This Sorrowful Life

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"This Sorrowful Life"
The Walking Dead episode
Merle Dixon is put down by his brother, Daryl following his sacrificial death by the hands of The Governor.
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 15
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple
Original air date March 24, 2013 (2013-03-24)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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The Walking Dead (season 3)
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"This Sorrowful Life" is the fifteenth episode of the third season and 34th episode overall of the post-apocalyptic horror television series The Walking Dead, which first aired on AMC in the United States on March 24, 2013.

In the episode, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), unaware of The Governor (David Morrissey)'s plan to ambush the prison and kill whomever delivers Michonne (Danai Gurira), ponders whether or not he should hand over Michonne to The Governor. Meanwhile, Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) takes matters into his own hand(s) in an attempt to protect his brother.

This episode featured the death of Merle, who is killed when trying to redeem himself. Critics praised the performance of Michael Rooker in the episode and Norman Reedus' performance at the end, upon confronting a zombified Merle.

The episode was watched by 10.69 million viewers, up slightly from the previous episode;[1] and critics reacted positively to the episode.


Rick privately tells Hershel (Scott Wilson) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) about The Governor's offer and Rick's intentions to quietly capture Michonne (Danai Gurira) in order to comply and to delay telling the rest of the group until afterwards. Hershel refuses to be a part of it and Daryl is reluctant, although he agrees to support Rick. Feeling he needs a third man for the job, Rick requests Merle's help. Merle, who has been tearing through mattresses looking for drugs, is interested in this development but does not believe Rick has the spine for it and also remarks on how cold he has become since they first met.

Rick runs outside to find Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Daryl, Glenn (Steven Yeun), Michonne, and Beth (Emily Kinney) removing the threat of the walkers in the field and laying down spike strips ready for Woodbury's impending attack. Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) and Carol (Melissa McBride) chat, during which time he notes she has become more assertive and confident. He calls her a late bloomer, and she replies that he may be one too.

Merle later tells Daryl that he finds hypocrisy in handing Michonne over to The Governor, since the group is already angry with Merle for doing the same with Glenn and Maggie. Rick is scavenging wire to tie up Michonne, intercut with Hershel praying with his daughters, when Rick hallucinates Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) in the sunlight; Rick then abandons the task and his intentions to hand over Michonne. However, Merle has already decided to do the group's dirty work, recognizing this as his role as it was in Woodbury, and he blindsides Michonne. When Merle and Michonne are discovered missing, Daryl begins tracking them on foot.

On the road, Merle and a wire-bound Michonne chat, with Merle trying to convince Michonne that as much as he's on the outside of the group Rick's deal proves she is, as well. They stop to hot-wire a car, and Merle accidentally sets off its alarm, immediately attracting walkers which they fight and escape. While riding in Merle's car, Michonne prompts Merle to admit he never killed before doing The Governor's bidding, and there is no need to sacrifice anyone else at The Governor's behest; she suggests she and Merle should both return to Rick's group. Merle says he cannot go back, stops the car, and lets Michonne go with her katana, telling her to get ready for what's next; he has something to do on his own. Michonne crosses paths with Daryl and directs him on toward his brother.

Merle is next shown drinking whiskey outside a liquor store, listening to Motörhead; he uses the music to attract a swarm of walkers to the car and drives toward the appointed meeting place in short intervals, ensuring that walkers follow him. He bails out alongside a barn, leaving the music-blasting car to continue on to the meeting site with a parade of walkers following. Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), Allen (Daniel Thomas May), Ben (Tyler Chase), Shumpert (Travis Love) and others, who are waiting in ambush, watch from a firing line. After a moment of hesitation, Martinez sends scouts forward to investigate the car, while he and the others open fire on the walkers. The Woodbury soldiers are distracted by the walkers, Merle shoots at the soldiers, killing and wounding many of them in the process including Ben who takes a bullet meant for The Governor but a walker subsequently distracts Merle, which allows Martinez and The Governor to attack him viciously. The Governor assaults a weakened Merle, biting off two of his fingers in the process but Merle refuses to beg for mercy as The Governor executes him with his pistol.

