Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ – ‘Say the Word’

A review of tonight’s “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I do some one-armed push-ups…

“This place is not what they say it is.” -Michonne

Both Rick and Michonne spend part of “Say the Word” wordlessly slaughtering walkers, but the way in which they each do it, and what we know of their motivations for it, are very different.

Rick is the show’s central character, and whatever issues the series may have with servicing the supporting cast, it has always done right by Rick. We know who he is, what he’s about, and why he’s reacting a certain way in a certain situation. Lori’s death – in such a sudden, unexpected way that didn’t even give him a chance to say goodbye (their last conversation, as far as we know, was that strained, impersonal one on the bridge in episode 2) – has gutted him, and all you need is one look at the look of anguish and rage on Andrew Lincoln’s face (back to back great episodes for him) to understand why he has to both kill every walker in sight and at least get a look at Lori’s corpse for some closure. In this moment, he’s not a cop, not a leader, not anything but an animal. For the moment, he’s one step above a walker, but only because he can move faster and use a weapon.

We get all of that, and it’s powerful. Michonne, on the other hand, is harder to figure. Rick needs catharsis. When Michonne unlocks the gate and starts decapitating zombie fools, she’s doing it for… what? Is she, as Andrea suggests later, trying to get kicked out of Woodbury? Does she just need exercise? Is this just an excuse for the show to let her look supremely badass for a few minutes?

Andrea’s theory is probably the right one, but the problem is, she knows Michonne a lot better than we do. By introducing a new character immediately before jumping eight months ahead in the story – and a character who speaks little and has facial expressions that hover somewhere between a squint and a scowl – the show all but punted on letting anyone but comic readers get to know and understand Michonne as well as we know Rick, or even newer additions like Hershel and Maggie. And because so much of the Woodbury story to this point has revolved around Michonne’s attempt to convince Andrea that this isn’t the haven it’s made out to be, it’s a big problem that one side of the debate – the correct side, it seems – is coming from someone we don’t really know, or have reason to trust in the way Andrea does.

“Say the Word” is something of a transitional episode, as the prison group deals with the aftermath of Lori’s death and L’il Asskicker’s birth, while Michonne finally gets to leave Woodbury right before Andrea starts to realize that her sword-wielding friend might have had a point once she gets a look at Merle’s creepy gladiator fight. And the scenes at the prison (or prison-adjacent locales like the abandoned daycare center) were all compelling stuff, while the material at Woodbury felt more uneven in large part because I still don’t feel like I know who Michonne is or why I’m supposed to care other than that she does, indeed, look badass when she pulls out that katana.

Some other thoughts:

* Last week, I assumed that Carol was simply missing in action and that the half-eaten body Rick and the others found was T-Dog’s. Tonight, though, Glenn and the convicts dig three graves, and Daryl places a Cherokee rose (similar to the one he gave Carol last season during the search for Sophia) on what must be Carol’s grave. So is she definitely dead, or are they just guessing and it’s a mound of dirt with no body in it?

* It appears that Oscar and Axel have been accepted as part of the group now, as they not only help dig the graves but are entrusted with opening and closing the gate when Daryl and Maggie return. On the other hand, I don’t know how comfortable they should get, what with Glenn suggesting he’d trade any number of outsiders for one of their own – and I doubt the newbies get that kind of consideration just yet.

* I liked the idea of Carl suggesting they could name the baby after any of their various fallen female friends, but I have to admit that I’d half-forgotten who several of those people were as their names came up.

* Glad the show didn’t just gloss over the fact that, with Lori dead, L’il Asskicker will need formula to survive. That’s going to be an ongoing issue, though. I’ve bottle-fed kids, and that those cans of powder get emptied shockingly quickly.

Once again, let me remind you again of this blog’s No Spoiler rule and how it applies to this show, as I’ve had to delete a bunch of comments the last few weeks that violated it. Basic things to remember before commenting:

1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.

2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Mazzara and Kirkman have said in interviews.

3. No talking about anything that’s happened in the comic that hasn’t happened in the TV show yet. As with “Game of Thrones,” the goal is to treat “The Walking Dead” TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.

With that in mind, what did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at