In last week’s episode, we got right up to the point where Rick was going to feel the full force of Daryl’s redneck rage after asking him about where Carol had gone. But in an even more shocking (and exciting) twist, The Governor showed up at the tail end of the episode.
No One to Govern
We pick up where Season 3 ended, with The Governor mowing down his remaining followers in a blaze of automatic fire and disappointed rage. He then heads off with two of his loyal henchmen who for some reason are crazy enough to get in the car with him.
The trio hits the road with nowhere to go. One night outside The Governor’s tent, a walker comes for him and he does nothing to defend himself. One of the henchmen shoots it before The Governor can be bitten, but it’s clear they’ve decided by that point that their former leader is a crazy bastard who’s not worth following (why it took them until now to figure that out is anyone’s guess).
When The Governor awakes the next morning and discovers that his henchmen have abandoned him, he commandeers a large truck and takes a trip back to good ol’ Woodbury… which he completely burns to the ground.
(Don’t) Fear the Beard
While stumbling along the road, The Governor grows a beard whose epicness rivals Hershel’s (and makes him look even more like Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken). He also eventually comes across an apartment complex. In one of the windows, a little girl looks out who very much resembles an undead version of his daughter, Penny.
When he heads upstairs, however, he is greeted by the barrel of a gun. The weapon is being held by a girl named Tara. Behind Tara is her sister, Tilly and Tilly’s daughter, Megan. The Governor instantly forgets that he’s a murderous badass, drops his weapons, and asks if he can stay the night. Tara agrees, but threatens to kill him if he does anything to harm her family. They then seal the deal with a fist bump (?) and The Governor steps inside… while also revealing that his real name is Brian.
Later that evening, Lilly offers him a delicious looking plate of Spaghetti-Os. He thanks her, waits for the door to close, and then dumps them out the window. This really pissed me off for a couple of reasons:
1. I was hungry while watching this episode.
2. I get what actor David Morrisey said on Talking Dead last night about his character not wanting to owe anybody. But when you’re starving, free (and hot) food is probably something that your body will not allow you turn down so easily.
Later on, Brian listens to Tara and Lilly tell about how they ended up in the apartment. When their father (who is riddled with cancer and on oxygen) needs help getting to bed, Brian picks him up and carries him there.
When the old man later asks Brian to retrieve a backgammon set from one of the zombie infested apartments upstairs for him, he agrees (and successfully retrieves it along with a gun he finds on the apartment’s former owner).
The next day as he’s getting ready to leave, Lilly asks if he can go to a nearby nursing home and pick up another oxygen tank for her father…which he also agrees to do, risking his life (the nurse zombies seem to move pretty well) and bringing back a tank to help keep dad alive.
Apparently, growing a beard in the Walking Dead universe makes you willing to do anything for the people around you.
From Governor to Super Dad
While Lilly tends to Brian’s injuries from the supply run (against his wishes), Megan comes in and begins asking him about how his eye got injured. She pinky swears not to tell anyone his secret, but all he reveals is that he was trying to save someone (Penny) who he loved and got hurt.
Later, a clean shaven Brian is teaching Megan how to play chess. He explains to her that the pawns are soldiers: Some will die, but they can help you win the war. (DID YOU CATCH THE SYMBOLISM???). Megan then picks up a king piece, draws an eye patch on it, and hands it to Brian, causing him to smile (MORE SUBTLE SYMBOLISM!!!).
Unfortunately, Brian’s moment of joy is short lived. The father in the next room has died… and has apparently been dead for a while. As if on cue, Zombie Dad reaches out for Tara and tries to bite her. Brian goes back into full Governor mode, smashing the zombie’s head in with an oxygen tank while a traumatized Megan watches from behind a chair.
Tara later thanks him for saving her by offering another fist bump (ugh).
On The Road Again
Back upstairs, Brian burns a picture of him and with former family from before the zombie apocalypse (SYMBOLISM OVERLOAD!!!). As he tries to head out, however, Lilly informs him that they are coming along…
…which turns out to be a pretty good move for him. After driving all day in an R.V., the four of them bunk down for the night together in one bed. Despite being next to her sister and daughter, Lilly totally gets it on with Brian. If this scene was supposed to be at all touching, it failed as far as my wife and I were concerned. We both howled in disgust for the following reasons:
A.) I know it’s the end of the world and all, but Lilly coming onto this weird guy she just met so soon (and who just bashed her dad’s zombified face in) seems a bit forced.
B.) HOLY CRAP, LILLY! YOUR DAUGHTER AND SISTER ARE RIGHT LAYING RIGHT THERE, YOU FREAK!
Broken Down and Home Again
The next day, the group’s R.V. breaks down and they are forced to travel by foot. This is made even worse when Tara injures her ankle…and they encounter a large group of walkers.
Brian scoops Megan up in his arms, races off into a field, and promptly falls into a very familiar looking pit filled with walkers. As Megan screams in fear, he bravely fights the zombies off with his bare hands. He even rips out ones vocal chords, which seemed sort of pointless and a dangerous waste of time, but was still pretty cool to watch.
After Brian defeats all the walkers, he picks up Megan once again and promises that he will always protect her…just as one of his henchmen who abandoned him shows up and expresses disbelief at his former murderous boss showing up with a new kid.
Even a weak episode of The Walking Dead is better than most television shows. But after the string of high quality episodes we had been treated to for the beginning of Season 4, “Live Bait” felt like a real letdown.
I’m not at all mad that we didn’t get to see Rick and Daryl deal with Carol being gone or any of the other people at the prison. I like that we’re finding out more about what The Governor/Brian has been up to since the end of the last season. It’s also worth noting that despite my reservations about the episode’s plot/writing, David Morrisey is fantastic as usual.
But aside from the episode’s metaphors having the subtlety of a sledge hammer, I’m still not sold at all on how The Governor went from mowing down all his people with a machine gun to risking his life to get an oxygen tank for some old guy he barely knows. Sure, he may have felt like there was nothing left to live for. But that would normally include a lack of initiative to do things for others, not more…especially when you’re dealing with a violent sociopath.
- David Morrisey (The Governor) is terrific as usual.
- We start to get answers about where The Governor has been since the end of Season 3.
- The “answers” don’t really make sense or line up with the character that we knew from before.
- Much of The Governor’s transformation in this episode feels very forced.
- The episode attempts to smack you in the face with symbolism.
I do feel, however that the next episode has been set up to be a great one. It will be interesting to see how The Governor reconciles his behavior around his former henchmen (who he may not even have forgiven for abandoning him) with his newly adopted family.
But as far as this episode goes, we’ve definitely seen much better from the series. I’m okay with there not being a lot of action and the story taking its time, but it needs to be interesting and ring true on some degree with the investment in the character that has already been made. For now I’m intrigued, but mostly on a “Where the heck are they going with this”? level rather than actually buying into The Governor’s transformation.
And he totally should have kept the beard, too.