Image credit: Gene Page/AMC
SUGAR AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING KNIFE Merle died doing what he loved: Bleeding profusely from stumps that used to be important body parts.
Okay. This is nominally a big moment that retroactively changes the whole arc of the season. In the season 3 premiere, Tribe Grimes was a military squad run by a warrior-king which moved in lockstep with one main goal: survival. Indeed, that central notion seemed to be the defining innovation of the Glen Mazzara era; the showrunner spoke openly about turning the show into a kind of post-apocalyptic war movie. Now, as the Mazzara era ends, it would appear that the show is evolving away from that. Could this be the much-ballyhooed "difference of opinion" that led AMC and Mazzara to part ways?
Anyhow, the Grimes Senate didn't vote on what they are going to do, even though obviously they're going to stay at the prison, because if they just walk off into the Magic Forest then this whole season would appear to be about less than nothing. We'll return to them next week for the season finale. But the episode ended with Daryl arriving at the meet-up place, hours after the Governor and his men departed. He saw a few walkers biting into dead bodies...and one of those walkers had his brother's face. Walker Merle looked at Daryl, and his dead eyes almost looked a little bit sad, but they definitely looked a lot a bit hungry. Daryl didn't want to do it; he pushed the lurking husk of his brother away a couple times. But ultimately, he did what he had to do, and stomped the face of poor dead Merle Dixon into the ground.
And Daryl Motherf---ing Dixon wept.
The emotional power of those final moments was so devastating. And yet...and yet...I'm left wondering what, exactly, did Merle do? During The Talking Dead's memoriam, an epitaph flashed onscreen: "You went from handcuffed on the roof to saving the group. Thanks, big brother." But Merle didn't save anybody. Rick wouldn't have taken Michonne to the meet-up point, so he wouldn't have been ambushed by the Governor. If Merle's plan was to kill the Governor, then he failed miserably. (Also, if that was his plan, then we are faced with the fact that Merle completely bungled the plan by shooting at other targets before the Governor. You never give up your location before you take down the prime target.) The show seemed to think that Merle was sacrificing himself for his brother, but if Merle wanted to help his brother, surely it would have been better to stay back at the prison and armor up for the coming battle with the Governor.
Really, Merle's goal was pretty obvious: He wanted to die. This was suicide-by-Governor, pure and simple. He had gone too far into his downward spiral. Maybe he could never really forgive himself for killing all those men; maybe he just didn't want to live in a world without whiskey. RIP, Merle: We missed you in season 2, and now we'll miss you forever.
Fellow viewers, what did you think of the episode? Are as sad as I am to see Merle go? Do you think he was really a nice guy when you get right down to it, and if so, would you be interested in buying a bridge in Brooklyn that comes with a jetpack? Do you think people on The Walking Dead keep on making bad decisions because of malnutrition? Is there any way we can kill off Ghost Lori?
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