And there’s the Governor we all know and loathe. This time he has a whole pond to play with, rather than just heads in fish tanks. Last week saw Brian pulling himself out of rock bottom with the love of a good woman, a can of spaghetti-o’s, and the world’s most annoying little girl. This week Brian got the old heave-ho and the Governor took his place on the throne.
Martinez makes the big mistake of believing Brian’s con that he really is a changed man, a con Brian himself seems to have bought into. When Martinez expresses doubt at being able to keep the camp safe—a not unrealistic fear, given the circumstances; it’s less being pessimistic about their odds and more being pragmatic about the harsh realities of the Endverse—Brian snaps and kills him in cold blood by bashing him in the head with a golf club and feeding him to a pit full of zombies, all while crying “I don’t want it!” Clearly homeboy’s a wee bit conflicted.
Brian freaks the frak out and gathers his family for an escape. He still believes he can turn off that dark side, but the cruel realities what they’re facing send him back to the camp. Pete, Martinez’s second-in-command, appoints himself temporarily in charge until they can arrange a vote. He, his brother Mitchell, and Brian come across a small group hidden in the woods with tons of supplies, and Pete decides to leave them in peace. When they pass the group again they find the camp destroyed and the supplies gone. That’s all the evidence Brian needs to prove Pete isn’t worthy of the mantle, and so he stabs then chokes to death poor, cute Pete. He more or less threatens Mitchell into siding with him, and thus the Governor is reborn and pissier than ever.
So, basically what you’re telling me is that I just sat through 2 episodes of the Governor becoming Brian—a new man, a better man, a good man—all so he could go back to being the Governor again. Last week was a fantastic opportunity to develop a vastly underserved character, one who had all his potential squandered away last season. The Governor never blossomed into the full-fledged villain he was supposed to be, instead he became a moustache-twirling cartoon in the general shape of grotesque violence. Most of this episode was centered around watching Brian try not to give into his demons and totally failing. That in and of itself would be an interesting journey, one that requires a character with dimension and depth, but to have him not just go back to his old ways but to literally start rebuilding the new world into his old fantasy kingdom is just stupid.
Not to mention that pointless scene of him escaping the camp with his new family only to run into a mud pit full of walkers and then turn around and head back. Yes, I know it was intended to show Brian attempting to hold onto his new life while being dragged inexorably back to his old one, but 2 episodes of showing exactly the same thing in better scenes made this one redundant. Also, perhaps the shot wasn’t clear enough, as evocative as it was, but it didn’t look like the mud pit was so big that they couldn’t just go around it or turn around and take another road. But, still, the scene looked cool. Like burning down Woodbury. Looks cool, but completely unnecessary.
Last week I expressed my concerns with the out-of-the-blue character growth the Governor-turned-Brian was undergoing. It was always obvious he would have to die. A Big Bad like that, redeemed or no, can’t just walk off into the sunset. He either dies saving the prisoners or dies trying to kill them. If the former, at least he’d go out with a personality. But if the latter, then why bother evolving him in the first place? It adds nothing to our understanding of him as a man to watch him return to his old, vicious ways the second he has the chance, and it has the added effect of making both episodes utterly meaningless. Which makes the whole mini-arc reek of the writers not able to come up with enough plot to fill the half-season. They could’ve done the whole Governor thing without wasting time building him up only to tear him back down. By having him switch back to his wicked side makes his downtime seem more like he was biding time between dictatorships.
Now that I’ve got all that off my chest, lets talk about the good stuff. For one thing, the episodes work much better together than they do individually. As a two-parter shown back to back, we get a devastating pair of episodes detailing the rise and fall of an unethical man pretending to be morally upright. Putting aside the issue of whether or not we needed to see this evolution of the Governor in the first place, the concept itself is intriguing. (Honestly, I would’ve rather seen this storyline with Shane, although I don’t think Jon Berenthal was up to the task.) Brian was always going to become the Governor again, I don’t think anyone is disputing that. The sporadic acts of violence were intense and visceral, but because we all know what’s coming it felt a bit boring. The two-parter story was good, but it loses itself as part of the bigger picture.
To be clear, just because the story was pointless doesn’t mean it wasn’t entertaining. There’s nothing anyone can say to me to prove we absolutely had to have these episodes, that they couldn’t have just gone straight from the plague to the Governor showing up at the prison gates with a tank and a new batch of acolytes. There’s enough information packed into that arrival for the audience to infer the Governor is up to his old tricks, even if we don’t have the knowledge that for a couple of months he wasn’t actively terrorizing people. Or, better yet, show an episode of the Governor slowly setting up his chess game against a new group so he can use them to take out the prisoners. That’s ultimately what this is all about, that one group he can’t conquer. The prisoners are the stone in his shoe, so why not let us watch him plot how to dispose of them?
I maintain my long-held belief that the Governor doesn’t give a shit about survival, he only cares about power and control. He wants to survive, sure, but everyone else’s survival is merely an added bonus. You can’t rule without subjects, and you can’t win without soldiers. With Lily, Tara, and Megan, he doesn’t just have a family, he has his own little fiefdom. With Martinez’s group, he has a real kingdom, a whole pack of people all depending on him. He uses the cover of “only the strong survive” to justify the means, but him keeping Undead Pete at the bottom of the lake is all about him exercising ultimate control. It makes him feel like he can conquer the zombie apocalypse, and if he has to kill everyone but his most ardent followers then so be it. In that sense, Megan, like Penny (and especially like Zombie Penny), are perfect for his needs. It’s not a daughter he wants, it’s unconditional obedience.
- “Do you trust me?”
- “I’m running things now, and I will do everything it takes to protect this camp. Now, if you join me, I promise you’ll never have to worry about whether you were doing the right thing or the wrong thing. Because we will do the only thing.”
- Megan has got to be the most boring, insipid, cipher The Walking Dead has ever spawned. Sophia was a more interesting character even when she was missing.
- Ah! It’s Charlie and Victor!
- Now taking bets that he kills Lily and Tara when they try to escape with Megan, and that Megan gets KO’d in the battle with the prisoners, either by zombie or stray bullet.
Alex Brown is an archivist, research librarian, writer, geeknerdloserweirdo, and all-around pop culture obsessive who watches entirely too much TV. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, or get lost in the rabbit warren of ships and fandoms on her Tumblr.