Episode Title: "Made to Suffer"
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Director: Billy Gierhart
Previously on "The Walking Dead":
When it comes to Fall finales, most TV dramas don’t always deliver an episode that could work as a season finale or even as an effective hook to keep fans anticipating the show’s return. “The Walking Dead” actually pulled it off last year with the reveal of Sophia at Barnageddon. And “Made to Suffer” blew that episode out of the water.
Full spoilers ahead for “Made to Suffer!” If you haven’t seen the midseason finale of “The Walking Dead,” the Governor will add a few new heads to his collection unless you read this review later.
Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) may be the main character of “The Walking Dead,” but the creative team seems to realize that Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has the heart of the TV audience and the cliffhanger ending revolves around him and his long awaited reunion with his brother, Merle (Michael Rooker). But not in a way anyone was expecting.
It’s hard to pick a favorite moment from “Made to Suffer,” as most of the major characters had a chance to shine. Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) use of a walker’s body to get makeshift weapons for himself and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) as well as their subsequent escape attempt was a satisfying way for them to get some payback for their treatment by Merle and the Governor (David Morrissey). But it was ultimately the timely arrival of Rick and his group that saved their lives.
Fans of “The Walking Dead” comic book series know full well what happened when Rick met the Governor in that story. Here, the two characters don’t even come into direct contact. Instead, Rick gets an unexpected visit from a bearded Shane Walsh in the form of a hallucination as one of the townspeople attacked the group. I had to watch that scene twice before I realized that it really was Jon Bernthal back for the scene. Unfortunately for Rick, this may be yet another sign of his crumbling sanity. And it helped lead to the death of Oscar (Vincent Ward).
Oscar’s demise was sadly predictable for one reason: he was expendable compared to Maggie, Glenn, Rick, Daryl or Michonne (Danai Gurira). If everyone had made it safely out of Woodbury then it just wouldn’t have been believable. That said, Oscar was the most interesting of the two remaining prisoners and there was never any follow up on his bond with Rick after choosing to kill Andrew instead of him. There were hints that Oscar and Daryl were on friendly terms, but he simply wasn’t developed as a character and Oscar seems to have been created just so he could die here.
During the chaos of the rescue mission, Michonne slips away from Rick’s group to pursue her own vengeance against the Governor. And she stumbles upon his collection of zombie heads in aquariums and Penny (Kylie Szymanski), the Governor’s daughter turned walker.
Michonne’s reaction to Penny may have been uncharacteristically naive, but it demonstrated that Michonne is still capable of caring for other people and she was actually compassionate towards Penny... until she realized what she was.
In the Governor’s mind, Penny was still his daughter and he reacted to her capture as if she was still a human girl being held captive by a crazy woman with a sword. The expressions on Gurira’s face brilliantly conveyed Michonne’s reactions to the Governor’s pleas and her decision to kill Penny just to torment him.
The subsequent fight between Michonne and the Governor was one of the most brutal and memorable sequences of the year. Both of these characters were the major new additions of the season and their conflict had been inevitably building towards this moment. It’s not as one sided as their comic book confrontation was, but once Michonne saw the shard of glass on the fish tank it was pretty obvious that it was going into his eye a few moments later.
I have to mention that the snapping zombie heads in that scene brought a very macabre sense of humor to the sequence and I half expected one of the heads to bite the Governor and necessitate the loss of a limb or two. Instead, Andrea happens upon the scene right before Michonne can start cutting up the Governor into little pieces.
Andrea has taken a lot criticism from the “Walking Dead” fan base this year for falling hard for the Governor and for Woodbury itself. Up until now, the defense of Andrea was that she didn’t see what the viewer was seeing and she had no idea just how crazy the Governor really was. But now that she sees his zombie daughter and his severed zombie head collection, Andrea still chooses to comfort the Governor for his loss rather than insist upon an explanation from Michonne.
I like Michonne as a character, but it’s infuriating that she didn’t even try to explain to Andrea what led her back to Woodbury or that the Governor had tried to kill her. This seems to have been meant as the moment that breaks the bond between Andrea and Michonne, but that bond was only glimpsed this season. We barely saw the two of them together before they ended up in Woodbury. So it didn’t have the gravitas that it could have had.
In a roundabout way, Michonne asks to be a part of Rick’s group by volunteering to help Glenn and Maggie get back to the prison or help Daryl get out of Woodbury. I don’t think that Michonne has even formally introduced herself yet and Rick is understandably wary of her after she slipped away during the battle to go after the Governor alone.
Back at the prison, we briefly got the strangest love triangle no one ever asked for between Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) and the last surviving inmate, Axel (Lew Temple). Axel was hilariously creepy as he flirted with both Beth and then Carol (Melissa McBride).
This episode finally brought in Tyreese (Chad Coleman) from the comic book series, along with Allen (Daniel Thomas May), Donna (Cherie Dvorak) and Ben (Tyler Chase), all of whom had vastly different comic book incarnations. The thing that briefly confused me was that I initially thought that Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) was Tyreese’s daughter, Julie. Instead of that father and daughter dynamic, it appears that the writers decided to give Tyreese a sister instead of a child.
The introduction of Tyreese and company into the prison gave Carl his biggest badass moments to date as he single handedly escorted Tyreese’s group to safety while dealing out headshots to walkers. There’s something inherently hilarious about a kid saving people like that, but it felt like a believable turn for Carl to make. Carl even had the presence of mind to offer to put down the infected Donna and to lock Tyreese’s people into a cell block away from his group.
Surprisingly, Tyreese took that pretty well and he seemed to understand that being in the prison under any circumstances was better than life outside. But I’m very curious to see how Rick will react to more people living in the prison. And if it is really that easy to sneak into the prison through the back then Rick and company will be in big trouble when the Governor finally marshals his forces against them.
I’ve had a theory for a while that Tyreese was held back from appearing on “The Walking Dead” because his role as the second alpha male of the group was filled by Shane and later by Daryl. And with Daryl now a captive in Woodbury, his replacement could already be in place.
However, I fully expect that both Daryl and Merle will survive the cliffhanger ending. Robert Kirkman and company know that the Dixon brothers are popular with the audience and it would be an unforgivable mistake to immediately kill them off after finally bringing the two together in the flesh for the first time.
We’re meant to think that the Governor is angry at Merle for lying to him about Michonne’s death and that’s why he thinks that Merle betrayed him to Rick’s group. But I don’t believe that for a second. I think that the Governor and Merle are playing a long con. At some point, Daryl and Merle will probably be allowed to escape in the hopes of getting Merle inside the prison as the Governor’s spy.
Of course, that’s just a theory. Either way, it should be fun to see how the Dixon boys get out of this one.