The Walking Dead: Live Bait

In the coming weeks, Ms. Hillary Bauer will be offering Episode-by-Episode reviews and recaps for TV’s most beloved Zombie Apocalypse Thriller: The Walking Dead. As an aside, this blog is in no way endorsed by the corporate fat-cats at AMC… But it probably should be! *Wink!*

Here’s Review #6:

Sometimes The Walking Dead screws with my head.  This week was a doozey.  I’ve been going over and over the Governor’s return for a couple of days now, and I can’t figure out what angle the writers are working.  The entirety of Season 3 was spent convincing us that the Governor was a complete psychopath, beyond redemption.  But this week’s episode felt exactly like a redemption arc.  At first it seems like this could just be inconsistency in the plot (which The Walking Dead has been guilty of in the past), but I don’t generally spend this much time thinking about poorly written character development.  So is the Governor a changed man, or manipulating the situation?  Is the writing thought provoking, or shoddy?  And why does the Governor talk like Batman now?!  One thing is for sure, I was not excited about the Governor coming back, but The Walking Dead at least has me curious.

We start the episode back at the end of Season 3 with the Governor mowing down all of the fighters of Woodbury.  But instead of watching the Governor drive off into the distance with his last two henchmen (Martinez and Shumpert) and returning back to the prison crew, we follow the pickup truck of doom to an empty field for a super depressing camping trip.  The Governor watches motionless as a lady zombie stumbles towards him in a dress that looks like it was pretty ugly even before she died in it.  Apparently her smock isn’t flame retardant either, because she falls in the fire pit and lights up like a candle.  A candle that the Governor just stares at emotionlessly until Martinez takes her out.  Get used to this blank stare; it happens a lot this episode.  I mean, a lot a lot.

The next morning, the Governor squeezes himself out of a comically small tent to find that his faithful minions were more like “fuck you” minions and have ditched him with no supplies whatsoever.  The Governor stands around looking angsty for a minute before making the completely logical decision to go back and light Woodbury on fire.  I actually appreciate them including this scene.  It had been bothering me all season that our characters have been holed up in a hopelessly dingy prison without even addressing why they don’t move over to Woodbury.  At least now I can pretend that they checked it out and it was a smoky zombie pit.  I’m also interested about the Governor’s motivation here.  On first viewing, I assumed he was intentionally destroying supplies as a final FU to everyone else.  But thinking about it later, he may have been using this as a sort of catharsis.  Maybe some combination of the two?

Apparently a super long time passes between scenes, because the Governor has just pulled way out in front for craziest shaggy hair/beard in the post-apocalypse.  Either that or the Governor has the testosterone of a bear and grows hair like a Chia pet.  A voice over confirms that it’s the former and goes on to say that he’s basically been walking slowly with pensive, twangy music in the background for a couple of months now.  The voice over is having a conversation with an unknown woman who asks about where he lived before he took up sad walking (it’s kind of like the opposite of Prancercise).  The Governor talks about Woodbury and its downfall because of its wacko leader losing it.  It’s true that he’s lying to random lady, but it doesn’t sound the same as when he used to lie before.  The Governor has always been a razzle dazzle con man, who turns on the charm until he locks you in a basement.  He sounds broken down here, but it’s still early in the episode.

This entire walking scene is very melodramatic, but there are several points in its favor that keep it from going too over the top.  The music, although not to my personal taste, does a nice job of creating the right vibe.  The song is Ben Nichols’ “Last Pale Light in the West” and is the first of several smart soundtrack choices in this episode.  The Governor also pauses at a barn covered with spray painted messages to missing loved ones; something that has happened after many real life disasters.  He seems genuinely moved by the display, which is dedicated in large part to a Brian Heriot.

The Governor carries on his dirge and evades a walker by walking like a walker.  Have I mentioned how much walking is going on?  The Governor finally collapses, but just when it looks like he’s given up all hope, a little girl appears in the window of an apartment building in his line of sight.  Mustering the last of his strength, the Governor stands up and goes to investigate.

Inside the complex, a woman with a baseball bat and a scared little girl cower in the doorway as the Governor approaches.  They’re joined by another uppity young woman with a gun.  Uh, shouldn’t the person with the gun pretty much always be in charge of door duty?  Without a word from anyone, the Governor throws down his pack and weapon.  I don’t see any way that Season 3 Governor would have relinquished the power in this situation so readily, so I’m intrigued.  The women welcome the strange sasquatch looking man we know and loathe into the house to probe him a little bit more, but he’s not talking.  Actually, the Governor hasn’t said a single word on screen and we’re almost ten minutes into the episode.  It’s an interesting choice, but ultimately I’m with gun girl that it’s the most annoying choice possible for this situation.

