Episode 6 - Live Bait
22 November 2013
Synopsis: We follow Philip as he's abandoned by Martinez and stumbles across a family living in an apartment building. He slowly wins their trust and comes to care about them. Particularly mother Lily and daughter Megan. After Lily's father dies they decide to move on. They are attacked by a group of Walkers but Martinez rescues them.
The Bad: The pilot aside, The Walking Dead writers have done a poor job of introducing new characters. A consistently poor job. Here we got a double whammy, we got several new characters plus the Governor. It was never dull but it entirely failed to generate emotion or real tension.
Surely we aren't meant to feel sympathy for this psychopath? Clearly he does some good for his adopted family. But his description of chess pieces strongly implied that he still feels he can manipulate others for his own benefit. His mourning process over his old identity seemed to focus only on the loss of his daughter. It wasn't clear if he felt any remorse over mowing down his own people. It seems doubtful given that he steps into a new leadership role and doesn't seem to be worried that he might lead these people to disaster.
Questions over the purpose of this episode coloured everything for me. If it was meant to rehabilitate the Governor even a little then it failed. Not because what we saw here was bad in itself but just because the accumulated baggage of the character is too great to overcome. The only way he could gain a modicum of redemption would be in sacrificing himself to let others live. And even then that would merely be acknowledgement of his black soul rather than something which could turn him into a beloved figure.
If on the other hand the Governor is just a main character now then the episode was adequate but deeply misguided. Perhaps another writing team could craft genuinely intriguing stories around a bottom-feeder who spends the apocalypse going from one group to another taking what he wants and destroying them. But on The Walking Dead this story just hits repeated false notes. It's impossible for me to invest in characters who align themselves with the Governor because their fate just seems set right from the start. And as last year's "Walk With Me" demonstrated, hanging out with deceived people is a frustrating experience.
As for the details of the episode. I have to wonder how anyone can sleep in tents in this universe. Surely you'd be terrified of being killed in your sleep. I was particularly amused to then see the Governor wake up and there behind him is a small building. Sleep in there you idiot! I then found his slow bearded walk through empty streets unintentionally amusing. Walter White with his barrel this was not and the moment where he side stepped a Walker as if he was too depressed to even notice was farcical.
The Unknown: The interaction with the new family was adequate but always felt contrived. A family unit with an ill grandfather and an absentee Dad just happen to be waiting for a strong alpha male like him to turn up. They are suitably cautious but of course under the surface keen for his company. His little missions to another apartment and the hospital were fine but not special. I always wonder why these characters can't smell dead people (like the old man in the bath). But then again I understand the needs of production which would mean most of these corpses would have been consumed with flies or rats by now and there are just some things you don't want on your TV. The sex scene was hilariously inappropriate. Are you really going to start groping each other with Tara right there? And presumably Megan not far away? A simple cuddle would have made the same point more plausibly. Finally the Governor's brutal killing of three Walkers caught in a trench (seems like Martinez could teach the Prison gang something about defences) was an interesting moment. I couldn't tell what the brutality was meant to tell us. A) That the Governor really would do anything for his surrogate daughter. B) That this is too violent a man to be a good father figure. Or C) that we needed some cool kills to please the fans.
The episode ends with Martinez finding the Governor's group. I suppose that could go a number of ways but there's no way he should take him in. I still assume at this stage that the Governor is meant to be a villain and therefore soon enough he will be back at the Prison causing trouble. But I suppose I should acknowledge the ludicrous possibility that the Governor might end up at the Prison begging to be taken in with his new family. If Rick were to do that it could kill the show.
Best Moment: Martinez and Shumpert leaving the Governor behind. They should have killed him but that was a start. Who burnt Woodbury down? Was that meant to be an accidental fire or did Rick and co do that to stop people living so near them?
Conclusion: I just don't see how the Governor can be presented as human at this point. If he remains demented then we just sat through an hour of waiting around for him to show his true colours. Which remains as dull a sport as it was last year. If this was meant to make him more human then it failed and I can't say I'm too excited to see more.
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