The lady-killer is back.
We’ve been waiting for the Governor (David Morrissey)’s return all season, fully expecting to boo and hiss since he officially flipped over the highside, opening fire on his people and killing his closest allies, Milton and Andrea, in one of the grisliest ways imaginable. So it’s a complete surprise when we see him, eerily impassive and a bit pathetic. When a Biter (we’re going to use his term since it’s most definitely HIS episode) crawls through the campfire, it’s like she’s not even there. He doesn’t even flinch when Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) shoots it in the head, which the ruthless lackey notes before scarpering with Shumpert (Travis Love) and leaving their former leader to fend for himself.
Wait; this isn’t how we expected our first meeting with one of the greatest villains in graphic novel history to go down.
Bearded and broken, he sets fire to Woodbury, and it’s like he’s burning his old self away with it. It seems that he doesn’t even associate himself with the Governor any more, as he tells some new acquaintances that he lived in a town where the man in charge “just lost it.” Later, he’ll burn the only picture of his wife and child in a bold break from the past.
The buzz word this year has been ‘change’, and this episode has hinted that Brian, as he calls himself now, might not be past redemption.
Incidentally, this was his name in the graphic novels, and so were the names of the people he met in the apartment building… [SPOILER ALERT FOR RISE OF THE GOVERNOR] In the graphic novel, Tara has a sister called April, father named David and a mother called Lillian, which is pretty similar to the setup we see here (they’ve just switched the name ‘April’ for ‘Lilly’ and gave her a young daughter for Brian to care for). He puts their father down when he dies from lung cancer and he grows close to April, but when he ended up raping her, Tara forces him to leave at gunpoint.
Of course, in the episode Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) consents to sleeping with Brian, which makes us wonder whether she’ll turn out to be the comic-book’s Lilly Caul, who worked with the Governor to launch the assault on the prison. She actually killed Lori and baby Judith (could it now be Beth and Judith’s lives on the line?) and wound up blaming the Gov and killing him. Would it be right for a relative newcomer to kill the biggest bad The Walking Dead has known? The jury’s out for now. [SPOILER ENDS]
The setting of the apartment feels safe, Lilly even says “No one mentioned how boring the end of the world was gonna be.” And yet there’s a sense of tension throughout because we can never predict what the Governor will do next. But he’s not the Gov anymore; he’s Brian and he helps strangers by risking his life to get an oxygen tank and plays chess with a girl that looks a lot like his twice-dead daughter. But we couldn’t fail to notice the very telling chunks of dialogue: “You can lose a lot of soldiers but still win the game,” and “That’s the king, the guy you want to capture.”
It’s a testament to the superb writing, showrunner Scott Gimple’s refusal to let this character go stale and a perfectly pitched performance from David Morrissey that we’re rooting for this guy again. All is forgiven, please go to the good side and drink scotch with Rick.
But we know that’s asking too much. The end of last week’s episode, ‘Internment’, showed him watching the prison from a distance, and the preview for episode 8, ‘Dead Weight’, reveals Martinez has become a leader in lieu of the Governor. “We will do the only thing to protect this camp,” he barks, which could mean taking over the prison.
A showdown seems inevitable, but there’s renewed hope that we’ll miss this character if and when he goes.