Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The episode we’ve all been anticipating finally has aired, and it hinted that some major changes are to come in the following weeks. Titled “The Suicide King,” the episode shows the unraveling of two leaders, each for different reasons. While the Governor has lost the faith of the Woodbury residents, his abuse of power and personal corruption leading to several innocent deaths, Rick finds his sanity slowly slipping away due to the weight he’s carried in his leadership and his losses. The Suicide King is better known as the King of Hearts in a standard card deck. Positioned with a knife to his own head, he represents self-destruction—a feature we see in both the Governor and in Rick.
When the episode opens and the Governor places the Dixon brothers in a proposed fight to the death, the smoke screen Rick’s group uses during their rescue seems symbolic of the realizations that begin to unfold. As the smoke clears, Andrea spots a dead child in the middle of the fighting ring, and although she remains loyal to the Governor, the wool he has pulled over her eyes is clearly beginning to lift. The other Woodbury residents are beginning to question his leadership, the false sense of safety he had provided them erased in one fell swoop.
Rick is giving equal reason for his group to question his leadership. While he makes the right call in his refusal to allow Merle to rejoin, the group loses Daryl in the process. His denying a union between his and Tyreese’s group is a massive mistake, especially when he suspects the Governor will invade the prison in search of retribution.
The test of loyalties on both sides foreshadows greater tests to come, and it also explores the question of what defines family. Opening with brother against brother, only for Daryl to choose Merle over the group when Rick draws the line in the sand, the episode creates an opportunity for many of the other characters to offer their own definitions of family and loyalty. Glenn declares that the group is his family, and Hershel’s claim that he views Glenn like a son strengthens that sentiment. The distrust the group initially feels toward Tyreese’s people, as well as the decision to send them away, shows that their loyalties lie solely to their “family,” with little room, if any, for others to find their way in.
It will be interesting to see where the television series will go from here. Will Daryl return to the group? Will Woodbury survive its fall from grace? Who will live to see another episode? I can’t wait to find out.
Leigh M. Lane is a speculative fiction author whose works span from sci-fi to horror. Her most recent full-length works are The Hidden Valley Horror, Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods. For more about her work, go to her website at http://www.cerebralwriter.com.