Wednesday, 14 November 2012
Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 5 - Say the Word
Here be SPOILERS. Watch the episode before reading, guys.
Its five for five from THE WALKING DEAD so far, as the shows third season continues to startle, stun, shock and surprise. SAY THE WORD is yet another winner of the highest calibre.
After our opening scene, which ranks amongst the most disturbing and heartbreaking of the entire series, we're immediately thrust into the now dangerously fractured mind of one Rik Grimes; and the man isn't doing so good...
The episode begins almost as soon as last weeks KILLER WITHIN ended, with Rik suffering from shell shock after the death of his wife. Most startling about this opening scene is that Rik's pained vocalising of last week has rapidly been replaced with dead silence. The man says nothing at all this week as he goes about the business of violently externalising his agony. His one word comes at the very end, (and it's couldn't come at a better time), but his actions speak volumes as he sets off into the prison on a vengeful rampage, essentially mowing down all the walkers he sets eyes on. This is Rik as we've never seen him before...completely, frighteningly fucked up. Whether his insanity is temporary remains to be seen, but whats surely a certainty is that the trust that his group has put in him is going to be severely tested in the future, especially for Glen. Rik's morality and civility is crumbling before our very eyes now. Strangely, while all the fans clamoured for this level of darkness in the show, (and in Rik), is damned depressing to watch the leader of the group disintegrate this way.
Rik's been on a very dark path since way back. It could be argued that his descent began when he chose to step up and pull the trigger on Sofia, but I believe it was with the murder of his best friend that the rot truly started to settle in his bones. I have no doubt that he's still a good man inside, but he's fast losing all that he fought to hold onto...as murder and death become an everyday occurrence, his sense of right and wrong, and the vast grey areas in between, are tearing him apart. Add to this the loss of someone so dear to him, (and one of his only real anchors to hope, despite his recent coldness toward her), and its becoming clear that the once stoic and trusted leader may be becoming the most dangerous thing in the prison. I hope he can pull himself back from the abyss.
Rik's outwardly feral rampage this week is smartly contrasted with the events in Woodbury, as the Gov and his people are preparing for a special night of partying and celebrating their small victories over the encroaching apocalypse. Andrea and Michonne, (who shows some much needed character depth here), are still at loggerheads over just what this community truly represents, and it all comes to a head this week, as Michonne does some amateur investigatory work, and finds herself some zombie-pens, and a pointedly strange journal in the office of the big guy himself. Its all great stuff and once again, David Morrissey is brilliant as The Gov, (especially in the moments when he wrongly suspects Michonne knows of his daughter), but the real meat is this episode is an intellectual one, as the lines are being surprisingly blurred between Rik and the man who will surely become his nemesis.
Both men have many striking similarities...they are both family men, who have both lost too much to bare. They both appear willing to do anything to keep their families, (and their people) alive, including the killing of practically anyone who may, (and the key word is 'may', here), be a threat. Both men are driven by demons that seem too powerful to defeat, and both are born leaders.
The differences are as sublime as the parallels...Rik wears his emotions on his sleeve for all the world to see. The Gov hides it behind a winning smile and a charming demeanour. Rik struggles to continue to do what he believes is the right thing, (even though it most likely caused the death of his wife), whereas The Gov has accepted the moral decay that this new world demands, and is using his rage to conquer at any cost. Both men have a deep desire to look after their people, but they're motivations and methods appear to be eons apart.
The real crux of these characters and their dynamics is that neither man is entirely good, or entirely bad. The Gov may simply just be a little father down the line than Rik. After all, we know whats become of his firstborn...
SAY THE WORD throws up some pretty unexpected questions for the viewer...not least of which being, 'Who would I rather stand with? Rik or Phillip?'
Its a question I never expected to be asking myself, and as yet I'm unsure of the answer. I cant blame The Governor's reaction to his beloved daughter's condition at all. His 'entertainment' this week was initially pretty shocking, but his justification of it rang very true to me. If I had lost my loved ones to the undead, I would want my blood-lust, and my fear, to be satiated. The manner in which The Gov calculates his mastery of the walkers/biters is no more brutal that Rik's axe-swinging carnage. Both are forms of catharsis, both are disgusting, but one of them may actually serve to lift the community from the fear that has paralysed it since the plague began, and that one ain't Rik's.
It's a clear example of a deeply troubled man using his wits and his cunning to overcome the seemingly impossible, and it makes for great leadership. Phillip is clearly a very dangerous individual, and I think we're going to learn just how dangerous very soon. Michonne may have walked free, but for Andrea, it may be too late. There;s much more going on with this charismatic bastard than we're seeing.
If the whole episode is essentially played out as some very exciting and tense food for thought, the final scene is the icing on the cake, and manages to take the show to even more grim depths than before...
As Rik finds a spent casing, and a puddle of his wife's brains, on the floor where she died, he hears moaning and comes across what we quickly realise is a very well-fed zombie. The hair caught in its teeth give away the game....this walker has been feasting on the still warm corpse of his dead wife, and has had quite the bellyful. Rik's actions in these closing moments speak volumes as he not only stares into its dead eyes as he kills it, but he stabs its gut repeatedly. It seems that the Rik who felt sympathy for the first walker he encountered way back in the pilot, is long gone. He's not only seeing these poor creatures as obstacles here...this is deeply personal. Worse still, did anyone else notice the voice that whispers , 'Murder them' just as Rik spots the walker? You may have missed it, but it's there, and if this is Riks inner voice, who is it referring to? The undead, or the people he may hold responsible for his wifes demise. Its very telling that he stabs the zombie is the stomach repeatedly, and the stomach very much resembles a pregnancy. Does he blame the child for Lori's death?
Other scenes in SAY THE WORD point at brief glimmers of light, as we see Darryl step up in Rik's absence. He looks every inch the leader the group needs at this point, and his scenes with the newborn baby are very touching, as is his journey with Maggie through the primary school, where a certain childish decoration opens some old wounds. We still have no word on Carol's whereabouts, though the group believe her dead, and its anyone guess where this thing is going to go next week, but for now, THE WALKING DEAD remains king of the hill.
SAY THE WORD may be a less frenetic episode than last weeks heart-stopper, but its every bit as riveting. Makeup legend Nicoterro directs with real flair, and the script is drum-tight. We continue to go from strength to strength in this none-more-bleak epic. Fight the dead, Fear the living. Indeed....
Oh, and now we finally know what gets Michonne's rocks off. Good play.
You know the score...don't make me write it.