It’s often good to follow a particularly explosive, game-changing episode with a bit of a slow burn, and tonight’s installment of The Walking Dead — “Say the Word” — was a nice, thought-provoking comedown after last week’s devastation. And though I enjoyed the look at senseless violence in Woodbury as well as Andrew Lincoln‘s chilling performance back at the prison, the episode’s high point was clearly the part where Daryl Dixon held, fed, and quieted a screaming baby (though Michonne killing a cage full of Walkers Biters with her boot and her katana was pretty high up there.) The episode spent nearly equal time with the citizens of Woodbury and the bruised and broken residents of Cell Block C, providing some exposition on the former and hope for the future for the latter.
And nobody in the group — not even Shane, when he was still kicking — would be okay with the appalling, barbaric display of senseless violence that Woodbury calls entertainment. Yes, Rick spent most of the episode putting down Walkers while ugly-crying at the same time, but killing them quickly out of grief is a lot different than killing them slowly as a happy spectacle. It’s especially disturbing when you remember that all of these people must have lost loved ones to the same disease at some point or another. The Governor swears that it makes them feel safe, but why should they feel safe? They’re totally not safe! By numbing them to the danger caused by Walkers/Biters/whatever, he’s made the residents of Woodbury completely helpless and dependent on his rule. Genius!
But let’s back up: Woodbury (well, the Governor) was throwing a block party, undoubtedly to boost an already high general morale. Andrea, just like everyone else in town besides Michonne (and maybe Milton) looked at the Governor like he was Martin Luther King every time he spoke — usually about rebuilding as a community against all odds, or something like that. After months with nothing but Michonne, the flu, and a pair of dead Walkers, she wanted so, so badly to believe it all wasn’t too good to be true. But Michonne, ever the practical pessimist, saw right through his genial, Southern Conservative politician exterior to the sociopathic Ted Bundy on the inside. She did some snooping around his house — great for exposition! — and found a notebook full of planned town activities and names, which turned into pages upon pages of identical scribbles after the final name was added to the list — Penny. Penny is, most likely, the Governor’s daughter — we saw him creepily brushing her dead hair (and accidentally pulling out clumps of her scalp) minutes before. I’d also bet on her death marking the end of his usefulness as a leader — without someone to really love, he became a man fueled only by his own sick ambitions.
Michonne didn’t need any more convincing after she saw the cage full of “Biters” on a quiet street — she had retrieved her katana, so it was time to get the Hell out of this f***ed up dodge. But Andrea didn’t realize how right she was until it was too late — blondie was horrified by the gladiator show at the end (starring Merle, of course), but it was already too late. She would never make it without Michonne, who was already well on her way to… wherever. TBD.
Now compare the horrific numbness to violence in Woodbury to what happened over by the prison, which was a group of people processing the devastation that SHOULD accompany violence. Their first task was to find formula for Lori’s newborn, who we found out right away was a girl. (Sophia-Carol-Andrea-Amy-Jackie-Patricia-Lori Grimes, according to Carl.) Rick, who mourned so intensely that he couldn’t really be of use or comprehend anything that was going on around him, spent his day running through the cell block like a madman, axing any Walker he could find. In his absence, Daryl took over leadership in a heartbeat, organizing a formula coalition (him and Maggie) and finding emotional support for Carl (Beth) mere minutes after Lori’s death. (Daryl’s revolution from redneck, to tortured soul who wanted to find Sophia all on his own, to loving member of the group has been delightful to watch. Delightful.)
Daryl and Maggie quickly and conveniently found a house that formerly contained children and currently contained formula, leading to a semi-heartbreaking moment where Daryl’s eyes paused on a piece of children’s “artwork” by a girl named Sofie. This, and a flower placed on “Carol’s grave” was the only bit of mourning we saw from him tonight. A lot of this had to do with his personality, but Daryl also knew he had to step up while Rick went on his murderous Walker-rampage.
Meanwhile, in the yard, Glenn was tasked with digging Lori, Carol and T-Dog’s graves. If this was It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, they’d call this Charlie Work. Glenn has always had to do the Charlie Work, so I was glad when he was able to hand some of it off to newcomers Axel and Oscar. Glenn gave a nice speech to Hershel about the selfless things T-Dog did to help other people during the early days of the zomb-pocalypse, which was good because we never learned anything about T-Dog in three years. Glenn said he’d kill anyone if it meant that it would save one of theirs, which I think, in some way, is similar to how the Governor thinks. Only the Governor doesn’t selflessly love a group of people, he loves the idea of a post-pocalypse utopia with himself as an all-powerful but outwardly genial Big Brother figure. Anyone who gets in the way of that gets their head stuffed in a tank.
We saw some hope that this group could go on when Daryl came back and made women everywhere swoon by comforting Sophia-Carol-Andrea-Amy-Jackie-Patricia-Lori, while the rest of the gang (minus Rick) looked on. Maybe if Carl sticks with Daryl, he won’t grow up to be a serial killer. Which brings us to the end: Rick finally visited Lori’s death-spot, where she was suddenly nowhere to be found. We expected to be horrified by Lori’s rotting corpse, but what he actually found was about eight zillion times worse: bloody pieces of her remains scattered all over the floor, while an insanely bloated Walker sat nearby, suffering from a post-Super Bowl level food coma. A WALKER ATE LORI.
And this, my friends, is where Rick Grimes finally lost it: With eyes deader than Sophia, he shot the Walker in the mouth then repeatedly stabbed his bloated belly (which looked sickeningly like a pregnant stomach) multiple times, like it was the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Lori would suddenly pop out. This ain’t that kind of story, Rick. Luckily, we were all saved by the bell — Rick looked like he heard a ghost when the prison phone rang (understandable, since he probably hasn’t heard one ring in two years) and picked up. END CREDITS!
All in all, another stellar — if slower — episode. Do you think Rick is as deadened to violence as the citizens of Woodbury? Will Andrea escape the Governor’s clutches? And who is on that phone — is it that one lady who has power on Revolution? Carol? Ghostface? Sound off in the comments!
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[PHOTO CREDIT: AMC]