*WARNING: A FEW SPOILERS AHEAD*
Holy. Crap. The last "The Walking Dead" episode didn't exactly begin how I wanted it to, but the ending was exactly how its winter finale should've been. I mean, honestly. Where to begin?!
First off, I've never read -- nor do I plan to read -- the comic books the series is based on. I like going into a show not knowing all about it and a show like "The Walking Dead" needs to be watched spoiler-free. From behind a couch cushion. On the edge of our seats.
"Made to Suffer" was aptly named, whether it pertained to the intriguing new group of survivors -- led by apparent comic book favourite Tyreese (Chad Coleman) (yeah, yeah, I don't like spoilers but there are some casting tidbits I can't avoid) -- locked up in their safer, albeit barred, surroundings; the hurt look on Michonne's (Danai Gurira) face as she and Andrea (Laurie Holden) came face-to-face, sword to gun; the one-eyed Governor (David Morrissey) sobbing over his now-dead zombie daughter, Penny; the final minutes as Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Merle (Michael Rooker) were finally reunited, or us poor viewers having to see Andrea and The Governor all schmoopy-woopy with one another (gag).
I'm not going to get into a play-by-play of what happened in the insane hour, but there are definitely things I need to get off my chest. Going into the episode, I thought it would be about Andrea and Daryl having to make the heartbreaking choice -- Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group vs. Woodbury. Andrea would stay close with her creepy beau because, well, the woman clearly has the worst taste in men, is ruled by her lady parts, and after being away from her original group, has seemingly lost her marbles and instincts. Yes, I get that Woodbury offers a safety unlike anything she's known over the past year or so, but there's also something to be said for loyalty and she should've shown some of that with Michonne. Maybe not Rick, but Mich. I suppose easier said than done but for the most part, Andrea has been the most disappointing character of season 3.
Daryl, on the other hand, has been my favourite. Holding little Judith (a.k.a. Ass-Kicker, a much better moniker, I think), carrying Carol (Melissa McBride) to safety (can they just do it already?!), and being Rick's right-hand man has made the once-shady, crossbow-wielding grumpy-pants not only a force to be reckoned with, but someone we can all root for and relate to. I figured he would side with the good guys, not because of Rick and his newfound position of respect; rather, because of Carol. But alas, that choice didn't need to be made.
The shootout between the good guys and the bad was pretty much what we expected. We lost Oscar (Vincent M. Ward) in a short scene. Sad, but I'll take his death over a more prominent character any day. I did want the camera to focus on Merle as he heard one person -- Maggie (Lauren Cohan) or Glenn (Steven Yeun), probably -- shout out Daryl's name and see that recognition in Merle's eyes, for him to pause from shooting, to see him torn for a split second. Or, worse, a hint of that sick smile of his. But something, anything to show Merle's true character (whatever that is), whether it be a sign of hope, even happiness, at seeing his brother, or a glimmer of how truly evil the knife-limbed dude has become. But, sadly, that didn't happen and I think the show lost a huge opportunity to give us another dimension of Merle.
Speaking of psychos, the fight in the creepiest man-cave ever was epic -- made only more satisfying by its ending. I can't be the only one who thought Michonne would be on the losing end of that battle and would be stuck in Penny's cage as some sort of plaything. Shudder. But it was heartbreaking to watch Michonne and Andrea come face-to-face, and how devastated Mich was to see her only friend choose a sicko over her. (Side note: I really didn't think we'd see dead Penny really dead, thanks to Michonne's handiwork with her katana sword. Even I didn't want that for the Gov.)
Now we're left with one helluva cliffhanger. Daryl and Merle in the middle of the zombie arena as Woodbury's residents scream for their heads and a pirate Governor looking on, and mighty pleased with himself. Grrr. Will Andrea close her mouth long enough to figure out something to do? Will Rick and the crew save their man? Or is this the last will see of the Dixon boys? It's going to be a long two months.