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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Walking Dead: Season 3, Episode 5 – ‘Say The Word’ Review




Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead.  Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.

Ask and you shall receive.  Last week I was all for the show switching gears from focusing on the ‘walkers vs. the survivors’ aspect and killing off too many cast members in the process and becoming more of a character drama that happens to be set in a world ruled by the undead, which is how I feel the show would work best.  So this week I got that and plot-wise, this episode is pretty solid, as it progresses the story further, from multiple perspectives and there are a number of reveals that are interesting in general and exciting for fans of the comic.  The only downside is that The Walking Dead’s strong suit has never been its dialogue and this week does have the characters talking…a lot.


Starting off on a much darker note though, ‘Say The Word’ began with answering a question raised before, which is about the Governor’s daughter.  Previously, the Governor mentioned that he had a family once and that his wife died, but we did not hear about the daughter.  Now it is made clear, the Governor still spends time with her, even though she is a zombie.  At least he still makes her hair look nice.  Moving on, while Woodbury seems to be having a pretty cheery Saturday afternoon, the prison is in a state of mourning, as they are all coming down from the events of last week.


What I liked about this opening prison scene is that is established things quickly and they made sense.  Concerns were centered on what to do about feeding the baby and the group figured out a solution quickly – Daryl and Maggie are going to head out and find baby supplies from local stores/buildings they are aware of.  At the same time, Rick does not spend his time sulking; instead, he quickly picks up an axe and decides to clear out some of the prison personally.  Filled with appropriate rage, Andrew Lincoln’s intensity as Rick became a highlight of the episode.  With so much weighing down on him, The Walking Dead has done a lot to bring Rick down to his lowest point (he even lashed out at good ol’ Glenn!), but it is still plenty effective.  At the same time, watching scenes with Daryl and Maggie worked, because they were quieter and focused, then capped off with a great bit of humor, following that possum kill.

On the Woodbury side of things, we continue to watch suspicious Michonne and Kool-aid drinking Andrea deal with their new digs.  While Andrea continues to be all aboard (for now) with what she is seeing, Michonne continues down the trail of not trusting anything, which leads her to another discovery.  After having taken back her sword from the Governor’s office, she finds herself in the back of a building, finding a group of caged walkers.  She opens the cage and slices (I believe I also saw dicing) up all of the walkers.  While Michonne seems happy in her most comfortable place, she is found and sent to the principal’s Governor’s office.

At this point, I am fine with Michonne and find Danai Gurira to be doing a solid job with what she is given, but can still acknowledge that I will be happy to see more from her.  I understand that there is a level of impatience growing with some people about her, but at least we get proper movement on where her character is headed, which is literally away from Woodbury.  It opens up a lot of options, as the Governor does seem to be quite fixated on keeping both women around.  Where is Michonne headed?  Will she find the prison?  Will she be rounded up and brought back to Woodbury?  There are a lot of options and hopefully less scenes of her arguing with Andrea.

 
Speaking of Andrea, this is another character that I cannot help but want to see change in attitude.  We all know that she has to eventually realize how wrong she has been the whole time, but even as we see her finally find something to be wary about (Zombie Fight Club), it is still not necessarily the best reason for her to be disturbed.  From Andrea’s point of view, she is seeing a man, whom she has no reason to think less of, finding a creative way to relieve the people of the fear of walkers and find a way to have peace in their new world.  While one could consider it barbaric, Andrea is still not quite in the place where she really can know why the Governor cannot be trusted, so I will also be curious as to what is finally going to tip the scales on that front.  As Michonne states in this episode, “People with nothing to hide don’t usually feel the need to say so,” so hopefully Andrea will come to think about this as well.

As far as the rest of Woodbury goes, Merle continues to be a more entertaining presence, as he is clearly the muscle that is fine with doing some dirty work for the Governor, as well as work on his career as a showboating wrestler (one-armed pushups and all).  Dr. Milton is just begging to have a backstory established for his character.  And Governor Philip (bad accent and all) continues to be playing all sides.  He tries to have his way with convincing Michonne to stay, but that does not work.  However, he is more successful at keeping Andrea in line and even having her try to talk down Michonne.  While that leads to a decent enough scene where the women part ways, watching the Governor struggle to get Andrea to understand why an entertaining match, where the fighters are surrounded by a cage of zombies, is just another way to build up the many shades of this character.

In saying all of this, despite being a fine episode for the show, that really is all it ever ends up being – fine.  I am not saying that I am immediately retracting my statement from last week, as I do like the character-focused episodes.  The only problem is that these are the same characters that we have known, meaning that they are not very interesting people.  The Governor (and, to a lesser extent, Merle) make things better, as they have more to work with and exist somewhat outside the state of everyone else (one is playing a two-sided villain, while the other is a broad brigand, with one hand), but everyone else here can only do so much, aside from Rick, who gets to have rage-filled brooding during his scenes in this episode. 


The writing for this series has certainly gotten better, but while the show did inevitably need to slow down and have characters go over what is going on and what is next on the agenda as far as keeping themselves alive goes, they don’t have much in the way of bringing color to their dialogue.  Everyone here pretty much just lays out all of what is on their mind into what they end up saying, and while it is a nice, contemplative moment for Glenn to express his conflict about whether they should have killed all the prisoners or not, it is still just Glenn flatly saying that, as opposed to more nuance being applied to said scene (I am also not so down with establishing more T-Dog backstory, now that he’s dead, but that may just be me).  The only solution is to evolve and realize that a show with zombies does not need to be about the zombies.  If The Walking Dead can get to episodes that are interesting plot-wise, while centering on these characters and getting to who they are without having them just straight-up tell us, then the series has potential to work better on a dramatic level and not just on a zombie-action level.

To end with some talk about zombie action, yes, I completely thought I had called it when Rick could not find Lori’s body at first.  Maybe Carl hadn’t shot her after all.  Instead, it was just the case of the hungry walker, who apparently did away with the rest of Lori’s corpse.  Rick did away with that walker and violently stabbed its stomach.  Later on, he receives a phone call and that of course ends the episode.  Who’s on the line?  Comic fans may have an idea, but I guess we’ll all know next week.

I liked this episode.  It may not be nearly as eventful as the past few, but it is playing off of the things established in this season thus far and benefiting from the various strengths that the series has gained since it has found its footing.  The dialogue may continue to be the weak point and fairly heavy-handed (“What should we name the baby?” “Well these are all of our dead friends.”), but the show is still in its groove and continues to be compelling.  Now let’s hurry up and find out where Carol is hiding. 

3 ½ out of 5 Busters

Zombie Kill of the Week:  Stalking the halls, one man; a widower with nothing to lose; going all out with his axe.  Rick Rage! 

Possum Pot Luck:  How awesome would it be if everyone got a Walking Dead companion coffee table book of food recipes of random animals that Daryl catches in the wild?


Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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