It’s Governor time, literally, as this week’s The Walking Dead uncovers what happened to the good ol’ Gov (David Morrissey) after he went cray cray, offed 98% of his army and drove off into the sunset last season. How did the show do without a single reference to the prison gang?
Let’s bitch it out…
We get an overtly art film-esque cold open (a trend this season) which gives us a vague idea of what happened to the Governor. Seemingly traumatized by his own actions (gunning down many innocent citizens of Woodbury), he’s deserted by Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantil) and Shumpert (Travis Love) who finally come to their senses and abandon The Gov in the night. One order of business before he decides to submit completely to catatonic-ville, burn whatever’s left of Woodbury (This is when I patted myself on the back for my explanation on last season’s finale on why it was wise for Andrew Lincoln’s Rick to take what was left of the Woodbury crew back to the prison rather than staying in Woodbury).
But really this episode is all about showing us a softer side of The Governor as he gets himself a new family. Eventually earning the trust of Penny look-a-like Megan (Meyrick Murphy) and her mother Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) and aunt Tara (Alanna Masterson), the episode is wrought with tension. Is The Governor planning some long con to eventually manipulate and exploit these women for his own evil means, or has he changed after successfully hitting rock bottom by gunning down all those innocent Woodburians? The show seems to want us to think the The Gov, now Brian Heriot, is reformed and a much more complex character than we originally envisioned, employing many techniques to get us to soften to him.
Sure, he did right by the ladies by valiantly risking his life in retrieving some oxygen tanks, and we got The Walking Dead equivalent of the “this may sting a little” trope to get us to like him a bit more – but sorry folks, I’m not buying it for second. Need I provide the laundry list of the absolutely deplorable things The Governor has done? He gunned down, in cold blood, his Woodbury army because they questioned his choices. That should be more than enough.
I don’t care if it traumatized him- we’ve already gone through season three and he’s a villain through and through. I chalk this up to the same reasoning that Carol (Melissa McBride) turned into a badass seemingly overnight at the beginning of this season: We’re shown a different side of The Governor because it’s convenient for the narrative, even if it goes beyond everything we know about him thus far. It’s the equivalent of telling us that all of the third season was a dream. Apparently in this world, you’re able to remake yourself because no one has a past – bats*it crazy sociopath in one moment but wander around aimlessly for a few months, have a child introduce you to the pinky-swear and you too can be a changed man in the zombie apocalypse. GUNNED DOWN the innocent, people! I’m sorry but I’m unable to trust the Governor and the whole episode I was waiting for him to switch back to the murderous nihilist we know and love.
But perhaps that’s the point. I was on edge for a good part of the episode (was anyone else waiting for him to smash that coffee cup over Tara’s head?) Judging by the way ‘Brian’ disposes of the walkers this episode, we’re meant to remember how vicious and terrifying he can be. But in this case, he’s doing it to protect the innocent rather than serve his own selfish needs. Unfortunately, I can’t shake the fact that he is ‘The Governor’, and I can’t buy into his altruistic turn.
I don’t mean to suggest that this ‘more complex’ Governor isn’t interesting or intriguing – Morrissey certainly delivers an excellent performance – but my gripe here is how it doesn’t seem to build on what we’ve encountered from him before. It seems to come almost completely out of left field. Do I believe The Governor was significantly traumatized by the massacre he committed at the end of last season? Sure- but I immediately thought about how he killed those innocent soldiers at the beginning of S3. Why wasn’t he equally as traumatized then? Remember the fish tank filled with the heads? I’m all about character development but the key is making it feel genuine. I eventually stopped bitching about Carol because we did end up getting some of the depth needed to explain her evolution – but I’m not certain we’ve gotten enough about The Governor at this point.
When we first met the Governor, I longed for this kind of thing – hoping that he would be more than just evil. But it just doesn’t work now that we’ve seen everything that he’s done. I could be jumping the gun here – as I alluded to before – perhaps this is all just a long-con for getting his ultimate retribution on Rick & Co. – rebuilding an army and charming the pants (literally) off his new recruits. As lame as that plot thread would be, at the very least, it would be in line with The Governor we’ve come to know.
The silver-lining here is how seeing The Governor go through this transformation (oddly enough) got me thinking about Bob Stookey (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) Just as Lilly and Tara are (relatively) quick to trust ‘Brian’, the prison gang seemed to very hastily embrace Bob. Who knows what kind of horrible things he’s done in the past? Carol will likely go through the same process as she finds a new group – and in that sense, seeing another side of The Governor nicely enhances the viewing of the series as a whole, engaging us not only in what we see, but how we think about what’s going on in the periphery.
I appreciate The Walking Dead‘s efforts in trying to paint The Governor as a more layered and complex character, but in this case, they’ve just coloured too far outside the lines for my taste.
- Why the hell did girls leave the comforts of that apartment building? It makes absolutely no sense. They’ve got water, a good supply of food, shelter – why would they go into the open road?! Even ‘Brian’ should have been smart enough to convince them to stay. Does it service his endgame?
- A closed shower curtain is never a good thing is it?
- Note to single men: The eye-patch is apparently irresistible to the ladies.
What did you think viewers? Are you okay with this new Governor? Do you think he’s reformed/can be redeemed? Will he end up joining the prison group as an ally? How will Martinez’s knowledge of The Governor’s past affect how his ‘new family’ sees him? Sound off in the comments below.
A gentle reminder that we adhere to a SPOILER FREE zone here, so please keep any plot points from the graphic novels to yourself.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm EST on AMC.