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Monday, March 25, 2013

"This Sorrowful Life": Thoughts on THE WALKING DEAD penultimate Season 3 ep

For the record, I wanna state that I just knew what Glenn was doing when he went walking along the fence!  Let's hope he thought well enough to sanitize that thing...

(Guess we're gonna see a spate of The Walking Dead-inspired weddings now, huh?)

There's been a pattern this late in Season 3: seems that AMC's The Walking Dead has been oscillating between "unbelievably greater television than we possibly deserve" and "better than much else".  The latter isn't where The Walking Dead should be: not after everything else that has happened this season.  Last week's "Prey" was an example.  It ended on a great shot but c'mon: forty minutes of The Governor stalking Andrea coulda, shoulda been much more fun.

But "This Sorrowful Life", this week's episode and the final before next Sunday's season finale, brought the pendulum swinging back... before making us watch it break completely off the chain and flying through the window...

The Walking Dead, AMC, This Sorrowful Life, Merle Dixon, Michael RookerI've thought from the getgo that The Walking Dead's biggest strength is how this is a story about human strengths and weaknesses and what any of us are capable of doing in the very worst of situations.  We saw that out the wazoo in "This Sorrowful Life": from Rick's inner turmoil about The Governor's ultimatum to that very touching - even uncommonly encouraging from television - scene between Glenn and Hershel in regard to Maggie.  The part where Hershel is having Bible study and prayer with his family was also a nice touch.  And then there was the scene where Rick called the group together.  He owned up to his mistakes, and I got the sense that we've now seen closure to his arc that began with declaring the "Rick-tatorship" at the end of Season 2.

But more than anything else, "This Sorrowful Life" was the long-coming payoff for Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker).

Merle has come a long way from the borderline neo-Nazi we saw chained to the roof in Season 1.  The racist aspect seemed to have vanished entirely, or at least covered with a practical veneer (sorta) during his time in the quasi-civilized society of Woodbury.  But even so, from the moment he re-appeared as one of The Governor's henchmen we saw the same ol' despicable Merle was still in there.  That he's had a bayonet in place of his right hand didn't help matters much...

So for most of Season 3 we've come to have a grudging tolerance for Merle Dixon.  But in the wake of "This Sorrowful Life" I expect him to become a character we'll be spending a lot more time studying as we re-watch this series in the years to come.  I think that in the end, Merle wound up his personal story as well as anyone can be expected.  Maybe he'll never be remembered by anybody else, but he had the conscience to do his best to make things right.  Not for himself as much as for others.

That doesn't make things easier for little brother Daryl (Norman Reedus, who has become the biggest breakout television sensation in many a moon).  That final scene of "This Sorrowful Life", where we had to witness Daryl's breaking down as he has never before, was sincerely heart-rending to watch.  I'll say it again: Reedus deserves an Emmy nomination for his work on this show (along with Chandler Riggs).

"This Sorrowful Life" featured some of the most brutal scenes in The Walking Dead's three years thus far, especially the ambush at the motel where Michonne makes creative use of that wire.  And did anyone else notice that The Governor (David Morrissey) had one line of dialogue in this episode?  Just one... but it certainly got his point across.

An extremely solid episode.  Here's hoping that it will keep it up going into the season finale next week: presumably the long-awaited war with Woodbury!