Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life

This Sorrowful Life starts with a complete character disaster of epic proportions, and that it ended with something approaching an honestly emotional moment was really something. At first, literally all of the white men in the prison group sit around discussing the fate of the only black woman like she were property, and it is a violation on a number of levels that Rick was even considering turning her over to the Governor. Putting aside the repulsive sexual and racial politics of all these conversations – and I am right tired of Gandalf’s rheumy-eyed speeches – this is not a choice Rick would make. Sure, I get that they’ve been running all this grief insanity with him, but he has always and ever been a boy scout. Coming hard on the heels of their interactions in Clear (the last time they interacted on screen), it makes zero sense that Rick would pull such an about face.

Even while I loved the details of Glenn’s proposal to Maggie – “I hope he really washes that ring,” my husband said after Glenn cuts it off a walker – I kind of don’t understand what’s going on with the proposal at all. Glenn and Gandalf have been hugging and crying together a lot after Maggie was sexually assaulted by the Governor, which is sweet in some ways, but in others makes my right eye twitch. Why is it that every “choice” by a woman gets made beforehand by a couple of dudes? Why is it about how they’re so cut up by her assault? Why is the concept of marriage even a thing during the zombie apocalypse? But whatever, Americans are completely loony about marriage, in general, and my head has been exploding reading the Supreme Court’s oral arguments today. That Walking Dead, which has been completely crappy with gender largely and writing female characters specifically, has goofed an engagement plot is no great shocker. All that said, I will ship til the end of time for Maggie and Glenn. Hearts.

But even though the opening is seriously bad, once Merle and Michonne get on the road, things improve drastically. Some of the most successful post-apocalit is in the vein of the road trip novel – works like The Road or The Reapers are the Angels – with the enforced conversation of the travelers in their solipsistic bubble run against the pit-stop that draws dangerous (in)humanity around the principles. I’m still on the fence about how Gurira has been playing Michonne, though I admit most of it is how little actual character work she’s given, but I love her fierce physical competence in this episode. She, like Merle in some ways, is a pragmatist, though unlike Merle, she is unwilling to allow her pragmatism to be used by others.

While I don’t understand why Merle lets her go, his final blaze of glory is a sight to behold. I couldn’t figure whether this was a regular highway robbery location for Woodbury – is this just a place on the road where they waylay the living that Merle would know about? – or is it a pre-arranged place for Rick to drop Michonne? Either way, Merle’s assault was the kind of clever that only drew the lightbulb for me once he dropped out of the car and rolled. Before that, I was seriously wondering what was up with this cracker with his whiskey drinking and walker mob. Good tunes though, Merle. The musical cues have been great this season.

There’s a pretty wonderful eulogy for Merle over on Slate, and while I disagree with some particulars – mostly I think Merle was a shitty stereotype redeemed by the redneck grace of Michael Rooker’s performance – I am sad to see him go. Rick’s stupid choice to send Michonne to the Governor was meant to knock the white hat off of Rick’s head, and it was badly, baldly done. But the characters with no hats at all are always going to be more compelling. As a pragmatist, Merle has been speaking truth much more often than other characters, because the truth is the purview of the hatless.

You go on, give him that girl. He ain’t gonna kill her, you know. He’s just going to do things to her. Take out one of her eyes, both of them most likely. You’d let that happen for a shot? You’re as cold as ice, Officer Friendly. 

Amen, you asshole. Out of the mouths of the hatless, you have my problems with this show in a nutshell. You’re gonna write this character-voiding choice just for some frisson  just as a first act setup? In defiance of established character? That’s cold.

And poor fucking Daryl. When they bother to do character work, like they have intermittently with the brothers, that’s when this show works. So good on that. I don’t feel like I’m ready for whatever barn burning bs they’re going to pull for the finale next week, but it’s not like we’re ever prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

4 thoughts on “Walking Dead: This Sorrowful Life”

  1. That whole beginning part was sooo weird. Didn’t Rick come to the conclusion a long time ago that giving up Michonne was useless because the Governor would still kill them anyway? I agree with your assessment there.

    I don’t know how pragmatic, though, it was for Michonne to leave Merle unharmed when he let her go. Besides how bizarre it was that he just up and let her go like that for no real reason, Merle was someone who had threatened Michonne’s life on a number of occasions. I mean maybe she considered him harmless at that point (harmless to her, I mean) and recognized some modicum of respect for his brother not to off him, but I just feel like the Michonne we were initially introduced to wouldn’t have thought twice about it. And I don’t know that there’s been much character development for her, but maybe.

    1. Yeah, I don’t know. Now I’m thinking more. I don’t know why I thought it would be out of character for Michonne not to kill Merle. I guess my first impression of her was of someone pretty ruthless, but her ruthlessness was never really external unless she were being personally threatened. I guess she had no reason to kill Merle.

      This show moves so slowly, though. I hate long seasons where nine-tenths of it is just set-up.

  2. I don’t even get why they had Rick decide to hand over Michonne. It would have made more sense for him to waffle a little, considering, and then have Merle just make the call because Rick doesn’t have the balls to make hard choices. That I could completely see.

    It’s tough to say what Michonne would or would not do, because we know so little about her. She can glower like a boss, and that’s about it. I can see her letting Merle live, although killing him is just as likely – she went after the Governor after he was an immediate threat to her, and I don’t see her being very forgiving.

    Seriously though, what have they been doing? We have almost no info on Tyresse and his group, and I can’t imagine anything they do being interesting.

    1. It’s going to be a good finale, though. This show really explodes at the bookends which is the primary reason I don’t understand the point of these long seasons. Because like, then you have to put stuff in between, guys.

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