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"The Walking Dead" — "Say The Word": One Man's Gloom, Another Man's Glory

By TK | TV Reviews | November 13, 2012 | Comments ()


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It’s difficult to rebound from a “The Walking Dead” episode like last week’s “Killer Within,” one of the best episodes of the series. Yes, the somewhat ignominious death of T-Dog was not only a low-point for the episode but for the show as a whole (actually, that could be said of the character’s entire “arc”), but there’s no denying that it was an unquestionably catalytic episode. It’s an episode where everything changed, and we’re already seeing the ripple effects of those changes in “Say The Word.”

Of course, the immediate and obvious issue is the child, which is going to be a severe complication for the remainder of the group’s odyssey. But she also served as an excellent little character development piece for some of the group’s members, most notably Daryl and Maggie, who leaped into action to provide the little one with sustenance. Daryl in particular showed an engaging new side both in his lightning-fast decision-making as well as his unexpectedly tender moment upon his return. Maggie also showed the kind of strength and confidence that once again proves that she may well be the most well-developed female character that the show currently has to offer.

Yet in Rick’s absence (we’ll get to that in a moment), there was a real “it takes a village” mentality that took over the group, as Glenn poured his frustrations into digging graves, but also took up Hershel’s call to try to quell the increasing madness in Rick. The newcomers, Axel and Oscar (played by Lew Temple and Vincent Ward, respectively) certainly showed their willingness to do the dirty work, but one can but hope that they’ll be expanded to doing more than digging holes and breaking skulls. They both seem like potentially interesting new elements.

Over in Woodbury, things heated up and the picture of just what the town really is becomes more and more puzzling and disturbing. Allusions to strange experiments conducted by the oddball Milton, vicious gladiatorial matches that show the townspeople’s unusual thirst for bloodsport, and more signs of the harsh, cruel Merle that we met back in Season One — all signs that something is decidedly rotten in Woodbury, and all captured cleverly by the show runners. There was a stunning juxtaposition between the Woodbury of daylight, all summer dresses and cold drinks and laughter, and the Woodbury that comes up when the sun comes down, filled with violence and bitter bloodlust and back-alley entertainment. Sanctioned by the people or not, staged or not (and I’m guessing… not), it was a brutal, unpleasant sight to behold.

Caught in the middle of this chaos was Andrea and Michonne, and I have to admit that the pair of them are becoming increasingly frustrating. Andrea continues to suddenly become the blindly desperate, bright-eyed dimwit, a role that is rather at odds with the tough, hardened soldier from the past two seasons. Perhaps she’s simply tired of the fight, the struggle, the hardscrabble battle for survival, and she simply wants a place to belong and to relax. This is all understandable, yet the problem is that she ignores all the signs of trouble around her.

This isn’t helped by an utterly terribly written Michonne. The most frustrating, and least realistic way one can portray a character is to refuse to allow them to communicate clearly. Michonne, for inexplicable reasons, is incapable of forming a coherent sentence with a direct point. She glares and pouts and speaks in allusion and hints, making clever intimations of discoveries without ever actually saying anything. The entire conflict with Andrea could have been avoided if she’d simply given more than “this place isn’t what it looks like.” In a show that prides itself on well-drawn players with realistic, rational decision-making processes, people that have demonstrable evolutions and cogent, intelligent character designs, the inexplicable communication breakdown between them seems that much more pointless.

But in the end, this episode was about Rick and The Governor. A couple of weeks ago, reader and commenter catagisreading made this astute observation: “There is a fine line between the two and you have to wonder depending on what happens to you, do you even notice when you become the guy with a room of floating heads.” Given Rick’s Colonel Kurtz-esque descent into madness, that’s an apt description of the surprisingly thin line between the two very different men. Rick’s grief is barely even grief anymore — it’s a raw, unfocused madness. His sense of loss is so total, so all-encompassing, that neither the cry of his newborn daughter nor the intervention of one of his best friends could draw him out of his blind, blood-crazed fury.

