My concerns from last week were put to rest with this episode’s conclusion. It was a satisfying ending in the sense that it was, of course, what I’ve been waiting for this whole time (and I’m very glad that I didn’t have to wait more than two episodes, don’t get me wrong), but it also filled me with a sense of dread now that it was actually about to happen. And when I say it, I mean Governor/prison mayhem. Again.
But, before we get that far, let me also say that the episode as a whole felt a little bumpy and disjointed at times. It was filled with lulls and dips interspersed with mini-explosions, in the form of little ruptures and tears in the Brian Heriot facade, with the Governor’s evil poking through and threatening to take back over. I loved the opening sequence. It gave me chills to watch the camera rotate in the way it did as the Governor thought of his next move, and probably not just in terms of chess might I add.
I loved the conversation between Megan and the Governor too, about fathers and children and being bad. It hurt to hear him call her pumpkin, and it hurt even more in retrospect to hear him say nothing in response to Megan’s questioning that they’d be safe, “cause we’re good? All of us?” because in reality, we know the Governor best survives when he is bad, and even then the chances that he would get this new family killed through these very actions. And this conversation therefore sets up the episode nicely.
But, this scene was also in many ways deviously misleading; I kept trying to piece together the events of the first half hour or so as leading to that opening shot, thinking it was so temporally separate from what it was crosscutting with: Martinez’s rescue of Megan and “Brian” from the pit. I kept assuming he took the tank, that he left or killed the rest of the camp (seemingly in the same moment we were just meeting and joining them).
Well, I will say I was partly right, and those mini-explosions I alluded to are what kept this episode going for me as a continuation of last week’s character study/arc of a villain-turned-softy-turned-villain-again. First, the Governor unexpectedly hits Martinez with a golf club and pulls him into a walker pit, then he stabs the second in command, and finally gets the third in command to join forces with him in running the camp, leading to one of the many great quotes of the episode: “People believe what they want to believe. Everybody loves a hero.” The second in command, Pete, is drowned leading to also one of the greatest zombie shots I’ve seen. He has turned into more of a swimmer, shall we say, as we see the Governor stare coldly at what he has wrought in the form of this first-ever water-treading walker.
The other scare of the episode was when Megan almost gets bit by a walker. Tara’s attempts to drag him away by his ankle but fails due to the slippery skin and flesh peeling in her hands; the Governor’s gunshot does the trick though, proving he does care about this new family but showing it in otherwise questionable forms increasingly in this episode. But other than these moments, I felt mostly a self-assigned sense of confusion.
Let me reiterate though that I assigned this task to myself, uselessly trying to figure things out that were (as they often are) solely meant for some kind of symbolic Darwinian thought provocation as opposed to plot. For instance, the bodies with the signs around their necks exclaiming “LIAR” and “RAPIST,” or the overall tone of the run they are on (during which they find these bodies), all played out to me like they were hinting at something greater that I just wasn’t getting.
Every shot of the Governor’s eyes as they gradually clouded over, changing from filled with love to filled with evil from last week until now, made me feel like he knew something or had something to do with what we were seeing. Even the other camp which these men prove too slow to take advantage of before other humans do instead had me wondering if those clotheslines were the ones we saw at the beginning or if the Governor had somehow taken their lives and supplies secretively and by himself when we weren’t looking.
So I’ll give this episode a generous but still well-deserved 3 out of 5 golf balls hit by a drunken and soon to be killed Martinez. It was still engaging, precisely because of the Governor’s powerful re-evolution back into bad-assery, and because of the ending (where we see him raising his gun to what we can assume via eye line matches was Michonne), which again was what I’ve been both reluctantly and excitedly anticipating. I loved this two episode insight into this fascinating character, and I’m glad it was only two episodes for dramatic/climactic reasons but this episode specifically just felt a little more uneven and inconsistent than I would have liked given its goals.