The Walking Dead needed to step back and take a breather after the events of last week’s ‘Killer Within‘ – if for no other reason than to allow the losses suffered by Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) group a chance to be addressed. There’s still plenty to be done in the episode, though; Andrea (Laurie Holden) tries to convince Michonne (Danai Gurira) that her fears about the Governor (David Morrissey) and Woodbury are unfounded, while everyone back at the prison rallies together to make things safer while keeping their new ray of hope from being extinguished.

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The most intriguing aspect of ‘Say the Word’ is the strikingly silent Rick, who has splintered off from the group to perhaps find some closure in his wife’s sudden death. Rick wanders the cellblock, delivering second-deathblows to anything that shuffles toward him, and at one point even tosses Glenn (Steven Yeun) aside with little more compassion than he has shown the walkers. It’s likely because this is Rick that we’re talking about, and the loss he’s suffered is a major one, but his decent into (temporary?) madness is one of the more convincing looks into grief and loss that The Walking Dead has managed to convey in any season so far. It also does a nice job of exposing the emotional fragility of a man who has lost so much for a group of people who have, at one time or another, doubted his ability to keep them safe. It’s a daunting task and the burden has clearly taken its toll.

While the focus is really on Rick and the Governor, there’s quite a bit going on in ‘Say The Word’ – like Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) on the search for baby formula, and Glenn admitting to Hershel (Scott Wilson) that he wished they’d killed all the prisoners at first glance. He even says this within earshot of Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Axel (Lew Temple), who’re helping out by digging graves for those who were lost last episode. (On that note, it looks as though the survivors are counting Carol (Melissa McBride) among the casualties, but there’s something fishy about her disappearance, so it might be too soon to count her out just yet.)

What lies at the core of the episode is the growing comparison between Rick and the Governor – since they’re both just “trying to do right by the people [they] care about.” As a result, Rick seems well on his way to complete psychosis, while Michonne (courtesy of the increasingly crazy notes she finds) becomes convinced that the Governor is, by now, fixed firmly in his own lunacy – a fact that was well established by Phillip’s need to keep around a wall of fish tanks filled with human heads and a zombified daughter whose hair he still takes the time to brush. While Michonne required little evidence to encourage her to leave, it took more convincing for Andrea to look past the apparent safety and security of Woodbury and see what kind of world the Governor is building. And now it may be too late for her to leave it all behind.

There’s an underlying menace to both men right now; one has seemingly lost control, while one has given over to his insanity, and in doing so, managed to seize a great deal of control. It’s hard to tell which one is more dangerous at the moment, but judging from the fact that he pals around with Merle (Michael Rooker) and considers walkers a viable addition to some already lowbrow entertainment, the early money may be on the Governor.

Once we find out just who is on the phone with Rick, though, it might be time to adjust our bets.

Highlights from the episode:

  • Daryl never misses an opportunity to shoot dinner.
  • I guess we know where the CGI budget for Michonne’s pets went.
  • Michonne may not speak much, but when she does, it’s little nuggets of wisdom like: “People with nothing to hide don’t usually feel the need to say so.”
  • “She’s all personality, that one.”
  • Bite-proofing sleeves with duct tape is a post-zombpocalypse Mythbusters episode in the making.
  • For some reason, Skynyrd seems like the appropriate choice for some pre-zombie games.

The Walking Dead continues next Sunday with ‘Hounded’ @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview of the episode below: