In Slate's The Walking Dead TV Club, Chris Kirk will IM each week with a different fan of The Walking Dead. This week, he discusses “This Sorrowful Life” with Caitlin Hughes, who reviews The Walking Dead for Film School Rejects.
Chris Kirk: At the beginning of “This Sorrowful Life,” Rick tells Daryl of his plan to give up Michonne to the Governor.
Caitlin Hughes: Daryl's hair is ridiculous. It's like one of those '80s-looking posters that are taped to the windows of crappy hair salons.
Chris: Rick then talks to Merle, who calls him “cold,” observes that he is too “spineless” to go through with it, but agrees to help anyway.
Caitlin: It's strange that Merle, the notorious racist, is suddenly the moral compass of the show. Even though it's unlikely that he would lose any sleep if Rick gives over Michonne.
Chris: The more Merle says, the more interesting a character he becomes. It's interesting to see him judging the rest of the group in return, and not unreasonably.
Caitlin: Michael Rooker just completely acted the hell out of the opening scene. I would imagine it's a relatively difficult task to write a racist as somewhat of a likable person, but I think that has a lot to do with the way Rooker plays him. He's such a commanding, interesting presence on the show. Love also how well he handles that bionic arm.
Chris: Just as Merle takes matters into his own hand and kidnaps Michonne, Rick gets cold feet. Why?
Caitlin: The crazy vision of Lori had a pacifying effect, I suppose. She was a kinder presence this time—wearing her usual outfit in lieu of that creepy white dress. If Lori were alive, I would imagine she would be opposed to the Michonne sacrifice.
Chris: Meanwhile, the moral center of the episode has Michonne on a leash, and she doesn’t seem too concerned.
Caitlin: She's a lady samurai! I have no doubt in my mind that she can defeat whoever she goes up against.
Chris: After the scene in the parking lot, I have no doubt either.
Caitlin: The wire/zombie neck killing would have been awesome, had it not been for the terrible CGI.
Chris: Still, I enjoy that the show keeps coming up with new ways of killing zombies. And Michonne has mad survival skills, and she’s perceptive. Who knew that Michonne, who has barely said a word all season, could talk Merle down?
Caitlin: She knows exactly the right buttons to push with making Merle question Daryl's loyalties.
Chris: After Merle says, “I can’t go back,” it seemed apparent to me that he was on a suicide mission. Maybe that was his plan all along, and Michonne was just going to be the bait.
Caitlin: Yeah, perhaps. Per his conversation with Rick at the beginning, he never seemed too gung ho about offering her up to The Governor.
Chris: He knew that the Governor is out of his mind. And we know that now better than ever after the Governor bites his fingers off.
Caitlin: Humans can't bite off fingers, right? Jesus! R.I.P. Merle!
Chris: I’m sad to see him go. I've always thought he's one of the more interesting characters because he seems to have so many sides. He's the callous, racist thug, but he's also a loyal brother, and the way he teared up and said "people look at me like I'm the devil" suggests that even he just wants to belong.
Caitlin: It seems like his suicide mission served absolutely no purpose too—his death would at least been more satisfying if it accomplished something greater.
Chris: I actually liked that Merle's death was a little pointless. Sometimes people try to be heroes, and just fail and die. It sort of sums up his whole life: a frustrated tragedy
Caitlin: The payoff here, at the end, was the brilliant acting moment from Norman Reedus.
Chris: For a show about zombies, main characters rarely become zombies. The last time I recall was Shane. Meanwhile, at the prison, the ghost of Shane’s betrayal, the “Ricktatorship,” fizzles out.
Caitlin: I definitely feel that the entire group would not have voted to give up Michonne, especially Glenn and Maggie who know firsthand that The Governor is pretty unhinged.
Chris: The diverse perspectives of the group prevent Rick from making unscrupulous calls. Unfortunately I don’t think anyone’s opinions will stop the writers from tacking a wedding onto the end of this season.
Caitlin: I am not a fan of the Glenn/Maggie proposal. I think that it would have been significantly better had they just cut out how he obtained the engagement ring. "Oh, I found this on a zombie's finger. It seemed like something you would like."
Chris: The brevity and simplicity of the scene made it tolerable. Even as a contrived way to spice up the next episode, I thought it could have been a lot cheesier. I’m concerned that this engagement is a last-minute mislead. What if Glenn or Maggie dies? That's what happened to Lori. I remember before she died that Rick and her sort of exchanged this look—a "Let's spend the next few episodes rekindling our relationship" look. Then, she died.
Caitlin: I dread the actual wedding.
Chris: I don’t care if they both die as long as that’s not the final scene of this season.