Horror Recaps Television

NOC Recaps The Walking Dead: From the Ashes of Woodbury

the-governor

Welcome to my recap of The Walking Dead Season 4, episode 6 (“Live Bait”). Also check out our live-tweet coverage from J. Lamb (@TheNerdsofColor) and me (@Reappropriate) that took place Sunday night!

And without further ado, click on for the recap action (and spoilers)!

Update: A previous version of this recap got a few facts wrong — mainly out of a problem I had when watching the episode: I couldn’t tell the two sisters apart, got thrown by Grandpa saying one sister was traumatized and not talking, and then misremembering all the actions of Sister 2 as coming from Sister 1. Based on this Huffington Post recap, I’ve edited my post to accurately reflect which sister is doing what. My apologies!

So, I’m just gonna put it all out on the table: episode 6 of season 4 sucked. It answered one burning question that we’ve had since last week’s edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger reveal that the Governor is back: what was the Governor doing in the intervening time since the fall of Woodbury and his reappearance on the outskirts of the Prison?

Well, we got the answer to that question last night, and the answer is: oh, God, I don’t care.

The pre-opening sequence reveals that the Governor and his last remaining henchmen — y’know, the ones he didn’t irrationally gun down on the side of the road — have fled for their lives and are living deep in the woods. The henchmen, understandably, abandons the Governor because… well, the Governor is liable to murder you in cold blood.

Some men really do like to just watch it all burn.
Some men really do like to just watch it all burn.

The Governor wakes up alone and — after a brief detour to check “Torch the Abandoned Remnants of Woodbury” off his to-do list — takes to the road where he hopes to reinvent himself.

After a few weeks or months (judging by the sudden appearance of wild facial hair to rival Rick’s), the Governor is taken in by a small family who are mostly knock-off imitations of characters you’ve already seen: two sisters (Fake Maggie and Fake Beth from Season 2), Fake Beth’s younger daughter (Fake Lizzy, Fake Sophia, Fake Mika — take your pick), and an ailing bedridden grandfather (who is irrelevant, as we’ll see in a second). These women are annoyingly cloying, sheltered, and incompetent; like Peach Girl and Baby Eminem from a few episodes back, it’s unclear how they could have survived for as long as they have in a world overrun by zombies.

This is particularly irritating in Fake Maggie, whose brash sassiness was endearing when Maggie did it but which comes across as totally forced (in that bad acting kind of way) here. She claims to be a former cop, acts like she can handle herself around a gun, and threatens to take out the Governor if he hurts the family. Then, she actually has the gall to put out a fist-bump and ask the Governor to “pound it” to seal his promise of non-violence. That’s right – “pound it”. She needs to die on sheer principle alone.

Also, I could NOT stop thinking about this scene from "The Internship" (which is a hilarious movie you should totally see). White people have totally ruined the fist bump.
Also, I could NOT stop thinking about this scene from “The Internship” (which is a hilarious movie you should totally see). White people have totally ruined the fist bump.

Anyways, the Governor (now under an assumed name) quickly integrates himself into this small family unit — this borders on unrealistic given that the family was so distrusting of him just a single scene earlier. It quickly becomes clear however that this is because 1) both Fake Beth and Pound It Chick are way in over their heads and the latter is not nearly as capable as she claims to be with a gun, and 2) Fake Beth wants to get in the Governor’s pants. This, incidentally, (along with Andrea and (real) Beth) marks the third time that a female survivor has prostituted herself for the promise of physical safety in The Walking Dead. This incredibly sexist, and now clearly chronic, trope is starting to rival the show’s ongoing problem with Black masculinity.

Early in the episode, there is a tantalizing scene wherein the mundanity of the family’s home is broken by the Governor’s discovery of an undead Walker in the bathtub with one of its legs missing. The Governor quickly dispatches the Walker, but not before sending the Twitterverse (myself included) aflutter with anticipation that this apparently mundane family was actually inspired by the cannibal storyline from the comics (quick recap: human survivors hunt other survivors for food, keeping the victim alive while harvesting a limb at a time to preserve freshness). Sadly, it turns out we were wrong.

Instead of the Governor making the chilling discovery that the mystery meat in the baked beans is human flesh, it turns out that the family is exactly as boring as they appear to be. The Governor is conscripted by Fake Beth to go to a nursing home to retrieve some oxygen tanks for the ailing grandfather, which he does in a scene where he battles geriatric zombies. After last week’s Fence Walkers and Infected Walkers two-fer, the threat posed by wheelchair-bound zombies is pretty anti-climatic, and we spend most of the time in this scene wondering why a clearly sociopathic Governor would be risking his life to run errands for a family he barely knows.

