“This place..is not what they say it is..”
-Michonne to Andrea
In the pre-credits scene of episode five of The Walking Dead, “Say the Word”, Milton (Dallas Roberts) hands Andrea (Laurie Holden) a cold drink at an outdoor town festival; Michonne (Danai Gurira) watches from afar, suspicious. Andrea presses the tight-lipped Milton for details of the evening’s festivities, to no avail. We cut to the Governor (David Morrissey) in his den, combing his daughter’s hair, her face unseen. As the brush rips into her scalp, she suddenly turns hostile; turning around, she is revealed to be a walker. Frustrated, the Governor forces a bag over her head to restrain her, softly declaring his love for his little girl.
Post-credits, the survivors are gathered in the cell block yard, as Maggie (Lauren Cohan) holds Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) crying newborn baby girl. Hershel (Scott Wilson) pronounces the baby healthy, but in desperate need of formula. Carl (Chandler Riggs) holds his newborn sister and considers names for the baby girl; suggesting those of the dead survivors, he even offers that of his mother Lori. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) – glassy-eyed and unresponsive – suddenly grabs an axe and runs back into the cell block…
Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie go on a supply run for the newborn; entering an abandoned nursery school, they find formula, bottles, and other provisions. Meanwhile, inside the cell block, Rick goes on vengeful rampage, mutilating all walkers in his path. Later, after a curt reply to soft-spoken Axel (Lew Temple) and Oscar (Vincent Ward), Glenn (Steven Yeun) reveals to Hershel his wish that they should have killed all the prisoners “on sight”.
In the Woodbury town center, while a smiling Governor, glass in hand, gathers the residents and raises a toast to the sacrifices and hard work that built the town, Michonne enters his office and snoops around. Fetching her katana, she finds an odd notebook full of names, but leaves before being caught. In an industrial area nearby, Michonne finds a cage full of walkers. She breaks the lock and empties the cage. Like Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, she smirks as she rips them to pieces, but is caught by the Governor’s men. Questioned privately by the Governor, she is uncooperative, and after holding her katana to the Governor’s throat, leaves calmly.
That afternoon, Milton and Merle (Michael Rooker) drive to a nearby location, and using a net, pull walkers from an underground pit. The Governor’s crew hold down the walkers as Merle removes their teeth. At the town party that evening, Michonne reveals her dark suspicions about Woodbury to Andrea. Describing the townspeople as prisoners unable to leave, she sets out. Andrea, staying put, is approached by the Governor, who invites her for a drink; they walk away, hand-in-hand.
In the inner cell block, Glenn locates a silent Rick, who pushes him away. Prowling the dark, eerie cell block, Rick locates a butchered mess, who he surmises to be the remains of his deceased wife Lori. Seeing a bloated, well-fed walker nearby (presumably from eating you-know-who) he attacks and savagely kills it with his hunting knife…
As the Governor escorts Andrea to Woodbury’s evening festivities, a barbaric twist on old-time, bare-knuckle brawling: Merle and two of the Governor’s other muscled thugs duke it out in an arena, while chained (though toothless) walkers lunge at them from the side. Although the crowd cheers, Lori balks at the spectacle; the Governor waves it off, assuring her that it’s harmless.
The next day, Daryl lays a flower on an unmarked grave – Carol’s? (Melissa McBride) – while Rick remains in the cell block, still in shock. As the newborn’s crying reverberates through his head, he picks up a nearby ringing phone, answering “Hello?”
“Say the Word” was an overall exciting and well-paced episode, jump-cutting like an MTV video between the different storylines. With less of the usual fighting-their-way-through-hordes-of-walkers shtick, the highlight of this The Walking Dead episode is the slow and methodical unfolding of the Governor’s story. Seeing his sad, pitiful relationship with his walker daughter, we now understand why he and Milton are so fascinated with walkers’ behavior and memories. Michonne, on the other hand, remains an enigma, but in our first glimpse of what she can do when the odds seem to be against her, she is an impressive fighter. Somewhere between a manga heroine and a Pam Grier-style blaxploitation mama – with a touch of Snake Plissken – Michonne treats killing walkers as child’s play; in fact, she even seems to enjoy it. But questions arise. Where will she go, now that she has left Woodbury? What was that notebook? What will happen to Andrea? Will she develop a true romance with the Governor, or seek to leave? Was that Carol’s grave? If not, where is Carol (there was no mention of her)? Will Axel and Oscar prove their worth and link up with the survivors? Who called on the prison phone? What will happen to Rick?
A note to readers: At this point in the season we are so used to walkers popping out from every nook and cranny that even Daryl and Maggie’s supply run kept us on the edge of our seats. This time, all they encountered was an opossum. Also,I’ve felt for a while that the show has certain Western-style undertones (Rick is a sheriff; Daryl has a crossbow and a motorcycle, akin to a Native American with a bow and arrow on a horse, etc.). Case in point – note Daryl’s poncho, a tribute to Eastwood’s man-with-no-name from the famed Dollars trilogy. Continue reading