by Sherry Lipp
WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD
Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead was shocking, but this week’s show, “Say the Word,” was disturbing. If it already seemed like the Governor was not quite right, this episode only increases the creepiness. The Governor isn’t the only leader not in his right mind. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has completely lost it following his wife’s death. While this episode didn’t have the intense thrills of the last one, it offered a lot of uneasiness and some more character development, particularly for Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira).
“Say the Word” picks up just moments after the end of the last episode. A shocked Rick grabs an axe and runs back inside the prison to take revenge on the walkers. This leaves Carl (Chandler Riggs) to grieve on his own and care for his new baby sister. In the meantime Andrea (Laurie Holden) is finding herself very comfortable in Woodbury, while Michonne wants nothing more than to leave. Andrea’s behavior borders on frustrating. As I mentioned in my review of last week, I can understand wanting to have some semblance of a normal life, but she refuses to see what is right in front of her. Presumably most other people in the town do as well. While the townspeople have a celebration, Michonne pokes around. She glimpses something quite disturbing through the Governor’s apartment window. She can’t quite see it, but we can, and it’s really quite disturbing.
The Governor is brushing the hair of his young daughter, who is a walker (or as the Woodbury residents say, a biter). The child (for lack of a better word) screams and thrashes about as the brush rips off a part of her scalp. So why is the Governor doing this? Is it just a refusal to let go? I have a feeling he is hoping to find a cure for the infection. Is he doing research on real living people? Considering his collection of heads, it certainly may be. The Governor knows Michonne is on to him, especially after she is caught killing some captive walkers with the sword she took from the Governor’s apartment. Andrea, however, remains unconvinced, and decides to stay. Of course she is later horrified to learn that the townsfolk use the walkers for a gladiator-style spectator sport.
What is so disturbing about the game, which is basically two men fighting while surrounded by chained-up walkers, is the utter lack of humanity. Apparently it has been forgotten that the walkers used to be people. The captive walkers are forced to remain in their undead state and used for entertainment rather than being put out of their misery. What is not explained is why the townspeople are so into this sport. Is everyone in the town really that far gone? Are they all so scared of the Governor, they’ll go along with anything? Only the Governor’s lackey Milton (Dallas Roberts) seems disturbed by it all, though he is unwilling to stand up for what he really believes. I remember a scene in the first season where Rick made a point of remembering the walkers as people. He respected the people they had been and didn’t want their deaths to mean nothing. But so many months later, humanity is slowly eroding. How far gone is it?
Rick himself is on a rampage. Covered in blood, he finally finds the spot where Lori died, only she isn’t there. All that remains is a large blood stain. A bloated walker sits nearby, and the realization that Lori was eaten hits us the same time it hits Rick. It’s really too awful to comprehend. Rick has failed in his quest to keep his family safe. I doubt he can completely ever go back to the man he once was.
With Rick out the equation, Daryl is left as the group’s leader. It’s a role he slips into almost without notice, but he clearly assumes it. While Daryl spent most of his life feeling worthless, probably because his brother Merle (Michael Rooker) told him he was, and now he has a purpose. His new found self-worth makes his impending reunion with Merle all the more uneasy. Daryl seems to know how to do pretty much anything, including calming a crying baby and giving it a bottle. He also provided some comfort to Carl, who struggles to find a name for the baby. Carl heartbreakingly names every one of the females who have been killed so far, saving his mom’s name until the end. Daryl, in one of the few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments of the show suggests the baby should be named “Lil’ Bad Ass,” provoking a laugh from everyone (even Carl).
Don’t let Daryl’s softer side fool you though. He also shot an opossum and called it dinner. Daryl and Rick are probably the most developed characters on the show. They have changed the most under the circumstances, and have learned the most about themselves. They have done a good job of turning Daryl into a likeable character in a realistic way. Clearly he is the type of person made for this type of situation. Rick’s changes have not been all for the positive. He has turned into a “do what needs to be done” kind of guy, but unlike the thriving Daryl, he has lost himself. It will be interesting to see what kind of person he becomes now that he has lost a part of what he was fighting for.
The end of the episode provided some strangeness that has not yet been seen on the series. While Rick is in the bowels of the prison, trying to exorcise his rage, a phone rings. He picks it up and says, “Hello?” Fade to black. Who is it? Has Rick completely gone off the deep end? Is the ring just a hallucination? Time will tell.
(Photos: Greg Nicotero/Gene Page/AMC)