The Walking Dead: Top 100 Moments

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Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead (2010). Photo: Tina Rowden/AMC
Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus, The Walking Dead (2010). Photo: Tina Rowden/AMC /

8. Daryl and Merle in the Pit

Episode 309, “The Suicide King”

Original Airdate: 2/10/2013

Submitted By: Charlotte Anne

Following the big cliffhanger of the previous episode, when Daryl was revealed to be the Governor’s prisoner, the opening of this episode is dazzling in its tension and brutality.
So many things are happening at the same time: Daryl and Merle are finally reunited, Andrea discovers that the “terrorists” were her friends, and realizes that she has no power to talk the Governor out of his madness.

So far, the Governor had only resorted to staged fights between toothless walkers and his henchmen. Now, the fight is real and he is truly offering to the angry mob a blood sacrifice.
The impact of that scene was strong because Daryl had already become a fan favorite by then, and many viewers feared for his life. We had become used to seeing Daryl as nearly invulnerable, but could he really find it in him to fight Merle?

It was also the first time in the series that Daryl was visibly afraid. Daryl was usually the one who could face any adversary or any danger and remain cool and level-headed, but this time, the Governor had given him an adversary he could not fight. The panic on his face, as he found himself trapped like a feral beast in the arena of a Roman circus, in the middle of a crowd baying for blood, was something we had never seen before.

The other side of the equation was Merle – we knew he cared for his brother, but we also knew he was a heartless killer. Would Merle kill his own brother to save himself? As the fight began, and Merle seemed to play along, even Daryl seemed unsure what the answer was – until finally, Merle turned around and said “Just follow my lead, little brother. We’re getting out of this, right now!” Then Rick and the others started shooting bullets and smoke canisters.

The mayhem that followed was wonderful to behold, with the Governor majestically strolling around in the smoke with his gun, looking perfectly calm in the middle of the panicking crowd, while his enemies ran away.