Sorry for all of those people looking for a recap or a write-up of last night's new episode of The Walking Dead; I'm still a little behind and I'm trying to catch up for the next one. This and the next review will get me caught up, and the rest of the reviews for this season will be on a single episode instead of doubles. In these reviews, I don't get to cover as much as I'd like to, so once caught up I will be focusing more closely on events in each consecutive episode.
"Say the Word" picks up right after the group's major losses from the last episode. Most notable is the death of Lori, who has left the group with a baby without food or clothing or really anything that a baby would need. There's also the loss of T-Dog which resonates throughout exactly 15% of the group (apparently Glenn is the only one that's affected, and only for a mere moment at that), and Carol has gone missing and is presumed dead. There's a proper burial involved for all of them, but it doesn't dispel the grim situation at all - in fact, Rick is so incapacitated by the loss of Lori that he runs off into the dangerous prison cells hacking and slashing all of the zombies in his way like a knight conquering an entire army.
On the other side of the coin is the town of Woodbury, which continues to mesmerize Andrea while isolating Michonne. The latter stumbles upon a group of walkers who have been kept in a pen, and these revelations (along with some disturbing finds in the Governor's study) give her ample reason to want to leave the town. Andrea, who has become taken with the ease of living there, refuses.
The tension in Woodbury is palpable, and this is huge for The Walking Dead; rarely does a group find safety so readily available, only to have the idea of being safe stripped away by shady practices. The Governor (David Morrissey) is a character that is coming together quite nicely, and Morrissey is a fine actor for the job. His foreboding mannerisms work here as a way to highlight Michonne's reticence to accept the town.
But it also tends to shine a light on Andrea, too. Her gullible nature and her failure to question what is going on in town (even when some disturbing things appear) make her character even weaker. It's no wonder that I've come to hate her throughout the show's run - I couldn't stand her indecision before, and now I hate that she's such a flat and uninteresting person. Her arc has run dry for me, and it will be nice to get the entire group involved in Woodbury rather than just her.
Because that's where The Walking Dead is headed, no doubt. In these two episodes, the plot at the prison doesn't go very far at all. We need some baby items for the new kid; we need to deal with the deaths of some of our friends; Rick needs to go a little bit psycho before he can figure out that what he needs to do is take care of his son and the new baby. "Hounded" explores Daryl's relationship with Carl when he tries to help him through his loss, and that's something that the show needs more of; we rarely get to see some of the characters talking with each other if they weren't already established as good friends or related, so to see two people who generally aren't connected getting some time apart is a nice change.
Rick's crazy spell is a bit frustrating, though; it seems when things get bad, his murderous rage acts up and he collapses in on himself. We've seen it before, but never in this amount of crazy. The obviousness of the ringing telephone in the prison is a letdown; it's not the other characters that help him through his depression but the deus ex machina of an imagined phone call with the dead, only emphasized by the fact that Rick can't have anyone with him when waiting for the call and the phone rings when he wills it. It's a shallow attempt at exploring the human psyche, and it's something of a time-waster.
But the scenes with Michonne battling Merle are exciting; not only are there zombies to contend with, but real people as well. And once Merle brings Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) back to Woodbury, things really start to pick up with more questions - will Woodbury and the prison clash? Will Andrea finally realize the Governor isn't who he seems to be? Will Michonne fit in with the group now that she's made it to the compound?
I can't say that the writing on The Walking Dead has gotten much better - characters still fall into the hackneyed grunts and growls of their one-note personas - but the show has figured out how to pace itself much better. And the pathos has risen thanks to a least a couple of key developments in the plot. It might not be a show packed with explosive thematic ideas, but at least The Walking Dead knows how to give its audience some excitement again.