At the same time, the increasingly disturbing truths about the Governor continue to be unveiled. It’s bad enough that he’s an insidious yet charismatic creep who keeps a room full of heads, but now we learn that his daughter, his beloved Penny, is a zombie as well. His yet-to-be revealed machinations were perhaps the best part of the episode, filling it with enough tension and twitchy, nerve-wracking hints that nothing in Woodbury ever felt comfortable. In fact, in the end the discovery of their thirst for bloody combat was the least disturbing thing we learned. The fact is that what we are seeing is two very different, yet strangely similar types of insanity being played out by two very solid lead actors. They’ve flipped the paradigm for madness in “The Walking Dead,” wherein the protagonist has devolved into little more than a raging animal, and the one in the shadows keeps his psychosis carefully, meticulously contained. When those two paths eventually intersect, we should be in for something truly terrifying.

And then, in the midst of all those thoughts? The phone rings.


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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Forbiddendonut

    Hrmm... Can no longer post from work. Stupid firewall and/or outdated web browser!

    The episode was full of some great stuff from the comic that I wasn't
    sure they'd put in the series like the Governor's daughter, the games
    and, of course, the telephone.

    I feel like they've handled the Michonne/Andrea/Woodbury story a bit
    clumsily, but I was glad to see Michonne leave. It'd be stupid if she
    stayed after everything that went down. That said, I don't blame Andrea
    for wanting to stay either.

    I recall the games from the comic, but forget the details. I think I
    liked the way they did it on the show better. It was more WWE with
    zombies than actual gladiator type fights, which makes sense. The way
    the Governor explained it - both a source of entertainment and a way to
    ease the fear of the walkers - made sense. I mean, other than books
    there really isn't any other outlet for people. The masses must need be
    entertained.

    Oh, Darryl... You can't name the baby Little Asskicker. Though it does
    roll off the tongue a little easier than Sophia
    Anne-Carol-Andrea-Amy-Jackie-Lori Grimes.

  • Daryl was so adorable I giggled.

    Okay, HOW HAS NO ONE ELSE MENTIONED THIS: When Maggie and Daryl were looking for the formula, I was terrified we were going to see the first zombaby. And I'm so glad we didn't, because I would have freaked the fork out.

  • Bodhi

    I was literally clenching my husband the entire time they were in the daycare. The mere idea of Daryl arrowing a zombie toddler was almost more than my heart could bear

  • Ozioma

    You know what I hated about the whole Michonne/Andrea exercise in 'Poor Communication Kills' trope? Michonne cut out a page from the Governor's diary. The one that's full of batshit insanity. She had ACTUAL evidence (small, but still there) that this guy is off his rocker and DIDN'T SHOW IT!

    If the writers wanted a situation where Michonne leaves Andrea in Woodbury, there are plenty of better ways they could do it than with this contrivance.

    On a happier note, I want Daryl's little asskicking babies.

  • David Sorenson

    This episode really has me torn. One on hand, I appreciate the contrast between the slow burn of the Governor's hinted depravity and Rick's sudden fall into rage filled madness. On the other, the part of me that has read the books can't help but wonder if the slow burn isn't a sign that they don't know how to handle the character of the Governor. He's clearly a bad man in the show, but they keep slowly hinting at it. Has me worried about a Sophia situation. By the time he finally takes off the southern gentleman mask, I'll be too tired to care.

    Then there's Andrea. Her line about being unable to stand another nine months is telling, but it would be better if we had more hints about how the most recent period of time was any worse than her time with the group. It would be more believable if we saw her with doubts about Woodbury that she didn't instantly forget about when the Governor talks to her. She seems less "tired warrior" and more "idiot woman charmed by the clearly bad man into ignoring everything that's wrong around her.

    And Michonne. This is likely because I desperately want to like her, but I took her lack of exposition as shock that someone whom she trusted and who trusted her now doesn't believe her after a few days and a glass of ice cold lemonade. I was shocked too. I also eagerly anticipate the time when Michonne joins the group, and her and Daryl single handedly badass the entire zombie apocalypse out of existence.

