When we left Rick Grimes last week, he had discovered that his wife Lori died during childbirth and dropped to the ground, sobbing and crying. Entitled "Say The Word," this week's episode continued Rick's journey into the heart of darkness. Clearly traumatized by the news of Lori's death, Rick entered the prison by himself and embarked on a one-man zombie-killing spree while searching for her body. Upon his arrival to the boiler room that had earlier served as a makeshift delivery room, all that was left was a knife, some bloody remains, and the bullet that his son Carl used to shoot Lori to prevent her from resurrecting. He also found an engorged walker with a distended stomach, indicating that Lori's corpse had been almost completely devoured by this particular zombie. In an attempt to either exact further revenge or find evidence that Lori had been eaten, Rick repeatedly stabbed the lethargic walker in the belly after shooting it in the head.
Obviously, Rick's mental state is quite fragile, which calls into question the mysterious phone call he received at the end of the episode. This was all extremely well-done, especially Andrew Lincoln's performance as the psychologically-fractured protagonist descending into madness. Here's my Nitpick of the Night: it was hard to believe that one walker (or even a group of them) could or would ingest an entire body, bones and all, with a minimum of blood spill. I don't know if it was a budget issue or a change of plans, but even a chewed-up skeleton or larger pool of blood would have been preferable. At first, it seemed like the scenario I suggested last week had actually occurred—unable to bring himself to shoot his own mother, perhaps Carl shot the ground instead and left the room, allowing Lori to rise as a zombie. Although creator Robert Kirkman decried the idea in an interview, Lori turning into a walker and coming face-to-face with Rick could have had dramatic possibilities mirroring Morgan and his undead wife in the series pilot. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how Rick deals with his loss, realizing that their last conversation consisted of him blowing Lori off at the end of the second episode and that if he hadn't released the prisoner named Andrew into the yard, none of the carnage would have taken place.
In Rick's absence, Daryl displayed his range as a character when he stepped up as the de facto leader and called the shots for the group. Not only did he and Maggie go on an expedition to find baby formula for the newborn, he also showed his softer side while soothing the baby and when he placed a flower on Carol's grave. During the search for Sophia last season, Daryl told Carol about the legend of the Cherokee Rose and presented her with the same flower, providing an emotional callback here. If by some miracle Carol is found alive, is there anyone who doesn't want to see these two form a serious and lasting relationship? They have both been there for each other throughout the ordeal and the possibility has remained open since early in the second season. Either way, the show always benefits from a surplus of Daryl, so a focus on that character and how he assumed responsibility in a crisis situation was a boon to the episode.
Speaking of serious relationships, it looks like the bond between Andrea and Michonne has been broken. Rightfully suspicious of Woodbury and its leader The Governor, Michonne made good on her promise to leave the town while Andrea chose to stay behind and enjoy the plentiful food, safe shelter, and pleasant company of other human beings. Can't say I blame her, but it's hard to fault Michonne for leaving her behind after the discoveries she has made about the Governor. As viewers, we found out that when his daughter Penny died and turned into a "biter," Gov could not cope with losing his child and keeps her undead form locked up in his apartment, unknown to anyone in Woodbury. Far from being a cookie-cutter villain or hero, the Governor is a shades-of-grey character driven by a deep-seated motivation that has cracked him mentally—the desire to somehow fix his daughter. This explains why he has such a keen interest in researching the biters and learning how to control them, a strategy he has already used successfully on the living.
Like any good dictator, the Governor realizes that a populace needs mindless entertainment to keep it distracted from events transpiring behind the scenes and outside the walls, so he basically runs his own professional wrestling circuit. To keep the people of Woodbury amused, fights are staged between the Governor's thugs in a battleground surrounded by chained zombies, increasing the danger and excitement for the audience. Unknown to the onlookers, however, the biters have been defanged and declawed and the fights are rigged. The reigning king of the ring, Merle is truly in his element in this environment and his one-stumped pushups before the fight were a glorious sight. In our world of reality television and YouTube videos, the idea of our leaders using mindless entertainment as a diversion is territory ripe for social commentary. Although Andrea argued that these exhibitions would give the citizens a false sense of security around walkers, the Governor reasoned that it was to teach them not to be afraid. This statement hit home with Andrea, who spent Season 2 telling everyone within earshot that she wasn't going to be a victim anymore. In previews for next week's episode, entitled "Hounded," it looks like the relationship between Andrea and the Governor will continue to develop.
This episode also contained the most back story ever given to T-Dog, the token black character that was killed off last week: Glen explained to Hershel that when the plague had spread and cities were being evacuated, T drove his church's van around his community to pick up seniors who had no transportation. He wasn't "just a good guy," Glen assures us, "he was the best." You know, it might have been nice to know that while he was still alive.
Highlighted by memorable moments adapted directly from the original comic book series, "Say The Word" was another strong hour of post-apocalyptic television, featuring shocking reveals and seeds planted for storylines to progress as the season lurches forward. So far, Season 3 of The Walking Dead has delivered on all counts and produced some of the best episodes of the entire series. Can this trend continue, or will next week finally be the one that snaps the streak?
FINAL GRADE: A-