We actually end up learning more about the new characters than they do about their guest.  Foul mouth and entertainingly abrasive gun girl is Tara, who happens to be an Atlanta police officer.  Yay, lady cops!  Also in the apartment are Melody and her daughter, Meghan, as well as Tara and Melody’s father.  They’ve been stuck in this tiny apartment since the zombies showed up, which explains why they invite strangers into their home and still believe that the National Guard is coming.  Oh honey babies, just no.  No to all of that.

The Governor finally breaks his silence to confirm that he’ll spend the night in the next apartment over and then be on his merry way.  Tara puts her hand out to pound it and seal the deal, but eventually has to grab his hand to get her pound on.  They also tease us by making it seem like the Governor is telling us his real name, Brian.  But of course The Walking Dead can’t make it that easy and it turns out that he’s adopted the name he saw on the barn earlier.  Is it possible that the messages actually moved him?  I reiterate, these writers never make it easy.

Melody brings a plate of fictional brand Spaghettios to the Governor who’s sulking by himself and eating what I hope is canned tuna and not cat food.  Once alone, he throws it out the window without taking a bite.  Again, motivation?  He’s not putting on a show for anyone right now, so is this a show of distrust or has he just decided that he’s refusing the help of anyone these days?

Well, even if the Governor isn’t accepting help, these people certainly aren’t shy about asking for it.  When it’s time for bed, the Governor single handedly carries grandpa to his bed; a task that appears to have been a regular struggle for the girls up to this point.  Then he ventures upstairs, at the grandfather’s request, to retrieve a nice backgammon board in an attempt to cheer up Meghan.  It’s not exactly the most perilous mission we’ve seen a character on, but we do see one walker at least.  Really, he’s more of a layer-downer since all evidence is that he was a double amputee before the apocalypse.  Tub zombie really isn’t a threat to anyone, so the fact that the Governor knives him is really more of a mercy killing.

Actually, this scene carries an added weight, which I would think is unintentional.  This zombie is a decorated veteran who appears to have been injured in the line of duty.  From what I can gather, I’m pretty sure he must have crawled into the tub and committed suicide.  This episode aired less than a week after Veteran’s Day, so the whole thing just feels very unsettling.

As the Governor is on his way out the door, Melody stops him to try and say thank you with a bagged lunch and the return of his gun.  The Governor is still being confusingly nice and lets the girls keep his fancy gun while he keeps the old timey cowboy gun (again, so not a gun person).  He even passes along the info that you have to destroy the walkers’ brains to stop the suckers, which Tara didn’t know.  I realize these guys are supposed to be sheltered, but have they seriously never seen a single zombie movie?  C’mon people.  That’s not all though; grandpa is dying and Melody asks the Governor to raid a local nursing home for oxygen.  Ya know, to put a smile on Meghan’s face for a little longer.  No words necessary, the Governor is on his way.  Hm, might I be detecting a pattern here?

The oxygen run starts off pretty well since all the geriatric zombies are stuck in their bed/wheelchairs.  But things go south quickly when the Governor finds an entire dolly full of oxygen (yay!) that makes a lot of noise and attracts more zombies (boo!).  Unfortunately, this time it’s not someone’s formerly adorable Nana.  Now the Governor has to deal with the big orderlies they hire to lift Nana for bath time.  While I’m watching, I get tense and jump a little like I generally do during fight zombie scenes.  And then it hits me; hot damn, I’m worried for the Governor!  I’ll be back in five minutes when my brain reboots.

Come here and give Nana a kiss.

Come here and give Nana a kiss.

With two oxygen tanks in hand, the Governor returns triumphant to the apartment.  He’s still in his dark, angsty place, which is honestly getting a little old.  Luckily the ladies barge into Apt. 203 and force some human contact on Gov Sad Sack.  Melody plays nurse, mentioning that she enjoys the task since the apocalypse has been sooo boring so far.  Never change, you innocent song bird.  She forgets the ointment in the other room, which was really the only thing she needed.  You had one job, Mel!  This opens the door for Meghan to take crack at the Governor’s icy heart.  Question: am I the only one who hears Marcel the Shell every time she opens her mouth?  She asks him about his eye patch and the Governor tells her his secret: he’s a pirate, shhhhhh.  She giggles at his cheesy dad joke and the whole exchange is… adorable.  The Walking Dead is giving me trust issues.

