Last week’s emotional ending to “Killer Within” certainly left the audience on edge not expecting the opening of this week’s episode “Say The Word” to look like a flashback to better days long gone by. The people of Woodbury think they have something to party about while Rick is across The Walking Dead universe on a killing spree over the loss of his wife, falling further down the rabbit hole.
Early on in the episode, we get a true “what the hell”‘ moment when we get a look at The Governor brushing his zombie daughter’s hair. As Chris Hardwick said, what the hell else is this guy into? As a chunk of scalp rips away, The Governor’s (somewhat docile) walker daughter tries to bite his arm. He has a system of how to tie her up, hood her and calm her down enough to handle and it may help that she is about eleven, too…but I digress. Like a ninja, Michonne stands on the street staring up at the house in quiet contemplation which sets The Governor on edge.
As we return to the prison, the setting of all of the heartbreak of last week, we are greeted by some amazing sound design. The blood pounding in Rick’s ears over the cries of his newborn baby mingled with the echoed voices of everyone talking helped the audience realize just how much he is in shock. Rick picks up an ax and stomps off into the prison leaving everyone else to worry about the baby, while Maggie hands her off to her brother and she, Daryl and Glenn decide they are going to find formula. Ultimately, Daryl and Maggie (who is bent on doing everything she can for this baby for Lori’s sake) go on the hunt while in an interesting change of heart, the prisoners Axel and Oscar are being trusted with small duties like drawing walkers while they open and close the gate. Baby steps. Inside the prison, Rick takes a walk on the crazy side as he slices and dices walker after walker throughout the prison bowels. Like a man at the end of his rope, he takes it out on every last one of them, a bit of justice replacing their rotting bodies.
Back over in Woodbury, The Governor is giving a motivational speech to the community at what can only be described as a community barbeque. While everyone is partying and enjoying themselves, Michonne is breaking in to The Governor’s house to finally retrieve her trusty sword. While attempting to jam open the door that we assume hides the walker daughter, Michonne is interrupted when Merle, Mitch and The Governor enter the room to retrieve cases of alcohol (in boxes that read ‘Hot Lanta’, a presumed nod to the cast’s nickname for Altanta where the show is filmed.) A few scant minutes later, Michonne happens across a cage filled with walkers and lets them loose to let out some tension, getting caught in the act. Who dropped the bucket of guts?
As she has been since she got to Woodbury, Michonne is not buying The Governor’s brand of BS. He offers her a position on a team of people that we later come to find out go out to traps that have been set for walkers and bring back the walkers that have been caught. Excuse me? Why are we catching walkers (or ‘biters’ as they call them in Woodbury?) Tipping her cards, Michonne tells The Governor that “people with nothing to hide don’t usually feel the need to say so” when he says that there is nothing to hide in Woodbury. Yeah, okay. Another zinger comes when Michonne brings up Penny having seen her name in The Governor’s diary. He confesses “you know I loved her” to which she replies “bet you say that to all the girls.” Ah, so she has noticed the tension between him and Andrea. Before he knows it, Michonne’s sword is at his throat and she is storming out. Good girl.
We return to the prison to find Glenn digging a grave (one of three) for Lori, Carol and TDog. Axel and Oscar wander over and Axel makes us realize that these were once good men who only wanted to belong to a group that mourned the ones they lost and protected the ones they cared for. Glenn realizes in a rather harsh way that they only want to help, drops his shovel and tells them he needs two more. He and Hershel talk about the days happenings (“third of our group in one day” “’cause of one asshole”) and we can leave it to Hershel to see the good in everyone, even convicted prisoners.
The Governor is now playing good cop/bad cop with Michonne and Andrea as Andrea finds out the he has “captive biters” and we finally start to see the veil lift a bit. Maybe not everything is on the up and up, huh, Andrea? Michonne has it right, they need to leave…preferably before anything else hits the fan or comes to the surface.
