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The Walking Dead Recap/Review: "Live Bait"

Maya Zach ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Since the last season’s finale, the fans have been clamoring for more information on The Governor (David Morrissey).  Some of these questions have finally been answered.

The episode opens where we last saw the Governor, immediately after he massacres his own people. He and his two henchmen peel off in their truck. A montage streaks by to show the Governor’s emotional and physical deterioration. He is first seen sitting sullen and defeated, not even bothering to kill an oncoming walker; he wakes up without his men; he burns down Woodbury. And a few months later, he is seen with bedraggled hair, a scruffy beard, and appears as pale as death; he collapses and doesn’t seem to care enough to get up until he sees a little girl in a window nearby.

David Morrissey, Meyrick Murphy, Audrey Marie Anderson, Alana Masterson and Juliana Harkavay in The Walking Dead episode "Live Bait." Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC.
David Morrissey, Meyrick Murphy, Audrey Marie Anderson, Alana Masterson and Juliana Harkavay in The Walking Dead episode “Live Bait.” Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC.

The only survivors in the building are a family of four: Lily (Audrey Marie Anderson), a nurse; her sister Tara (Alanna Masterson), who was training to become a cop; their father, an old truck driver (Danny Vinson); and Lily’s young daughter Megan (Meyrick Murphy). The Governor introduces himself as Brian Heriot, the name of a dead man that he saw etched on a wall. He tells the family that the leader of his town went crazy—leaving out he was that leader.

The family is completely clueless about the “monsters,” they don’t know how people turn, they don’t even know how to kill them. If they did not have shelter and a truck full of canned goods, they would not have survived more than a week. The Governor does the group a number of favors: he takes care of the walkers in the building, retrieves extra oxygen tanks from an old folks home, teaches them how to kill the biters, and kills the old man once he turns. The Governor quickly nestles into the family by bonding with Megan (who just so happens to be his own daughter’s age) and getting intimate with Lily.

When The Governor tries to split, the family insists on joining him on the road.  They need the protection and they don’t want to live in the house that their father/grandfather died in. When their truck breaks down, they head out on foot. The group is quickly swarmed, resulting in the Governor grabbing Megan and making a break for it. When the two fall into a ditch, The Governor is forced to kill the biters in the most brutal and grotesque manner that has been shown on The Walking Dead. But as soon as he gets rid of the undead threat, a man draws a gun on him. That man is Caesar Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), the Governor’s previous second-in-command.

The third season of The Walking Dead followed The Governor’s descent into madness, but all of that comes into question in the span of one episode. The pain that he feels and the regret that he carries with him is so evident that it instills a genuine sense of pity. He has practically lost the will to live due to the guilt he feels. He burns down Woodbury in an attempt to get past what he did, but nothing will alleviate the agony that he has to deal with. It’s hard to believe that he ever intended to become a villain; his motives were always well intentioned, they just spiraled out of control—particularly after losing Penny.

Jose Pablo Cantillo and David Morrissey in The Walking Dead episode "Live Bait." Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC.
Jose Pablo Cantillo and David Morrissey in The Walking Dead episode “Live Bait.” Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC.

At first, the Governor keeps his distance from Megan. But she takes a shine to him and he can’t help but see the resemblance between her and Penny. When they encounter walkers and she freezes, he hesitates before picking her up; he is scared of growing attached to her and doesn’t want her to simply be a replacement for his own daughter. However, he burns the picture of Penny that he always carries; he accepts that his daughter died long ago and he has to let her go. By the end of the episode he holds Megan close and promises to protect her with his life. Though she will never replace Penny, Megan gives the Governor hope.

This episode is rife with symbolism. There is more than just the clear comparison between Penny and Megan and the Governor’s rapid physical deterioration due to mental anguish. When he is teaching Megan how to play chess, he says, “You can lose a lot of soldiers, but still win the game.” He is reassuring himself that he can—and still deserves to—survive, even after losing and murdering so many of his own men.

Since the previous episode assured the viewers of the Governor’s survival, it completely lifted the suspense from this one. Though it lacked tension, it was far from deficient in shock. The Governor seems like a completely changed man. He appears to regret everything he has done and is seeking redemption. Though it seemed unthinkable before, maybe it is possible for him to atone. But can he convince Rick of his vindication?

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