“Good grief” is the first thing I think of when I think of last night’s episode, “Say The Word,” the follow up to last week’s bloody episode. In every scene, I pictured Charlie Brown moaning in the background.
Rick cannot cope anymore—losing his wife seems to have broken him completely. Daryl and Maggie speed off to find formula for Rick and Lori’s baby. In Woodbury, Michonne is increasingly sticking her nose where it does not belong. And of course, the pit.
The pit scene, at face value, is shocking and visceral enough to serve as some gratuitous action, but otherwise it feels like a trivial detour. If the worst thing about Woodbury is the choice of extracurricular activities, it will feel like a let-down. Hopefully the writers have an even worse revelation coming. Merle can’t have risen to his position of authority only by being a badass slayer of walkers and soldiers.
All the way back in season one, it was suggested that Merle had lived a life on the fringe and done some horrible things in the past. The rooftop scenes let us see his own regret and self-hatred slip through to the surface. He alternates from begging forgiveness to cursing an indifferent, pitiless God for putting him in his unfortunate situation. Now the tables have turned, and it remains to be seen how evil Merle had to be to get there.
In Rick’s case, his decisions have consistently made things go from “pretty bad” to “so much worse” this season. One has to wonder if he was ever even close to being qualified to lead. In killing Shane, Rick forfeited his moral authority, and now the thing he was trying to protect, his family, seems broken beyond repair. As is the man himself.
Taking these things into consideration, it’s fully believable that the shock would drive Rick into a suicidal rampage. This man has let go of his obligation to Carl and to a baby that is not even his. A stronger man would soldier on, and be there for the children. We see now that if Rick ever was made of such strong stuff, he isn’t anymore.
Let it be pointed out that Rick was merely a Sheriff’s Deputy, one who let himself get shot twice, while a more well-fed (and certainly living) Shane seemed much more of a professional on the job. The latter seemed to be much better about keeping people alive, even while he was going crazy. This is the burden of leadership in an undead world.
There have been hints as to how deeply affected The Governor has been by assuming control over his own community of survivors. We see this reflected in Michonne as well. Before meeting Andrea, she survived as a lone wolf, and has had to shut parts of herself down to make it work. She wasn’t born this way—she was made this way.
A lot of this episode felt like a set-up to something big. Hopefully there will be a pay off this Sunday. Merle and Rick need to be at each other’s throats soon.
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