Here's the thing: this one starts off pretty weak but finishes strong.
Rick insists that they have to turn Michonne over to the Governor. After talking to Herschel, he enlists Darryl (who is looking SO young - I think they've dyed his hair or something), but both Darryl and Herschel are uncomfortable with this plan, saying that this isn't what their group does. Still, they go along with it because they support Rick as their leader. Rick then goes and brings Merle in on the plan. Merle doesn't think that Rick has the cohones to go through with it but he's willing to pitch in. Although Michael Rooker isn't really given much to work with as Merle, he absolutely makes the most of it. Andrew Lincoln should take lessons from him and Norman Reedus.
Lots of talking, blah blah blah: Carol and Merle, Darryl and Glen. Darryl then finds Merle poking around down in the basement laundry and the two brothers talk, Merle goading Darryl for rolling over and letting that pussy Rick be in charge. Merle points out that the folks here look at him [Merle] like he's the devil for grabbing up Glen and Maggie and delivering them to the Governor ... and yet here they are, preparing to do the same thing to Michonne. Darryl refuses to rise to the bait, simply saying, "I just want my brother back." Merle gets a little teary-eyed at that and orders his little brother to get out. After Darryl leaves, Merle for some reason puts an old desk telephone in his duffel bag.
As Herschel reads scripture with Maggie and Beth, Rick digs around in the courtyard, looking for wire to tie Michonne with (so she can't chew through it - Merle's suggestion). Ghost Lori is there, watching him silently, and he freaks out a little, tossing the wire inside. He goes back into the prison and finds Herschel alone, telling him that he's changed his mind - they're not giving up Michonne.
It's too late, though, because she's down in the tunnels with Merle, clearing out walkers until Merle clocks her upside the head, knocking her out. He drags her off and somehow gets her out of the prison without anyone noticing. After the commercial break, they walk through a little town, Merle informing her how Rick was supposed to be taking her to the Governor but couldn't go through with it. She's very calm, under the circumstances.
Back at the prison, Rick tells a relieved Darryl that the plan is off, but that he can't find Merle and Michonne so he's going after them. Darryl says no, you can't track for shit, I'll go. Also, Glen asks for Herschel's permission to marry Maggie. The old man gives it, of course, and smiles, just a little.
Merle and Michonne come to another town, or another part of the same town, and Merle ties her to a post on the porch of a motel while he tries to jumpstart a car. He gets the vehicle going but accidentally sets off the car alarm too, which draws the interest of a whole bunch of walkers. While Merle is wedged under the dashboard, trying to shut the alarm off, Michonne frantically shouts for his help and tries to get her hands free as the walkers lurch closer. Merle doesn't hear her, however, and she's forced to improvise some solo bad-assery: stomping a walker's head to mush and then decapitating another one using the wire leashing her to the post. Merle finally notices what's going on and puts down a bunch of the zombies. He cuts Michonne's wire leash and they jump into the car and drive off. That was pretty cool.
As they drive, Michonne gets more lines than she's had since she joined the show, using pop psychology to try to get through to her kidnapper (i.e., if you were a truly bad man, you wouldn't feel the weight of what you are doing, etc.). Merle scoffs that she's just as much an outsider to the prison group as he is. "Yeah," she says slowly, "but once the Governor is done with me I won't have to live with myself."
Prison. Glen goes out to the fence, looking closely at the female walkers there. He snips the ring finger off one of them using wire snips. A ring for Maggie! Hopefully he'll bleach the hell out of it before he gives it to her.
When Michonne urges him to just turn around and go back to the prison, Merle snaps, "I can't - I can't go back. Can't you understand that?" Then he stops the car, cuts the wire off Michonne's wrists and hands the samurai sword back to her. "You go back and get ready for what's next. I got something I gotta do on my own." Stunned, Michonne gets out of the car and watches as Merle drives off without her. I assume he thinks he can't go back because of what he did to Glen and Maggie.
After the commercials, Darryl finds Michonne killing some walkers in a field. She tells him that Merle let her go and she let him live. "Don't let anyone come after me," Darryl says and runs off. Meanwhile, out in front of a roadhouse, Merle is sitting in the car, drinking whisky out of the bottle and cranking the redneck rock-and-roll. This of course draws a bunch of walkers. Once the car is surrounded, he drives off, slowly so they can keep up, leading them on like the most gruesome Pied Piper ever. He takes them to the place where Rick was to meet with the Governor to hand over Michonne, then jumps out of the still moving car, letting it rolls by itself to a stop. The walkers crowd around the car and no one notices Merle duck into one of the barns.
On the other side of the buildings, Martinez and his crew hear the blaring music and investigate. They open fire on the walkers and, in all the confusion, Merle takes careful shots of his own, dropping several of the Governor's men before anyone notices. Unfortunately, a zombie gets into the barn with him and attacks him, and when they crash through the door, the Governor's men are there, ready to kick Merle into submission. The Governor strides up, roaring "Leave him to me!" He grabs Merle around the neck and drags him back into the building where they have a brutal, ugly fight. Merle is still dazed from the kicking he got and the Governor quickly gets the better of him, including biting two fingers off his remaining hand. He shoves Merle down and the elder Dixon pants, "I ain't gonna beg you!" The Governor steps back, intones "No," and calmly shoots his former right-hand man.
Prison. Glen asks Maggie to marry him by simply handing her the ring without saying a word. She says yes and I guess that's how marriage proposals go after the zombie apocalypse. When they rejoin the group, Rick makes a little speech. He confesses to what he was going to do to Michonne (everyone is stunned and horrified). "I was wrong not to tell you and I'm sorry," he says. He tells them that he was also wrong to want to dictate to the group: "We're the reason we're still here, not me. How you live and how you die, it isn't up to me. I'm not your governor ... we vote: we can stay and we can fight, or we can go." It's about damn time he figured that out. Afterwards, he goes up to one of the guard towers and sees Michonne walking home alone.
Back at the meeting spot, after all the living have departed, Darryl shows up. He walks among the remaining zombies, several of which are noisily feeding on the Governor's dead men. One of the feeding zombies, of course, is Merle - because the Governor is just enough of a psycho bastard to have shot him in the heart, not the head. Norman Reedus's face is a symphony of emotion as he watches his dead brother come towards him: sorrow, rage, revulsion, denial, fear, horror. Dead Merle lunges at him and Darryl just shoves him away, like a kid on a playground. Dead Merle comes again and Darryl shoves him again. Dead Merle comes a third time and this time Darryl's face changes, just a little, and he pulls out a huge knife. He throws his dead brother down on the ground and stabs him in the head, over and over, screaming and crying. When it's done, when Merle is really dead, Darryl falls back on the ground, sobbing. He looks like just a little kid.
You know, they will probably have Rick kill the Governor but they should really let Darryl do it. Merle was a bad guy, with very little to redeem the character even from the first time he met him, and he only got worse under the Governor's tutelage. But there was still a spark there between him and Darryl, and he was the only blood Darryl had left. There will be lots of blood at the season finale - that much is apparent. I'm thinking Herschel might buy the farm, so to speak, maybe Beth, possibly Carol (although I hope not). In the comics, pretty much everyone gets it except Rick and Carl, plus Glen and Maggie who have made a run for it before the battle begins. I'd be okay with Rick getting killed off, but they'll never do that since he's supposed to be the hero. But if they kill Darryl off, I will be pissed. I think the Governor will be killed, since his usefulness seems to be at an end, and probably Martinez and Milton, and maybe Andrea. It's time to close the book on Woodbury and move on to the next chapter.
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
11 minutes ago