  • Ted Crisp

    I eagerly anticipate Daryl putting a bolt through her skull

  • As a viewer who hasn't read, I really want more backstory on what happened after Michonne saved Andrea. They clearly have strong feelings for each other, and yet we don't know why. But since the girls joined Stepfordtown, Michonne became--against character, from what little we know of her--almost subordinate to Andrea. So I'm glad she walked off...and at the same time, I'm a little afraid, because I think Merle's going to drag both of them back.

  • David Sorenson

    That's the thing. Andrea/Michonne isn't in the book. The writers have a great chance to fill in whatever backstory they want for that period of time. They either haven't gotten around to it but will later or they want us to just assume that whatever happened was deep and meaningful and roll with the present situation as it is.

  • For some reason I had the impression Michonne was from the books. Do you mean their relationship?

  • DarthCorleone

    Yes, Michonne is a major character in the book, but the way that she enters the story is different. The introduction to Woodbury is different, and Andrea never gets separated from the main group.

  • DarthCorleone

    Y'all are going to enjoy who is on the phone. A lot.

    Good points about Michonne; we're walking into severely implausible LOST-lack-of-communication syndrome here. Why doesn't she tell Andrea about the bullet holes and the blood at least? It might not have swayed her, but at least it would put Andrea a little bit on her guard.

  • Dude! You're there?

  • DarthCorleone

    I'm where?

  • On set--where the phone caller is.

  • Jerce

    Anyone who's read the comics or has read ABOUT the comics on the Nets of Inter may be aware of who it is ("whom" it is?...fuck it, whatever) on the phone. I belong to the latter group, but unlike DarthC, I fear that it could easily become very dreary and silly.

  • Yeah, I'm just being goofy.

    I really want it to be Carol. They're idiots for assuming she's dead.

  • RilesSD

    Exactly. I think Andrea was channeling the audience when she asked Michonne straight out for specifics. There was relief for a split second, and then Michonne says, "This town is not what you think." ARGH.

  • Rooks

    I feel like a bobblehead-dog, nodding sagely along with every single line of this review as the episode replays in my head in the background.

  • Maybe Carol is on the other end of the phone--trapped in another part of the prison.

  • Shonda

    So, we can just assume that Carol is dead? Bummer. I actually liked her.

  • mairimba

    In next week's previews they hint she might still be alive. Besides, there's no indication she's dead. Daryll found her hankerchief, but that's about it. Like Jerce mentioned: no body = no death.

  • janetfaust

    I don't think she's really dead either (I always skip the previews because I like to go in fresh), but then, why did they dig a grave for her? I am assuming one of the graves was for her since Daryl put a flower on it. They never showed Lori's body either, did they?

  • mairimba

    There are no bodies in the graves. Lori's body was eaten by the zombie Rick killed at the end, so her grave is obviously empty. It didn't seem to me they picked up T-Dog's body either. Why dig holes and then fill them back with dirt? No clue. Probably to confuse the audience even if it doesn't make any goddamn sense.

  • janetfaust

    I was thinking Lori's body had probably been eaten by that big-bellied zombie, but have the zombies always eaten bones & skulls? I thought at first when they just showed the stomach of the zombie before the rest of it, that it would be Lori because Carl couldn't shoot her, especially since Rick found the bullet. That scene was confusing.

  • prairiegirl

    I agree - and wouldn't his belly have needed to be A LOT bigger than it was? Or maybe there were other walkers who helped? Still - you'd think there would have been at least SOMETHING left of her. Clothes at least?

  • Brooke

    I think from the drag marks they showed we're supposed to assume the bloated walker dragged Lori's body to a second location. If so, I would guess that is where the clothes, bones etc. are. That is the impression I got from Talking Dead anyway.

  • Pablo Z

    Carl put a bullet in her brain just after the graphic C-section birth; Lori cannot come back as a walker anyway.

  • RilesSD

    Greg Nicatero directed this ep and confirmed on Talking Dead that Lori was eaten by that zombie. I was hoping she would come back as a Walker...

