It seems hard to believe that we're down to the final two Walking Dead episodes, but, well, here we are. One week from being UTTERLY BEREFT in terms of zombie-themed entertainment (unless you count World War Z, and my prediction on that film's quality is that we're all gonna agree the book was about 40 billion times better), and counting down the weeks until AMC kick-starts season 4 next October.
We had some hints that there would be at least one major death happening during either tonight's episode or the finale -- or both! -- so hey, let's get past the obligatory before-the-jump chit-chat and straight to the recapping. As always, many spoilers ahead!
We start out with Rick telling Daryl about the Governor's ultimatum to hand over Michonne, and how Rick thinks it's their best shot at survival. Daryl reluctantly agrees to go along with Rick's plan, but he sure doesn't approve. "This ain't us," he says, doing his Eastwood squint-eye thing at Rick, and side note but has Daryl found a specialized post-apocalyptic hairstylist lately? He's got some pretty spiffy razored edge fridges happening, is all I'm saying.
Rick moves on to pull Merle into the whole let's-give-up-Michonne-in-return-for-our-lives-even-though-five-goddmaned-minutes-of-that-face-to-face-meeting-should-have-tipped-him-off-that-the-Governor-can't-be-trusted-JESUS-RICK-WAKE-UP program, and Merle's not exactly gung ho on the idea either. He reminds Rick that the Governor's not going to kill Michonne, he's going to torture the living shit out of her. "You're cold as ice, Officer Friendly," Merle drawls.
Merle also guesses that Rick won't actually have the stomach for following through on this idea (cut to a sort of heartbreaking conversation between Merle and Daryl when Merle reveals a little more about the sort of man he believes he has to be, which is perhaps different from the man he could be under different circumstances: "Maybe these people need somebody like me around to do their dirty work"), so he decides to knock Michonne unconscious, tie her up, and carry out Rick's plan on his own.
Meanwhile, Rick does in fact backtrack on the decision to give Michonne up, spurred on in part by yet another apparition of Ghostly, Judging Lori. If Dead Lori could speak, she'd totally sound like Roz from Monsters Inc: "I'm watching you Rick Grimes. Always watching ..."
Once everyone figures out what Merle has done, Daryl takes off on foot to track them down. Out on the road, Merle and Michonne are engaging in some awkward conversation that's revealing little cracks in Merle's unpleasant outer layer. It's almost ... well, gosh, call me crazy, but it's like we're being given more of who he is as a person so as to have a more dramatic reaction when something bad happens to him?
Anyway, Merle insists Michonne that he is, in fact, bad to the bone: he's killed 16 men since the world went to shit. Okay, but how many before you met the Governor? she asks. Merle's like, hmm. I did eat some squirrels, but now that you mention it ...
*Brief break for some hot zombie action when Merle hot-wires a car, accidentally triggers its alarm, and attracts a shit-ton of walkers, some of which Michonne gorily dispatches despite being tied to a post. Once again, though, I have to question the ease in which characters are able to foot-crunch heads into collapsing piles of jello. Wouldn't a human skull take more effort than a brisk stomp or two?*
Michonne tells Merle that if he hadn't chosen to be an outsider, the prison could have been his home. He reminds her that she's been an outsider all along, too. "Maybe," she says, "but once the Governor's done with me, at least I won't have to live with myself."
These two are almost sort of BONDING, and yeah, Merle may as well be wearing the infamous Star Trek red shirt by now.
Back at the prison, Glenn asks Hershel for Maggie's hand in marriage. Hershel says yes, because 1) he legitimately likes Glenn, 2) really, that whole 'lots of fish in the sea' concept has kind of become obsolete, and 3) everyone's probably going to die, so what the hell. Later, Glenn studiously clips the fingers off a female walker outside the fence, and I'm about a smart as a bag of the Governor's walker heads because I'm all WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT ALL ABOUT, GLENN?
(It becomes apparent later when he lovingly places a rather impressive diamond on Maggie's finger. Awwww! Also: ewwwww.)
Back in the hot-wired car, Michonne's still trying to convince Merle to call the whole thing off. "We can go back," she tells him. Meaning, I think, not just that they can return to the prison, but that he can backtrack from this nasty guy he's become. "I can't go back," Merle says ... but he unties her wrists and lets her out of the car. "I've got something I've got to do," he says, before driving off.
His new plan becomes clear soon enough: he sits for a while with some righteous Motörhead tunes playing (no "Aces of Spaces"? C'mon!), which attracts another crowd of walkers. Then he drives along, super slowly, so the zombies follow him all the way to the Governor's meeting spot.
Now here's where I'm not sure I totally understand the impetus for this plan -- did Michonne convince him? Was it something he'd been thinking off all along? Was he hoping that by taking out the Governor, he'd achieve retribution for the things he'd done to Glenn and Maggie, and thus be fully accepted back at the prison?
We'll likely never know, because after a walker-infested shootout with the Governor's men (oops, accidentally tagging Allen's son in the process), the Governor brutally attacks him, even biting off a finger or two in the process. "I ain't begging," Merle gasps, and luckily there never comes a point when he's forced to reconsider that decision: the Governor wastes no time before unceremoniously shooting him. But not, apparently, in the head, because ...
Daryl arrives on the scene, and finds a walker hunched over poor Ben, smacking a big pile of guts like it's a plate of spaghetti carbanora. It is, of course, Merle, fully zombified. We get a good close look at Merle's undead face, and man, it's SAD, right? For all Merle's unlovable moments, this just sucks. And it clearly sucks about 50 trillion times worse for horrified Daryl, who buys a moment or two of time shoving his brother back a few times ... before finally breaking down and stabbing him in the head, over and over, as he chokes on his agonized tears.
Damn, Walking Dead. This felt like a hell of an episode, with some masterful -- if perhaps a little last-minute -- character development on Merle's part. I was truly sorry to see him go out like that, and I can't wait to see what twists and shockers the finale has to offer.
How did you feel about tonight's episode? Were you surprised Merle died the way he did?
Image via AMC