'The Walking Dead' recap and review: 'Say the Word' slows it down, even as Rick goes nuts
I expressed concern after last week’s episode that The Walking Dead had fallen into a pattern where horrible things needed to happen every episode in order to keep its audience entertained. I thought they were going to keep the parade of misery rolling in the wake of Lori’s death, but I was glad to be proven wrong this week — at least in the short term. This episode was action-packed, but less shocking and crazy than the season’s first four installments, and honestly, that’s just fine. It’s important to see our characters adjusting to the messed up world that they live in, rather than continuing to survive a cavalcade of horror week after week. An event like Lori’s death is certainly going to have an impact, but what I enjoyed about this episode is that it gave the characters goals to focus on, rather than simply wallowing in the misery of their existence. It’s a struggle that many shows face in the wake of a major character death, and The Walking Dead pulled it off better than I expected.
Sending Maggie and Daryl on a mission together was fun, and I really wish that we had gotten to see more of it. They have one brief encounter with an opossum at the daycare where they find the baby formula, (which was one of my favorite moments of the show) but it would have been fun to check in on them once or twice more. I was sure for a second that they were going to have to fight a horde of zombie children, and I’m not really sure if I’m glad or disappointed that that didn’t turn out to be the case. Regardless, it was smart to send them off after something practical like baby formula, since Lori is not in any shape to breast feed. Or, um, any shape at all.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Daryl and Maggie are, in addition to being two of the most badass characters on the show, two of the most consistently and strongly written. So it was nice to see the writers pair two people who they understand together, and their interactions carried an ease not often seen on this show. I like Glenn a lot too, but the writers seem to be starting to forget that what makes Glenn so likeable is his affable nature and his sense of humor in the face of danger. I worry that by making him all gloom and doom, as he was in this episode, they are going to lose what makes him awesome. Fortunately, the relationship between him and Maggie is still nice, since it’s a functional, adult relationship in the face of crazy hardship, but they make it work. I’d honestly like to see a bit more focus put on it, although it’s possible that it could wear out its welcome.
T-Dog gets a bit of character development now that he’s dead, which is totally hilarious to me. Oh, poor T-Dog.
The only moment we really get with Carl (apart from Beth being asked to keep an eye on him to which I will repeat: weird) is when he hands the baby to Daryl, who asks if he’s picked out a name yet. He reveals that he’s narrowed it down to the name of every female character who died on the show, but it seems likely that they’ll pick Lori or Sophia. It’s a bit that’s nicely acted by the kid who plays Carl, who I shockingly don’t hate this season. I’m actually excited to see how his character develops in the wake of shooting his mom in the face.
Carol’s not dead. Let’s all just agree on this, yeah?
This episode spent a large amount of it’s time over in Woodbury, where things got pretty talky, but also moved forward a decent bit. It wasn’t just a repeat of ‘Andrea wants to stay, Michonne wants to go’ like it was last week. Well, for the first half it kind of was, but at least people were being proactive. Michonne actually left, and discoveries were made. The cold open was excellent, first starting us off with a jarring shot of a little girl chasing a dog at a BBQ that you instantly assume must be a flashback, before quickly revealing that the Woodbury folks are just having a good time. Milton (who I still don’t like) is being a buzzkill, but Merle tells him to relax. Meanwhile, the Governor is hanging out with his zombie daughter in his apartment, which is, you know, totally normal.
I liked that the show dropped the Penny bomb so early on in the episode, and then kept giving us reasons to be freaked out by the Governor, like his creepy notebook. It’s nice knowing more than the characters, sometimes, and it seems certain that Andrea is gonna regret sticking around. Michonne stole her sword back, killed some hostage Walkers, and held her blade at the Governor’s throat — all of which was a bit drawn out but interesting. Michonne seems like a bit less of a cypher than at the beginning of the season, although we still don’t know her as well as I think we should by now.
Andrea and the Governor got all googly-eyed at each other again, which carries some added menace now that we know how unstable he is (although I think we’re probably still scratching the surface of his craziness). However, Andrea’s comfort turns to disgust and unease when she witnesses the night’s main event, a battle between Merle and some other dude in a ring full of zombies. She freaks out, saying that it’s barbaric, so the Governer reveals that the fights are staged, and the Walkers have all had their teeth removed. She still doesn’t like it, but the way it’s presented at this point, it kind of doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s probably a dangerous idea that is bound to backfire at some point, but the audience does seem to be having a good time, and the logic behind it is pretty sound, that people need to let off steam. But this is The Walking Dead, so no good will come from it.
The staging of the fight itself was fun, with decent choreography, although I kind of wish the fact that the teeth had been removed from the Walkers had been revealed at the end of it, rather than earlier in the episode. As it was, it sapped all of the tension out of it.
The last big thing I haven’t talked about is Rick, who literally didn’t say a word this week until the very last moment of the episode. He was running around a cell block killing Walkers with an axe, and these scenes were all pretty well done. Andrew Lincoln is a pretty decent actor when he’s not talking in his hilarious accent, and the rage and guilt was pretty believable here. He finds the walker that ate Lori’s body, it’s stomach swollen in a grotesque mimicry of Lori’s pregnancy, and he shoots in the head and then stabs it in the stomach a whole bunch of times. Then... the phone rings. Rick answers it. “Hello?”
Showing Rick’s descent into madness is very cool, even if I thought it was happening a bit fast before, but at this point, I buy it. His relationship with Lori was so fucked up at the time of her death that I think his reaction to the loss makes sense and is much more interesting than if she had died while they were getting along. As a reader of the comics, I know what the deal with the phone call is, and while I won’t spoil it, I will say that Rick has a long, hard road ahead of him for the rest of the season, and for the sake of the show, I really hope there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for him.
Or he could hit things with an axe for the rest of the season. I’m okay with that too.