Review: An Ode
Review of “The Walking Dead” 315 – “The Sorrowful Life”
This week’s episode was . . . wow, intense. So much so, we’re going to do things a tad differently this week. We’ll do a quick run-through of a couple things, but of course there is one major event we need to discuss. At length. Possibly with stick figure diagrams. Okay, kidding about the last part, but it is something we can’t gloss over at all.
***Warning, this review is full of spoilers. Do not read past this part if you haven’t watched episode 315 of “The Walking Dead” yet.***
Where to start? Things at the prison are far from okay. Rick’s marbles are still scattered across the floor. Daryl is torn between being Rick’s right hand man and living up to the expectations of his brother. Carol is dealing some hard-hitting truths about Mere’s place in their sanctuary-slash-death trap. Hershel is having a serious conflict of faith and doing what needs to be done in order to ensure the safety of his two daughters. Oh, and Glenn is getting all romantical with Maggie (which proves to be the only moment in the episode where fans can take a breath and feel a split second of normalcy during the hour of emotional torture).
On with the “holy hell” portion of the show–Merle.
Merle was a character who, by some weird mixture of piss, vinegar, and the incredible talent of the man portraying him–Michael Rooker–managed to win the hearts of Walking Dead fans from the get-go. The redneck from hell spit every racial slur he could think of (and say on basic cable). Kicked the tar out of a lot of the characters we were supposed to find sympathetic. Admitted to heavy drug use. Cut. Off. His. Own. Hand. And everyone wanted him back for more. When we did get him back for one episode during season two of the show, fans were in an uproar because Merle was just a figment of his brother Daryl’s imagination. What a figment he was. We got to see the real backbone of the relationship between the brothers, how Merle loved to antagonize Daryl when he’d already been kicked down about as low as a person can go in just one day.
Producers for The Walking Dead took full advantage of the massive amount of fan love and brought the real Merle back for season three. He quickly became the perfect antagonistic balance between the Governor and Rick, going to the extremes neither men could handle emotionally. This isn’t because Merle was devoid of emotion, oh no. Merle had simply learned to navigate around what he was feeling. In the past, he relied heavily on drugs to keep himself blanketed and numb from the nagging feelings tearing him apart. We caught a glimpse at the lengths he’d go to lean on the drugs like a crutch again in this episode when he rips apart nearly every single mattress in one of the abandoned cell blocks inside the prison. Merle’s secondary method to block out the emotions he can’t cope with is to chase the jobs in Woodbury none of the others could handle emotionally. After the Governor cleaned him up, got him sober, he relied on violence to get his high. The deaths he caused left a darkness in his eyes, a shadow hanging over everything he did. And when the adrenaline crash came after, he’d get antsy and start looking for ways to get his next fix. Merle racked up sixteen (well, closer to twenty now) human deaths in the roughly year-long span since Rick handcuffed him to the roof of the department store in Atlanta.
Did being buddy-buddy with Death change Merle? You bet your Aunt Fanny it did.
However, it did not change him in the way it would most men. Merle was always painfully aware of what he was doing. He just couldn’t stop himself. In this episode he told Rick he didn’t know why he does the nasty, cruel things he does. Truth is, he lied. Merle suffers his personal issues without needing anyone to coddle him and tell him it is okay to hurt, to be afraid, to need someone to keep his feet on the ground when he wants to soar above it all in a meth haze. He doesn’t want to be a burden anymore. Even after the vocal distrust coming from everyone in the prison, Merle still took up arms to protect its occupants on more than one occasion. He wanted to pull his weight, or what little the others would allow him to do while keeping him under close scrutiny. Instead of getting pissed off, he played into it. It didn’t matter if they hated him, so long as he felt he was doing what needed to be done, when it needed to be done. Which is why when the time came, Merle took it upon himself to take Michonne and make the deal with the Governor.
Or did he?
One has to stop and think if Merle meant to go through with the plan to turn Michonne over, or if he’d determined in advance to go it alone and make the ultimate sacrifice. With as complicated as the man was, we’ll never know for sure. One thing can be said, though; both Woodbury and the prison are missing one vital helping hand in the fight to survive. The Walking Dead will never be the same. Not with the lingering impact from Michael Rooker’s stellar performance.
If Merle had survived, would he have eventually fit into the group at the prison? Let us know what you think in the comments below.