Despite Brian’s pleas that he didn’t want leadership, and by extension, a return to the man who did horrendous things, the Governor’s nature reasserted itself. Likewise, after a trip down hope and happy-feels lane last week, the show’s nature reasserted itself with a dark and twisted psychological tromp through the head of one of the most evil characters currently on television.
The Walking Dead frequently does dark, but this episode was particularly twisted. Think about this – the Governor kills Martinez because Martinez suggests he might want to share power with him. The Governor is horrified at the idea of leadership again, because this is the part of himself that he’s burnt off – the part that associates surviving with killing. He’s so horrified at the idea of becoming the killer he once was that he brutally murders Martinez, who only wanted a few beers and a game of golf, and throws him screaming into the pit of walkers.
The Governor is doing laundry – more specifically squeezing out the water in the clothes as he hangs them up to dry. Water is recurring symbol throughout this episode and appears to represent death and darkness. As the Governor joins Martinez, Pete, and Mitch on a scouting mission, he’s told the pond is dead – meaning there are no fish there. He’s continually plagued by leaks in his camper home – darkness and death pushing its way in. And in the end, when the Governor gives in, he chooses to leave Pete uncovered and undead under water – recreating his fish tanks from last season, which he told Andrea served as reminders of the faces of the enemy. The Governor’s attempt to keep out the darkness and death can be seen as a parallel to Rick’s efforts to keep the darkness and death beyond the fence lines, and to banish Carol when she brought some of that darkness back into the camp.
DualityThis was a true Dr. Jekyll and Hyde story, as actor David Morrissey teased in a recent interview. There’s a clear internal push-and-pull struggle going on within the Governor’s psyche as he tries to keep his dark side out. The murderer they encounter after following a trail of decapitated bodies is a mirror of his darker self. The labels pinned to the bodies, “liar,” “rapist,” and “murderer,” all describe the Governor. While we’re told the Governor stopped short of actual rape with Maggie, in the comics the Governor does rape Michonne, so the show seemed to be insinuating that this too is part of his profile.
The murderer has also lost a wife and daughter, which like the governor appears to have pushed him over the edge, and he keeps a photo of the three of them with him. Also, like the Governor, he decapitates and keeps the heads as reminders. I raised a question about what justice would look like in this new world in an article a few weeks ago. As an interesting twist to this theme of justice, the dead murderer is not only killing in self-defense, but he’s judging and passing judgment not just to those he killed, but to himself as well.
Another symbol of his duality is the Governor’s eyes. He lost one – maybe the one associated with his humanity - on the night Michonne put down dead Penny. We got a brief glimpse of this cavity as Lilly tended to it, but the eye patch is back on immediately after Meghan is attacked.
Who is the Dead Weight?
To me this was stronger than last week’s episode because it was darker. While I enjoyed the twists and additional depth that was added to the Governor’s character in last week’s set up, this week we returned to the twisted nature that is The Walking Dead. There were lots of layers to this episode, and I found myself scrapping almost everything I wrote after a first draft – something that is unusual for me and a sign that the episode is too involved for just one viewing.
Other Thoughts:- As I mentioned above, the eye patch was symbolic, but still, the Governor had it off when Meghan started screaming, and had it back on as he came to her rescue. I doubt he took the time to put it back in place.
- The Governor’s view on life – that survival equals killing – stands at a stark contrast to Hershel’s view that was explored a couple of weeks ago. In Hershel’s view, self-sacrifice and refusing to let go of anyone is the path to saving lives.
- We learned that the Governor’s distain for self-sacrificing “heroes” goes back further than the zombie apocalypse, as the governor recites a childhood story of his brother, the hero, taking a beating for him. And in the end, they both were beaten anyway.