A Bloody Mouthful: The Walking Dead Season 3, Episode 5 ("Say The Word") Recap

Back with another Bloody Mouthful – before tonight’s episode, we’re discussing Episode 5, “Say the Word.”  As always, SPOILER ALERT!

The episode opens with the main characters still reeling from the gut-punch of Laurie’s and T-Bone’s deaths (+ Carol’s alleged death, but without a body, I ain’t buying it).  Glenn confesses his willingness to sacrifice “any number of their people for one of ours,” which does not bode well for former inmates Oscar and Axel’s acceptance into the group. 

Rick, god bless him, has officially gone buh-bye.  He is on a one-man zombie extermination spree inside the prison.  The symbolism of him going “down” into the bowels of the prison is particularly apt.  We knew Rick’s primal “killing” spree (because you can’t really kill something that’s already dead, right?) was coming all along.  The question that accompanies any trip to the dark side is: can he find his way back? Will he return from this descent into his own personal hell or will he remain trapped in eternal combat with his demons (internal and Walker)?  His wordless attack of Glenn provides a dark view of his future – he’s lost his ability to verbalize, and he’s sure as shit got no use for Glenn’s coddling (or any other semblance of civilization) right now.  However dark his trip is, though, there’s no denying the vicarious, first-person “shooter” thrill of watching Rick recklessly and violently rip apart every Walker that crosses his path.  Though his final dispatch of the bloated Walker who was pregnant with Laurie’s remains (my hat is off to the writer who thought of that grotesque doubled image) fell short of the full-on freak-out I was hoping for.

Meanwhile, in Woodbury, the Governor is spending quality father-daughter time with his now-zombie progeny: brushing her hair and ripping out part of her scalp along with the tangles – you know, like you do.  It’s unclear whether Michonne caught this little vignette of creepiness through the Governor’s window, but her snooping raised her hackles even further where the Man-with-a-Plan is concerned.  I loved the writers’ reference to The Shining when Michonne finds the Governor’s diary filled with hash marks for days after Penny’s death.  It’s no “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but I appreciated the nod to Kubrick.

Preparations for the party in Woodbury seem ghoulish enough, so it’s appropriate that Michonne decides to throw herself her own little shindig – a katana-fueled Walker slaughter-fest.  I heard one of the producers of the show talk about this moment as one of the only times we see Michonne smile.  I missed her smile, but there’s no doubt she’s in her element here.  Given the secrets the Governor is hiding, and the wall of normalcy and security (buttressed by his Merle-headed goon squad) he surrounds himself with, there’s no doubt Michonne relishes this opportunity to fight an obvious foe – out in the open, no gray areas.

What is the deal with these caged Walkers, do you think? Did they seem grayer than other Walkers, or was that my imagination?  This wasn’t simply a holding pen for the gladiator matches – that wouldn’t explain the ribbons of Walker flesh strewn across that machinery.  Was it farm equipment, like a thresher?  The Governor seemed to refer to them as “grist for the mill” – they can’t really be a food source, can they?  We know the sniveling “doctor” is conducting Walker-based experiments, so … ?  Questions, questions, questions…

Of course, Michonne’s rampage lands her in hot water with the Governor.  This power dynamic is highlighted by their racial and gender differences – and it’s beyond clear that The Governor’s racial supremacy and manhood are threatened by Michonne.  The Governor’s phallic envy has never been closer to the surface than in the encounter in which he keeps trying to own Michonne’s sword.  He confronts her with what feels like a barbed “dyke” comment: “You get off on that? Poking around other people’s things?”  At first, before he qualified it, I thought the Governor was referencing Michonne’s Walker-clearing as the source of her arousal.  But then he uses such blatantly phallocentric language (“poking”) to discuss the invasion of his privacy.  As I’m writing this, I can’t help but use sexual vocabulary; I’m not just being a perv here, this is all very intentional.  You can’t deny that when Michonne disarms The Governor and takes back her own expertly-wielded sword, The Governor is feeling a little … outclassed? Inadequate? De-phallic-fied?  

Perhaps the most surprising development of this episode is Daryl’s easy transition to group leader.  We all knew he had the physical prowess and brutality to reckoned-with force in this landscape, but his emotional development as the heart-center of the group is truly striking.  Anyone who saw him risking his life to find baby formula, choking up in the daycare when he saw the child’s handprint craft titled “Sofie,” cradling “Little Asskicker,” or placing the Cherokee Rose on Carol’s “grave” might be rightly thrown for a loop by his transformation.  Dogs and cats may well be living together in this mass hysteria, but one thing is certain: the inevitable Daryl/Merle showdown just got a whole lot more interesting.

Speaking of Merle, he appears to be in HIS element in the de-fanged Walker gladiator ring, doing Jack Palance one-armed push-ups (though, really, what other kind can he do?).  I didn’t understand Merle’s cocksure swagger in the ring until The Governor explained the Walkers were toothless, thus explaining the reason for Merle’s Walker dental practice.  You know what else was toothless?  Woodbury’s End-of-the-World Band.   I mean, I’m not expecting R.E.M., and I know the pickings are slim, but come ON, this is the SOUTH!  There’s gotta be some residual music tradition that doesn’t sound like a bad Rolling Stones tribute band. 

The best IN-YOUR-FACE moment of the episode was when Andrea called The Governor’s little entertainment display “barbaric.”  This is especially doh-worthy given The Governor’s earlier, racially incendiary labeling of Michonne as a “barbarian.”  Michonne and The Governor are headed toward the final countdown, and my money’s on Michonne.

Which brings us to the mysterious end of “Say the Word.” Rick finds himself in the dank room where Laurie met her end, bringing life into this cruel world.  The item that Rick picked up, amidst her blood, was the bullet that Carl put into Laurie’s brain to ensure she wouldn’t return as a Walker.  An interesting tidbit I learned on Talking Dead, per Greg Nicotero, was that Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick, carried that bullet in his pocket every day that he played Rick.  That will set the mood, no?

Many thanks to deviantARTist x_kai_x (all the way from France, ladies and gentlemen!) for allowing us to use her oh-so-apropos caricature art to illustrate this installment of A Bloody Mouthful.  You can see more of her work at http://x-gaki-x.deviantart.com/.  Tune in Monday night to read my recap of Episode 6 of The Walking Dead.

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