'Walking Dead' recap and review: 'Made to Suffer' is intense, but not without flaws

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Before we get into the rest of the episode, I want to say a few words about Oscar.  (I’m jumping right into spoilery territory here, so if you for some reason haven’t watched ‘Made to Suffer’ yet, go do so now!) There are already people all over the internet discussing the fact that he died as soon as as Tyrese, another black guy, was introduced, much in the same way that T-Dog was killed off as soon as Oscar entered the picture, but that’s not what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about potential, about promise, and about how ‘The Walking Dead’ is willing to close off future story avenues for the sake of a shock.

We didn’t know Oscar for very long, or very well, but in the time that we did, we came to like him.  Or at least, I did, anyways.  He got one of the shows rare little character moments when he found those slippers, and he got a hero moment back in ‘Killer Inside’ when he took out Andrew.  He was a contributing member of the group who we had barely gotten to know, and there were plenty of ways that he could have factored into future storylines, but ‘The Walking Dead’ has established such a breakneck pace (and such a willingness to kill major characters) this season that the show apparently felt that they would have been cheating us by not killing a good guy during the big shootout.  Since the only other folks there are Daryl, Maggie, Rick, Glenn, and Michonne, (all of whom are off-limits) it was poor Oscar who had to go.    

RIPI think that’s a shame.  Not just that Oscar is gone, but that the show feels it is more necessary to keep the body count up than to build and develop their cast of characters.  Apart from this moment, ‘Made to Suffer’ is a pretty intense, enjoyable episode, but their willingness to kill off Oscar simply because we didn’t know him that well really put a sour taste in my mouth.

But I digress.  There was a whole lot going on in this episode, and while there were some moments that I didn’t think played well on their own, it all served to set up an interesting chunk of episodes when the season returns in February.  The main plot thread was Rick and the gang’s rescue of Maggie and Glenn, with occasional cuts to the prison, where a new group of survivors is introduced to our main group still there.

Let’s start at the prison.  The cold open introduces to Tyrese and a bunch of other people, one of whom has been bitten, who flee into the prison to escape a herd of walkers.  It’s a while before we check in with them again, and when we do, they’re getting rescued by Carl, which would have been embarrassing a season ago, but is acceptable now that he’s kind of a badass. 

Carl locks them in the same room where they held Michonne, but not before offering to kill their bitten friend for them, since he has some, um, experience with this sort of thing.  They say they can handle it, and yet we never see them do it, which I found super frustrating.  They end up yelling at Carl for locking them in, all with their friend lying there about to turn any second, and I was positive that something bad was going to happen.  I’m not sure if that tension and frustration was intentional, but it drove me nuts, and not really in a good way.  Tyrese seems like a good dude, though, which is something that this show could use more of, and it’s nice to have some more folks on the show to get to know.  Assuming that they don’t all die immediately, of course.

Badass

The only other major development at the prison is that Axel is horny, going after Beth as soon as he finds out that she’s seventeen, and Carol as soon as he finds out that her having short hair doesn’t mean she’s a lesbian.  Axel has always seemed pretty harmless, but this was definitely kind of creepy (while also being amusing), although I’m convinced that this moment was only there to tell us Beth’s age so that we stop wondering if Carl is crushing on a twenty-five year old.  

And then there’s Woodbury, where most of the action goes down. Rick, Oscar, Daryl, and Michonne rescue Glenn and Maggie in the middle of their attempt to escape on their own (using the bone of a zombie, which is totally badass), and Michonne runs off in the confusion.  Daryl finds out that Merle is there and gets all weird, but promises Rick that he’ll stick with him.  He doesn’t.  Oscar gets shot, a lot of smoke grenades go off, and by the time everyone somehow gets out of Woodbury, Daryl has vanished.  

The other thing about this episode that I didn’t totally buy was Michonne’s mission of revenge.  In the books she goes through a lot more at the hands of the Governor, so it makes sense that she’d want to take him down.  Yes, he sent dudes to kill her a couple weeks ago, but she’s way too intense about going after him for it to just be because of that, although I guess Michonne is intense about everything.  

She finds his zombie daughter and fish tanks full of undead heads, and he walks in just in time to beg her not to kill his precious Penny.  The Governor really seems vulnerable here, and David Morrissey’s performance as a man willing to do anything to save his undead daughter is really convincing.  Unfortunately, Michonne doesn’t care, and sticks a sword right through Penny’s head.

Michonne and Penny

The fight that breaks out is nice and brutal, with the Governor and Michonne really wailing on each other before Michonne manages to gouge out his eye with a piece of glass, and almost cuts off his head before Andrea comes in and ruins the fun.  She can’t let Michonne kill the Governor, cause then she won’t have anybody to make out with, so Michonne leaves, her friendship with Andrea seemingly as dead as Penny.  

Then there’s that ending.  The one-eyed Governor makes a stirring speech to the citizens of Woodbury, where he not only claims to be afraid for his life from the prison ‘terrorists,’ but turns on Merle for lying to him about Michonne’s ‘death.’  He drags in Daryl, and the Dixon brothers are finally reunited, although admittedly the circumstances are less than ideal.  Merle and Governor parting ways makes a lot of sense, and I hope this is the beginning of a redemption story for Merle, rather than just the beginning of a series of events that lead to his inevitable death.  The Governor is clearly messed up by the events of this episode, especially the death of Penny, and I’m excited to see him in more full-on villain mode in the second half of the season.  This feels, in many ways, like an origin story of sorts for our villain, and it should be fun to see what he does now that he’s off the leash.  

Like I said, there are a lot of things in ‘Made to Suffer’ that work, but the things that didn’t (Michonne’s motivations, Oscar getting shot, Tyrese refusing to just kill that lady) really detracted from them, in my opinion.  In any case, at this point, it’s all-out war between the Prison-folk and the Governor, which is certainly something to look forward to.  I just hope we get some time to get to know our new cast members before the Woodbury folks inevitably mow them down all at once, because hey, why stop now?

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Eric Zipper Eric Zipper is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles. When he's not making you laugh, playing video games, or watching movies, he's probably sleeping. Follow him on Twitter @erzip
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