  • Lyndsay

    I'm confused about that part. I thought one of the "rules" was that walkers only eat live people - they don't eat people once they're dead. Wasn't that the reason Shane had to shoot Otis in the knees - so he'd be injured and unable to run, but still alive? Also, if Nicotero meant to infer the zombie ate Lori's body, I don't think the direction did a very good job of conveying that (I only got the sense that Rick saw the bloated stomach and it made him think of Lori - not that he realized it had actually eaten her).

  • janetfaust

    Dang, I was too. I wanted to see Andrew Lincoln's cry-face again when he had to shoot her.

  • pt783

    Carol is currently pulling a "Sophia"....

  • Wednesday

    Not quite, because nobody's obsessively looking for her. The role of Sophia is now being played by Michonne's "bad feeling." Something they endlessly talk about without getting anywhere.

  • Jerce

    NO CAROL IS NOT DEAD. I refuse to believe it. And I have on my side the Immemorial Unwritten Rules of TV Drama: We did not see her death scene and have not seen her dead body, so she is not dead!!eleven

  • DarthCorleone

    Why are they *assuming* she's dead at all? I know they need to look out for the baby, but shouldn't there be some sort of effort to find her? They're living at a prison. How difficult would it be for someone to keep temporarily safe by locking himself or herself in a room?

    Also, remind me - who saw T-Dog die? Was it just Carol? If so, how do they even know he is dead?

  • Zuffle

    Rick, Glenn and Daryl saw his body, right next to Carol's headscarf. I saw it too. Motherfucker was dead, if the two massive zombie bites out of him weren't enough.

  • Ozioma

    Glenn and Rick, I think, found his half-eaten body and shot the walkers digesting him. You could see some of his face, as well as the clothes he was wearing.

  • DarthCorleone

    That's some potentially seriously sloppy writing, but I shouldn't be too surprised about that with this show.

  • During this episode, I muttered "It should have been you, Andrea. It should have been you." That's how much I hate her. She has surpassed Lori as the main recipient of my Walking Dead hate fire.

  • mona_sterling

    I get that she is drawn to the comforts of "civilization" in Woodbury (& let's face it--that 'Thunderdome' bit at the end was pretty tame considering the potential for really messed-up stuff that could happen), but Andrea's character isn't being written plausibly at this point. Season one was Suicidal Andrea, season 2 had Badass Andrea, and now we have just plain Dumbass Andrea.

  • FrayedMachine

    She really is a dense one. Like... insanely dense. You'd think she'd realize that she seriously had an unhealthy attachment to crazies.

  • FrayedMachine

    I am so so so sad over how they're playing Michonne. Dear people in T.V. making land, can we please have some actually solid and well rounded black female characters that are not simply rooted in being brooding and angry? That would be great. Thanks.

  • Luke Anthony Matthews

    I'm so over Michonne.

  • TherecanbeonlyoneAdmin

    My favourite part of the whole episode? T-Dog finally gets some back story... after he's dead. Well, played, writers.

  • Bodhi

    I hope the writers are paying attention to viewers' feedback. HEY KIRKMAN

  • Seriously. I looked over at my roommate and said, "I just learned more about T-Dawg than I had in the previous 2.5 seasons."

  • janetfaust

    I was rolling my eyes so much at that point I got dizzy.

  • Rocabarra

    Did anyone else's ovaries nearly explode when Daryl and baby Ass Kicker had their moment?

    As for the phone, I'm pretty sure it's Dog on the other end: http://d22zlbw5ff7yk5.cloudfro...

  • Alpimp

    Well, it's definitely a bitch...

  • mona_sterling

    I love Daryl more than any other character, simply because his arc doesn't seem so predictable. It's interesting that he's actually become a better person as a result of the ZA rather than the other way around, like most of the characters. I hope if/when he meets up with Merle later in the season he doesn't take it into his head to go to Woodbury. Lil' Asskicker's gonna need him.

  • janetfaust

    I think I got pregnant from watching him cradle lil' Asskicker. "This is dog" picture KILLED me, so funny.

  • Ted Zancha

    If they stick close to the comics when it comes to the phone, this is going to be one hell of a season for Rick.

  • Samantha Klein

    Who is the guy in that picture? He is pretty.

  • Zuffle

    That's your mom. Haven't you ever seen her first thing in the morning?

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