After last week’s grand spectacle of chaos and loss, I was fearful that episode 5 would slow down. I don’t expect The Walking Dead to continually be a show of amped up action and gore; though after Season 2 I wanted it to take a different direction. As of yet that’s exactly what the show’s writers and directors are doing; episode 5 has to show some mourning but it shows it in a more visceral way. What’s more, the programme is starting to look at deeper, darker themes that effectively catalyse a lot of the drama.
Major spoilers follow
Rick Grimes has had to suffer the loss of his wife twice – when he escaped from a coma and hospital he found a world of death around him (visiting his home he believed his wife and son to be lost in the ruin), and now after she fatally gave birth to his daughter. He has had to endure the stages of grief more than anyone would care for, though he has never had issues with the anger stage. For all the tension between him and Lori since her confession about Shane, and the ambiguity about his feelings for her, Lori’s death sparked something inside of Rick. Episode 5 picks up immediately after 4 and Rick is in a near catatonic state of rage, marching his way through the prison, hacking up all the walkers that he finds.
Andrew Lincoln has owned the show all the way through. Now, however, the push in his character’s situation enables him to explore the more morbid side of Rick and bring more to the character. As he slashes his way through the zombies (fantastically shot to begin with, as the camera acts partially as POV shot with blood splatters surging from the audience’s/zombies’ viewpoint) we are seeing the most animalistic and unrestrained version of this man. We have seen his instinctual side before (more recently with the murder of the Latino convict) though as Glenn later tries to pull Rick back from his sanguine storm, you can see no humanity in his eyes. Rick’s cry in the end of the last episode and his blood-stained avenger in episode 5 show him as a wounded and lost man (it will act as great evidence for Lincoln’s deserved Emmy and Golden Globe nominations).
The others allow Rick to deal with his unforeseen widower status and instead focus their attention on the newborn. That means for Maggie and Daryl to head out to find supplies (mainly baby formula) – something we haven’t seen for a while. Unfortunately this excursion from the prison is fleeting but adds some humour amongst the gloom of the episode (Daryl shooting a possum and calling it as dinner). Daryl additionally adds some light on the darkness later on by naming the new baby “Ass kicker” after Carl’s ideas of naming the baby after their dead companions.
In the alternate Walking Dead arc the “will they stay/will they go” aspect of Michonne and Andrea’s story is becoming tedious. Thankfully, Michonne’s attitude toward the town finally leads her to walk out the gates. It takes some aggressive interaction between her and the Governor before this happens as both are becoming too wary and hostile to one another.
The episode starts with the Governor combing a little girl’s hair, stroke by stroke until a clump of hair and a patch of skin are pulled out by the brush. As the scalp rips away the girl starts lashing around on the floor. She is a “biter” (as the Woodbury clan call them) and the Governor’s daughter. He has kept her with him in hope a cure would come (one can assume). This is one of the motifs that has ran through the series – the notion of keeping your loved ones close, even if they are undead. The hope that a cure will be found is something Hershel held on to, and clearly the Governor too. Michonne witnesses this from below the Governor’s window and later finds a cage full of walkers who she warms up with up after repossessing her sword. This scene loses some of its credibility due to some very poor CGI work but later model and practical effects fortunately help you forget it.
The Governor confronts Michonne after her little spot of “exercise”. They discuss the caged biters and then talk about secrets (mainly to do with a list Michonne finds). The Governor, on hearing about the list’s names, shows a tiny bit of fear and anger in his expression. Nevertheless, he goes back to his manipulative mode, appearing collected and caring. Michonne, still untrustworthy, grabs her sword and points it to the Governor’s throat. We know she wouldn’t kill him but it’s an affirming nod to Michonne’s hatred of the place and the people who run it; we now know that she will not and cannot stay.
Michonne going, Andrea decides to stay (further adding to the parallel themes of departure and continuation). Michonne desperately tries to tell Andrea of the uncanny nature of Woodbury but, as of yet, it is only Michonne and the audience who can perceive it. A scene with Merle and helpers wrangling together walkers, killing some and maintaining others (by maintaining I mean pulling out their teeth to leave them relatively harmless) adds to the audience’s suspicions about the place. We later discover the walkers to be set up as walls in a bizarre arena where a gladiatorial fight takes place between some of the townspeople. It is set out as entertainment and the crowd go wild as the two men wrestle in amongst a circle of clawing, biting walkers. Andrea watches with the Governor and soon sees some truth in Michonne’s warning. She is appalled at the display and even with the Governor explaining the fake aspect of it (the toothless zombies, for one) she cannot find any decent quality in it. The zombie arena is also a good pretext for keeping the zombies alive (yet, as we understand, the Governor still longs to find out a way to repair the virus’ effects).
The penultimate scene shows Daryl laying a flower on one of the graves Glenn, Axel and Oscar dug. Daryl is perhaps the most likeable in the show – this poignant moment emphasising that further. Amongst the depressing aspects of this and last week’s episode, there are many uplifting and touching moments. Last week’s was Hershel stepping out and this week’s “Say the Word” has Daryl at the grave and Hershel and Glenn momentarily bonding (Hershel obviously sees Glenn as the perfect partner for his daughter Maggie). The Walking Dead is built on humanism (and ironically on zombies) so it always includes a moment or moments like this.
Finishing on Rick’s exhausted charge through the prison, he stops in the boiler room. In there he finds a bloated walker, having devoured all of Lori (though the lack of bones leads me to believe that is not the case completely and maybe Carl did not shoot her). Rick sticks his gun barrel into the undead’s gullet and fires. Not finished there, he then stabs the stomach of the zombie repeatedly, as if to prevent any kind of digestion of Lori (if that is at all possible with them). He slumps back, tired from his day-long excursion and distress. As he stares into space an alien sound suddenly breaks the silence – a telephone in the room is ringing. Rick walks up to it and answers. The more I think about it the more intrigued I become; not only for the fact that there is no power in the prison, but also by the query of who could be calling and why specifically that room. It is a very decent cliff-hanger that highlights the entertaining quality of Rick’s story far more than Andrea’s (that has lost some momentum and personal interest).
By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth