Let me preface this review by saying I think David Morissey is a fantastic actor. I love every scene he is in, and even when the writers painted him into the one-note villain he had become, I still enjoyed seeing Morissey handle the reins. He gives the show one hundred percent, and is clearly loving it, so anything I have to say about The Governor (or Brian now I guess) is purely down to the writers. Because this episode has pushed the character in a direction I didn’t think he could be taken, and because it does so in little over 42 minutes, it will have to be judged once this particular arc is over, making this a particularly hard episode to review.
When we saw The Governor last, he had killed a lot of innocent people just because they pissed him off. In most shows, this would be the point of no return, as the my-way-or-your-dead approach is a fairly reprehensible act. But the writers here have been keen on asking the “how far can you go before you lose your humanity” question for a while now, so the attempt at humanising the character once again makes sense in that regard.
That’s not to say that it is necessarily the right choice to make, but it remains to be seen whether it will pay off in the end. Too much happens in this episode to allow the viewer to accept that this a changed man – but maybe that’s the point. Maybe The Governor has gone too far that he cannot truly return to being a person who represents any form of humanity, that this brief moment of affection for a family is going to end as quickly as it started. A show usually would subtly push this character change over many seasons. Lost’s Benjamin Linus (handled by the brilliant Micheal Emerson) comes to mind, but The Walking Dead has never been particularly subtle.
As mentioned before, David Morrisey is a great actor. He handles the brooding, self punishing character well, jumping from anger as he burns down Woodbury, to an almost dead man walking before he meets with the Chalmers family. It invites a certain calibre of actor to pull off the man who is both self-flagellating and trying to move on, and his scene with Meghan explaining what had happened with Penny was fantastic. At one point I could not tell whether “Brian” was laughing or crying, and to this point I’m still not sure. It’s subtle, yet effective
The Governor’s new family were serviceable in the end. Tara’s fake bravado came off as a bit much for the actress to convey, but she calmed down towards the end of the episode, and Lily seemed to really only be there for The Governor to shack up with. Meghan was really the obvious tie to The Governor’s humanity, and while the actress had a hard time sometimes, her look was just close enough to Penny to be an overt reference to his humanity.
On the zombie front, the retirement home scene was fun and tense, and reminds me of the similar location back in the first season, and the amputee zombie in the bathtub was heartbreaking, but the herd scene at the end was my favorite zombie kill this season. Pulling the head back of the zombie was brutal and vicious, and highlighted how much The Governor cared/cares for Penny/Meghan. That’s probably no easy task to accomplish, and was excellently handled on the special effects front.
One thing that really stood out this episode was the direction. There was a lot of dream-like shots that lent themselves well to the idea that this family life may very well be only a fantasy that The Governor is living right now. The sound design in the final pit scene was great, as the sound of assault rifle fire was there but it took a while to notice them.
Any judgement of where The Governor is going will have to wait. While this episode does push the boundaries of where the writers can take this character while still making sense, it remains to be seen if it pays off. There is still at least one more episode of this standalone arc, so it will be very interesting to see how we get to the point we see him outside the prison. Lets just hope they can handle it right.
A couple of observations
- Possibly current day The Governor is more “Brian” than evil? Could be an interesting direction to take him in.
- The cut from killing the father with the oxygen tank to burying him was great and simple piece of editing, that was enough to convey that the zombie he was killing was a man he had respected. Another example of the solid direction this episode.
- Still going to be another week until Daryl’s reaction to Carol’s departure, folks.
- My girlfriend, who is a make-up artist, informed me constantly about how badly done crazy-Governor’s wig was done. I just thought he looked like a discount Kurt Russell