A review of tonight’s “The Walking Dead” coming up just as soon as I have enough ammuniition to kill you every day for the next three years…
“Live Bait” wasn’t a particularly exciting episode of “The Walking Dead,” nor an especially subtle one in the way it beat us over the head with the parallels between the Governor’s dead little girl and the live one standing in front of him. But it may have been a necessary one, depending on what sort of long-term plans Scott Gimple has for the character.
The Governor from the second half of season 3 is not sustainable as an ongoing character on this show. He’s just not. He’d become such a cartoon by the end that the show can’t even realistically squeeze just one extra season out of him as the big bad before Michonne sticks her katana through his other eye, or Carl shoots him in the face or Carol bursts out of nowhere to stab him 75 times. So unless Gimple intends to bump off the Governor by the end of this half-season, he is in need of some hardcore character rehab, even if the end result of it still puts him in opposition to Rick’s group.
Did “Live Bait” succeed at injecting humanity back into our local one-eyed despot? A bit, maybe. As I said, the scenes with little Megan were so anvicilicious that they undercut a lot of the character rehab. If Lilly had had a young son, or if the girl were redheaded or African American(*) or in some way not looking so darned much like the Governor’s daughter, it might have still felt too obvious, but nowhere near this obvious.
(*) Changing the family’s race would have also meant casting an actress other than Audrey Marie Anderson – whom I liked on “The Unit,” but who looks so much like Lauren Cohan that it was distracting to have her playing scenes with David Morrissey – as Lilly.
And most of the episode was just the Governor – after randomly burning down part of Woodbury to create a cool and promotable visual – shuffling around and completely closing himself off to the world. And while that may be a good reflection of how he felt after massacring his people, as well as a needed step to get him from emotional Point A to Point B or C or J or wherever he is by the time he’s standing outside the prison, it didn’t make for the liveliest of episodes. Morrissey’s a good actor, but he doesn’t command the screen enough to pull that off for most of an episode.
The most interesting part of “Live Bait” involved our glimpse at how another group of survivors have been getting through the apocalypse. That the sisters had made it this long without figuring out that you have to destroy a zombie’s brain to stop it either makes no sense or suggests their apartment building was such a secure (and, thanks to their father, well-stocked) location that they were insane for trying to leave it – and the Governor should have told them as much before packing them into a truck that almost certainly was going to have to be ditched even if it kept working, given the condition of the roads. But it’s good to be reminded that not everyone has had the same kinds of experiences as Rick’s group, whether it was in our early glimpses of Woodbury, or hearing the tale of the (briefly) surviving prisoners, or catching up with Morgan in “Clear.” AMC is remaining mum on exactly what the spin-off is going to be about, but I would certainly not object to a “World War Z”-style anthology telling unconnected stories of life in the post-zombie apocalypse from all corners of the earth, rather than just the parts of Georgia Rick has been able to visit.
And my overall feelings about “Live Bait” will depend on where the Governor goes from here. If he’s just going to be back to figurative mustache-twirling in an episode or two, then this was largely a waste of time. If there’s an attempt to turn him into an antagonist who isn’t just a pure villain, then this was at least a start, even if it wasn’t an especially gripping one.
I had thought the TV show and comic had diverged enough, story-wise, that the spoiler reminders were no longer necessary, but based on the number of comments I’ve had to delete the past few weeks, I was incorrect. So once again, here’s how this blog’s No Spoiler rule applies to this show:
1. No talking about the previews for the next episode.
2. No talking about anything else you know about upcoming episodes from other sources – and, yes, that includes anything Gimple and Kirkman have said in interviews.
3. No talking about anything that’s happened in the comic that hasn’t happened in the TV show yet. (Or anything that’s been revealed, like character backstory and motivation.) As with “Game of Thrones,” the goal is to treat “The Walking Dead” TV show as exactly that, and not as an excuse for endless comparisons with the comics. If you want to talk about the comics, feel free to start up a discussion thread on our message boards.
With that in mind, what did everybody else think?
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org