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Heartbreak and despair flooded Facebook and Twitter on the evening of March 24th, 2013 as "The Walking Dead" dominated social media becoming the number one hashtagged trend in the entire world. Promising to be an emotional episode in its title, "This Sorrowful Life" and with an array of potential spoiler pictures making their way around the Internet, throughout the week, the world was prepared for tears. Still, nothing could prepare anyone for what was about to come. Arguably one of the greatest episodes this season, "This Sorrowful Life", while the penultimate episode of season 3 for the viewers, in many ways, it was a climactic finale and a closing chapter in the life of one of the show's most loved characters, Daryl Dixon.
Michael Rooker's flawless portrayal of Merle Dixon was given the spotlight this week as the wild card was determined to go out swinging, bionic knife stump and all, or "Little Merle" as Rooker himself has dubbed it. For weeks, it has been rumoured that a main character would be killed off, but who could have seen Merle, one of the shows most popular characters, going out the way he did. "This Sorrowful Life" paid homage to season 1 in a number of ways. The second homage to season 1 however is the main one. When Daryl and Rick go back to the roof to find Merle gone and his bloody hand left as walker bait, Daryl utters the words, "Nobody can kill Merle, but Merle". It is this throwback that echoes so beautifully and so brutally in "This Sorrowful Life".
Merle Dixon's declaration that Rick doesn't have it in him to get the job done is also a throwback to season 2 where Shane states that Rick isn't cut out for the post-apocalyptic world. Rick, who was on the verge of going back on his plan to hand Michone over top The Governor in exchange for his people to be left alone, had his plans foiled by the unpredictable Merle who decided to take matters into his own hand, and Little Merle.
Taking Michone away from the prison would force Rick into telling his plans to the rest of the survivors at the prison. This happened. Merle, who went on to let Michone go so that she could return to the survivors at the prison, appeared to know all of this would happen. He also stated that he knew Rick would back down, and that the governor had every intention of killing everyone at the prison, regardless of whether Michone was handed over or not. Merle, who stated that since "the world went to hell", he had killed 16 men, all of which had been since he joined the governor in Woodbury, displayed for the first time in the series, a deep sense of guilt that laid upon his conscience, even elements of regret. However, most of all, Merle showcased a love for his brother.
While everyone else at the prison saw Merle as "A devil", Daryl obviously knew that deep down, Merle was a good guy, even if his brother doesn't play well with others. Merle's intentions were clear. To take out as many of the governor's men as possible, and the governor himself, before any attack can put his brother in harm's way. The way Merle went about launching an attack on the governor was masterfully thought out, incredibly directed and the pay off, when viewed on screen, will undeniably prove to go down as some of the show's most memorable moments yet. Blasting Motorhead and drinking whiskey and even going as far as to simulate a walker drinking much to his own amusement, Merle methodically lured a huge group of Walkers to the meeting place where Rick was told to hand Michonne over which inevitably caused a panic.
However, it was then that from the darkness emerged a biter, and it was this biter that alerted The governor's henchman to Merle's whereabouts. As Martinez got a few kicks in, the governor took over and demanded that they leave Merle to him. The governor's dirty tactics became too much for Merle. Having his fingers brutally bitten off, Merle uttered his last words, "I Ain't begging you".
Then came a final chapter in the life of Daryl Dixon. After Michonne told Daryl that Merle was still alive, Daryl tracked him to the location of his demise. From afar, he saw Merle, bent over the body of Ben, feasting on his flesh. Merle Dixon as Daryl knew and loved him was no more. As Merle slowly lifted his head revealing his walker-fied state, Daryl wept, as did the entire walking dead fan base. After finally being reunited with his brother after all this time, and after trying so hard to get Merle to fit in and just when it looked like everything was going to be okay, the world for Daryl Dixon once again had gone to hell and for the first time ever, we saw true emotion in Daryl's eyes, tears for his big brother.
Daryl, inconsolable and confused, simply did not know what to do. In killing his big brother, Daryl had closed the last remaining door to the past, to the world that once was but is no more, and he had opened a door to the future. For three seasons, Merle has been the subject of Daryl's mind. Finding his brother and then protecting his brother. Now, with Merle gone, exactly what will Daryl's purpose be?
Overall, The Walking Dead season 3 episode 15, "This Sorrowful Life", was undeniably one of the very best of the season yet. The penultimate episode of the season and a climactic finale for The Dixon Brothers, the episode was filled with throwbacks, conclusions and a sign of things to come.
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