The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 5: “Say the Word”
Written by Angela Kang
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC
In the eight or so months that elapsed between seasons two and three, our ensemble got stronger, leaner, and smarter. They figured out how to function together, how to keep from getting cornered, and how to act in rational self-interest.
Except for Andrea.
Despite the fact that she spent nearly all of this same period with the single most badass individual in the Walking Dead universe, she continues to be irredemably naive, stubborn, and selfish. Thankfully, at least, in this week’s outing Michonne finally gives up trying to explain the obviously bogus nature of The Governor and Woodbury in general and instead takes a hike (but not before reclaiming her sword and handily taking out the Governor’s special reserve.) That it takes a gladiatorial wrestling match with defanged zombies to lift the wool from Andrea’s eyes makes sense at this point, but it doesn’t make the character any more fun to watch.
Back at the prison yard, Rick has descended even further into mental degradation following the death of his wife. I didn’t have an issue with Rick’s bigger-than-life howling at the news last week, unlike most, but I do find this week’s form of grief – tearing back into the prison to take out frustrations on walkers, stabbing into the gut of the one who ate up his wife’s remains – felt more than a little contrived, especially with literally everyone else in the group helping his new daughter survive. It makes Rick even tougher to root for than usual.
The most effective moment of “Say the Word,” shockingly, comes from Carl, in a moment that strongly recalls, of all things, recent Vampire Diaries highlight “Memorial.” When it comes time to name Rick’s new daughter, Carl at first suggests Sophia – but then he remembers just how many women have died in their direct orbit, making the concept of a tribute sadly problematic. (Daryl then lifts everyone’s spirit by christening her Lil’ Asskicker, which she shall hopefully henceforth be exclusively referred to as in future episodes.)
One last element of “Say the Word” grates, though: even though he’s gone, T-Dog’s place on the show remains problematic. The manner in which Daryl and Glenn meniton he was “the best” – a claim for which we have no real evidence, given that he got so little material, is pretty damn grating. And we can’t help but think of T-Dog whenever we see new recruit Andrew just kinda hanging around in the background, smiling (check the “Lil’ Asskicker” scene), or getting his one, particularly horrible line of dialogue. Did they just trade one never-fleshed-out, non-contributing male black character for another? It’s not a good look.
Better is the attempt – however futile – to make The Governor into a slightly more layered figure, by introducing us to his walker daughter, Penny. The cold open, which sees him brushing her hair and accidentally tearing out a piece of her decaying scalp, is both a little touching and completely unsettling. I’m still not sold on the character or his various percolating schemes, but it’s a start.