The Walking Dead S4 Ep6 – “Live Bait”

The Governor burns down Woodbury.

The prodigal Governor returneth! And his return is… actually rather underwhelming.

Lilly and Tara flee walkers.The last time we saw him, he’d just shot and killed most of the able-bodied people from Woodbury, no biggie, and driven away into the sunset. This episode takes us all the way back to just after that moment, and the first five minutes of it is scenes of the Governor being abandoned by his men, Martinez and Shumpert, burning down Woodbury, then wandering around aimlessly, as his voiceover tells an unknown woman about what has happened to him in the past few months. He is eventually taken in by the Chandler family, made up of attractive mom Lilly, her young daughter Meghan, her outspoken sister Tara, and their ailing father David. It becomes clear that it was Lilly’s voice we heard conversing with the Governor in the opening sequence.

This opening sequence reminded me a lot of the first half of I Am Legend, with Will Smith’s character just going through the motions of living in order to stave off dying. It also reminded me of The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman’s character being so completely alone while an acoustic guitar song plays in the background. I thank the sound production team for choosing the songs for this episode so precisely, but the piano piece that played while Meghan and the Governor were bonding was just a tad too corny. This was just one of the things that hammered home the message the show wanted to send: “The Governor is a complicated person.”

It’s clear that this Governor is an entirely different man than the Governor of Season 3. He no longer wants to kill walkers, or in his terms “biters,” opting to neatly sidestep them with a sort of drunken grace or lock them in other rooms. His hair has grown long and his beard puts Rick’s threadbare chin-sweater to shame. The burning of Woodbury, and his answer of “Brian” when Lilly asks for his name, signifies his desire to break from his former psychopathic ways, but he doesn’t know who he is without that anger anymore. So he just walks, without stopping and without really caring where he ends up.

Unfortunately, just like the I Am Legend movie, the really awesome first part – where the protagonist is completely and utterly alone, lost and barely hanging on to his own humanity – is kind of put aside for a more “dramatic,” but ultimately less convincing story line. I would’ve really liked to see more of David Morissey’s Governor, just on his own, angry at everyone and everything, and then realizing that no one and nothing cares about him or even knows he’s alive. Except the walkers, which want him dead. I wanted to see him slowly sliding into the state we found him in at the beginning of the episode. Morissey does a great job of portraying the Governor, and I think he could’ve pulled off at least half an episode of being alone, trying to survive, and wrestling with the demons inside him with no one to rely on or talk to but himself. But instead, we get a few minutes of him looking pretty much like a blank slate, feeling and doing and learning nothing, until he finds another little family.

The things that he does for the Chandlers – venturing into a neighbor’s apartment for a backgammon set, clumsily stealing a pair of oxygen tanks for cancer-stricken David, helping with the dishes, and carrying David to bed – are sweet actions, but there’s no feeling in them. With no indication that he’d grown, I was waiting most of the episode for his old self to “wake up” and wreak havoc on the family, especially in the scene where Lilly leaves Meghan alone with him to fetch some ointment for the wounds he sustained while out getting oxygen.

Meghan stands in the road, terrified of the approaching zombies.I honestly thought he was either going to kill her or kidnap her. She looks eerily like both his daughter Penny and the little pink-bathrobed, teddy-bear-toting zombie Rick put down in the very first episode, and is convincingly innocent, especially compared to all the other kids we’ve seen this season. (Meghan’s actress is perfectly sweet, if a little bit scared.) In fact, the whole family of ladies is somewhat naive, because they’ve been holed up this entire time in their apartment and not aware of how hellish the world has become. Even tough-talking Tara, who claims to be a police officer from Atlanta – though she looks barely nineteen – doesn’t know that headshots will kill her undead upstairs neighbors, and has been wasting her bullets on torso shots (like they teach in you in the academy) for months.

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