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17 November, 2012

REVIEW: The Walking Dead: Season 3 - Episode 5 "Say the Word"

My previous reviews for this series can be accessed by clicking the links below:

A number of plot points will inevitably be revealed in the course of these writings.  My intent is to review this program from the perspective of the Doomer / Prepper / Survivalist community, but, to do that effectively, some things have to be explained in greater detail than I might normally prefer in a review.  As a result, spoilers will follow.  You have been warned.  In truth, you might more accurately describe these posts as in-depth discussions of certain aspects of each episode with an emphasis on how the character's actions might be applicable in a real-life societal collapse.  I hope you enjoy.

After the tragic ending of the previous week's installment, episode five begins with a very Fourth of July-type Summertime party atmosphere in the town of Woodbury that, to Andrea's surprise and delight, even includes cold drinks.  Milton, the creepy guy who the Governor has apparently placed in charge of studying Walkers, laments the wasteful use of power to run the generators all day to make something as frivolous as ice.

I could normally sympathize with him, because, in most TEOTWAWKI situations fuel for the gensets might be at a premium.  In a zombie apocalypse, however, there ought to be plenty of gas sitting around in the tanks of abandoned automobiles and underground storage tanks at gas stations.  Finding a tanker truck abandoned on the interstate or a train-yard with tanker cars would be like gold.

I suppose, long-term, there could be a problem.  After all, nobody's likely to be refining any more of the stuff.  With such a huge amount of the pre-apocalypse population dead, however, it could be a lifetime before the existing supply runs-out.  In fact, I'd be less worried about running out of fuel and more concerned with foraging and stockpiling as much of it as possible (as well as the means to treat it for longevity -- you'd need an ungodly amount of that stuff), before other groups of survivors got the same idea and snatched it all up. 

To be honest, one of my major goals is to add a small solar/wind and maybe hydroelectric setup here on the homestead with a deep-cycle battery bank.  Not a five-digit price tag setup, you understand, just something to allow for some limited LED lighting; charging of rechargeable batteries and lanterns/radios; charging a motorized wheelchair; and -- *DING, DING, DING* -- running our two freezers.  I know, philosophically, I should be preparing to rough it without such pleasantries, and I am doing just that.  You had better believe, however, that once all of the necessities of life are secured, keeping my freezers running is a solid #2 on my priority list.  Don't get me wrong, we can make it without them, but I don't want to if I don't absolutely have to do so.

Anyway, there's apparently some big event being planned in Woodbury for later that night, but Milton refuses to spill the beans to Andrea.  She's just going to have to wait and see for herself.  Next we see the Governor in his apartment/quarters, brushing a little girl's hair as classical music plays in the background.  So, this must be the daughter he mentioned previously whom we have yet to see.  It appears to be a sweet little father-daughter moment we're eavesdropping on, until we see that she's a Walker.

Apparently, in addition to the Governor's detached Walker heads in eery back-lit aquariums collection, he also keeps his Walker daughter hidden somewhere, trussed-up in a straight-jacket and with a canvas bag over her head.  Great.  As if he wasn't already weird enough.  I suppose he is going to be another poor fool, like Hershel was for a time, who is hoping for some kind of cure.  Maybe that's his purpose for having Milton study the Walkers?  Another question: I wonder what he feeds her?

Back at the prison, we pick-up right where we left-off with the tragedies of last week, but this time we begin from Rick's point-of-view, half-dazed and out of his mind.  He's barely able to focus on what the others are saying.  Quickly, that changes, though (not for Rick, but for our point-of-view).  Hershel examines the baby, pronouncing that she looks healthy, but needs infant formula; otherwise, without her mother to breastfeed her, she won't survive.  Well, let me tell you, Daryl is having none of that.  He is now, officially, my favorite character on the show, by the way.

He's just an old country boy, but, with Rick seemingly out of commission, he quickly takes charge and organizes a run to get formula for the group's new addition.  He pulls Beth aside and gives her instructions to take care of Carl, who has "just lost his Mom and his Dad ain't doing so hot," then assigns the two convicts Oscar and Axel to fence duty (distracting Walkers from piling up around the gate-entry), and proceeds to light a fire under everybody's posteriors to get it moving before they lose the daylight.  Meanwhile, Rick says nothing, but just snatches-up an axe off the ground and stalks back inside to kill more Walkers, I guess, as some sort of revenge.

Glenn and Maggie are to be Daryl's backup on the run, but, it turns-out they're going to have to take Daryl's Harley due to their being too much debris blocking the road that leads to a nearby shopping center for which they've previously seen signs.  Daryl can only take one passenger.  Glenn wants to go, because of all Maggie went through with the tragic birth (and, obviously, because he's protective of her), but she says that it has to be her.  She wants to see to it for Lori.

