Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead is titled ‘Live Bait’, and for the first time in the show’s history it didn’t feature a single main character from the core cast. Rather than checking in with Rick and the prison camp crew, ‘Live Bait’ offered a look into what the Governor has been up to since the end of season 3 where he mowed down his followers after they retreated from the prison battlefield.
(Please note that this post contains SPOILERS)
‘Live Bait’ is all about the Governor and followed him for the entire episode in a flashback style motif.
The struggles of one-eye Phil
The latest episode of The Walking Dead ditched the main cast in favor of recapping what the Governor has been up to since the end of season 3. The episode picks up right where things left off last season with the Governor, as he and Martinez, and a few other Woodbury survivors are seen living in makeshift camps. The Governor is visibly beaten as he contemplates what has become of him and his Woodbury experiment. He eventually returns to Woodbury to burn it to the ground and give it over to the zombie horde, effectively ending his zombie apocalypse utopia experiment. From here he begins to wander, walking from location to location like a lost soul complete with a homeless man’s beard and walker-limp. He eventually makes it to another town, stumbling in like the undead due to fatigue and famine, where he’s greeted by a family of survivors who help him out.
Lilly, Laura and a child by the name of Megan welcome the Governor into their dwelling and offer him some food and drink. He still looks menacing, but they’re kind to him, which he recognizes and repays. He ends up staying with them to help out, shaves off his bum’s beard, and teaches the ladies how to kill walkers while befriending Megan who obviously reminds him of his own dead daughter. He eventually has to kill Lilly and Laura’s sick father, which ends up being a horribly graphic scene, but the family ends up thanking the Governor for his Kevorkian aid and begins to fully trust him.
The three ladies and the Governor end up leaving their residence in search of greener pastures and head out on the open rode. Eventually their ride breaks down and they stumble upon a roaming horde of walkers that cause the Governor to go into Daddy mode to protect his new lady friends. He ends up running off with Meghan and falls into a pit full of walkers which he brutally dismantles to keep the little girl safe. Just as he’s embracing Meghan to celebrate them still being alive he’s greeted by Martinez, who assumed the role of leader since the Governor went off on his soul searching trek. The episode ends in mystery, leaving fans to wonder how the new Governor will fit into his old regime as an underling, and if his personal growth while away from the Woodbury crew will influence how he behaves now.
‘Live Bait’ definitely took me by surprise as far as its direction goes. Based on the ending of ‘Internment’, which featured the Governor ominously peering at the prison camp perimeter from the woods, I surely thought that last night’s episode would be nothing more than a surprise attack by the Governor while the prison camp folks were at their weakest. The result was so far off from my previous guess that I have to applaud the show runners for throwing in a monkey wrench of sorts. This episode marks the first time that none of the main prison camp cast members were featured, which may concern some long time fans, but the heavy focus on the Governor definitely paid off in highlighting just how much a zombie apocalypse can change the way a person behaves.
Before this latest episode we knew the Governor to be a sadistic nut case who kept his zombie daughter chained up in a secret lair, which was also full of zombie heads floating in formaldehyde filled jars. For a time he seemed normal, so much so that he convinced Andrea to hook up with him, but once Michonne stabbed his eye out he went full on bat-shit crazy. You can’t blame a guy for being a little pissed that he has to look like a pirate, but the Governor took things too far with his hate for the prison camp crew, which ultimately led to him losing that battle, and then murdering most of his followers.
In ‘Live Bait’ he’s as broken as it gets. He leaves his remaining followers to go on a soul searching experience that ultimately leads him to Lilly, Laura, and Megan – three girls who manage to awaken his good side again. When they first meets him he’s a shell of the Governor character. He looks beat down and dirty, and even limps along like a walker. When the three girls took him in I tensed up wondering how long it would take for him to betray them, or to do something awful to them, but nothing like that ever happened. In fact, he became the exact opposite of the monster he was in season 3. He helped the girls out with their sick father, brought Megan out of her silence, and had the unenviable task off finishing off the girl’s dad who dies of cancer.
His time with the ladies allowed Philip to resurface as his main persona. It’s obvious that little Megan reminded him of his own daughter, which surely led to him wanting to stay around and help ensure her safety. Deep down, like all of the survivors, he was a good person before the outbreak, but unlike the main cast, he was unable to keep his sanity intact the moment the shit hit the fan if you will. He sums this fact up perfectly when he describes what happened to him before he found the three girls:
“He just lost it.”
“The man in charge.”
Those three lines sum up his Woodbury experiment, and his own appraisal of what happened to himself. Just speaking those lines shows that a character as awful of the Governor still has some humanity left inside that can be coaxed back out. It proves that if he can become good, even if for a small time, then anyone still has the ability to be honorable and just in a world full of death and despair. What remains to be seen is if the Governor will maintain his inner-Phil, or if his chance meeting with Martinez and his former followers will bring out the demon once more. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how things play out as season four of The Walking Dead plays out over the next few months.
Sneak peek at next week’s episode ‘Dead Weight’
Two behind the scenes looks at ‘Live Bait’
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Photos by Gene Page/AMC