FinalDasa's Note: Sorry for the lateness of this post. Still getting the coordination and timing of posting things down.
After last week's Andrea-only episode, we were getting back to the prison and Rick's group. With this being the episode before the finale, I was thinking there would be more last minute planning with both camps before their showdown. Rick talks with Daryl about the plan to give Michonne to The Governor in exchange for letting them live peacefully without any intrusion from Woodbury. Neither Daryl nor Hershel like this plan, but Rick insists it is the only way. Rick then goes to tell Merle about the plan, telling Merle he needs his help. Merle responds with an appropriate "You're cold as ice, Officer Friendly." He also reminds Rick he should find wire to bind Michonne as she can't cut through it easily. We cut to the outside of the prison where a group has set up traps if and when the Governor and company show up. Michonne explains to Rick that they don't have to beat them, just make it more trouble than it's worth. At this point, I'm still surprised Rick is wanting to go through the exchange, especially after the time he and Carl spent with Michonne a couple episodes back. I just assumed Rick wouldn't give the Governor's offer a thought for a moment.
Merle runs into Carol inside the prison, where she tells him he needs to pick a side once and for all. Daryl talks with Glenn, trying to convince him Merle will come around an apologize for what happened to him at Woodbury. Glenn reminds Daryl that it's less about what happened to him, and more about the torture the Governor put Maggie through. I have to give Daryl credit for trying to get everyone to see that while Merle might be an asshole, he can be a commodity the group needs. Hershel realizes it, and I think that's part of the reason Rick is ok having him stick around. Merle saving Rick's ass a few episodes back may have had something to do with that too. It makes me wonder what Merle would have to do to get back into Glenn's good graces again.
Daryl finds Merle in the boiler room. Merle tells Daryl that he's only around to do the group's dirty work, just like he did for the Governor. Daryl doesn't seem to care, telling Merle he just wants his brother back. Merle reminds me a lot of how Shane was in season 2. Rick kept trying to play the good, righteous leader while Shane was willing to go in the morally gray areas in certain situations (shooting Otis so he could escape with the medicine for Carl for example). Merle's morals seem to be a bit more relaxed than Shane's, but he certainly has fit that role nicely for both Rick and the Governor.
Rick roams around the prison looking for cable to tie Michonne, and he see Lori again. I missed crazy Rick, but it didn't last long as he tells himself she isn't really there. He looks again to find her standing in the catwalk. Rick throws down the cable he found and storms off as the camera pans upwards towards the catwalk where no one is there. Having read the comics, I was surprised how quickly they escalated Rick's descent into madness with losing Lori. I do appreciate they still remind us Rick has not fully come to terms with the loss of his wife and that he has a family to keep safe still. This scene is juxtaposed with Hershel sitting with his daughters reading a passage from the Bible, talking about thousands will fall by their side while ten thousand will fall by their right hand and how the wicked will see their reward with their own eyes. It is interesting as that last part is read is when Rick sees Lori. Is this part of Rick losing his mind, or is it that the only way Rick will see his wife again is if he dooms everyone else still counting on him to lead this group? Hershel goes on to read about how the person will spread their wings to protect the group and cast wicked aside. Rick throws down the cable as this is read.
Rick goes to see Hershel and tells him the deal is off and Michonne is staying with them. I think we knew all along Rick would do the right thing. He hasn't lost all of his humanity yet. He always seems to get to the brink and finds a way to pull himself back. Unfortunately, Rick probably should have told Merle first as he leads Michonne down one of the tunnels to fight off some walkers. Merle knocks her unconscious and drags her body off. We then cut to the two of them walking down a road. Merle seemed to know Rick wouldn't go through with the plan, but Michonne knew Merle would. Rick and Daryl discover Merle and Michonne are missing and conclude Merle took her. Daryl convinces Rick to let him go after Merle alone. I think Daryl knew he could probably talk his brother down without bloodshed. If Rick goes, Merle is most likely going to end up dead.
We then get treated to a more tender moment of the episode with Glenn and Hershel. Glenn sits down and pulls out the pocket watch Hershel gave him at the farm. Glenn states he didn't understand what it meant back then, but he does now. He tells Hershel he wants to marry Maggie. He doesn't even care if there's a wedding; he just wants her to know how he feels, knowing full well either of them could die at anytime. Hershel gives Glenn his blessing and as Glenn leaves, Hershel seems about as happy as we've seen him in quite some time.