The story moves back to Woodbury, and we witness the Governor addressing his people.  He talks about the beginnings of Woodbury -- nine survivors, huddled in an apartment with a horde of canned SPAM and saltine crackers -- and the community they've now become.  Meanwhile, Michonne takes advantage of the distraction to sneak into the Governor's digs and steal her sword back.  While there, she comes across another interesting find: on his desk is a notepad that contains agendas, ideas for good governance, and proper shepherding of resources.  However, it also lists names that apparently represent those who have died.  At the bottom of the list is Penny (his daughter), and everything in the notepad after that point is just nonsense tick-marks -- pages and pages of them.

I found that sad.  It actually looks as though he began things in Woodbury in a right-minded way.  In fact, one of my preps here at the homestead is a bunch of those hard-backed composition books, full of blank paper.  My intention being that, if the worst should ever happen and TS really does ever HTF, dumping us into a long-term Mad Max-style TEOTWAWKI situation, I plan to keep a chronicle; maybe even assign someone at my place as an official historian.  It looks like the Governor was doing something similar, but it all went off the rails when little Penny died.

Michonne is just on the verge of, perhaps, discovering Walker Penny herself, having heard a noise coming from behind a locked door.  Before she can jimmy the lock with her knife, however, she is very nearly caught when the Governor, Milton, and Merle appear.  She hides and overhears Milton belly-aching some more about all the power they're using.  Apparently, he's at a critical stage in some unnamed project/experiment and the power drain is causing him issues.  I include that only because, with all the talk of his research, there must be some importance to it all that will -- no doubt -- become evident later.

Michonne escapes, unseen by the men, by going out a window.  She soon finds herself in a sort of encloses courtyard area, where a bunch of Walkers are being kept in cages, out of sight of the populace.  And, in true Michonne fashion, she opens the cages and slaughters them all with her sword, before being caught by someone who was apparently assigned to feed them scraps.  Brought before the Governor for a private meeting, he tells her that he sees her actions as examples of trying to force him to kick her out.  Andrea wants to stay, but she doesn't, so she's trying to remove all choice from the equation; that's what he believes is happening.  Instead, he unsuccessfully attempts to recruit her for some sort of Research Team.  By way of declining his invitation, she very nearly kills him with her sword after taking it out of his own hands.

Later, he will approach Andrea in an attempt to get her to intervene in Michonne's poor behavior, saying that her friend makes people uncomfortable and some want her gone.  He wants them to stay, but needs Andrea to wrangle her friend.  The two women then have it out in the quarters that have been assigned to them.  Michonne is packing and planning an escape at nightfall, in response to which Andrea argues that they aren't prisoners.

Michonne, however, sees it differently, pointing it out that nobody who comes to Woodbury ever leaves.  Andrea argues that the reason for that is that the town is safe, people are fed there, and -- most of all -- it is a community.  She doesn't want to spend the rest of a brutal, likely short life fighting for survival with only Michonne as a companion; she wants to really give staying in Woodbury permanently a fair shot.  Michonne believes that all that Andrea is seeing is what they want her to see, the truth being that people are only allowed to leave if forced out.

A bit later, we are treated to more Woodbury weirdness, as Merle and the so-called Research Team go out to retrieve new Walkers to replace the ones Michonne massacred.  They have some sort of a noise-maker, powered by two solar panels and set-up to attract Walkers, which then fall into deep rectangular pit traps dug in the ground around the contraption.  They retrieve them with nets and a crane, and they are seen removing their teeth with pliers.

Back at the prison, Glenn is digging graves for Lori, T-Dog, and Carol, despite the fact that they only have one body of which they can be fairly assured of recovering.  I originally had a lot to say here about the grave-digging thing, so much in fact that it very quickly became its own dedicated article, so I encourage you to follow the link and read it.  As he's digging, Oscar and Axel offer to help as well as to share some friendly condolences over the group's loss.  He rebuffs their friendship, but assigns them to dig as he walks up to the fence to have a word with Hershel, who is watching the exchange from a distance.

He asks Hershel if Rick has returned, and is informed that he is still somewhere inside.  Glenn states his intention to go in and retrieve him, but, before he leaves, he confesses to Hershel that part of him wishes they had preemptively executed all of the prisoners on that first day.  Hershel puts forth his belief that Oscar and Axel seem to be OK guys, but Glenn is having trouble justifying their people being dead now in their place.

