The Walking Dead: Season 4, Episode 6 – “Live Bait”
Thanks to the encouragement of The Walking Dead TV Podcast, I will be writing weekly episode recaps for this season of The Walking Dead. Anyone continuing on should expect spoilers.
The return of the Governor seems like something that should be a big deal. The Walking Dead certainly thinks so, as “Live Bait” is a whole episode focused on what he has been up to, since going full on crazy at the end of last season. Unfortunately, the events from last season have inadvertently effected how much regard I have for “Live Bait,” along with the fact that this is apparently only part one of our journey with the Governor, before we are caught up to speed with precisely how he ends up back at the prison. Given that this season of the show has been very character heavy (and fairly successful at that), I am not faulting the idea for this episode, but that does not take away from issues I already had with the Governor character and The Walking Dead’s attempt to sweep things under the rug.
The beginning of this episode really did not help matters all too much, as there is a brief recap of how things were left with the Governor at the end of last season, following the slaughter of almost all his own soldiers, by his own hand, which is then followed by a sequence that I could not take seriously. After waking up, abandoned by his men, ol’ Gov beings to walk the earth. The combination of music and a really terrible looking beard did not help me appreciate what David Morrissey was conveying in all his vagrant brooding around the streets of dilapidated Georgia. I generally like the source music chosen for this show quite a bit, so it did come as a surprise for how little I responded to what was done in this lengthy cold open.
Things settle down once the episode gets to its main focus: the attempt to redeem the Governor. I will layout my thoughts on that, but the setup is simple. The Governor spots a little girl in an apartment building. He is reminded of his dead daughter and makes his way up. Upon arrival, shaggy and malnourished, he disarms himself and gives in to the occupants, hoping for shelter in return. The occupants include the little girl, Megan, her mother Lily, Lily’s sister Tara, and the girls’ father, an old man with lung cancer. The Governor eventually tells the others that his name is Brian and begins his new journey by staying with this family.
I cannot take away from what Morrissey offers as an actor. In terms of giving a performance based off of what is stated in a script, the actor nails the part. Were it not for things we already knew about this character, I would be happy to praise it all the way. The problem is that I do know things about this character and they are messy, inconsistent things that this episode really wants to overlook by way of a very standard redemption arc. It is really easy to create sympathy for a character by making him the stranger that becomes a protector, providing information about the harsh realities of the world they live in, being helpful in situations of need, and of course bonding with a very young girl. These are common tropes and whether or not these clichés are bothersome, they still manage to be effective in certain stories. The Governor is a different case.
Last season had the job of delivering on an interpretation of one of the most ruthless characters in the original comic. I do not need The Walking Dead to be a spitting image of the comic or the Governor-related book series either. What I need is consistency. Unfortunately, the Governor was not a consistent character last season. Going full on crazy at the end of last season was fine, given that he would likely return the same way, but that is not what we got here. Attempting this redemption plotline would be fine too, but I also did not find enough in this episode to really deliver on me appreciating what led to his change. Simply showing us a disheveled, broken man that suddenly finds warmth in his life again is not enough to put me on his side or make me want to forgive his actions, as this episode wants us to do.
This is where it gets tricky, as there is still at least one more episode (or at the very least half of one) that will show us what the real deal is behind his return to the prison. It goes to show how difficult these weekly write-ups can be, because the sum of all the parts can make a big difference in some cases. That said, I know what I saw, I know how I feel about the Governor, and I also had other problems.
I have already brought up the cold open, which I saw as goofy, rather than very effective. The other issue was this family, frankly. The character of Tara was awful and I really do have to pick on both the writing and the actress. Nothing about her seemed to work for me. I won’t pick on a little girl, but I will say that Megan is clearly a cypher and the source of eventual problems, which goes along with the sort of standard storyline being built around Governor 2.0, but also not all that inventive.
I am picking on the show a little bit, but it is because it is moving away from greater potential. The strange thing is how a very standard revenge plot would have been favorable. Perhaps that is what we are building to next time, but this redemption plotline is basically stalling for time by adding qualities to a character that go against what I see in him, without backing it up very well. We know the Governor will end up back at the prison, regardless of context, but it really would make more sense if it was spurred on by very basic revenge motivations. Instead, we have added complexities that that I am not all for believing in as of yet.
Maybe this will all play out really well. That has been the pattern so far, as I had issues with Carol’s plotline, only to be really warm towards the last episode featuring her. The Governor has always been a problematic character for a show that could really benefit from having a straight up crazy antagonist, but maybe it will settle him into a specific mindset by the time he is reintroduced to Rick and the Prison Pioneers. I am curious and while “Live Bait” did not show me The Walking Dead at its finest (despite how hard it tried), I remain open to where it can go from here.
3 out of 5 Busters
- A bit shorter and blunter this week, but it is because I am leaving the country in a few hours. I will be vacationing in South Africa for a couple weeks, meaning there will be an obvious lack of work coming from me for a bit. That said, there may or may not be a guest write-up in my place. We’ll see, but with that said, I look forward to returning and seeing how this all pans out. And with that said, I’m super excited to go to Africa, where there are no walkers for miles, I believe!
- Zombie Kill of the Week: The Governor had a bone to pick with one of those pit zombies.
- Oof, that beard, but we were all thinking Snake Plissken a couple times though, right?
- The Governor and Andrea have gotten the most action on this show; those crazy, horny kids. Glenn and Maggie need to catch up!
- No one doesn’t know how to pinky swear, c’mon!
- Seriously, shut up Tara.
- See you all at the mid-season finale!