, after recovering from the realization that he’s now part of “the inner circle,” seems to have new found respect for Rick seeing as how he’s sending someone off to be tortured and brutalized in exchange for the unlikely chance that The Governor will actually leave them alone. While Merle is happy to offer tips on successfully transporting Michonne (tie her up with wire, not rope that she can chew through) he’s not convinced that Rick has the stones to actually go through with the exchange.

Roll credits!

Shouts and screams from the prison yard bring Rick running out to the fence with his assault rifle. Everything’s fine; it’s just Carl and Maggie distracting the zombies while Daryl, Glenn, and (awkward) Michonne set a booby trap for any approaching trucks. When everyone returns safely, Daryl informs Rick of the plan and he loves it. Daryl tells him that it was Michonne’s idea (double awkward). Merle watches everything from a window inside the prison and he mutters about Rick not having the guts to sacrifice Michonne. Carol and L’il Ass Kicker distract Merle. She wants to know if Merle is truly “with them” and Merle just wants to reminisce about the good old days at the camp outside of Atlanta in season one when Carol was the meek wife of an abusive husband. (See, the thing is, I can’t figure out why Merle can’t get a girlfriend.) Merle is impressed that Carol seems much tougher now and thinks she’s a late bloomer. Carol tells Merle that she hopes he is too. (Foreshadowing.)

Daryl runs into Glenn and asks if he’s seen Merle which is awkward because Merle kind of kidnapped and beat the crap out of Glenn and Maggie just a few episodes ago. Daryl tells Glenn that Merle feels bad about what he did and Daryl says he’s going to make sure that Merle makes it right. Glenn doesn’t seem to think that there’s anything that Merle can do to make it right. (Foreshadowing.)

Daryl finally finds Merle in the bowels of the prison and they talk about the plan for Michonne. Merle says that Rick doesn’t have the stomach for it and will buckle, and Daryl says he’s fine with that if he does. Merle tells Daryl to grow up and grow a pair of balls. Daryl tries to bring up what Merle did to Glenn and Maggie but Merle, quite rightly, asks how what he did is any different from what Rick and Daryl are planning on doing to Michonne. Merle muses that maybe this group needs him around to do the dirty work that the rest of them can’t or won’t. Daryl leaves and Merle returns to the business of collecting wire.

Hershel holds a bit of Bible reading with his daughters and his voiceover keeps us company while Rick does his own scrounging for wire. He sees a vision of his dead wife Lori and tosses the wire away. Hershel finishes up his reading just as Rick walks into the room and they have to buy each other a Coke as they both at the same time tell the other that they can’t go through with the plan. Merle was right!

Unfortunately for Michonne, no one told Merle of the change in plans and he uses the need to clear out a pack of zombies as a ruse to get her alone and subdue her. Using some approaching zombies as a distraction, Merle conks Michonne on the head with his metal arm and knocks her out. After killing the zombies, he drags her away to a staging area, puts a bag on her head and ties her up with wire.

That was a long commercial break because as we return to the show, Merle and Michonne are walking along a lonely road. Michonne still has her hands tied but the bag is gone. Merle tells her about the plan that Rick agreed to with The Governor but then he tells her that he didn’t think that Rick would actually go through with it so he took it upon himself to take action. Merle seems to take pride in being the only one who is capable of doing the dirty work. A zombie approaches and Merle takes Michonne’s sword out for a test run. After he’s done beheading (but not killing) the zombie, Merles registers mild surprise that Michonne didn’t try to make a run for it. Michonne tells Merle that she’s going to need her sword back before she escapes.

Rick tells Daryl that the plan is off and Daryl seems relieved inasmuch as Daryl actually allows himself to show emotion. The problem now is that Rick can’t seem to find Michonne or Merle. A quick search of the prison room where they previously talked and Daryl realizes that Merle has already grabbed Michonne and is on his way to Woodbury. Rick is ready to give chase but Daryl stops him and says that he will take care of it. Rick needs to stay behind to protect everyone.

Back on another lonely road, Merle tells Michonne that he’s only doing what he’s doing to protect the Daryl and the prison that Daryl seems to love so much. Michonne wisely surmises that for someone so confident in what he’s doing, Merle sure does seem eager to justify his actions.

Glenn finds Hershel and they have a heart-to-heart. He wants to marry Maggie, even if it’s just for a day. Hershel gives Glenn his blessing.

Merle and Michonne reach a couple of parked cars in front a building. Merle ties Michonne to a post and goes about the work of breaking into and hot-wiring a car with only one hand. He gets the car started but also sets the alarm off which starts bringing the zombies from far and wide. Michonne can see them coming but Merle is too busy fighting with the alarm. She calls out his name but he can’t hear her over the blaring noise. The zombies descend. Michonne dispatches the first by knocking it down and then stomping on its head. The second, she takes out with a nifty twisting move that results in her brutally garroting it with the wire that binds her to the post. A third zombie almost gets the drop on Merle but he manages to get free of the car and shoot and slash his way to Michonne. He frees her and they both jump in the car and take off.

Out on the road, Merle and Michonne zoom past snarling zombies. Michonne starts poking at Merle’s insecurities. She talks up Daryl and how much he is respected in the group and by Rick. That could have been you, Merle! You’ve got valuable skills! You blew your chance to start over! You coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what you are, let’s face it.