In one of the most tense scenes of the episode, Glenn enters the prison to find the aftermath of Rick’s tirade. Among the decapitated, sliced, diced and massacred bodies stands Rick. His eyes are glassed over with shock, his hands, shirt and face drip with blood, sweat and unshed tears. Glenn makes an almost fatal mistake when he touches Rick to try to lead him away from it all only to find himself pinned to the wall with the eyes of a mad man fixed on him, ready to kill. Something seems to click as Rick shoves Glenn away and then wanders off into the darkness muttering nonsense to himself. How deep does the rabbit hole go?
Apparently, zombies can’t bite through duct tape. Who knew? In yet another head scratching scene, Merle and Milton along with a few other men arrive at what can only be described as a strange solar-powered zombie catcher. They extract a few biters that were caught and Milton utters the strangest line of the episode: “there is something interesting in its eyes.” Who are these people, and what are they up to?
In the interest of infant preservation, Maggie and Daryl come upon an old daycare to look for food and supplies for the new baby. The empty cribs and painted hands on the wall leave an eerie impression of what once was their way of life. Children used to paint and draw and play, but what will this baby do as it grows? What will be its playground? Thankfully, they find formula, diapers and bottles along with a tasty possum dinner. Mmm, yum.
Michonne is off in Woodbury trying to prove her point to Andrea by dragging her to the gate and demanding they be released. Somewhere along the way these two women formed a friendship, though of course, that was during the months between last season and now, so who knows what truly happened. Andrea still does not believe her and so Michonne leaves her behind with the parting words “you always slowed me down anyway.” Quite a way to leave a so-called friend behind. The Governor sits down next to Andrea and stares a little too hard at her bare shoulder as he attempts to comfort her. His offer of a drink and some company holds all the innuendo that it should.
As Maggie and Daryl roar toward the prison with supplies, we cut to Carl holding his newborn sister who won’t stop crying. He doesn’t know what to do with a baby and no one has the heart to take her away from him. When Maggie hands over the formula she so desperately needs, they get a moment of revere and a smile spreads through the group as the baby quiets and they realize she is going to be okay. Carl’s list of baby names pays homage to every woman we have lost along the way (“I was thinking Sophia…and Carol…Andrea, Amy, Jackie, Patricia…or Lori. I don’t know.”) Daryl’s cute nickname of “little ass kicker” may stick, though, and definitely provided them their first laugh in months. While things are as light as one can expect in their situation, deep in a pit of despair, Rick finds a pool of blood, some brain matter, a bullet, and drag marks where Lori’s bloody and broken body has come to rest. In possibly the most disgusting scene of the episode, Rick finds the walker that ate his wife sticks a gun in its mouth and cries before picking up a knife. We see him hesitate and almost caress the place where his wife’s body lays, in the distended belly of a blood-gorged walker, before he goes to cut like he thinks he can pull her body out and still have something to say goodbye to. In a sudden fit of rage, he stabs until he loses the strength to do so.
In Woodbury, we finally get to find out what “tonight” is. The Governor and Andrea walk hand in hand toward what seems like a lot of noise and a big crowd while Merle and another townsman walk out into a ring of biters chained to cement blocks like some sick and twisted version of Gladiator. We see the veil finally fully lift from Andreas eyes as she listens to The Governor tell her how this is just for sport and makes people feel better. She is finally beginning to see the darkness.
The somber music playing as we pan back to the prison was a wonderful piece of sound design. The sun setting as Daryl laid a white paper flower at Carol’s grave reminded us of what and who has been lost. Every member of this little nuclear group was cherished and will be deeply missed. Sitting deep in the bowels of the prison, in what is now his wife’s grave, Rick hears his new daughters cries in his head. His eyes glass over and suddenly a telephone ring breaks the silence. Even he knows he is not that crazy. These people have not heard a phone ring in months, possibly years, and suddenly he hears one. And he picks it up.
Join me next week as we find out who is on the other end of the line, watch Andrea make a break for it and find out whether or not Carol made it.