Sometimes I find it difficult to understand the thought-processes of The Walking Dead's show-runners. The first five episodes of this season were tense and emotionally riveting, but the show just slammed on the brakes and brought everything to a screeching halt.
I wanted to return to the prison, to see how the survivors of the flu coped with their great reduction in numbers, but more than anything, I wanted to see what Rick told Daryl about Carol, and how Daryl reacted to that loss and Rick’s role in it. Would he be horrified, as Maggie was, by what Carol had done? Or would he—as I suspect—argue that Carol was part of their group, just as he argued for Merle last season? Merle was a far, far worse human being than Carol, who had, moreover, done some terrible things to members of the group whose names and faces we actually recognized. But Daryl cared for him, and, last season, that seemed like it was enough for everyone to keep him around, thus ensuring his final glorious arc, in which Merle partially redeemed himself.
Instead of any of this, however, we were treated to forty-five minutes of watching the Governor interact with people we’d never seen before, whose names I’m still not completely clear about.
Theoretically, it would have been interesting to see how people other than our small group have survived the zombie apocalypse since Season 1 (which seems like it took place around two years ago). The Season 3 episode that focused on Morgan was one of the most riveting hours of the show, one which I thought could honestly stand toe-to-toe with AMC’s more critically acclaimed offerings like Mad Men and Breaking Bad for the power of its acting and writing. The Morgan-focused episode worked so well, in part, because we also had Rick, Michonne, and Carl involved.
A lot of the scenes between Rick and Morgan were expositional monologue rather than action, but both because Lennie James just killed it in that episode, and because Rick was invested in Morgan, (who had saved his life) we were invested in Morgan as well. Through the lens of Morgan, we and Rick got a view into the soul-curdling effects of despair— Morgan had survived the worst that could happen to him, but it was hard to say that he was truly alive—and thanks to that, Rick finally made his own commitment to living and not just suriving.
David Morrissey, like Lennie James, is a fine, fine actor (though I think he’s been largely wasted on this show), but the time to humanize the Governor was last season, when he seemed kind of normal (at least at the very beginning). There might have been a genuine conflict between his way at Woodbury and Rick’s way at the prison, a real choice for the survivors, rather than no choice at all. If we had contrasted the Governor’s seeming ability to cope with loss and despair far better than Rick (who lost his sanity entirely after the death of Lori), and slowly revealed the megalomaniacal cracks under the surface, I think the show and his storyline would have worked far better. (And as a bonus, Andrea would have looked far less foolish for continuing to trust this man even after she discovered his aquarium head collection.) Instead, the Governor was two-dimensional even for a show not known for its depth of characterization, a cartoon villain facing actual human beings—right down to the cartoon villain’s elaborate and usually ineffective plans to kill people, not least by boring them to death with his clever plans.
I have the nasty feeling that this episode was supposed to make us vaguely sympathetic to the Governor as he is now, possibly setting up some kind of redemption arc, between his finding a new family and even a pseudo-daughter to mirror Penny. The problem is that I don’t believe for a moment that the man who gunned down a bunch of his supporters because they weren’t gung-ho enough about killing the people in the prison—including Rick’s infant daughter—spends months alone and becomes less crazy. I would think that even a sane person would go a little nuts (as we saw with Morgan last season) after that experience and the Governor was nowhere near sane to begin with.
In short, this episode just didn’t work for me. I didn’t see the previews, but I have been told that next week’s episode also seems heavily to feature the Governor. Too much more of this, and I may be the Watching Dead (from boredom.)
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current TV shows, and a hopeless romantic.