**Spoiler alert** If you haven't seen the latest episode of The Walking Dead, watch it first and read this later.
It's been a little over two months since we last saw a new episode of the show but “The Suicide King” picks up exactly where the last episode (“Made To Suffer”) left off—with the Governor (David Morrissey) presiding over the impending fight to the death between Merle (Michael Rooker) and Daryl (Norman Reedus).
The battle is cut short when Merle instructs his brother to follow his lead and they begin to fight their way out of their predicament. Things look bleak for the Dixon Brothers until Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his less than merry band rain down smoke bombs and bullets on the inhabitants of the less than idyllic settlement of Woodbury, killing several residents in the process.
Rick and the gang escape, but not without somewhat of a casualty. The group has no interest in allowing Merle back into the fold after all of the trouble he’s caused in the past and this decision forces Daryl to make a choice of his own—he leaves the group and takes off with his brother.
In Woodbury, things are falling apart. The residents scramble to flee the city as the Governor sulks and broods in his home and Andrea (Laurie Holden) attempts to keep the peace. She allays everyone’s fears by reassuring them that when the history books are written about the plague, Woodbury will stand tall as an example of perseverance and survival. The Governor looks on but it doesn’t appear that he is as inspired as the others. He wants war.
Meanwhile, back at the prison, new arrival Tyreese (Chad L. Coleman) puts an end to his friends’ desire to take over the prison. A decent man, Tyreese wants to contribute to the group. He’s tired of being on the run and wants Rick to allow them to enter the fold. Hershel (Scott Wilson) tells Rick that they have followed him without question but it’s “time to start trusting people”.
Rick, betrayed in the past by those close to him, has also lost too many people. He doesn’t want to be responsible for any more lives. By turning them away, Tyreese tells him that he will be responsible for throwing them out into the world filled with dangerous walkers.
This is when Rick unravels.
He looks up and, in the shadows above, sees the visage of his dead wife, Lori, looking down on him. Rick snaps and screams that he “can’t help you” and to “get out”. The newcomers believe that he’s talking to them when he’s really starting to lose his sanity.
Rick Grimes is going mad and, if the story behind the Suicide King on the playing card is true, this is the beginning of his descent into insanity. Can he still be trusted to lead?
“The Suicide King” sets up a nice dichotomy between Rick and the Governor in that no matter how strong of a leader you are and try to control things, unless you adapt, things will eventually fall apart.
Especially in this post-apocalyptic world.
I’m not sure if I like the suddenness of Rick’s transformation. Yes, one can argue that he’s been slowly going mad for some time now (evident when he started receiving phone calls from Lori and Shane even when he knew it was impossible), but this outburst was a little over the top (though Andrew Lincoln sells it extremely well). However, The Walking Dead has been so consistently good and has built so much positive momentum since Glen Mazzara took over the reins from Frank Darabont that I’m more than willing to see which direction the show decides to take. One wonders if the next showrunner will be able to sustain the quality in season four.
I’m hoping whomever AMC chooses will maintain the momentum.
The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sundays at 9pm.
What are your thoughts?