The Walking Dead: "Live Bait" (Season 4, Episode 6)

Flabbergasted

My dinner with the Governor.

It was SpaghettiOs. He was boring. The lighting was bad. Oh well, at least next week’s trailer looks like it could be interesting.

As you no doubt guessed, this is the episode slotted to catch us up with our old psycho pal, the Gov. We start where we left him last season, after he’d killed his pitiful attack force of losers and driven off with Martinez and some other guy. He’s got a big time sad on. You know, one of those days we’re you’re just out of sorts, nobody loves you, everybody hates you, guess you should just go eat worms. Of course, most of us don’t turn those days into a TV episode.

The opening is visually interesting. The governor is in a borderline catatonic state sitting before a fire. He watches a ghostly walker slowly emerge until it trips into the fire and keeps crawling toward him. Martinez emerges to shoot it. Memo: don’t let the guy having a nervous breakdown stand watch.

The next morning, Martinez and the other guy have left. The Governor drives a semi rig back to Woodbury, smashes through the barricade and burns the town down. This is also where the episode starts to seem artificial. We realize this moment is supposed to symbolize the Governor’s desire to destroy the past and his role in it, but… He’s standing there carefully posed in front of the artful backdrop of a nicely green house with beautiful flames. It’s beating us over the head with the message to the point where it starts to feel like a GQ photo spread.

I applaud that they want to do something interesting with the Governor, something more than just have him be Michael Myers. Okay. The problem is this—the episode unfurls like it’s trying to announce in obvious fashion that it wants to do something different with the Governor. It’s forced, more written that way than felt by the audience, at least me. They made this guy a cartoonish Michael Myers by the end of last season, and you can’t just undo that in one hour. Also, do we as the audience care enough to invest in it given that we know he was a cartoonish Michael Myers?

In fairness, this does tie into this season’s repeated theme: are there things you can’t come back from? And next week’s preview, as noted, could be interesting. But this episode still struck me as a slow, let’s do this because it might be interesting gambit. In other words, character development is plastered over the Governor instead of organically welling up from within.

The Governor grows a beard and wanders the earth. He collapses in front of a house, presumably from fatigue, only to see a little girl looking down at him from a second story window. Inside, he finds two sisters, Tara and Lily, who reside with Lily’s daughter, Megan, and their dying father (lung cancer). The writers keep beating us over the head with the obvious since Megan so closely resembles the Governor’s deceased daughter, Penny. She has to be the spitting image of Penny because they’re not allowing this storyline any time to actually develop.

It’s called “blatant gestures.” Or to use a more modern term, anvilicious. The definition from TV Tropes is: “Anvilicious describes a writer's and/or director's use of an artistic element, be it line of dialogue, visual motif, or plot point, to so obviously or unsubtly convey a particular message that they may as well etch it onto an anvil and drop it on your head.”

So let’s do this thing: Lily offers SpaghettiOs; Gov goes upstairs to kill a walker and retrieve a Backgammon set for Megan; Lily asks Gov to get an oxygen tank for Dad from the old folk’s home; lots of gross dead old people; Gov bonds with Megan; Gov shaves off his beard (Symbolism!); Gov teaches Megan chess; Megan draws an eye patch on the white king (More Symbolism!), then Dad dies and Gov caves in his walker skull with the oxygen tank (How’s that for Irony!).

The box on quasi-redemption now checked, they all head out on the road in a truck. They all sleep in the back, too. With her sister and daughter sleeping literally inches away, Lily and the Gov have one of the most awkward make out sessions ever filmed. Then the truck breaks down. Shortly thereafter, lots of walkers arrive just as Tara sprains her ankle. Damn the luck.

Gov is running with Megan and falls into a pit with walkers. He kills them with his bare hands. Then he tells Megan he’ll never let anything get here. She says “Promise?”, because of course she does.

Then Martinez shows up. Apparently this is his pit. Because of course it is.

Paint by the numbers. We don’t know who this ex-Governor guy is anymore, but he’s apparently needed in some future episodes to come. As noted, the next one could be interesting as the Gov is on the run with Martinez and his survivors.

Different group dynamics. And who knows? Maybe they’ll even develop naturally

Tags: