The Walking Dead Review: “Say The Word” (Season 3, Episode 5)

The lives of the survivors (and viewers) of AMC’s hit show were rattled alike with last week’s episode “Killer Within” which gruesomely and tragically dispatched two prominent cast members and as showcased this week, the potential of another. So far hitting with a force more akin to a string of season finales, this return to the apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead is showing no signs of letting up and is easily poising itself to be the best season yet.

Jumping right into another big reveal (and I’m not referring to the tragic events at the prison but rather a twisted revelation at Woodbury), the macabre nature of which continued to ramp up and raise the stakes before the beginning credits rolled. Though the ensuing episode may not stack up in unbroken potency to the intrigue mounting at The Governor’s little slice of paradise, the reveal plants the seed for what’s to come down the road.

In fact, one has to wonder if the shorunners are keeping the pace too swift so early on, as if to atone for the presumed sins of the season two. I’m by no means suggesting I would have wanting anything other than how episodes one through four were handled, I simply hope they don’t run out of juicy material too prematurely. But with the true mysteries of Woodbury still to be revealed as well as what I assume will be the forthcoming (comic book-inspired) siege of the West Central Prison by The Governor, entertaining television is still on the horizon.

On the prison front, things pick up immediately after Rick’s devastating reaction to his wife’s death with the arrival of baby. Still at a level of disbelief that makes him more a zombie than his undead counterparts, the former calm and cool leader of their group grabs an axe, dives headfirst back into the Walker-infested bowels of the prison and performs a little self therapy by way of decapitation.

In fact, Rick speaks only one word the entire episode, though what the character lacks in eloquent speech he more than makes up for in maniacal stares and terrifyingly violent body language. It’s another great instance of acting by Andrew Lincoln, this time of the physical nature rather than with tears of grief.

With Rick off wandering the gloomy corridors, presumably with the end goal of finding his late wife’s corpse, assertive and sympathetic Daryl is born, immediately springing to the task of locating some baby formula and other supplies before another, far more innocent, casualty is added to their roster for the day. Hopping on his chopper (and sporting some sort of dirty knit poncho) and joined by Maggie, they zoom off to their nearest unsearched location.

Well I won’t keep you in suspense, and will just tell you the duo find the supplies they need and return to crying baby just in time. But like Beth’s song in the prison yard in episode one coming off as rather sinister considering the circumstances, so does their arrival at a day care center. Knowing what has transpired, signed cardboard hands of the school’s former students littering the now-quiet classrooms is damn creepy, as is the brief discussion of what to name the baby. With so many lost friends to honor with the arrival of new life, the list is a long one. Unless of course you go with Daryl’s suggestion of “little ass-kicker.”

Daryl’s metamorphosis from the racist hillbilly we saw in season one comes two fold. Firstly, now separated from his brother Merle, he is freed from his oppressive shadow and more right wing tendencies. Furthermore, the death of Sophia and, as “Say the Word” explains that of Carol who the group also believed to have perished, have certainly humbled him. On the Carol front, for those keeping track, the character “died” off-screen but considering the already high body count and the fact that if she had died T-Dog’s sacrifice would have been for nought, it’s safe to say she’s still kicking around somewhere.

Speaking of T-Dog, as Daryl and Maggie scout for formula, Glenn pauses from digging three graves to talk with Hershel, stating the nature of the group as family and all the times T-Dog saved his life, and how great a person he was, where during the first days of the outbreak he drove to every elderly person’s house he knew to see if they needed help. It’s a nice moment of remembrance and I wish the prior two seasons had taken the time to actually show us any of this and not relegate his character to tertiary and ultimately perfunctory status.

In that talk, the themes also persist of the dead versus the living as well as “family” versus outsiders; that he would kill someone he didn’t know to save someone he did. The world of The Walking Dead has completed the transition to dystopia and survival of the fittest means not showing weakness. New trust is a luxury they can’t afford.