All our “Walking Dead” principals got an extra week of vacation for Sunday night’s episode, “Live Bait.” And while they were all off sunning in the Caribbean or what-have-you, David Morrissey was doing some acting double-time, commanding the entire episode as none other than our long absent Governor.
After dragging out the prison flu for a few too many weeks already, what with the Rick and Carol episode followed by the Hershel episode filling time, there wasn’t a single mention of the disease-ridden Cell Block D Sunday night.
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Instead, we picked up where the Guv last left off, driving off from his single-handed massacre of dozens of Woodburyians. He and his henchman Martinez go camping, and the Governor, numb to the world after his complete psychotic break, doesn’t even try to fight off a Walker that’s crawling toward him from the campfire.
The next morning, he tears back into Woodbury in a monster truck and burns the whole place down. His journey from here is right out of the Western playbook: silence, solemn stares, open skies, and a man with a grizzly beard and an eye-patch roaming the countryside. The Guv walks on toward a slow and inevitable death, all set to the tune of Ben Nichols’ “The Last Pale Night in the West.”
We overhear a woman questioning the Guv on his origin, and he tells her about Woodbury in a not-so-honest way. “He just lost it,” he says. “Who?” the woman asks. “The man in charge.”
The woman, it turns out, has a sister, a daughter and a father with lung cancer, and they’re all holed up in an apartment building with Walkers on the upper floors. They take the Guv in, give him Spaghetti O’s that he ungratefully tosses, and ask him to run them errands, like getting a backgammon set from upstairs, and an oxygen tank from the old folks home.
At the nursing home, he encounters the absolute best form of Walkers there are: the elderly and disabled. He doesn’t even attempt to take any of them down, just walks past the ones confined to bed and a wheelchair. Still, even those Walkers are menacing when too many gang up, and thus went the close-encounters-while-on-a-run-for-supplies segment of the evening.
Governor Phillip takes on the new name of Brian Harriet, which he lifted from a shed in the wild where people left messages for one another. The new “Brian” bonds with little Megan, and her mom, the nurse Lilly. Lilly’s sister Tara, who says she’s an Atlanta city cop but isn’t, warms up to him eventually, too.
Suddenly, “Brian” is clean shaven and playing chess with Megan and taking out freshly dead Walker grandpa with an oxygen canister. Looks like he’s part of the family.
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Meanwhile, the old Phillip is shedding his past, burning the family photo he’s carried with him this whole time. He also attempts to leave his new family, who is utterly traumatized by watching him smash grandpa’s skull to bits. But they won’t let him off the hook so easily and elect to ride off into the sunset with him in grandpa’s Gorbelli food truck, which doubles as a camper and site of not quite quiet-enough apocalypse-sex between Lilly and the Guv.
The morning after, the truck won’t start, and on a walk to nowhere in particular, the clan encounters a Walker horde (but not before we learn that Tara’s possibly a lesbian. Is this the first gay character on this show?)
The Governor, who’s grown to care for little Megan, carries her off through the woods, and the pair fall into a ditch of Walkers. With his bare hands, he kills them all, pulling one’s throat out, and pulling apart another one’s head using only a bone.
Just when he promises the girl that he won’t let anything happen to her, Martinez ambles up to the edge of the ditch. Probably not the best time to run into the one remaining person on Earth who bore witness to your massacre of a bunch of innocent people and your general power-hungry insanity. But there’s never really a good time to start a family, is there?
So many questions! Based on the preview for next week, it looks like it’s another Guv-heavy episode. Will we learn how the Governor comes to be out in front of the prison? Will his girls be with him? Can a guy that nuts really change, and can Rick, Michonne, et all, possibly let him join them? And finally, who else kind of has a crush on the Governor after seeing his soft and gooey side? Tweet me up @sharynjackson.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.