Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review: The Walking Dead "Say The Word"

Non Spoiler Review:
Rick must come to terms with the events of last week, while Daryl and Maggie go on a supply run for the baby. Woodbury is in the midst of a celebration, but Michonne uses the opportunity to find out more of what the Governor has going on behind the scenes.

After a frenetic four episodes, Say The Word allowed for a bit of a reprieve, but that's not to say it was uneventful. More disturbing aspects of Woodbury continue to be revealed and mysteries raised. Rick has reached the breaking point, and he and the others face the fall out of Lori and T-Dog's deaths.

Fans of the books continue to get rewarded with the accelerated introduction of some events and characters. And the episode ends on a suitably cryptic note.

Spoilers Now!
Andrea is enjoying a Woodbury street party, though Milton isn't impressed the Governor's using the generators for cold drinks. Michonne isn't impressed at all. While the people celebrate, the Governor is at home, combing the hair of his daughter—who is a walker. He has her thoroughly bound and hooded to put her back in her room. But daddy still loves her, he says. He catches sight of Michonne staring at his window from below.

At the prison, Rick is in a fugue while Carl takes the baby to Hershel. She needs formula soon, so Daryl and Maggie volunteer to go on a supply run. Rick grabs a hatchet and disappears inside the prison, embarking on a revenge-filled massacre of the walkers inside.

The Governor addresses his town, reminding them they started with nine people and now have a place they can call home. Today they celebrate that and remember those they lost. Meanwhile, Michonne sneaks into his house to get her sword. She rummages through his journal which has a list of names, and then pages and pages of lines. Hearing noises from an adjacent room, she starts to open the door, but the Governor, Milton and Merle come in, forcing her to hide.

Milton is complaining about all the fuel they're using for the party. He wants to finish his experiment which is requiring a lot of power on its own, so asks the Governor to postpone his big plans for that evening. The Governor won't, and suggests Milton enjoy himself and start his experiment over in the morning. The three leave, while Michonne has made her escape through the window and finds herself in a fenced in area with a cage of walkers. She breaks open the lock and lets them spill out, getting some exercise in slicing them all up. But one of the townspeople with a bucket of meat for the walkers happens on the scene.

Michonne is brought to the Governor. She asks him about Penny, one of the names in his journal that was crossed out. He replies that he loved her, but she suggests he says that about all the girls. Michonne wants to leave, Andrea wants to stay, so he assumes she wants him to kick her out to make it easy. But he instead suggests she fits in, and he was planning to return her sword. However, now she's broken the rules, which invites anarchy. As a compromise he'll keep a lid on her outbursts if she joins his research team. She quickly grabs the sword and holds the blade to his neck, backs away and leaves. Merle comes in asking how that went. The Governor wants to see Andrea and sends Merle to have the research team get more grist for the mill

Andrea defends Michonne for taking something that is hers. She wonders why the Governor has captive biters, but he won't get into that, preferring to tell her Michonne had her sword to his throat. They're not barbarians in Woodbury, he says, and needs her to talk to her friend.

So Andrea does, suggesting she needs to calm down a bit. Michonne is anxious to get out of town—anyone who comes to Woodbury never leaves. Andrea thinks they need the respite the town offers, refusing to believe that things aren't as they seem. 

Glen digs graves for their fallen. Axel and Oscar offer some help and their sympathy for his loss. Rick is still inside, so Glen goes off in search, finding a trail of dead walkers and finally a crazed Rick who refuses to listen to him. He continues off on his way. 

Merle and his men visit an open pit that has caught some walkers they haul out in a net. Milton finds something of interest in one biter's eyes so doesn't want it killed, and they proceed to extract its teeth.

Daryl and Maggie break into a house that served as a daycare. She finds plenty of supplies, plus an opossum Daryl kills for dinner. They return that night and the baby gets some formula courtesy of Daryl. Rick, meanwhile, has made his way to the boiler room where he finds the remains of the pregnancy but no Lori. A walker sits further on, gorged and unable to move. Rick puts his gun in its mouth and shoots, then proceeds to stab its stomach.

Michonne seems to have won the argument and she and Andrea prepare to leave, but Merle stops them and suggests he needs to arrange an escort given it's close to curfew. Andrea protests that the Governor told them they were free to come and go as they liked. When Michonne thinks she's been proven right, Merle finally opens the gates for them prompting a change of heart in Andrea. She doesn't want to just scrape by outside again, plus she's afraid Michonne will disappear on her if they leave. Andrea doesn't want an ultimatum, but Michonne is going one way or the other and walks out. Merle closes the gates with Andrea watching her depart.

That night the Governor is only too happy to have Andrea remain, and brings her along to the culmination of his festivities—the arena that Michonne discovered earlier. The crowd gathers and the lights come on to show several walkers chained to posts, and two fighters (including Merle) entering the area to spar in the middle of them. Andrea appears mortified as they watch, and more so when the chains are loosened and the area made smaller so both have to fight off the walkers, too. The Governor explains it's a way to blow off steam, but he quietly tells her it's staged and all for show. People need entertainment, and it's teaching people not to be afraid. Merle succeeds in beating up his opponent and winning.

Come morning the graves have been filled for Lori, T-Dog and Carol. Daryl leaves a Cherokee Rose. Inside the prison Rick hears a crying baby and a telephone ringing. He goes over, picks it up and says hello.

The Verdict:
Say The Word brought more great bits with the Governor—bringing out his daughter this week, as well as his gladiatorial games. I was impressed that they chose a more subtle route by having it relatively nonviolent. With Andrea present, having a full on death match just wouldn't have been possible and have her remain in Woodbury. But it sets the stage for more bloody outcomes in the future.

I wasn't entirely clear on everything in the Governor's journal—Penny appears to be his daughter. But what is the significance of the other names? Why does Michonne believe their arrival was anticipated?

Fans aware of the after effects of Lori's death got a healthy dose of crazy Rick, and the ringing phone was a good way to end this episode. They still manage to surprise—the Lori-stuffed zombie was a particularly gruesome denouement to the character. The symbolism of this pregnant walker to contrast with last week's pregnancy isn't lost either.

Maggie and Daryl were a refreshing pair up. I'm sure I wasn't the only one thinking zombie daycare when they were making their way through the house. However, the graves seemed kind of pointless given at least two are empty (and if we assume someone had the thankless task of gathering up T-Dog's remains). Is Carol trapped somewhere inside the prison or has something more ominous happened to her?

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