By Chuck Barney
(SPOILER ALERT: Refrain from reading if you plan on watching Sunday's episode).
After "The Walking Dead" delivered a double-death shocker last week and turned us into blubbering wrecks, we, of course, are eager for some follow-up intel.
The season's fifth episode, "Say the Word," wasn't nearly as emotionally devastating. But then again, what could be? It did, however, offer a few juicy reveals and set up some intriguing possibilities for the remainder of the season. What it failed to do is provide answers as to what's up with the still-MIA Carol. Is she dead? Holed up somewhere? We don't know.
In the opening moments of "Say the Word," we discover that Rick is basically a zombie. Figuratively speaking. He spends the moments following Lori's demise in a complete and utter daze. Vacant-eyed and uncommunicative, he doesn't seem to want anything to do with his baby. (Are you worried for him?).
Rather than join Daryl and Maggie on a hunt for formula for his new-born daughter, he makes a dangerous decision to return to the prison, apparently looking to connect, in some way, with his dead wife. Armed with a hatchet, he goes on a splatter-ific, walker-killing rampage along the way.
But the real thrust of the episode is pegged to Woodbury, where we begin to glean more unnerving clues about the Governor and his creepy little too-good-to-be-true commune.
Today is party day in Woodbury. They've fired up the barbecue. A band is playing. Kids frolic with their dogs on the lawn. This could be Mayberry, or Stars Hollow, or any other blissful little TV Eden. But it's not.
In his quiet home, the Governor is lovingly stroking the hair of a little girl. Only it turns out to be a walker! A Walker that gets super ansty and fidgety. (Too many split ends?) The Guv tries to comfort/control her before finally wrapping a pillow case around her head.
"I'm here," he tells the animated corpse. "Daddy still loves you." Oh, so creepy.
It's the episode's big "wow" moment and witnessing it all from the street below is Michonne, who, of course, has had her suspicions about this demented dude all along.
Later, while the Governor is addressing his citizens, Michonne sneaks into his house and does a little snooping. She takes back the sword he swiped from her and then finds a notebook full of names, including "Penny," which is underlined. The Governor's daughter?
Michonne continues her sleuth work outside in an alley and comes upon an area where six walkers have been caged -- apparently for experiments being conducted by Milton. Poised for some gruesome fun, Michonne busts the lock, allowing the walkers to pour forth, and, with a gleam in her eye, she proceeds to slice and dice them just for sport.
Yes, this woman is a bad ass. Don't mess with her.
After the break, we discover that the Governor is none too pleased with Michonne's splat fest. He has re-taken the sword and wants to know what her deal is.
"You get off on that?" he asks.
Michonne lets the Governor know that she saw "Penny" -- that he's onto him.
"I loved her," he says.
"I bet you say that to all the girls," she replies.
The Governor makes it clear that Michonne must pay in some way. If she isn't punished (or made an example of), anarchy will reign. Maybe she can be part of Milton's research team. ...
But Michonne will have none of that. In the blink of an eye, she snatches back her sword and places it precariously at the Governor's throat before leaving the premises. Award Round 1 to the bad-ass chick.
This turns out to be a breakout episode for Michonne (Danai Gurira), who, up to now has had no big character moments. Frustratingly, she had been spending most of her on-screen time just frowning and glowering.
Anyway, the Governor is clearly fearful of what Michonne represents. He pleads his case to Andrea, who continues to be seduced by his (and the town's) charms.
"We've got a problem," he says. "She makes people feel uncomfortable."
But Andrea holds no sway over Michonne and the two are clearly on the outs. Andrea wants to stay in Woodbury. Michonne wants out. "This place is not what they say it is," she says before finally leaving on her own.
That night, Andrea gets her first clue that Michonne may be right. She joins the Governor and the townspeople for a decidedly offbeat sports event involving Merle and some buff shirtless dude, along with some chained-up walkers in a dirt ring. At first, it's not obvious to Andrea (or us) what the heck is going on. But it soon becomes clear that this is some sort of sick gladiator-like duel (or the UFC with zombies) where the combatants beat each other senseless while trying to avoid becoming chewed on by the slobbering walkers.
"This is barbaric!" a horrified Andrea blurts, to which the Governor says the whole thing is "staged" (like WWE wrestling) and that it's just a way to blow off steam. He's a kooky one, this Guv.
Back at the prison, Daryl and Maggie have safely returned with provisions for the baby, who, for now, has been dubbed "Little Ass Kicker." But Rick is still on his spaced-out quest, despite pleas by Glenn to get a freakin' grip.
In a very eerie sequence, Rick comes upon the area where Lori took her final breaths and finds the bloody knife used to slice her open. And sitting just a few feet away is a very bloated, very ugly walker.
Rick confronts the ghoul, jabs a gun into its mouth and fires away. Then he proceeds to repeatedly stab it in the stomach. Andrew Lincoln, who surely secured Emmy consideration with last week's episode, is quietly mesmerizing once again. You feel his character's frustration and agony over words not said and issues not rectified. Moreover, in a short span of time, he's lost his best friend and the love of his life. Clearly, he's at his breaking point.
And then a phone rings.
Startled, Rick finds the phone, picks up the receiver and says, "Hello?"
That's when we fade to credits (Noooooooooo!), leaving us to wonder who's on the other end.
The Governor? Michonne? Someone else? Who could it be?
So what did you think of Episode 5, "Say the Word"? Please share.