(Warning: spoilers ahead!) When last we saw our intrepid Walking Dead survivors, the prison had gone through a major upheaval on account of a three-punch combination of flu, sick people dying and turning into Inside Zombies, and a mess of Outside Zombies breaching the perimeter fence. Rick, Carl, and Maggie all displayed some fancy shootin' skills, Glenn damn near died but was intubated in the nick of time, Lizzie creepily dug her foot around in a pile of bloody phlegm (seriously, WTF was up with that?!?), and Hershel was the one-legged, righteous-bearded hero of the day.
Oh yeah, and the Governor showed up outside the prison. Because hey, what's one more complication for these folks? Maybe next week there can be a poisonous snake infestation, or everyone could get the Chili's "Baby Back Ribs" jingle stuck in their head.
Here's what went down in tonight's episode, titled "Live Bait":
We start out with a flashback of last season's roadside massacre, then move on to the scene AMC teased in the sneak peek promo: the Governor sitting in front of a campfire, wallowing so deeply in his own black thoughts he can't be bothered to defend himself from an approaching walker. His flunky Martinez saves him with a bullet, then walks away in disgust. The next morning, the Governor's on his own, because presumably his remaining henchmen have better things to do than babysit their near-catatonic boss.
The Governor makes his way back to Woodbury, driving a monster gate-smashing truck into the compound and burning the whole damn thing to the ground. That's what you get for not having spaghetti Tuesdays, Woodbury! He then hits the road for a lengthy solo journey, during which time he morphs into Kurt Russell in Escape From New York:
Except maybe not quite so dashing. Less "ex-Special Forces stud" and more "staggering homeless wino who's possibly housing a nest of starlings in his beard."
Eventually he comes across a family -- Lily, Tara, young Megan, and their father -- living in an abandoned apartment building, and after a lot of wary behavior between all parties (and a refused Spaghetti-O peace offering), the Governor thaws out a little and agrees to raid a nearby nursing home to get oxygen for the cancer-stricken dad. The old folks' home is a predictable shitshow, absolutely lousy with enfeebled-yet-sprightly-with-undead-power zombies, and he makes it out with a boo-boo on his head, which Lily the former nurse tends with gentle, seductive rubbing alcohol-blowing.
Megan, who supposedly does not talk, is a veritable Chatty Cathy with the Governor, and he loosens up right away. Next thing you know, he's all clean-cut and no longer mentally ill-seeming and is teaching Megan the fine art of metaphorical chess ("You can lose a lot of soldiers but still win the game"). Just as things start seeming downright friendly, though, Cancer Dad dies, and the Governor -- instead of, oh, I don't know, PREEMPTIVELY TELLING EVERYONE WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN -- saves Tara from being eaten by gruesomely bashing the dad's skull in with an oxygen tank.
Later, the Governor solemnly burns the long-carried photo of his family, a move that confuses me to no end. He did it before he was planning to leave, so I don't think it was something he did to accept the fact that he had a new family. Maybe it was a symbolic gesture to erase the loss that had turned him into the vicious, deranged leader he was?
Well, whatever the reason, he tries to hit the road, but Lily insists that they go with him. They head out in the Gorbelli truck, which seems like a super-handy traveling home until it shits out like one day into their journey. D'oh! At least the Governor and Lily got some action beforehand. Where were Tara and Megan sleeping during that booty call, by the way? Like the poor kid hasn't been through enough?
After the truck breaks down, they start walking, and Tara pretty much immediately twists her ankle. I haven't seen a move that smooth since Lori drove off the road in a world with NO TRAFFIC. At the same time Tara's hobbling around insisting that she's fine, the Governor spies a mess of walkers, and everyone makes a break for it, with Megan leaping straight into the Governor's arms ... and into the Penny-shaped hole in his heart. *Dramatic music swells*
The newly minted family unit doesn't last long, because the Governor and Megan plunge into a giant Woodbury-esque biter pit, which is naturally filled with biters. The Governor goes ballistic in his efforts to save Megan: he rips a zombie's spine out his throat and snaps open another one's jaw using an actual femur. Megan's like HOLY FUUU -- but she gratefully holds out a hand when he's done ripping walkers into pieces, and he whispers to her, "I'm never going to let anything happen to you."
"Promise?" she says. "Cross my heart," he says ... but who's that at the edge of the pit? His old buddy Martinez, standing there with a gun.
Well, GOSH. What did you think of this oddball episode? This felt like a huge gamble in terms of its relative slow pace and the fact that we never once saw the prison survivors, but I enjoyed it once the Governor stopped acting like he was sedated. I'm not at all sure where they're going in terms of the eventual Governor/Rick showdown, and it's interesting to think how these new relationships could shake out.
Did you like tonight's Governor-centric backstory?
Image via FX