Just when it seems that The Walking Dead cannot possibly top their record of innovative zombie creation, they give up The Governor vs old zombies. This weeks episode was title Live Bait and it does make Brian, or is that Philip, and the adoption of his new little family slightly foreboding. The entire show was devoted to this delightfully evil character’s new beginning.
At first glance it seems that David Morrissey’s character is on the literal road to redemption. The Governor is given the vestiges of a backstory which includes a small nuclear family before the walkers took over. It is a surprising move from the shows producers. In the comic book world of The Walking Dead the character is unremittingly evil. In the television version he now has a depth not hinted at in the comic creation of The Governor.
Episode 6 is all about The Governor. At the beginning he has just finished his wholesale massacre which occurred at the end of season 3. He has escaped with his two henchmen, Shumpert and Marinez. Sitting staring expressionlessly a walker approaches him by way of a campfire. After setting itself alight, the burning zombie continues its advance to The Governor.
It is apparent that he will do nothing to save himself and at the last minute Martinez dispatches the zombie. The morning after sees The Governor all alone as Martinez and Schumpert have obviously decided that their old boss has lost his usefulness. Deserted, The Governor drives a truck to his old stomping ground Woodbury and literally gate crashes the deserted town and sets it on fire.
Nothing so far is too surprising in this Walking Dead world. It makes sense that The Governor wants to eradicate his immediate past in an act of cleansing the area by fire. The character has to destroy his history so he can move forward. In his journey along the road, The Governor vs old zombies is just around the metaphorical corner.
Later a more hirsute version of The Governor is walking along the road. In a voice over, he is having an (internal?) conversation with himself. Answering questions put to him by a woman. He explains his recent backstory to this (imaginary?) person saying that he came from a town where the leader “lost it.”
The likelihood of this being an internal conversation increases when we next see the man meet a small family unit. Two women, a young girl and a grizzled old-timer are in a building he enters. He tosses his gun on the floor to show he is not a threat to this family of survivors. It is while he is interacting with them that he reveals his name. Brian Harriet is The Governor’s self professed name and he attempts to bond with the small group.
After finding out that the old man is the two women’s father and that he is dying of lung cancer, Brian does the family a couple of favors. Firstly he goes upstairs to get a backgammon game for the old man. He encounters the first old zombie of the show. Greg Nicotero and his crew of FX magicians never fail to impress. Their creation of an old decrepit walker trapped in a bathtub is an almost blackly comic look at zombie in this world. It almost evokes a sort of horrified laughter when the old fellow is discovered and then dispatched by “Brian.”
Before the episode ends, The Governor, aka Brian Harriet, will encounter a whole slew of old zombies when he retrieves oxygen bottles for the two women’s father. He is actually injured by the ancient horde of walkers who are probably more mobile, and agile, than they were when alive and living in the old folk’s home.
By the end of the show, Brian has discovered romance with Lily; gained the trust of sister Sara; befriended, terrified, and then saved young Megan. When The Governor falls into a zombie pit with Megan in his arms, he sheds his Brian image immediately and becomes the savagely violent man he was as The Governor.
Once again the special effects crew create a brilliantly gory bit where The Governor rips the jaw bone off of one walker and uses it as a weapon on another. Just as it seems that Brian and Megan are to be zombie kibble and bits, a man who looks suspiciously like Martinez saves them.
Season four of The Walking Dead has been pretty grim thus far. Live Bait features The Governor vs old zombies and gives the audience a bit of backstory. Will we ever find out what happened to his family that we see in that old picture? Has Brian adopted Megan as his replacement daughter and Lily as a stand-in for his wife? More importantly will Michonne, now that she has stopped looking for him, find The Governor? Even more important, why did Martinez suddenly show back up? Perhaps next week’s episode will explain what Harriet is planning.
By Michael Smith