Last week’s episode, Walk With Me, shocked viewers by killing off two, possibly three, main characters… this week, things slow down significantly… and I couldn’t be happier. If there is a theme to Say the Word, it would have be two characters’ differing descents into insanity. Both leaders of their respective groups, both completely bat shit cray-cray. One hiding his insanity from others around him… the other unable to contain his mute rage.
I thought this was another outstanding episode… chock full of surprises and great zombie action as well as a few more quiet and contemplative moments that are allowing some of the newer characters in this season to expand on their roles and flesh out more of what makes them tick. Again, we vacillate between the prison and Woodbury, only this episode, more of our time is spent in Woodbury getting to know The Governor and how he runs his little fiefdom.
Let’s start with what’s going on in the prison… when we last saw Rick, he was losing his shit over the death of his wife. As he begins his journey into the heart of darkness, everyone else is concerned with keeping his (?) newborn baby alive. Daryl and Maggie take off in search of formula and diapers and magically discover a pre-school near the prison… because, you know… prisons are a great place to locate a pre-school. There is a touching moment when Daryl sees a child’s name, Sophie, on a wall… and a hilarious moment when they discover an opossum hiding in a closet. I was certain we were going to get a zombie baby or toddler in that scene… but I guess that would have been a bit too on the nose.
They return with some formula and immediately begin feeding the little tyke… giving us another great scene of Daryl nurturing this child and Carl thinking of names… and running through the list of dead women since the beginning of the show. Sadly, the list is long.
Now… we have no clue whether or not Carol is alive yet, but they dug three graves and seem to be assuming that Carol is dead. Until we see her chewed on body or see her roaming the prison as a walker, I just don’t buy it. I don’t think she is dead just yet… we’ll see.
OK… on to the crazy… Rick takes an axe and begins plowing through every zombie he sees as he winds his way through the prison corridors in search of Lori’s body. Zombie parts everywhere… gore, more gore, and a little more gore on top of that. With a thousand yard stare and completely in silence, with an assist from some very creepy music, Rick attacks each zombie like Jack Nicholson attacking Scatman Cruthers. When he finally discovers where Lori died… he finds smeared blood, brain bits, a crushed bullet point, and a zombie sitting on the ground with an obviously distended belly. For all the gore, that belly caused me to utter… “ewwwww”. The implications were there… although he didn’t eat her body wholesale, I’m sure her skull and bones are in tact, probably around the corner off-screen… he did have long black hair coming from his mouth. Rick shoots him in the head… then begins stabbing at its belly. I don’t know why… hatred for the new baby that killed his wife? Looking for her wedding ring? Hoping to find a piece of her for a keepsake? I have no clue… but it illustrates his state of mind quite well… he’s gone off the deep end.
To finish up with the prison, the final scene of the episode is quite a shocker… comic fans know what is going on… but we didn’t expect it so soon. A phone rings. As Rick sits in his violent stupor a telephone rings… and he answers it with a simple, “Hello”. First of all… how is a phone working? Second, who the hell is calling him deep in a prison? I’m sure we’ll find out next week.
Woodbury is a completely different situation… as opposed to the dank and dark depression that is life in a prison during the zombie apocalypse, Woodbury is bright and hopeful. A beacon of civilization and progress… and Michonne is still having none of it. Then again… most civilizations don’t include men brushing their zombie daughter’s hair… but life with The Governor is a different thing. Yes, we finally meet The Governor’s daughter, Penny. Nothing says, “I love you” like a nice father/daughter hair brushing moment where a chunk of her scalp comes off and he has to put a bag over her head in the hopes of socializing his little zed. So adorable…
I would say that this is the episode we see more of The Governor than we have in any of the previous episodes… the zombiequarium was just a hint of his insanity… his daughter is a bit more explicit. Michonne sneaks into his apartment and finds his notebook that starts off like a sane person’s notebook… he has plans, he is laying out a budget, he is listing the dead… and after Penny’s name, nothing but hash marks… over, and over, and over, and over… not a sign of mental stability. She steals her sword and heads down to where they keep a host of zombies, and proceeds to kill each one, in what looks to be an almost pleasurable experience for her.
Of course, she gets caught and is brought to The Governor who tries to make a deal with her… tries to get her to work on Woodbury’s “research team”, which we see later is nothing more than Merle and his group of heavies who go out trapping and/or killing zombies. Still… she has none of it and draws her blade to his throat… and she is told that she is free to go. Just say the word, and you can leave…
Long story short… Michonne leaves, Andrea stays. Then we get the pleasure of seeing Merle and Milton in action collecting zombies… why are they keeping zombies? What are Milton’s experiments all about? We find the answer to the first… still waiting on the second. I have no clue what Milton is up to other than possibly searching for the humanity in a zombie… see if they can be tamed and/or socialized? Don’t quite know yet. But we do know what they use the zombies for… Mortal Kombat!
Yup… the townspeople like to gather around and watch Merle and Martinez fighting in an arena surrounded by zombies. When Andrea sees this gladiatorial display, she is appalled. The Governor tries to placate her concerns by letting her know that the fight is rigged and the zombies have had their teeth removed, she doesn’t seem totally mollified quite yet. Then again… she hasn’t displayed the best judgment of character… like… ever in this series.
That’s about everything in this remarkably packed hour. There were a ton of undercurrents to everything… thematic through lines… what makes a leader? Is insanity simply part of what it takes to lead in the zombie apocalypse? To what degree do we become savages in order to survive? And if we survive, how do we retain our humanity? And does comfort trump free will? Does having protection mean you give up your freedom? Michonne chose freedom… Andrea chose comfort… and Rick has delved into the darkest part of himself… what will remain of his humanity once he snaps out of his near catatonic mental breakdown? Is the outright rage found in Rick preferable to the controlled malevolence of someone like The Governor? Are these the only option?
I love it when an episode answers some questions while leaving new and more convoluted questions by the end… and I am still loving the direction The Walking Dead has taken this season….
I’m going to skip the Comic vs. Show segment today… perhaps I will do a separate post this week. There were a ton of nods to the comic in this episode, most notably; Penny, the arena, and that mysterious phone call… but that can wait.
I’d suggest a new conditioner,
Cornelius J. Blahg