The Governor. If you're a Deadhead like me, you hear that moniker and instantaneously have feelings of love and loathing. Or maybe just loathing. It depends on the person; which is why I'm writing this article. Fellow PopWrapper, Content Editor Dani Strehle, who writes the recaps you all love to read, absolutely hated last week's episode entitled "Live Bait." “Hate, hate, hated it,” in her exact words. Reading around the internet, it seems that is the general consensus of our villain's return to our screens. I personally loved the episode. Of course, I'm one of those people who adore the man despite his twisted and narcissistic tendencies. He's a smooth talker, a charmer and, boy, he charmed me last season, and he charmed me even more on Sunday. Here, we saw a Governor who wasn't only vulnerable and wounded, but also yearning to come back from the evil he committed in the last season’s finale. But, the ultimate question this season for all of the characters is this: "Can you return from what this world puts you through?" This episode was The Governor's attempt at that.
We pick up almost immediately following the mass murder of the Woodbury army. Shumpert and Martinez and The Governor are somewhere in Georgia, perhaps not too far from the prison. If Michonne's maps from the beginning of the season are any indication, the trio are likely in Macon; which is the only place Michonne wasn't able to check. The Governor is worthless. He's just a motionless statue. If it wasn't for Martinez, he'd be dead from a female biter who wandered on their camp. Okay. David Morrissey, who portrays The Governor, has said repeatedly that the man we see here is one who is deeply traumatized by the “justice” he enacted. As the episode progresses, we see shades of a changed man. We see a man who has given up, and has just started walking to die. And he walks to die the entire winter, it's revealed.
In deft nods to the novel Rise of The Governor, The Governor meets a family named Chambler, which includes Megan, a little girl that looks remarkably like Penny. He sees them as his salvation, especially with Megan, who breaks him of his silence and ultimately breaks him from the monotony of remembering evil. He is helpful to the family, who have a father dying from lung cancer. In the end, the father dies and The Governor, now going under the name of Brian Heriot instead of Philip Blake, kills his reanimated corpse securing his position in the family with sisters Tara and Lily (Lily who is a callback to bohemian Lily Caul in the novels and the comics). Hell, it's even implied that he's falling for Lily, especially after their heated kiss in the back of the van they use to escape.
So, why didn't people like this episode? It isn't unlike the previous seasons. We saw Philip charm Andrea and bed her. We saw him be accommodating to Milton Mamet, the one who was attempting to find a cure for Penny. But was he just too vanilla to be billed as The Governor? I don't think so. I think this is showrunner Scott Gimple's love note to the comics. I think in the next few episodes we will see the re-emergence of the man from last season. In fact, near the end of the episode in the walker pit, we see him beginning to surface, killing walkers with his bare hands; a move that we wouldn't have seen earlier in the episode. Or, we're seeing a surge of villains in television and movies who are more two dimensional than their counterparts in other entertainment outlets. Is this a good thing? I think so.
Black and white criminals are something reserved for crime of the week television shows where they introduce a bad guy. Something ala Criminal Minds. Black and white motivated killers and people are less and less prevalent now in the world where things are no longer perceived in a black and white context. The same goes for this version of The Walking Dead. Morality is a hard thing to keep up with when you're dealt blows right and left. Sure, Philip Blake in the comics was a man who reveled in his insanity and wasn't below raping a tied up Michonne. This Philip is a man who is still clinging to his previous charm and niceties. He is the one who didn't full on rape Maggie Greene.
However, this Philip has finally let go of his past. The burning of the picture of his wife and child in symbolic in that he has finally accepted he is no longer the same man he was before the beginning of the turn. Hell, he isn't the same man from season three either. He's evolving. Is he evolving into his comic counterpart? It's hard to tell. But, tonight’s episode has a tank and a new set of people who could be turned into an army. (The tank is a throw back to the comics where The Governor, having lost his arm and eye and other bits, proclaims "Kill them. Kill them all.") There is also the scene at the end of episode 5 where he shows up at the prison, and it's obvious we haven't gotten to that point yet.
So, in essence, "Live Bait" is a quickie reintroduction to our favorite villain we love to hate and hate to love. He may have seemed more vanilla and accommodating than usual, but I maintain that we are nearing the comic book Governor. This episode was needed to further character development and to get us, as viewers, to root for the bad guy because, honestly, this season is showing us that we don't know who the bad guy is anymore. We saw that with Carol and her killing of Karen and David. We can see that in the way Philip has befriended and pretty much adopted a family, despite the murder of his entire garrison and nearly his entire community. So, what's next? The ever growing viral threat at the prison has left them weak and vulnerable, and, if we are heading toward war, it should prove interesting interesting.
What are your thoughts, Poppers? Did you like the episode? Or were you disappointed by the wounded, skittish, shell of The Governor? Sound off below and don't forget to watch "Dead Weight" tomorrow night on AMC.