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“It’s wrong, but I’d trade any number of people for one of ours any day.” — Glenn
Considering Lori and T-Dog died in the final minutes of last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, it seems a bit strange to open “Say the Word” with a day of partying in Woodbury. Two of the most tragic, albeit hoped-for, deaths in the history of the series greeted with revelry and happiness? It didn’t feel like I was watching the AMC drama we’ve come to know and love over the past few years.
Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for The Walking Dead to get back to its old tricks. Noticeably absent from the revelry is The Governor, and minutes into the episode we find where he’s hiding: in his home, brushing the hair of a child soon revealed to be Penny. We don’t know whether she’s actually his daughter in the show or is really his niece like in the comics, but it’s clear The Governor isn’t as acclimated to loss during the zombie apocalypse as his followers might believe. “I love you so much. You know that, right?” The Governor tells the undead girl as she tries to bite him. It’s a weird way to reveal Penny, but at least it only took us four episodes to get to this point.
Quick important post-apocalypse question of the week: Does a chunk of hair grow back if you’re a zombie, or is Penny going to be stuck with a nasty bald patch for the rest of her undead life?
After The Governor covers Penny in bindings to make sure she can’t bite him, he notices Michonne – it’s a Michonne-heavy episode — standing outside of his apartment. When The Governor goes out to pump up the citizens of Woodbury about the night’s party, telling them this is their celebration for surviving for so long, Michonne breaks into his home to retrieve her katana. While there, she stumbles across a photo of his family and a notebook where he seemingly keeps track either of those he lost to the zombies or those he’s killed. The final name is Penny, but it later becomes clear Michonne has no idea who that is.
The swordswoman gets back her katana and then sneaks out of the back of The Governor’s apartment, where she finds a cage filled with walkers. Michonne immediately frees them only so she can relish cutting them down. Needless to say, this doesn’t go over well with The Governor & Co. He confronts her, claiming he has nothing to hide, but that’s when she levels the name “Penny.” That gives The Governor pause, but Michonne loses her advantage when he realizes she thinks Penny was a woman he was involved with. When he tries to convince Michonne to stay in Woodbury, claiming that by breaking the rules she has introduced anarchy and he can’t allow that, she pulls her katana on him and then leaves.
Being a manipulative fellow like he is, The Governor then calls in Andrea to try to convince her to get Michonne to stay. He implies that Michonne has lost her mind a bit, and when Andrea later goes to confront Michonne about it, she seems to think her partner has as well. Andrea says she wants to give Woodbury “a real shot,” but Michonne cautions her that “this place is not what they say it is,” claiming that they can’t leave even if they want to.
Andrea agrees to try and leave with Michonne just to see if they can, and for a while it seems as though Merle won’t let them walk out the front door. However, he proves Michonne wrong by letting them leave if they want, though Andrea won’t actually go. Michonne gives her an ultimatum, and Andrea refuses to commit either way. “You just slowed me down anyways,” she tells Andrea, walking out the front door with no sign of regret. Somehow we doubt that’s the last we’ll see of her.
Meanwhile back at the Prison, the episode actually picks up right where “Killer Within” left off, except we start from Rick’s perspective. He’s in a haze, completely unhinged after the death of his wife and birth of his daughter. Carl is the one who has to take the baby and seemingly step up to become the man of the family, just like his mother predicted he would. Daryl and Maggie head off to find baby formula, but Rick doesn’t seem to register that move. Instead, he picks up an ax and heads into the prison, leaving a trail of dead zombies in his wake.
Glenn begins digging graves for Lori, T-Dog and Carol (whom the group presumes dead), and reluctantly allows inmates Axel and Oscar to help. Seeing Hershel in the distance, Glenn talks with him about their losses and about the newcomers. When Hershel observes that Oscar and Axel seem like “good guys,” Glenn becomes upset.
T-Dog might not have had the biggest presence on The Walking Dead, but it’s Glenn who gives him a fitting sendoff. Saying that T-Dog was “the best” kind of person, Glenn recalls that, during the initial outbreak, T-Dog took his church van around to the homes of seniors to see if they needed a ride. “It’s wrong, but I’d trade any number of people for one of ours any day,” Glenn admits, and as a fan, I’d have to agree with him.
Just as Michonne is at the center of the Woodbury storyline, Glenn is at the center of the Prison one. He finds Rick and tells him he doesn’t have to experience his grief alone, but Rick — covered in blood and acting like a feral dog — pins Glenn to the wall and almost hurts him before letting a shaken Glenn leave.
We see Daryl and Maggie find formula at what seems like an abandoned daycare, and then they head back to the Prison to regroup. Carl is still holding his little sister, but it’s Daryl who cares for her and gives her the formula. Who knew he was such a softie? It’s at this point I realized we still have no idea what happened to Carol after T-Dog died saving her, a loose end I doubt will remain loose for long.
Daryl asks Carl if he’s come up with a name for the new baby, and Carl sadly admits he’s only thought of the names of the women they’ve lost, including Lori. Daryl suggests “Little Ass-Kicker,” and everyone — including me — seems to have a soft spot for that name.
While the drama with Michonne and The Governor has been going on, there’s a scene in which Merle, Milton and some other cronies collect walkers they’ve lured into a trap using some strange solar-powered machine that emits noises. Toward the end of the episode, we discover the reason The Governor has zombies to begin with is because that’s how the people of Woodbury celebrate their survival.
It turns out what “party” really means in Woodbury terms is “zombie gladiator fights.” Andrea is none too pleased with this revelation, but The Governor does his best to convince her it’s totally normal to have two men (one being Merle) fighting in the middle of a ring of chained, toothless walkers, but somehow I don’t he’s got that one over on her. (For the record, Merle wins the fight.)
Back at the Prison, Rick finds where Lori died, but there’s no sign of her body. As he soon discovers, that’s because a very full zombie ate her corpse. Rick kills the walker and then repeatedly stabs its stomach while clearly losing his mind. In the final moments of the episode, Rick is still sitting next to the now-mutilated zombie when he hears his baby crying and then a ringing telephone. The episode ends with Rick picking up the phone and saying, “Hello?” — Andrew Lincoln’s only line in “Say the Word” — with no hint to us as to who could be calling.
Is it someone in his camp? Carol? Michonne? Woodbury? Or maybe even someone we haven’t met yet? Better yet, is the phone all in his mind, and is he going to talk to ghost Lori like he did in the comics? It’s become increasingly clear that regardless of what we know of the Walking Dead comics or general mythology, this series is going to continue to surprise us, and that’s definitely a good thing.