He tells a story about T-Dog that we haven't heard before now: when the mass evacuations began, he says, T-Dog drove his church's van to the homes of all the Seniors in the congregation, in an effort to get them out of danger.  And both men agree that he got bit closing the gate, and, if he hadn't, it could have been Maggie (Hershel's daughter and Glenn's woman) who might have died.  Glenn states that he knows that it's wrong to feel in such a way, but he would trade any number of people for just one of theirs.

Regarding the digging of the graves, you should read the other article dedicated to death and burial in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, but I will say one things briefly here.  Quite frankly, Glenn having Oscar and Axel dig two more graves (for a total of 3), when they don't have a body for Carol and aren't yet sure if they have one for Lori either, was a misappropriation of valuable labor.  If Carol is indeed dead, you can place a marker to commemorate her without digging a hole.  

Every calorie expended doing stupid, pointless busy-work represents energy that will need to be replenished with food, and these guys are in a constant crunch when it comes to food and supplies.  If any of you reading this ever do something that damn stupid in real-life, I will personally appear in your nightmares to chastise you properly.

Glenn then is seen to follow a trail of dismembered Walkers through the prison corridors; this is what Rick has left in his wake during his mad rampage.  Rick, still nearly catatonic and covered in gore, refuses to respond to Glenn's pleas to return with him.  In fact, he seems about to kill his friend when Glenn makes the mistake of touching him.  He seems to recognize that he is not an enemy at the last moment, though, and -- still without uttering a single word -- continues off into the prison for more carnage.

Again, we jump back to Woodbury, where Michonne and Andrea attempt to test Michonne's theory about the town.  They pack their bags and approach the gates as if to depart.  After briefly delaying them, Merle whispers instructions to the guard and then personally opens the way for them to leave if they wish.  Andrea argues that as definitive proof of Michonne's fears being unwarranted, but Michonne suspects a set-up and that it was for show.  The two women have words and part ways harshly, Michonne leaving Woodbury alone.

Later that evening in Woodbury, the Governor accompanies Andrea to the surprise festivities that have been being planned all day.  As it turns out, it is a gladiator-style fight between Merle and another of the town's men, wherein the threat of chained Walkers is used to keep the combatants in the "ring."  Andrea is not pleased, calling it "barbaric."  The Governor, on the other hand, explains that it's all staged -- these are the Walkers that have had their teeth removed -- and they use it as a way of letting the people blow off some steam.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to say about this, except to point out that there was a good reason the pugilistic arts were invented in ancient times: they are fun to watch!  The whole de-toothed zombie stuff aside, I can definitely see sponsoring a wrestling or boxing tournament for entertainment, maybe even a ball-game if possible.  With no TV, computer, or Ipod to turn to, people will practically go insane simply from the lack of stimuli.  A happy people are a productive people, so we all had better make some plans to entertain them.

Elsewhere, Daryl and Maggie break into an abandoned daycare facility.  There they locate and acquire the baby supplies needed, and Daryl shoots a Opossum for dinner.

Frankly, I can't speak enough about the importance that foraging for supplies will play in a long-term societal collapse.  I don't care how self-sufficient any of us might believe our homesteads and retreats to be, I would lay real odds that nearly all of us will be forced to do these kinds of supply runs.

After they return to the prison, Daryl feeds the baby, and asks Carl about a name for her.  Carl isn't sure, but runs through a list of all the female members the group has lost as possible namesakes; a touching moment of reminiscence for those present.

Daryl is inexplicably awesome with the baby, by the way.  As for him: the next morning, we see him place a Cherokee Rose on Carol's resting place -- a clear reference to the one he gave her early in season 2 when her daughter Sophia was missing.

Lastly, we see Rick as he discovers the site of Lori's death and his new daughter's birth.  The writers of this show are true sadists, ladies and gentlemen, with respect to the meat grinder that they put both the characters *AND* their viewers through on an emotional level.

Lori's body is gone.  All that remains is the knife used to cut the baby from her womb and the spent bullet her own son used to put her down, lying in a large pool of gore.  Drag marks lead away to where a single Walker sits against the wall, belly distended, because it has devoured Lori completely.  You can see hair of her color in its teeth.  I guess that's one more grave they didn't need to have dug.

Rick blows it's head off, then momentarily considers cutting its stomach open, as if he is going to reclaim Lori that way.  He comes to his senses somewhat, though, and just ends up knifing it numerous times instead.

Later, he hallucinates that he is hearing the cries of a baby, before realizing that it is really something far more intriguing: an actual ringing telephone!  He answers, speaking his only verbal line in the entire episode, and the screen fades to black.

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