“People believe what they want to believe. Everybody loves a hero.”
Spoilers if you haven’t seen tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead (“Dead Weight”)!
Remember when we thought maybe the Governor had turned over a new leaf? Ok, one episode of being a semi-nice guy probably wasn’t enough to fully convince us that he was a changed man, but after last week, we were left to wonder what was really going on in his head and how things were going to be for him now that he and his new family were reunited with Martinez and his new family. I wondered if we might see the Governor face off with Martinez, and he kind of did. I don’t know if we can call knocking him over the head with a golf club, shoving him off a camper and then feeding him to a pit of walkers “facing off.” Martinez had been drinking and if he had any idea his death was so near, he might’ve been a bit more careful around his old leader. He never had a chance. RIP Martinez. Welcome back The Governor.
The Governor killed Martinez after he seemed to want to work with him in leading the camp. The Governor also killed Pete, who objected to robbing a camp of survivors, proving he has Rick-like qualities as a leader. But he let Mitch live, only after threatening him and essentially telling him he could either fall in line or die. Brian transforming back into the Governor seemed like a demonstration of a man in a very unstable place both mentally and emotionally. On one side, we see him being a husband-like and father-like figure to Lily and Meghan respectively, but that seems like it’s less about them and more about how they fit the bill for what he lost. It’s as if he thinks he can start all over again and go back to who he used to be before he was The Governor. But as tonight proved, there's no going back to who he was. He can't not be what he's become in this horrible reality. The moment he’s put back into harsh situations, the Governor crawls out of the darkness (or mud) and starts stabbing people to death and re-establishing himself as leader. Because that’s survivor-Brian, a harsh man who will cut down anyone who poses a threat to him.. And that includes Pete, a man who would’ve been better off with Rick’s group. As excited as I was to see Dollhouse’s Enver Gjokaj on the series, I wasn’t really holding out hope that he’d stick around. Still, Pete deserved a better fate than to be stabbed in the back and eventually chained to the bottom of the lake where he could live out his walker-existence like one of the heads in the Governor’s old biterquariums.
Watching The Walking Dead, it’s evident that there are two general types of survivors. There are the people like Rick who analyze and consider every situation to try to make the best decision — sometimes possibly over-thinking things and trying too hard to always do the right thing — and then there are people who seem to divide the world between walkers, other people and themselves (and their own people). People who see "other people" and survivors as of equal value are the type who would rob a camp and kill survivors to take their stuff. The Governor certainly falls into that group, but as we saw tonight, his motivations aren’t simply to survive. It seems like he sees this whole situation as a chess match he needs to win. It's as much about the power as it is about making it to the next day. Other people are just pieces in the game that can either be used or discarded. Survival is key, of course, but taking out the king is the objective.
It seems evident that the Governor is aware of his own instability. He knows it’s not right. I think that’s why he tried to leave tonight, packing Lily, Meghan, Tara and Tara’s new girlfriend Alicia and taking off until they found the road blocked by walkers stuck in mud. Maybe all it took was a seemingly small obstacle to turn him around, or maybe the sight of those walkers’ struggling to crawl out of the mud prompted him to return for some reason, and be the man he was trying to escape. Whatever it was, he made a choice to go back. Somehow that makes him seem worse to me, instead of sympathetic. Because he knows the right thing to do would be to pack up his family and move on, and yet he can't bring himself to really do it. So instead, he'll convince this new family that he's a good man, just like he convinced the people of Woodbury, and Andrea. And then he'll do terrible things behind their backs.
The episode ended with the scene we’ve all been waiting for. The Governor returned to the prison to lurk in the woods. After spying on Rick and Carl by the fence, he spotted Michonne and Hershel nearby and raised his gun.
The preview for next week’s episode spoils the cliffhanger (but if you didn’t watch it read no further!) “Dead Weight” leaves off with the Governor pointing his gun — presumably at Michonne, whom he hates — but in the preview for “Too Far Gone,” we see the Governor and his new group rallied outside the fence. So I’m thinking he doesn’t shoot anyone there. It's just a guess, but I think he'll leave without being seen and return to camp to prepare for a battle. But we’ll find out on Sunday night, when the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead airs.