Now this is The Walking Dead, so we need our weekly dose of some type of zombie carnage. Fortunately, we get one of the best zombie kills of the season. Merle and Michonne arrive at an abandoned motel, and Merle attempts to jump start a car. He accidentally triggers the car alarm, which draws a large group of walkers towards them. Michonne is tied up to a post and cannot move. She yells for Merle, but he can't hear her over the alarm. With no weapons and walkers drawing near, Michonne kicks one down and stomps on its head. She then gets another trapped against the post she's tied to and decapitates it with the wire binding her. She's almost bit by another walker, but Merle saves her. He frees her, and they get in the car and flee. Michonne tells Merle the group would've come to accept him eventually had him given them the chance. Merle says Michonne is an outsider, to which she says "Maybe, but at least when the Governor's done with me I won't have to live with myself."
Glenn walks the perimeter of the fence looking at several walkers. He finds one and cuts a couple fingers off it, including the ring finger. Just what every girl dreams of in the zombie apocalypse I guess.
We get to one of the more interesting scenes of the episode. Merle and Michonne are driving when she asks Merle about the 16 people he's killed since this started. Merle confesses that all the people he killed were after he teamed up with the Governor. Michonne wonders why Merle would want to deal with a man that turned him into a killer. She tries to convince him to turn around and head back to the prison. Merle stops the car, frees her, gives back her katana, and tells her to go back and that he has something to take care of, driving off. Now we all remember Merle being a racist asshole when Rick and company first met him in Atlanta. Merle never seemed too dangerous then. One has to wonder then what was it that the Governor had to persuade Merle to kill for him to protect Woodbury. Merle had no reason to comply. He knew his brother was out there still, hoping he was still alive. Maybe it was just as simple as Woodbury was safe and had shelter. Perhaps Merle felt he owned a debt to the Governor for saving him and giving him the Captain Hook treatment.
Daryl runs into Michonne, and she tells him Merle let her go. Daryl says he's going after Merle and tells Michonne to not send anyone after him. We cut to Merle as he drinks a bottle of whiskey, driving the car very slow with the windows cracked blaring music. There is a large group of walkers surrounding the car already while more start to follow. Maybe this is me and I'm over thinking things, but I wouldn't expect any radio stations to be working in the zombie apocalypse. My friend said it's probably just a CD or something else. It's a minor detail, but it really bugged me a lot for some reason.
Merle gets to the meeting point where the Governor and his men are. He jumps out of the car as the very large group of walkers continue to follow it until it stops. Merle then runs into a building and hides while staking out the Governor's men. As the walkers descend on the group, Merle starts taking them out one by one. Merle then gets a clean shot at the Governor, but Allen's son, Ben, steps in the way at the last second and is killed. Merle is then attacked by a walker inside the building. He kills the walker, but in the scuffle falls outside where the Governor's remaining men start to beat the crap out of him. The Governor steps in and starts to fight Merle. He bites off two of Merle's fingers, disarming him. Merle, knowing he's defeated, tells the Governor he'll never beg. The Governor raises his gun and fires.
Back at the prison, Glenn finds Maggie and puts the ring in her hand. She smiles and they kiss. There is no proposal or any exchange of dialogue in the scene for that matter. Man, things like this are so much easier in the zombie apocalypse.
Rick gathers the group and tells them about the Governor's offer and that he could never go through with it in the end, though he considered it briefly. He says that Merle already took Michonne and while Daryl went after them, he doesn't know if it's too late. He apologizes for keeping them in the dark on this important decision. He says that it can't be like how he said it would be the first night after the farm. He knows now he can't make decisions on his own for the good of the group. He tells them he can't "sacrifice one of them for the greater good because they are the greater good." He tells them he is not their Governor and that all decisions must be made as a group. He says if they want to stay and fight, they will otherwise they leave. While standing watch in one of the guard towers, Rick sees Michonne walking up to the prison, alone.
Daryl finally catches up to the meeting spot and finds the carnage that was left behind from the walkers. Daryl sees Ben dead and a walker eating him. As the walker looks up, we see it is Merle. Daryl immediately breaks down crying, seeing his older brother turned. Zombie Merle starts to go towards Daryl. Daryl resists, pushing Merle back a few times, but Merle just keeps sauntering towards him, groaning. Daryl finally knocks Merle down and stabs him in the head repeatedly, ending him for good. The Governor had to know someone would come looking for Merle. He could have easily just shot Merle in the head, but he knew Merle coming back would have a more lasting impact on Rick's group than if he was simply killed. Daryl was always part of the group, but I have to think now he has extra motivation for going after the Governor and killing him.
I am very excited for the finale next week and what it means for the future of the show and where it will take place. The preview definitely suggests the long-awaited showdown between the prison and Woodbury.