“Say the Word” is the first season-three episode of The Walking Dead that I outright dislike, and a lot of it has to do with the weird situation we find ourselves in with Michonne. It’s weird because we, the viewer, know that she’s right to suspect The Governor of being up to no good. We know this because we’ve witnessed him murder, seen his fish tanks filled with zombie heads and understand that the story dictates that this guy be a human villain to eventually challenge Rick and the group. And yet, despite the fact that we know she will ultimately be proven correct, the way she’s constantly Scooby-Doo-ing around Woodbury still seems fueled by needless paranoia and irrationally dangerous. The Governor hasn’t given her a single reason to distrust him so much, and yet there she is at the beginning of this episode, staring at him menacingly from outside his window. What does she hope to gain by being so obvious about it? If she’s wrong not to trust him, she’s ostracizing herself from the town and making things difficult for Andrea. If she’s right, she’s just going to get herself killed by being such a blatant and annoying snoop. I find the whole thing distracting, and it’s not helped by Danai Gurira’s barely-even-one-note performance as Michonne.
This week’s episode opens with the mini-bomb that the Governor is still caring for his zombiefied daughter, who he keeps hidden away at home. I thought for sure that bit of info, taken from the comics, would be saved for an end-of-episode reveal, so it was surprising to see it presented right up front. Meanwhile, Woodbury is busy preparing for some kind of semi-regular party that culminates in a mysterious main event. Andrea is intrigued and remains stuck in a push-and-pull with Michonne over whether they should leave or not. (An emotional tug-of-war that still doesn’t work for me because, thanks to the time jump between seasons two and three, we never got to see these two becomes friends.) Ultimately, Michonne ends up going, convinced it’s time thanks to a creepy though vague journal she finds in the Governor’s home. Andrea decides to stay, although she may want to change her mind when she discovers that the town’s main event is a gladiator-style fist fight where the contestants are surrounded by a ring of chained-up zombies. The Governor assures her that the fight is fixed and not really dangerous as the zombies’ teeth are removed. This does not look to ease Andrea’s mind.
As a reveal hinting that maybe Andrea really shouldn’t trust the Governor, the fight doesn’t work all that well, mostly because the people of Woodbury appear to be having a blast. It also seems a little odd that nobody cared to mention the town’s one big entertainment option clear up until Andrea was sitting on a bleacher watching it go down. As normal as everyone treats it, you’d think “Night at the Fights … With Zombies!” would be on the town brochure.
Watch Walking Dead – Say the Word Online
Walking Dead S03E05: Say the Word
Meanwhile, back at the prison, things are a bit chaotic after last week’s insanity. Daryl and Maggie head out to find formula so the baby has something to eat. Rick has been driven to the edge of crazytown by Lori’s death and storms back into the prison to find her body. And what does he discover instead? A fat slumped-over walker that had apparently already eaten Lori’s remains. His eyes filled with madness, Rick begins violently stabbing at the zombie’s taut stomach, determined to free what’s left of Lori. So, yeah … ick.
There are a few other prison happenings, including Glenn and Hershel discussing the value of the two prisoners who are now part of the group and whether they could have prevented all the recent deaths by executing the prisoners as soon as they found them. But the debate’s a bore and quickly forgotten … which is kind of how I feel about this episode at large.
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.