[UPDATE: My full Walking Dead recap is now live.] We all knew that the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead‘s third season was probably going to ratchet up the tension, since the back half of this season has been building up to the war between the Governor and Rick. Also, it’s been weeks since anybody died on this show. Well, tonight’s episode definitely ratcheted up the tension, because [SPOILER ALERT] one of the show’s most extreme personalities didn’t make it through the hour.
Merle Dixon appeared in just a single episode of the first season, but he quickly became a fan-favorite character, largely on the strength of Michael Rooker’s batcrap-crazy miles-over-the-top performance. He was reintroduced at the start of the third season, with a knife-hand and a slightly kinder-gentler attitude. Admittedly, he tried to kill Michonne a few times. But Michonne couldn’t even stay mad at him. (How can you stay mad at Merle?)
But in tonight’s episode, the Reaper came calling for Ol’ Merle. He took down a few of the Governor’s soldiers — including teenager Ben — but ultimately met his maker in a fight to the death with the Governor. A nasty ending for a cool character — I take no pleasure in correctly anticipating his departure, as we are once again ponder how Carol manages to keep on outliving everyone. Personally, I’m not sure the show ever quite figured out what to do with Merle this season: He was such a live wire, and so obviously amoral, that he stuck out like a sore thumb in a season that’s been mostly defined by the Governor/Rich dichotomy. Still, I’m sad to see him go, if only because I loved living in a world where the star of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was a lead actor on the most successful show on TV.
The episode also featured Glenn proposing apocalypse-marriage to Maggie, the Governor going full-psychopath by biting off Merle’s fingers, and Rick giving a speech advocating democracy over monarchy. Go here for my full recap; otherwise, start talking in the comments! I welcome any theories about how Merle might still come back to life. (Or maybe they’ll introduce his heretofore unmentioned twin brother, Earl Dixon?)
Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich