Last week, I made no bones about my utter loathing of last Sunday’s The Walking Dead
episode, entitled "Live Bait.” In fact, it’s the only scathing review I have given The Walking Dead
thus far, as I have thought that Season 4 has been practically perfect in every way.
The lovely Shelby Arnold
, my colleague and fellow Deadhead, was perplexed by my irrational hate-on for, not only the episode in its entirety, but for the wasted, damaged and vanilla version of, in my opinion, one of television’s greatest villains.
Some may confuse my distaste of the episode for dislike of The Governor himself. This would be an egregious misconception. In fact, it is my deep love for the character (and David Morrissey, the brilliant Brit that plays him) that left me so wanting. When The Governor (or Phillip, as his lover Andrea and other "close friends" called him), marched onto our screens last season, the world immediately took notice. He could not be ignored. His charisma and proclivity for manipulation were apparent from the very moment he was introduced. But what was most intriguing was that he was a walking dichotomy. He portrayed himself as a nice guy and a good leader who was just looking out for his clan. But we knew better, didn’t we, Deadheads?
Photo courtesy of Comicbook.com
We wanted to believe in him; we wanted to believe that smart, sexy charming men didn’t all go extinct with the rest of humanities’ majority. But, if there’s one thing we have learned from our adventures with Daryl and company, it’s that, if something seems too good to be true; it probably is. Hello, Hershel’s farm? Yeah, Andrea should have known better. Michonne knew from the start that he was bad news, but Andrea was too horny to think clearly. And, I mean hey, we have all been there, right?
But even though it was fairly transparent that Phillip Governor was a smarmy, calculating sociopath, I loved him. I loved that he was fierce and terrifying; strong and sexual. He was everything I wanted in a villain. In the graphic novels, The Governor never waffles with his humanity. He’s evil. He knows it, and he owns it. And while sometimes we were given a glimmer of vulnerability from The Governor in the show, they were few and far between, and they were fleeting.
Courtesy of Giphy
I LIKED that we had a black and white villain. I liked that, while he attempted to give off a civilized façade, he relished this new world. He felt at home in a savage environment where he could let his murderous freak flag fly. In a medium where all villains are explained, humanized, psychoanalyzed, etc., it was refreshing to come across one that was happy with his lot and life, and exploited his evil nature to the fullest.
And that is why I took such issue with “Live Bait.” I don’t want
a vanilla villain battling internal demons. I don’t want this soft and broken man whose heart melts over every little girl he comes across. I eschew a villain who lets himself be lulled into complacency with the promise of companionship. I want the hardened psychopath that slaughtered an entire population of townspeople for no other reason than they were pissing him off. I want the man who left his best mate for dead in a room with his lover so that they could have a battle to the death... or a feast. Whatever came first.
Courtesy of Giphy
I've heard the argument that this is just the calm before the proverbial storm. And if that's the case, then I think I'll be even more pissed off. It would make this entire episode and turn of events seem disingenuous; like filler. He's either evil, or he's not. And while Miss Arnold describes black and white villains as only really working on one-off crime shows like CSI
, I believe it is the opposite. When I watched CSI
back in the day (before all the good characters left and they started bringing back terrible ones), I felt like each villain became a villain because they had been the victims first. They were constantly trying to excuse or justify behavior because it was learned; it was psychological. The Governor was a perfectly normal man (we assume), who snapped when his family was stripped from him by the walking dead. I'm not sure I could ever recuperate from that; and I don't see why we expect The Governor to.
He was deliciously despicable, and I’d like for the real Governor to please stand up, kick this bland version’s ass, and take his rightful spot on my Sunday night screen, machine gun in tow.
So, now it comes down to you, readers. Whose side are you on for this one? Do you agree with me, or Miss Arnold? Are you digging this new version of The Governor, or are you ready for The Governor of old to come back and take our breath away? Be sure to answer our poll questions and let your voice be heard!
Photo courtesy of Screencrush.com