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There was a panic in the fan community of
THE WALKING DEAD when it was revealed showrunner Frank Darabont and several
writers were not going to be continuing on the show. Would it rise or fall
without them? Five episodes into season three and I think
the question has definitively been answered.
The show hasn’t simply risen, it
has soared. This doesn’t mean the exodus was a factor, it just indicates the fears
were unfounded. After less than half the season, we’ve gotten some of the most
compelling horror entertainment ever put on the small screen. “Say the Word” offers us a continuing look
into the psyches of two men and how they are grappling with the horror around
them. Rick Grimes, after losing his Lori, descends into hellish madness
screaming bloody vengeance through the blood-spattered halls of the prison.
He’s clearly hit his breaking point and is now lashing out blindly, like an
animal. He nearly takes Glenn out just for trying to talk him down, his eyes
glazed over and seemingly not even recognizing him.
By contrast, the Governor is outwardly
stable and seeming to thrive on the challenges of the grim new world. The
cracks in his armour are much more subtle, but we see them. In the opening, we
discover another of his dark secrets: what appears to be a zombie daughter he’
keeping in a nice little summer dress. It’s gruesome and yet at the same time
humanizing; a sign that under his cool veneer, there is a seething darkness.
Later in the episode, we’re treated to good
old Woodbury entertainment in the form of a zombie pit fight with Merle and
another fine citizen. It’s the blood and circuses that soothed the masses of
ancient Rome and another point in the favor of the Governor-as-dictator theory.
When Andrea is sickened by it, he uses the opportunity to continue his “ends justify
the means” rationalizing and gets his seductive hooks deeper into her. It’s
hard to imagine the horror of using former human beings as fodder for
bloodsport and a chilling look at how close we are to barbarism. Even as
zombies, it seems undignified to use them like that.
Michonne sure isn’t falling for it though
and this episode she finally gets her sword back, draws it on the Governor and
gets the hell out of Woodbury after appealing to Andrea to join her. It’s a
tough spot for Andrea to be in, torn between trust for her friend that she
survived with over months on the unforgiving road and the safety and security
of Woodbury. This is a classic dilemma and parallels strongly with people the
world over who’ve lived under oppressors, balancing compromise between values
and having food, shelter and relative safety. Any number of very real
atrocities in history have been given a blind eye by people who just don’t want
to risk their human comforts. So it goes in the world of the zombie apocalypse.
In the meantime, Daryl and Hershel take the
lead at the prison while Rick loses it and supplies for the baby are recovered. There’s even a
touching moment with Uncle Daryl bouncing the newborn in his arms during a feeding
and calling her “asskicker.” Carl’s suggested list of names ends with “Lori”
tragically and leads us to reflect again on the horrible choices he had to
Back in crazytown, Rick finds the spot Lori
died in and discovers the bullet Carl used to put her down. Following a bloody
trail from where Lori’s body should have been he finds a walker, belly
distended from its consumption of Lori’s remains. Rick seems to recognize what’s
happened and after shooting it in the head, uses Carl’s knife to stab the
monster over and over and over in its wretched guts. It’s a wrenching scene
followed by a conclusion that makes us all wonder just how far gone Rick is.
Once again, this is only episode five. If you
aren’t watching this you are missing out on the best entertainment on TV right
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