Glenn goes engagement ring shopping in the worst possible way imaginable. He walks along the fence until he finds a female zombie wearing one he likes, lures her to the fence, and then cuts off the fingers on her left hand. That is just… you know what, Glenn, I don’t need a ring. The sentiment is enough.

Michonne is still picking at Merle as they drive. She questions why he would go back to The Governor, someone who turned on him once already. She wonders why they don’t just turn the car around and go back to the prison. Merle thinks for a spell, tells Michonne that he can’t go back (To the prison? To who he was before all the killing? Both?), stops the car, cuts her loose, tells her to go back to the prison and get ready for what’s next, and kicks her out of the car. “I’ve got something I gotta do on my own.” He hands her the sword and drives off.

Daryl finds Michonne putting her sword through the head of the zombie that Merle merely beheaded in an earlier scene. Daryl wants to know where his brother is and if she killed him. She tells Daryl no, that Merle let he go. Daryl tells Michonne not to let anyone follow him and he runs off.

Merle sits in the car in front of a rural general store taking slugs from a fifth of whiskey as music in the car blares through cracked open windows. This draws a healthy group of zombies who pound on his windows but can’t get in. Merle turns the music up louder and starts to drive slowly. The zombies follow as Merle leads them to the barn and silos that was the designated meeting place for handing off Michonne to The Governor. He slows the car to a crawl, grabs his assault rifle and jumps out of the car to take up position in the barn. Martinez and his gunmen were already staking out the barn ready to follow The Governor’s orders to shoot holes in whoever shows up with Michonne. They run to investigate the music and find a car swarming with confused zombies. Martinez and his gunmen open fires on the dozens of zombies. Merle uses the confusion and fog of war as cover and starts picking off Woodbury gunmen from the barn. The Governor appears and starts shooting at zombies too. Merle takes out a handful of gunmen and the zombies claim a few more. Martinez spots the gunfire and he and Tyrese’s annoying traveling companion approach the barn. Merle lines up The Governor in his sights but Tyrese’s annoying traveling companion’s son steps into the lines of fire just as Merle pulls the trigger and takes a bullet in the shoulder. Merle can’t take a second shot because a zombie descends on him and tries to take a bite. Merle beats him back and in the course of doing so, ends up bursting out through the doors of the barn. A bunch of the gunmen beat him with their rifles but The Governor pulls him free. He wants Merle to himself. The fight is short but brutally intense (Merle gets two of his fingers bitten off!) and it ends with The Governor pulling out his gun and shooting Merle.

Back at the prison, Glenn finds Maggie out on the grounds keeping watch. He tells her that Rick needs them all inside, but first he has something to say except that he doesn’t say anything nor does he even get down on one knee, he just stuffs the gross wedding ring in Maggie’s hand. She says yes and they kiss. I wonder if she wonders where the ring came from.

Rick assembles the group and tells them about the deal for Michonne that he had made with The Governor. (“He said he would leave us alone if I gave him Michonne” which rhymed and made me laugh.) He tells them all that he changed his mind but not before Merle took her to The Governor and now Daryl has gone to stop him and it’s all spinning out of control. He apologizes for not telling everyone about the deal and acting like The Governor through his unilateral decision-making. He tells them that they need to pull together and decide things as a group if they are going to survive.

After dropping the mic on his speech, Rick heads up to one of the guard towers. He spots Michonne walking back towards the prison and he exhales.

Daryl comes upon the barn and the zombies feasting on the newly dead bodies. One of those feasting zombies is Merle who stops eating long enough to gaze at Daryl, which makes our resident tough guy start to weep. Zombie Merle drops his food and stumbles toward Daryl and they grapple. Daryl overpowers Zombie Merle and knocks him to the ground and through his tears he stabs his zombie brother in the head, again and again and again and again and again.


This was a huge gut-puncher of an episode and not so much because I was sorry to see Merle go (although he had been a really interesting chaos factor on the show), but because of what Daryl had to go through. Having to repeatedly stab your own brother in the face, no matter what issues you have with said brother and no matter if said brother is now a zombie, is horrific and Norman Reedus played it perfectly. I can’t wait for the big showdown next weekend and it’s even more excruciating that I won’t be able to see it for two weeks.


  1. This had it all in one great episode.

  2. Season Recap Podcast, perhaps? If you guys get the time that is…

  3. This was pretty spectacular, and it was a cool easter egg they used a classic zombie from the original Dawn of the Dead movie that followed Merle in the car.

    • I thought I was the only one that noticed that. The flannel shirt guy. I tried to explain to my wife. She just hushed me so she could finish the episode in peace.

  4. Really not sure how they’re gonna resolve this all in one season but, hey, they pretty much built a way for Daryl to escape the carnage at the prison so there’s that.

  5. It looked like Daryl was at the prison during an explosion in the “scenes from next week”…

    Great episode all the way around!

  6. During all of these conversations where Meryl accuses Daryl of being Rick’s bitch, I’m surprised nobody mentioned Meryl/Governor.

  7. Spoiler bump.
    Thanks, Conor, for pointing out that Merle was stabbed five times by Daryl through his tears. Zombie-Merle’s close-up was particularly powerful.

    I never thought I would be moved this much by Merl’s death. Quite the surprise.

  8. Merle, Merle, Merle! Ha, I can spell it correctly!