Meanwhile, at the prison, Glenn asks Hershel for permission to marry Maggie and receives Hershel's blessing. Glenn recovers a diamond ring from a female walker at the prison fence and wordlessly gives it to Maggie. Maggie simply responds, "Yes". Rick convenes a meeting and tells the group about The Governor's offer, confessing that he was going to go through with it but changed his mind, but Merle took Michonne on his own, and Daryl went to stop him. Rick admits it was wrong to not tell them and apologizes, stating it wasn't his call to make alone. He says the group is the greater good, collectively the reason they're still alive, and he won't be their Governor. He says they will have to vote about staying and fighting or leaving the prison. Rick then leaves the group to make its decision.

As Rick goes to stand watch, he sees Michonne approaching the prison fence. Daryl arrives at the meeting place and finds walkers feeding on corpses. He then spots a walker eating Ben's body and, after looking closely, recognizes it as his brother Merle with lost fingers, a scarred face, and a bullet hole in his chest. As Daryl begins to shed tears Merle staggers over to Daryl, who pushes him back several times. Angrily, Daryl knocks Merle to the ground and kills his zombified brother with seven stab wounds to his face and then falls next to him, crying.


Rooker (pictured in 2013) made his final appearance as a series regular in "This Sorrowful Life".

The episode was directed by Greg Nicotero and written by Scott M. Gimple[2] and shares its name with the sixth volume of the comics.[3]

This episode marks the last appearance of Michael Rooker (Merle), who was killed off in the episode, when he is shot in the chest by The Governor (David Morrissey) and was stabbed in the head multiple times by Daryl (Norman Reedus) after reanimating. On the decision to kill Merle, Robert Kirkman explained:

It's important to note that running out of story isn't a reason to kill a character. Having more story to mine isn't a reason to keep a character alive; it's what story comes out of it and how does the story change with death. Daryl Dixon has become a very important character in the show and his character had changed and evolved in very interesting ways over the course of the first three seasons. Having Merle back was always planned to be somewhat temporary thing. We wanted to see how Merle's return would affect that character and seeing Daryl revert to past behavior -- to bad behavior -- was something we really wanted to explore. But in the end, Daryl had moved past that character and we wanted to get back to him not having that brother altering his behavior moving forward or influencing him in any way. Merle's death was really about activating Daryl in an interesting way that will pay off in season four.[4]


Critical response[edit]

Critics applauded Reedus' performance in the episode.

The episode was critically acclaimed, with many critics and fans calling it one of Season 3's best episodes. Zack Handlen, writing for The A.V. Club, rated the episode B on an A to F scale.[5] Eric Goldman at IGN gave the episode 9 out of 10, specifically praising the performances of actors Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, Steven Yeun, and Norman Reedus.[6]


The original broadcast, on March 24, 2013, was watched by an estimated 10.99 million viewers, an increase in viewership from the previous episode.[1]


  1. ^ a b Kondolojy, Amanda (March 26, 2013). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'The Walking Dead' Wins Night + 'The Bible', 'Talking Dead', NCAA Basketball, 'Vikings' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Season 3, Episode 15: This Sorrowful Life". Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Kirkman, Robert (May 2, 2007). "This Sorrowful Life". The Walking Dead, Vol. 6. Image Comics. ISBN 1582406847. 
  4. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (April 1, 2013). "'Walking Dead' Dissection: Robert Kirkman on the Major Fatalities and Comic Book Detour". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 10, 2013. 
  5. ^ Handlen, Zack (March 24, 2013). "This Sorrowful Life". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ Goldman, Eric (March 24, 2013). "The Walking Dead: "This Sorrowful Life" Review". IGN. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 

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