'The Walking Dead' Review: "This Sorrowful Life"

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The Walking Dead’ season 3 brings to life its fifteenth and penultimate episode of the season “This Sorrowful Life,” as Rick ultimately decides against handing Michonne over to the Governor, before Merle takes matters into his own hands and absconds with the woman, while Glenn makes a life-changing decision about Maggie..

Last week’s ‘The Walking Dead’ episode “Prey” saw Andrea make a desperate attempt to flee Woodbury and the Governor, while Tyreese and his group struggled to fit in with their new surroundings, so what will the latest episode bring?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3 episode 15, “This Sorrowful Life!”

With walkers clawing at the fences, Rick and Hershel bring Daryl in on their agreement to turn over Michonne, but admit they’ll need at least one more helper to make it happen. Opting to talk to the man himself, Rick approaches Merle as the man tears up mattresses in search of drugs. After hearing the plan, Merle notes how cold Rick must have become to agree to such a plan.

Outside the prison, Carl and Maggie draw the nearby walkers while Glenn, Daryl and Michonne lay down a few barb wire traps, an idea that Daryl notes Michonne came up with. Meanwhile, Merle watches from inside and mutters to himself, before Carol presses on him to stop wasting time and pick a side between the conflicting groups.

Daryl pays a visit to Glenn in search of his brother, but learns that Glenn has no interest in forgiving Merle or accepting him into the group. Daryl finally finds Merle looking for drugs in the generator room, but the brothers come to argue about Daryl’s acceptance of Rick’s plan, as Merle believes Rick ultimately won’t have the spine for it. Merle laments that either side sees him as someone to do their dirty work, as we see that Merle is subtly preparing his own go-bag.

While Hershel prays with Maggie and Beth, Rick roots around a nearby dumpster looking for wire to bind Michonne, all the while plagued by visions of a pregnant Lori watching him. Rick ultimately discards the wire and heads back inside, but when a distraught Hershel confronts him about the plan, Rick reveals he can’t go through with it. Elsewhere in the prison, Merle leads Michonne to the tombs under the guise of clearing out walkers, but quickly knocks her out, binds her hands, and covers her head.

Out on the road, Merle leads Michonne while explaining that Rick wouldn’t have had the strength to move forward with the plan. When Merle pauses to kill a walker with Michonne’s sword, he expresses his surprise that she didn’t run away given the opportunity. Back at the prison, Rick informs Daryl the plan is off, but that he can’t find either Merle or Michonne. Looking through the generator room, Daryl's tracking skills reveal that Merle indeed took Michonne prisoner, but Daryl insists only he has the skill to track them down.

Michonne continues pressing that Merle isn’t as evil as he makes himself out to be, while back at the prison Glenn sits down with Hershel, and produces the man’s pocket-watch. Explaining that he initially didn’t understand the purpose of the gift, Glenn now realizes he wants to marry Maggie, however briefly they might live, and Hershel happily gives him his blessing. Shortly thereafter, Glenn lines a number of walkers up along the fences, inspecting all of their hands, before cutting the fingers (and ring) off a female cadaver.

Out on the road, Michonne and Merle make a pit-stop at an abandoned motel, tying Michonne to a post as Merle hot-wires a nearby car. The sound of its car alarm brings walkers out of the woodwork, forcing Michonne to improvise a few desperate kills while Merle fiddles with the car. Finally Merle gets the vehicle started, cutting Michonne loose and diving into the car with her to drive away from the oncoming walkers.

A short while later, Michonne resumes taunting Merle that he ruined his chance for a new beginning with Rick’s group, and that no one will mourn him if he dies, not even Daryl. She presses that the two can simply turn around and pretend like it never happened, but Merle insists he can’t go back. Finally stirred, Merle stops the car and cuts Michonne loose, letting her go as he heads toward a mission of his own. Daryl eventually catches up to Michonne en route back to the prison, learning that Merle set her free.

Outside a liquor store, Merle finally enjoys a bit of hooch as he blasts the car stereo, attracting a number of walkers to the car. Once completely surrounded, Merle slowly puts the car in drive and lurches forward, making sure the walkers follow him at their own pace. When he finally arrives at the mill where the Governor’s men await, Merle bails out of the car and stealthily makes his way inside one of the buildings, watching as the Governor’s men descend upon the car and fight off the walkers.

With a number of men falling to the zombies, Merle takes aim at the Governor, but accidentally hits Allen’s son Ben, and soon finds himself unable to take the shot due to oncoming walkers. Having figured out Merle's location, Martinez and the other men beat Merle and drag him before the Governor. The pair brawl, the Governor biting off two of Merle’s fingers in the process, before the Woodbury leader draws his gun. Merle insists he won’t beg for his life, and the Governor opens fire.

Back at the prison, Glenn puts a ring in Maggie’s hand, to which she eagerly agrees, before the remaining survivors all gather in front of Rick. Rick explains the truth about the Governor’s deal for Michonne, something he’d decided against before Merle took matters out of his hands. No longer wanting to be the unquestioned leader, Rick admits he was wrong in his proclamation last year, and that how the group lives or dies shouldn’t be his choice. Sticking together no matter what, they’ll vote whether to stay at the prison and fight the Governor, or abandon their new home together.

A short while later, Rick observes Michonne returning outside the fences, while Daryl happens upon the aftermath of the battle at the mill. Taking down several walkers, Daryl finally sees his brother re-animated as a walker and feasting on Ben’s remains, before the ghoul finally notices him. Daryl bursts into tears as his brother approaches, finally tackling his undead brother and stabbing him repeatedly in the head, before breaking down in the grass.

AMC chose not to make "This Sorrowful Life" available ahead of time to press, somewhat understandable given a few early leaks of Merle's ultimate end. Still, "This Sorrowful Life" ultimately doesn't amount to very much beyond the wonderfully-played reaction Merle's death affords Norman Reedus, Maggie's engagement, and Rick's decision to allow the group to decide their own collective fate. The season didn't allow very much time for Merle to earn his redemption at the prison itself, which leaves his final gesture to Michonne and ultimate end somewhat light of impact, particularly as the penultimate episode of the season. "This Sorrowful Life" carries a dour mood throughout, true to its name, and offers a bit more dramatic substance than the typically quieter episodes of 'The Walking Dead,' though the episode leaves quite a bit on the shoulders of next week's finale, between Andrea's fate and the presumed final battle between Woodbury and the prison.

Did you get your fill of thrilling zombie killing?  What did you think about tonight’s penultimate episode “This Sorrowful Life?” Check out all our other ‘Walking Dead’ season 3 coverage, and join us next week for an all-new episode recap of ‘The Walking Dead’ season 3′ finale “Welcome to the Tombs” on AMC!

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