Merle spends his days like an ADHD 8th grader on summer vacation with no supervision. So you know you've stopped following your conscience when he has to give YOU a lecture on morality. That's pretty much what it came down to in the first half of the episode with Rick fairly sure he was going to hand Michonne over to the Governor and everybody else trying to talk him out of it. Daryl gives Rick a gentle push but Rick still thinks he's going to hand her over. Then he talks to Merle. And he opens the conversation with the best one-liner of the episode:
"Do you even know WHY you do the things that you do?"
As a parent and a teacher I have said something similar to this many, many times. Of course he does. He's searching for drugs yo. What else would you do when you're bored in a prison? I mean doing something constructive to help out is soooo conformist. Merle leaves a trail of destruction wherever he goes and being around people like that just gets tiring after a while. But then he gives Rick the moment of clarity he needs. He looks him right in the eye and lets him know that he's not turning Michonne over to the Governor to be killed. If he turns her over she'll be kept like some kind of horrific science experiment - she'll bear the brunt of all the Governor's sick, sick tendencies and she WON'T be killed unless he somehow slips up and gives her enough freedom to end her own life. What a difference. In that situation any of us might volunteer for a quick death if we thought it would somehow spare the lives of our comrades, but I don't see ANYONE ever volunteering to go sit in the Governor's dental chair. No siree bob. Merle explains it all to Rick with verbs in his sentences and Rick tries to move forward with his plan but when he goes to collect wire to tie her up with, he sees Lori and realizes that turning Michonne over to a psychopath is not something he can do. I was pretty gripped about this whole thing.... my stomach was churning and I was all clenched up because in the comic, the Gov DOES get his hands on Michonne and the result is blood curdlingly bad. And that's in a black and white comic. I have NO DESIRE to see those scenes played out in technicolor, thank you very much. So I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I knew Michonne was safe.... for like 3 minutes. Because then Merle grabs her to take her to the Governor. WHAT?!? It's such a horrible thing to do that he talks Rick out of it and then decides to fall on the sword because he is already evil in his own mind. So now I am back to squirming in agony on the couch. I think at one point I actually bit a cushion. Jeepers.
Nothing in this world can be worse that being a tied-up prisoner during the Z.A. Just walking around is scary enough with Walkers lurking behind every tree and building. I mean look what happened to Andrea last week! But being at the mercy of whoever is holding you prisoner and relying on them to defend you has to be terrible indeed for someone as independent and awesome as Michonne. Even tied up she's still a rock-star though, and takes out 2 Zombies while she is tied to a post - one of them with her own bonds! At this point I was screaming at the TV (I do this a lot actually - I give advice, shout warnings, you name it...) "Merle you idiot!! You find someone in the Z.A. that can kill Zombies while they're tied up you gotta CHERISH that person and hold them close!! You don't sacrifice them to your enemies!!" Arrrgh!!
He successfully hotwires the car and off they go and that stinks because now he'll get her to the Governor faster. But I underestimated Michonne. She is a soft-spoken negotiator and little by little gets in his head. This is a side of her that we haven't really seen before and I like it. He finally stops the car and lets her go. Somehow she has convinced him that instead of sacrificing his soul, he can find redemption by sacrificing himself and he sets out to do just that. And what a plan he comes up with. All plans of this nature are best fueled by grain-alcohol if you're Merle so that's stop #1 and then he leads his own little Zombie parade right into the middle of the Governor's party. He uses the ensuing chaos and gunshots to cover the sounds of his own shots and he starts picking off the bad-guys. And he comes soooo close to taking out the head honcho himself, but alas that would have left us with a very dull season finale indeed, so no luck there.
Back at the Prison, Daryl realizes what Merle is doing and sets off to go find him (on foot dude, REALLY?!?) and Glen proposes to Maggie. Awwww.... I love the hard core realities of the Z.A. too. Want to get engaged? Just go shopping for rings along the fence, chop off a few fingers and voila!
I like what Glen and Maggie add to the show. They are a constant reminder that there really may be a part of humanity that is worth saving.
Now we gotta talk about Daryl. My heart broke for him a thousand times over. As much as the rest of us might breathe a sigh of relief to have Merle and his 'crazy' off the playlist, that's Daryl's brother. And you can watch friends die and turn, but nothing really prepares you for the turning and death of a family member - someone you knew B.Z. (before zombies). He's just devastated and I'm devastated right there with him at that moment. I had a horrible moment where I thought Merle was going to take him out, but he rallied and did what he needed to do.
R.I.P Merle buddy. For a dude that got handcuffed to a pipe on a roof 2 years ago you've had a good run.
We didn't find out anything about Andrea or Woodbury or Milton. I think I saw Tyreese and Sasha's friend's son get his head blown off so that should send that guy fully into crazy-ville right alongside the Governor. What a season finale it's shaping up to be, and how I wish they'd give us a 2 hour episode.
What are your predictions?? Let's have at it!