Monday, 1 April 2013

The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 15 Review

It’s the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead’s third season so expect – and be excited by – shit going down.

Major spoilers ahead

As Andrea has been cruelly locked away, the person the Governor still pines after for torturing is Michonne. Having negotiated with Rick, plans for peace could be achieved with Michonne being handed over. This is episode 15’s main story arc and the device creating tension and unrest amongst the group.

At the centre of “This Sorrowful Life” are Rick, Daryl, Merle and Michonne. The latter being the MacGuffin of major events and the victim of a divide of ethics between Merle and Rick. One discussion between Merle and Rick tells us more about the Southern sadist, as he’s welcomed to the “inner circle”. Merle is becoming an interesting sort and his overall persona is still unclear; is he a villain or a decent man? The first half of the episode shows the former, more regular, side to him as he kidnaps Michonne himself. He believes Rick will quit on the idea of handing her over and decides to take it upon himself.

Merle then becomes the main focus of the episode – with each of his closest associates talking about him, or taking action against or alongside of him. First to the floor is Glenn who stills remains vehemently against him, advertising the notion of his mean nature to Daryl. Daryl, then taking on board the facts, talks to his beloved brother – the two contrasting personalities of blood relation has been one of the finer elements of The Walking Dead’s character relations. “I just want my brother back” is how Daryl articulates his opinion to Merle, a statement that will become truly poignant by the end. The emotion that develops between each the episode’s intrinsic characters is sublimely executed through the writing and acting, with Rick and Daryl eating up most of the scenes.

Speaking of eating, episode 15 contains something we've not seen in a while - the disembowelment and consumption of a live character. No one important ends their run in the programme and it's only the Governor's minions who suffer the terrible fate. It comes after Merle and Michonne travelling out to Woodbury for the abovementioned handing over of the female warrior. During a stopover to obtain a new car the vehicle's alarm sounds and brings forth a sweep of walkers. Michonne, tied up and rather defenceless, kills one with the heel of her boot, and shoves another away until Merle (unaware of the hoard with the alarm sounding whilst inside the car) almost gets bit and gets the both of them out of there. As Michonne and Merle chat on the drive away she imparts some wisdom about Merle’s opportunity to redeem himself. As the character has slowly started to signs of this, he lets Michonne go and moves ahead by himself.

With Daryl still searching for Merle he stumbles across Michonne who explains he let her go – leading Daryl to chase his soon-to-be-deceased brother. Merle’s plan is as follows: attract a load of zombies with loud music, drive into the abandoned factory base and wait for the Governor’s men to wander into the chaos. When they arrive he pops shots over the other team’s, managing to kill a few henchmen without getting noticed. Sadly, the newly-noble character is found, beaten and left for dead by the angered Governor.

Before the final cliff-hanger we return to the prison where Glenn proposes to Maggie after talking with Hershel. Also in this brief part is Rick gives a rousing speech about his relationship with his team/family and his loyalty to them all that can and never should be compromised. “We are the greater good” he asserts – one more intrepid description of The Walking Dead’s main troop. 

Episode 16 ends with the aforementioned showing of zombies shredding henchmen to pieces and then chewing on their corpses. It’s a classic image of zombie-related fiction and is this week’s best bit of blood-lust. Daryl is the one who happens on the scene, killing the few biters. Shooting one dead, he moves on to another chewing away on one of the Governor’s men, staring hard at it he realises it’s Merle. Much like when Rick discovered Lori had died, Daryl’s reaction to the loss of a loved family member is exceptionally sad; more so because we love Daryl and see his gentleness behind the tough exterior. As he wells up with tears it’s very difficult to fight them off yourself. The pair tussle as one goes to bite and the other has nothing but sadness and confusion running through his mind. Daryl then goes mad, thinking of what he has lost and what could have become a stronger and more heartfelt companionship, stabbing Merle’s skull again and again. It’s a moment of raw intensity and Noman Reedus is terrific at portraying the unmitigated grief.

We will now have either a broken Daryl or an enraged, unstoppable Daryl. My money’s on the latter but in any case, the finale should hopefully be awash with emotion and action.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth

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