Spoilers if you haven’t seen tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead (“”Live Bait”)!
I had a feeling tonight’s episode might be a full-on Governor episode. Of course, this means we have to wait another week to see how Daryl reacts to the news that Carol has been ejected from the group. In the meantime, we got a slowly paced episode that filled in some of the gap in terms of the Governor’s story. What has David Morrissey’s character been up to all this time? Rebuilding an army? Not quite. Not yet, anyway.
“Live Bait” was one of those TV episodes that’s set up in such a way that for the first half-hour, we’re left waiting and wondering what any of this has to do with anything. The second half hour got close to an answer there, but there’s clearly more story to tell, and as impatient as I started to get as we watched the Governor shuffle around a lot, all beardy and bedraggled, I kind of like that we’re getting to see the reshaping of his character in its next stage. That’s something we missed out on the first time around. When the Governor was introduced last season, he was the leader of this community, and while we came to see his dark side revealed over time, we never really got to see his origin story. If he’s going to be coming face to face with the prisoners at some point in the near future, I’d kind of like to know what he’s been up to in the interim, especially if he hasn’t been plotting and scheming the entire time. What we saw tonight is evidence of his human side. Of course, that doesn't mean he's not a threat to Rick's group. But he's not some two dimensional angry man on a blind quest for vengeance. He's layered, and I like that.
Going back to where things left off after Season 3, after slaughtering most of his men, the Governor seemed to be broken as he and the few remaining people in his group drove off to lick their wounds and regroup. Sitting by the fire later on, he did nothing to stop a walker from trying to attack him him. If not for Martinez shooting her as she shuffled through the fire, the Governor would've been dead. And after that, he returned to Woodbury by himself to burn his little town down. After that, he stumbled upon a family of two adult sisters, their father — sick with cancer — and a little girl. On one hand, watching the Governor stay with this family for a few days and waiting for him to reveal his motives or do anything interesting besides dump a plate of spaghettiOs out the window was kind of maddening. On the other hand, we were slowly reminded of the Governor’s history throughout these scenes. He had a little girl of his own once. And he lost her twice. He also lost his eye. The Governor’s done some bad things, but there’s some human in him, and maybe this new family is an opportunity for him to start fresh and get it right this time around. The sight of him burning his old family photo seemed to be a hint that he was ready to start fresh and leave the past in the past.
He played the hero numerous times with this family, once by getting the backgammon set for Meghan, and then again for getting Dad the oxygen tank, and again for pulverizing Dad’s head into the bed when he turned into a zombie and nearly bit Tara. It was looking like the Governor — or Brian, as he’s known to them — was earning himself some redemption. Of course, we can’t ignore the chatter during the chess game about capturing the king. Is Rick the king? Or was Meghan right to draw the eye patch on the figure to make the Governor the king?
The Governor took his new family on the road with him, at their insistence, and it was looking like maybe he’d gotten his new beginning. He even got frisky with Lily while they were camped out. It seemed like she was into him, and sure enough, a bit of night-time snuggling led to kissing and whatever else they were willing to do together while sharing a van with Lily's daughter and sister. They ended up walking the next day when their truck died, and soon found themselves on the run from walkers. The Governor scooped a reluctant Meghan into his arms and took off with her, only to fall into a walker-infested trench. Cut to a series of gruesome walker kills, including one where the Governor literally ripped one zombies throat out, and another where he used a human bone to pry back the zombie’s jaw and tear its face apart. Nasty business.
The Governor was busy assuring Meghan that he’d never let anything to happen to her. And then Martinez showed up, which explains he gunfire we heard, and probably the trenches. So, what does this mean? Is the Governor going to rejoin his men? We also don’t know if Lily and Tara made it, or if they died and now the Governor has Meghan all to himself. Whatever the case, the optimist in me wants to think he’ll accept Meghan as a second chance and he’ll actually be a good person, but then I’m reminded of the way he clung to Penny, keeping her zombie-corpse “alive” all that time. He’s not the most stable guy, and it’s also entirely possible that Meghan will make him feel somewhat whole again, and by “whole” I mean more like his old Governor self, which could remind him that he has scores to settle with Michonne and Rick. He told Meghan earlier, “You can lose a lot of soldiers but still win the game.” Changed or not, he still thinks strategically and we know sooner or later he’s going to end up at the prison. But why? That question has yet to be answered, and the preview for next Sunday, there’s more to this story to go. Will we see the prison at all next week? Or are we in for another full-on Governor story?
I’m not sure how I feel about that, to be honest. It’s kind of a relief to be away from the gloomy prison for a while. And I also feel like it’s really necessary to know what the Governor’s been up to all this time if he’s going to be relevant to the story going forward. So I’m going to exercise some patience here, because understanding the Governor’s motivations makes him a much more interesting character, whether he’s still the villain of this story or he’s seeking redemption. But I also really want to see Daryl react to Carol leaving, so let’s hope we don’t stay away from the prison for too much longer.