“Say the Word” begins during the aftermath of one of the most devastating episodes of The Walking Dead yet. However, instead of being drawn in, I was perpetually distracted. A full recap (and plenty of spoilers) can be found after the jump.
Remember how The Walking Dead spent the first half of the second season on a frustrating, fruitless search for the missing Sophia? Remember when that story finally came to its heartbreaking but predictable close, and it seemed like maybe, now that they didn’t have this pint-sized excuse to stick around the farm, the show could get on with the story (but then continued to drag for the rest of the season)? So far, season three has seemed like a fresh start, with The Walking Dead getting away from its previous hang-ups, like the Sophia chase, the continued existence of Shane, and the lack of believable character motivations.
And then the survivors dug three graves.
You’ll remember that last week, we lost T-Dog (long overdue) and Lori (didn’t see that happening so soon). When we last saw Carol, she had run off after T-Dog’s somewhat-noble sacrifice, and I was so preoccupied by the whole Lori birth/death scene that I didn’t give her a second thought. And then this week, they dug not two, but three graves. What the hell?
At first I thought I must have missed something. Maybe I didn’t hear a few key lines of dialogue that would have explained why the group, and Daryl in particular, is now mourning Carol. Sure, it’d be cheap and lazy to get rid of the original cast members without a death scene and explain it away in a minute, but really, that wouldn’t surprise me with this show. It wasn’t until I realized that other people were as confused as I was that I knew I hadn’t missed something, but that doesn’t make it better. Carol’s missing, and apparently presumed dead, and all I can think is, “This better not turn into another search for Sophia.”
Rick, meanwhile, isn’t mourning anything, because he’s gone batshit insane. Understandably, he’s reached the limit of what he can handle, and Lori’s death made him snap. As he runs off to single-handedly rid the prison of walkers, it’s up to Carl and the others to take care of the newest member of the family. Carl suggests naming his baby sister after all of the fallen female members of their group, and Daryl and Maggie take a trip to an abandoned school to find some formula. Obviously I knew Lori was pregnant, but I didn’t give a lot of thought to what would happen if the baby actually came. Now The Walking Dead has to deal with a baby but no mother, and with this season taking such a sharp turn away from its source material I have no idea what they’re going to do about it.
That brings us to Woodbury, where the Governor continues to be a total creep. Continuing the disagreement they’ve been having since they got there, Michonne wants to leave, especially after snooping around the Governor’s place and finding even more evidence of his instability. Andrea still wants to stay, and eventually they split up–Michonne walks away, and Andrea sticks around. I know I rag on Andrea a lot because she kind of sucks as a character in this show, but in this situation I can’t blame her too much. After living in that world and fighting for survival for so long, who wouldn’t want to stay in a place like Woodbury? Who wouldn’t want to believe that the town would make everything okay, even as evidence points to the opposite conclusion? So Andrea stays and gets to see that night’s entertainment, two men fighting in a circle of chained-up walkers. She thinks it’s sick, which it is, but not as sick as the Governor pretending his undead daughter is still his precious little girl.
All in all, this was an uneven episode, but the sudden, chilling ending–of which fans of the comic will understand the significance–was pretty great. Again, I found myself saying “Already?” just as I did last week when Lori died, but I don’t mind the show steering so far away from the comic’s narrative, as long as it’s solid entertainment and not the snoozefest of last season. I think the next episode will be important from that perspective. Will The Walking Dead continue its forward momentum, slowly crawling away from the mediocrity of the previous season, or will it fall back on old habits? We’ll find out soon enough.