The Walking Dead – Season 4, Episode 6
This week’s story is essentially a well-disguised filler episode, offering a break from the intensity of the on-going prison drama to present us with a compelling character study of one of the series’ most fascinating villains. Based on this, it really sucks to be the Governor – by the end of season three he had run out of people to torture and/or lecture (zombies, it seem, are immune to his brainwashing speeches in a way regular people are not).
While this doesn’t feel like an episode we really needed to see this season (we don’t learn a great deal about the Governor that we didn’t already know), it’s a somewhat intriguing one. Just like its central character, it subtly wins you over and makes you feel sympathy for him even when you know you shouldn’t.
Following last week’s revelation that the character has made a return to the prison, we jump back in time to piece together the events that directly followed his defeat and escape at the close of season three. When his only companions seemingly abandon him, the Governor wanders around aimless and alone without purpose. It takes a chance encounter with a family of survivors to shake him out of his isolation and provide him with the drive to carry on. When an encounter with some zombies on the open road threatens the survival of his new group, he has to go to great lengths to protect them.
It’s admirable that The Walking Dead uses this episode to highlight the many shades and facets of the Governor’s character, forcing us to question whether his return this season is about revenge or redemption. Despite a few arguably good deeds during the episode, it still seems likely cold-blooded payback is his most powerful motivation – he’s not so much a person trying to make amends for his past sins as he is a man on a sabbatical from his madness, and spends much of the episode sulking and feeling sorry for himself. So it’s a relief (at least for him) when he encounters some human companionship and begins to relearn what his life is all about: manipulating gullible people.
In this apocalyptic, post-Twitter age it’s pretty hard to get new followers, but the Governor manages to anyway, as the young family are a likeable but short-sighted bunch that eventually embrace him (there’s even an enticing surrogate-Andrea). It’s his connection with the young girl in the family that’s most important, a fitting replacement for his obsession with his zombie daughter (at least this little girl won’t try to bite his knuckles every time he offers to brush her hair, so it’s an improvement of sorts). It’s a disturbing but compelling relationship, clearly unhealthy but offering a valuable insight into the Governor’s twisted psyche.
Once again there are inventive set pieces on offer, with the visit to the retirement home continuing The Walking Dead’s pattern of making even the most mundane occurrences horrific. It’s an effective use of a somewhat restricted location. The Governor is obviously outnumbered in the space, which adds to the general claustrophobia of the sequence. The mission to obtain the life-saving air canisters proves to be somewhat futile, although the Governor does find an effective alternative use for them when the time comes to deal with zombie dad.
By episode’s end the Governor has gone from psycho without a cause to a rejuvenated, focused walking vendetta machine. It’s comforting to know that even villains sometimes need help rediscovering their path.Tagged in: Andrew Lincoln, David Morrissey, George A. Romero, The Walking Dead, zombies
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