We’re celebrating the fourth season of The Walking Dead by posting a discussion thread every Monday to talk about the latest episode. So visit us every week to read what the AFT editors have to say about the AMC zombie drama, and join in on the discussion in the comments below and/or on Facebook and Twitter.
Now let’s get to it – here’s what we thought of last night’s episode, “Live Bait” (and remember to come back and hit “refresh” as we post more spoilery thoughts about the episode throughout the day):
Mike Moody says:
The Walking Dead defied expectations with a strong and deliberately slow-paced episode that was intensely-focused on revealing a different side of David Morrissey’s Governor. I didn’t expect the character’s return to be so quiet or compelling, and I sure didn’t expect not to see the prison folks show up this week. It was a nice surprise to see the TWD do something different and maybe even a little risky in its fourth season. Some of the elements here didn’t work — I can’t say I’m enamored with The Gov’s new family, and the slow pace seemed too slow at times — but this was still one of the most intriguing episodes the show has ever done.
This episode went back in time — all the way back to where we left The Gov last season. He was clearly distraught to the point of giving up after losing it and slaughtering his own people, and his few remaining crew members abandoned him when he showed no sign of recovering from a nearly catatonic state. The evil he’d done was weighing him down, and Morrissey did a fine job relating The Gov’s internal and bodily burdens with some great physical work and whispery line readings. It was a bit of a shock to see the charismatic character reduced to a tired, taciturn solitary man.
So the big question this episode raises is: Is The Governor redeemed? Is redemption even possible? Maybe this episode wasn’t about redeeming the character but simply exploring what happens when life goes on (and on and on and on) after a world-changing tragedy. That’s kind of what TWD is all about, isn’t it? Whether we’re watching Rick and his prison crew trying to survive the virus or The Governor finding his strength again by helping a desperate family, this season of the show has excelled at dramatizing the very human struggles, both physical and internal, these characters face after the world’s gruesome fall.
I loved the montage that opened this episode, and The Gov’s Walker kills were some of the most brutal and savage we’ve seen on the show. I don’t think I’ll be erasing the image of Morrissey ripping that Walker’s throat out with his bare hands from my mind any time soon, not to mention how he split that other Walker’s face in half with a bone. And don’t get me started on the insane suicide zombie in the tub or the horribly depressing retirement home deadheads. For better or worse, this is gonna be one of those episodes we’ll remember for quite a while.
We were reminded here that the crazy Gov was once a caring ordinary man who lost his family and got his head and heart turned inside out by the zombie apocalypse. It’s good to see that the caring ordinary man he once was can resurface, but it makes me nervous to know that The Gov’s dark side can also resurface with just the right push.
Mekeisha Madden Toby says:
I’m with you Mike, and after the episode came to an end, I even tweeted that I was angry at the writers for making me like The Governor. But here’s the thing, even when I started to like him, I still couldn’t trust him. How’s that for good writing? Scott Gimple and the gang made me root for this fool, all the while nervous that he might snap at any minute and kill that whole damn family — except maybe that little girl, Megan.
Because isn’t that what this is about for The Gov? He’s only sparing the life of those sisters because that little girl reminds him of the daughter he lost? When they came to that road full of zombies, I just knew that he was going to run away and just save himself OR just save himself and the little girl. Instead, there was a twist and The Gov’s old crew came to the rescue and saved everyone before our boy Brian had to decide.
Which brings me to my next point: Even though there were a ton of Walking Dead fans cursing this episode for its lack of action and speed on Facebook and Twitter, I, like you Mike, didn’t mind it. I thought this episode worked because it challenged fans to look at a character we thought we knew and turned that perception on its head. That’s what happened with Carol this season and that’s what happened with The Governor and that’s what makes this show one of my favorites. Even after all this time, the producers and the writers aren’t afraid to shake things up.
Lastly, was it just me or did you think for a split second when you heard The Gov taking to a woman, that he was talking to Carol in the intro? Ahhh! You got us again, TWD. You got us again.
Joel Keller says:
Mekeisha, I had to rewind that portion because I thought the same thing: is the Governor talking to Carol? But it’s too early to see Carol again; I reiterate that she’ll come back like the cavalry to save the prison crew from either the Gov or some other threat that is poised to wipe everyone out.
I really enjoyed this step back from the prison chaos to examine what happened to the Governor. I think the only minor objection I had to the presence of the Chalmerses was that their characterizations were a tiny bit sexist; Lilly begs the Gov to stay to help them out, and as soon as the pseudo-tough Tara’s defenses break down, she becomes useless without our eye-patched friend. And as soon as they’re out on the road, the once-shattered Gov is playing “hide the salami” with the now-enamored Lilly. And, oh by the way, Tara just happens to be a lesbian, so there’s no chance that the two sisters will fight over the big strong Gov.
For a show that took a good long time to shake the accusation that they weren’t showing women in the best light — Carol folded a lot of laundry before she started kicking ass, remember — this felt like a small step back. I can forgive the Chalmers sisters a little bit because they were so busy taking care of their ailing dad and protecting Megan that they had sheltered themselves for a good long time; they didn’t even know how to put down walkers, which anyone who’s been out in the bad world eventually learns. But hopefully the sisters will get stronger as they and the Gov roam with Caesar and his crew and not be so dependent on him.
Is the Gov redeemed? Probably not 100%. He still harbors anger towards Michonne and the prison crew, and he still thinks he was right in protecting and defending his zombie-fied daughter back in Woodbury. We still don’t know how he got to the prison, like we saw at the end of last week’s episode, and if he’s the one who baited the walkers to mob the fence. But it was good to see Morrissey get past his wooden performance from last year and really show why the producers of TWD hired him in the first place.
Remember to come back as we post more spoilery thoughts about the episode throughout the day.