It was all about the idyllic town of Woodbury this week on The Walking Dead as we were introduced to the much anticipated big bad of the season, the Governor (David Morrissey). So how did a full episode without a sign of the Grimes gang fare?
Let’s bitch it out.
It was a bold move to focus solely on new characters and environments this week, but the show is quite smart in having us discover Woodbury via Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). This is rendered explicit as the camera hazily takes on Andrea’s point of view as she drifts and in out a consciousness as we see blurred images of dead walkers strung up on trees and Merle (Michael Rooker), who creepily shushes her while she lays blindfolded in the backseat of a car. Once Andrea is hooked up to some meds and feeling better, she and Michonne get the grand tour of Woodbury by the hospitable Governor. Michonne is understandably weary of the Governor and his townsfolk, despite reassurances that this is a paradise town worth settling down in.
I can’t help but think of contrasts during the episode. The first, of course, being between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the Governor. Here we have two good-looking southern gentlemen, enacting two very different leadership styles. The comparison of the two couldn’t be more obvious, especially if we consider the murders committed for the sake of “safety”. When the Governor and his gang ambush the group of surviving soldiers, the gut reaction is to see it as confirmation of the Governor’s duplicitous nature. But really, how is this massacre any different from Rick throwing that machete into the skull of Tomas last week?
The soldiers and last week’s convicts presented a threat to the group of survivors. The difference here: the Governor kills on the assumption that the soldiers would want to take over Woodbury, whereas Rick waits for a sign that Tomas & Co wants try to overthrow him (i.e. Sh*t Happens). Outside of an apocalypse, what the Governor does clearly borders on sociopathic, but in the confines of a zombie apocalypse are his actions really that far fetched? Is the Governor in fact a projection of what Rick will become in the future? It is interesting that The Walking Dead took explicit care to show how genial the Governor was to Michonne and Andrea in order to make his decision to kill the soldiers that much more savage. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, if there’s more to the Governor than just straight-up villainy. So far I’m interested in seeing the rationale behind his leadership style, rather than quickly writing him off simply as the “big bad” of the season.
Where the Governor had me questioning Rick’s future, the contrast between Andrea and Michonne seemed like an exercise in stereotyping. Andrea almost instanenously drinks the Kool-aid after she’s had a hot shower and taken some Tylenol flu. You can feel her libido kick-in as she sees the Governor’s protected walls and the smooth manner in which he answers (nearly) every question she has. She all but jumps him after he gets off his “fresh from the massacre” pulpit .
On the flip side of the coin, we have angry Michonne whose bad-assery starts to get muddled by her perm-pissed face. Initially I thought Michonne was just being cautious. I mean, how trusting should you be if you’re transported with a blindfold (Side Note: Hey, didn’t Rick do this last season with Randall? Hmmm…) Even when the Governor assures her that she’ll be reunited with her sword upon leaving and even given a vehicle to boot, Michonne greets him with the same steely expression that we’ve seen from her since her introduction. But it’s starting to be a little bit much – a friend of mine planted the seed that Michonne is essentially serving the “noble savage” stereotype, and when you step back and see the contrast with Andrea, I can’t say that I wholly disagree.
What do we know about Michonne anyway? Andrea made it clear that even after seven months, she knows very little about her katana-wielding companion. There’s no doubt that Michonne has been through something horrible (but then again, who hasn’t in this world?), but I find her anger and limited number of words (even to Andrea when they’re in private) to be a little bit over-kill. Yes, Michonne is badass – and we love her for that – but in order for me to really latch-on to her, I need a glimpse of something more behind that austere demeanor. Am I wondering what the heck happened to Michonne to make her so stern? Not yet, but here’s hoping.
- Sadly, Michonne’s pets are (sort of) no more. I say sort of because after Michonne decapitated them to elude capture (which didn’t go well) they are co-opted by the Governor’s private scientist, Milton (Dallas Roberts). Milton has discovered that once you take away the zombie’s ability to eat, their hunger dissipates. It’s likely this bit of information will play into future episodes, but more importantly it’s interesting to see the Governor continuing to strategize about how to survive in this new world.
- The pets also give Milton cause to ask Michonne who they were and how she came about having them. She, of course, answers him with another steely glare, but even when Andrea asks her about it after, Michonne refuses to show her cards. I can’t help but think she knew these two in some personal capacity. Here’s hoping something juicy is revealed later on.
- How could I not mention the zombie fish tanks? Up until that point I was still rooting for the Governor to be sane, but after seeing those floating heads (still alive), rooting for the Governor became a little harder. I couldn’t help but feel a chill when I saw the head of the poor pilot (Julio Cesar Cedillo) – destined to be trapped in that tank for all eternity. Guess the Governor’s speech about respecting a man enough to make sure he’s dead when you kill him doesn’t hold much weight. Here’s another first for The Walking Dead: feeling sympathy for the walkers.
What did you think Dead fans? Were you happy to get away from the Grimes gang for a bit? Are you thinking about the inevitable showdown between Rick and the Governor? How long will it take Andrea to get into the Governor’s pants? Do you think Merle has been successfully neutered under the Governor’s rule, or will he go back to being a loose cannon? Sound off in our comments section below.
*Remember, it’s tempting but we adhere to a NO SPOILER zone in our comments section – so please no revelations you’ve read in the comics or tidbits you’ve seen online.
The Walking Dead airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on AMC.