After an undisclosed amount of time, the Governor has gotten a haircut which means that this redemption arc is apparently a thing that’s really happening.  Meghan is getting a chess lesson from her surrogate father, which gets more than a little heavy handed.  Meghan asks about pawns and the Governor tells her that you can lose a lot of soldiers and still win the game.  Then, totally unprompted, Meghan gets a sharpie and ruins a pretty nice chess board by Zombieland standards by giving the king an eye patch.

I once shot a bishop in Reno just to watch him die.

I once shot a bishop in Reno just to watch him die.

In the next room over, grandpa has joined the dearly departed and his family is taking a moment to mourn him.  But the Governor knows that the dearly departed quickly change into the revoltingly returned and tries to have everyone else with a pulse leave the room.  His advice falls on deaf ears and zombie grandpa gets a hold of Tara’s hair, prompting the Governor to bludgeon dear ole dad to a pulp in front of his entire family.  Where’s your knife, bro?  Knife to the eye still would have been scarring, but at least everyone wouldn’t be covered in old guy brain.

I’m thinking that this is pretty much it for the Governor and his new little family, but everyone is surprisingly cool with what just went down.  Tara practically thanks him and then goes in for the pound, which the Governor reciprocates this time.  If somebody ever smashes my brain in someday, they better not mourn me for twenty minutes and then team up with the guy, or I am haunting the shit out of that road trip.  But that’s exactly what happens.  They gather up the Roni Sticks, throw a mattress in the back of dad’s truck, and hit the streets.

There seem to be some serious issues with this decision.  The writers have already asked us to accept that two women with no (or minimal) defense training, a child, and a dying man have survived in this little apartment for approximately a year and a half without even knowing how to kill zombies.  If that’s the case, then why on God’s green Earth would they leave now?  Melody insists, “There has to be someplace better,” but nope.  This is really the best we’ve seen so far by a considerable margin.  The apartment people may not know that, but this seems like a pretty good time for the Governor to put his foot down.  He could at least insist that they do it right.  What is this business of only taking the truck?  If either of those women can drive, they should be travelling in at least two vehicles.  Extra storage space and a backup ride in case your truck breaks down in like… five minutes.

Back on the road, the Governor seems to be acting more like a human being again.  Back in his element, the Governor is carrying on actual conversations about being on the road and not moving like he’s stuck in some sort of slow motion CGI shot.  He’s even getting a little action.  After lights out, Melody puts the moves on the Governor and the two get down to a little bow chicka wow w- STOP!  SHUT IT DOWN NOW!  They’re in the back of the truck with Melody’s sister and daughter.  Just watching this scene makes me feel icky.

The next morning, the truck, of course, won’t start (bet you wish you had the sensible sedan now) so our crew has to hoof it.  The Governor isn’t happy, but I am because Tara tells us she’s a lesbian!  I prayed to the Television Gods for a queer character on this show and they sent me a glorious exposition story about camping and crushing on straight girls and then she falls down and cripples herself.  So, naturally, here come the zombies.  I’m gonna throw a nutty if they make her come out and kill her off less than five minutes later.  This “kill the lesbian” trend in tv recently is slowly killing me too.

Our foursome runs into the woods with Melody supporting Tara and the Governor carrying Meghan.  The Governor falls into a familiar looking hole with Meghan where he goes to town on three zombies.  Again I ask, where’s your knife, bro?  Apparently the holster didn’t go with his new “dad” look, so instead he kills a zombie by prying his skull into two parts with a comically oversized bone.  He even makes sure that he’s only three feet away from Meghan’s face at the perfect angle to look right down his throat.  Somehow or other, this makes her less afraid of the Governor and they have a good hug.

To round out the episode, we get our cliffhanger of the week.  I thought I had heard gun fire in the background while we were watching the fight in the pit, and it’s confirmed when the Governor looks up to see none other than his former subservient, Martinez.  I swear to God, I run into fewer people I know in my hometown than these people do wandering around literally the entire state of Georgia.  So, is this the passing of the big bad torch to another psychopath?  How is the Governor going to explain his past identity to his new nuclear unit?  And we still have to figure out how he ends up standing outside the prison, apparently by himself.

All questions that we can hope (in vain) to answer next week!

Check out Hillary’s Previous Posts:

S04 E01: 30 Days Without An Accident Review

S04 E02: Infected Review

S04 E03: Isolation Review

S04 E04: Indifference

S04 E05: Internment


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