I knew from the intro of this episode it would be a polarizing one. Some would be thrilled for a look at what The Governor has been up to since last season, others would just want to be done with the character for awhile and move on with the main group at the prison. I am in the former category.
The show starts off right where we last saw Governor Phil and his two henchmen, Martinez and the other guy. Phil ends up gunning down half of Woodbury on the side of the road. As they pull away from the slaughter, they all give regretful glances at the bodies strewn about. Cut to a lone Governor sitting in front of a campfire, he’s clearly somewhere else as a zombie walks straight through the fire to get at him and he continues staring off into space. He doesn’t even start at the sound of Martinez firing a weapon to save his life. Martinez gives him a look as if to say “yeah, you’ve lost it man, me and the other guy are gonna split.”
The Governor has truly lost it all. He’s lost his family, his former self, his community, and he has simply given up even the slightest effort to stay alive. If ever there was a guy who could survive the zombie apocalypse on pure, involuntary instinct it’s Governor Phil!
What I assume is the next morning after the zombie campfire walk, Phil crawls out of his tent to find that Martinez and the other guy have left him behind. Oh Other Guy! How could you do this to him? Martinez I would expect this from, but not you Other Guy! Anyway, The Governor climbs out of his tent. He looks grey, clearly a different guy than the intimidating figure of last season. He’s pale and looks thin, frail almost. He looks more like a Walker in his now tattered coat rather than a leader of men. The henchmen saw their Alpha Dog flinch and no longer respect him. He truly has nothing left.
We next see a montage of The Governor driving through the gates of Woodbury in some sort of military vehicle and burning the entire town to the ground to either assure that Rick and crew can’t loot the place or to complete the destruction of his past. He then just sort of wanders around growing a beard and practicing just-in-time Walker avoidance techniques while a voiceover rolls of Phil telling an unknown woman an enhanced version of who he is and where he came from. It’s enhanced to the point that we are forced to wonder if he himself truly believes this version.
Towards the end of the montage Phil stumbles in the street. As he lays there wondering what the point of continuing on would be he looks up at a nearby apartment building and sees a little girl in an upper floor window. He wanders into the building and is greeted at the door by two women, one of which has a gun pointed at our…hero?…psychotic murderer?…our Phil? I’ll just keep calling him Phil…or Brian? Wait, who the hell is this guy?
All kidding aside, I really dug this part. The characters of Tara, Lily, and their father were inspired, I assume from the novel Rise of the Governor. The little girl Meghan must be a writer’s creation but loved the nod to the book. Phil tells them his name is Brian, a name he took from a message he saw scrawled on a wall but also bears significance to the novel as it is the name of the “real” Philip Blake’s brother.
One thing I did find strange and nearly comical about this episode was, why do Tara and Lily bring Phil into their home, disarm him, treat him like a threat then sit down on either side of him on their couch and positively bombard him with back-story on how their father gathered them together and how they got their beef jerky supplies? I guess you could explain it by saying they live in a relatively small town, live on a safer, upper floor and are simply naive about the scope of it all, but come on! One look at Phil and I’m keeping my guard up.
So they force themselves into strange, quiet Phil’s life and continue to endear themselves by constantly asking him to do dangerous things until one day the old man croaks and Phil is forced to beat Walker Dad back to death in front of everyone with an oxygen tank. After Phil buries their dad, the ladies invite themselves along for the ride when Phil wants to cut out. He says he can’t take them but Lily says NO and goes to grab their stuff.
Out on the road in their sausage truck, Phil and Lily get it on, Tara confesses she was never a cop, and the truck breaks down. Now poor Phil is walking with three zombie apocalypse newbs and seems a bit frustrated. Actually, if not for the special bond he has formed with Lily’s daughter Meghan, I get the feeling Phil would sooner or later abandon the two women.
Tara stumbles and twists her ankle and in true worst case scenario fashion a small herd of zombies awaits just around the bend. Phil tells everyone to drop their supplies and run for the woods. Lily is forced to help Tara walk, leaving her daughter frozen in terror in the middle of the road. Lily, still holding up Tara, just stands there pleading for her to drop her stuff and run to them leaving me wondering; why don’t you sit your sister down a sec or maybe walk over and snap her back to reality somehow? The zombies are still a little ways off and they walk pretty slowly. Once again, it’s up to Phil. He basically just stands there trying to coax the girl to come to him. She eventually runs and jumps into his arms and Phil goes a’runnin. This scene was actually a pretty emotional one. As Phil is holding onto the kid and running he truly looks desperate, like a madman that would face any kind of opponent to save this girl. Actor David Morissey does an outstanding job portraying a man trying to somehow make up for his past. He couldn’t keep his own daughter safe but you can tell in this scene he will not relive that tragedy again. Phil keeps running until he falls into a pit. When he regains his senses he sees that he and the girl have fallen into a Walker pit that happens to be occupied at the moment. Governor Phil goes to work on the three Walkers in the pit hand-to-hand style. Tearing out throats? Pulling off tops of heads? It’s all in a day’s work for the world’s deadliest political figure.
Above Phil, the girl, and The Walkers gunfire can be heard intermittently. As Phil holds the girl and reassures her, we see the face of Martinez peering into the pit.
As much as I found this episode flawed, I did enjoy many different parts. I liked the scene where Phil puts down Lily and Tara’s father and loved that these three characters were added to TV continuity. The fact that any characters from the Rise of the Governor novel made it to the show is pretty cool in my opinion. There was also some good zombie action with the bathtub zombie and the nursing home Walkers.
Overall this was a solid episode, especially for your diehard fans that consume anything in The Walking Dead universe, but because of some parts that I deemed too silly I have to give this one a solid…
4 out of 5 nerds