The Walking Dead season 3 episode 15 review: This Sorrowful Life

Review Ron Hogan 25 Mar 2013 - 07:52

There's only one episode to go in The Walking Dead's third season, and Ron is predicting a bloody resolution...

This review contains spoilers.

3.15 This Sorrowful Life

The Ricktatorship has been a resounding failure for the farm survivors. They do find and clear out a nice prison to live in, but they lose a bunch of good people in the process. When they make contact with another group of survivors who have a safe little civilization of their own, it turns out the town is ruled over by a madman and his gang of armed thugs. Now, Rick is seeing ghosts, can't make a decision to save his life, and spends most of his time doing stuff or things while Glenn or Daryl or Hershel or anyone else makes all the decisions. 

Rick is the last person you want making a life-or-death decision, but he's the man who met with the Governor, he's the man who holds Michonne's fate in his hands, and he's the man who has to decide if the chance at peace is worth the life of a relatively innocent person who has proven herself to be a valuable addition to the group. Can Rick be trusted enough to pull together a group to help him make decisions without choosing the absolutely wrong people to carry out the task at hand? It's pretty clear that something's wrong with Rick, given the way Merle has so easily integrated back into the group. 

Then again, Merle seems like he's a man facing a crisis of conscience. For the past few episodes, he's seemed like he's trying to do the right thing in spite of how much easier it is to do the wrong one. For a character that started out as a one-dimensional redneck who became a one-dimensional sidekick thug to show cracks in his character like Merle does in this episode is pretty impressive. It shows that the writers behind the show (in this case Scott Gimple) are trying to give all the characters some shade and depth (even The Governor got some humanizing moments before his complete psychotic break). 

Merle and Michonne, the two outsiders, have great chemistry together. Michael Rooker is a very good character actor, even in a role like this, so when Merle starts to have trouble with his self-chosen lot in life, Rooker is able to make it work within the confines of the character (and Danai Gurira is making similar good work when she gets chances to emote, too). Indeed, the two characters seem to have the most in common of any pairing the show routinely indulges in, and given the amount of time they spend together in this week's episode, that's a good thing. They're a good point-counterpoint on a show that's been using that plot structure a great deal. They work because they have stakes to their situation; even if Merle explains a little too much, it makes sense because he's basically apologizing for his actions and trying to talk himself into what he feels needs to be done. 

Greg Nicotero, who directed this episode, has shown improving touch with actors, especially when filming conversations. He's got a good sense of the visual, as befitting a special effects master, and he keeps his camera movements simple, but he frames his shots very well. He's effective at generating tension with simple framing devices, like the doorway of a car or building, and he filmed one of the more creative action sequences of the season, taking a great idea from the writer's pen and putting it into practice with some flair. You don't need Sam Raimi's camera flexibility when you can simply put your camera in the right place and let things happen around it. Both styles are equally effective, though Raimi-cam is more flashy than clever. 

This week's episode, the penultimate for the season, functioned as a bit of a wild card in terms of its effect on the overall plot. A lot of things that have been simmering below the surface have come to the surface, and it's going to cast a long-lasting shadow in season four and beyond. How it will affect the survivors depends on just how many people survive the upcoming clash of camps. I get the feeling there's going to be a pretty high body count next week.

Read Ron's review of the previous episode, Prey, here

US Correspondent Ron Hogan cannot wait for the last episode of The Walking Dead for this season. It's going to be a barn-burner, though not literally since they already burned the barn full of walkers last year. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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Great episode. I don't know what season 4 holds but I guess the big question is, is the governor going to survive the battle? THAT would be interesting. It would be a huge deviation from the comics, but for me, a welcome one. Morrissey is good at being the Governor and he's just now getting to the psycho from the comics. Either way, this showdown will be epic.

For what it's worth, David Morrissey has a 5-season contract with the show.

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Pretty certain myself that the Gov will survive till at least mid season 4, Season 3 has been his story and his slow slip into insanity.

Gaaaahhh!!!! That's what I get for asking. Still, he could die, and with that I bid you all a good day, as I shan't be reading these comments til next Monday

This show excels when it focuses on the characters. In other words, how people would react and change in this crazy world. A great setting would be showing the greater world's response (vs. this limited battle context between the prison and Woodbury). Show us what's going on across the country and around the world.

Im sure everyone will disagree with me, but Ive found this season a bit boring. We all know its heading for a big show down, but dragging it out hasn't really done it for me (Ive just found some of the episodes fillers).

I think it would have been more interesting to speed the pace up a bit, get to the show down about 5 shows from the end, drag that over 2 episodes and then go part way into the fall out.

That's something that's been pretty specific to The Walking Dead as far as style and scope goes. It's always been about "our group" and not about the more broad implications of the Zombie outbreak. The comics have very specifically avoided showing the bigger picture and it's worked to their credit.

For what it's worth though, I would imagine "what's happening around the world" is probably exactly the same as what's happening with our group.

I think the battle in the next episode won't be the final, climactic battle we're all expecting. I think it'll lead on to / carry over into next series, leading to certain characters losing vital parts of anatomy (sorry, trying to keep this comic spoiler-free) which kind of needs to happen to set up the period post-prison AND the final battle.

AS much as i've enjoyed seeing the characters develop over the last 3 episodes, I feel they could have condensed it a touch, the slow pacing hasn't helped build my anticipation for the last episode.

But don't get me wrong, I always look forward to the Walking Dead every week, I just hope this season's finale lives up to the high standards that this season has set.

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