The Governor comes back with the oxygen tanks, but alas, ailing grandfather dies of his cancer and turns into a Walker, much to the horror of his grieving children and grandchildren. Without a second thought, the Governor dispatches Grandpa Walker with the aforementioned oxygen tank (squish goes the skull!) and tries to leave. Fake Beth insists that he take the women with him (because all women need a strapping man to protect them in the apocalypse, right?). The Governor relents, at least in part because he sees Fake Sophia as a surrogate daughter figure. On the road, the Governor consummates his relationship with Fake Beth and solidifies a lightning-fast father-daughter relationship with Fake Sophia (who I guess could also now be called the Governor’s Fake Penny).

Someone should probably tell Fake Sophie that the Governor's LAST daughter ended up a chained-up Walker whose scalp was falling out.
Someone should probably tell Fake Sophie that the Governor’s LAST daughter ended up a chained-up Walker whose scalp was falling out.

And then, the episode ends when the Governor and his new family is discovered by his lost henchman, who has now joined a new survival group in the woods.

Cliff-hanger? Not really. The Governor is a conniving and charismatic man, and a natural-born leader. He’s got a chip on his shoulder about Rick and the Prison, as well as Michonne and his daughter. If he doesn’t take out his former henchman and assume control of this new group, which he will then lead in an attack against the Prison, it would be horribly out-of-character. So, we can pretty much predict everything coming next week.

After a spectacular episode that hit the mark and on all cylinders last week — wherein The Walking Dead used a focus on Hershel to prove that the writing staff is capable of insightful and intimate character sketch while still moving plot forward with necessary action and gore — this episode was a real disappointment. The problem was in pacing and scope: the episode listlessly plodded through its scenes at a glacial pace, and spotlighted several new characters whom we really don’t have any reason to care about. Meanwhile, shedding some light on the Governor would be great; except, nothing in this episode revealed anything about the Governor that we didn’t already know from the events of season 3. We’ve already explored the Governor’s strategic genius and calculating sociopathy, as well as the emotional torture from the loss of his family. We already knew that he was, at core, a grieving family man who has been twisted by his rage into a sinister villain. What else did we learn about the Governor, or about life in the apocalypse, from this episode? Nothing that warranted the ham-fisted and patronizing symbolism we endured: for example, the Governor teaching Fake Sophia how to play chess with the life lesson that you can “lose all your pawns and still win the game”.

The only (and I do mean, only) highlight of this episode was the ending: in the after-credit teaser, we were treated to a brief shot of Kirk Acevedo, an alumnus of HBO’s Oz and a phenomenal character actor, whom I learned from The Walking Dead Wiki will be playing Mitch. Here’s hoping Acevedo can salvage what is otherwise turning out to be a criminally boring two-part backstory tangent.

All my hopes now rest on your shoulders, Kirk Acevedo.
All my hopes now rest on your shoulders, Kirk Acevedo.

Lingering questions: How will the Governor integrate into and ultimately take control of this new group without murdering people? How long will the Fake family survive (I’m guessing not much longer)? Will Carol find and be inducted into the Governor’s camp, and help them take the Prison? Will we finally get a reveal that Stookey is a Governor mole?

And, is it even possible for the second part of the Governor’s ‘Secret Files Origin’ to not suck as much as the first?

14 comments

  1. Wow. I loved this episode. You got a lot of the facts wrong, but mainly getting the sisters mixed up. I’d love to have you as a guest on our podcast about the show to talk about some of your issues with it.

    Like

    1. I’m actually with you, Nina. I said on twitter that I really enjoyed this episode more than James or Jenn, and I still feel that way. Aside from the mixup between the sisters, I don’t get the recurring “Fake Sophie” gag either. The Governor had no interaction with Sophia (who died a full season before we were intro’d to Woodbury). It’s likely you meant “Penny,” and if so, his reaction to Megan makes A LOT of sense. He really went off the rails when he “lost” zombie-Penny, so the fact that his paternal instincts kicked in upon seeing a little girl who reminded him of the daughter he lost (twice) actually rings true.

      What I dug about the episode was that it was a complete 180 from what you’d normally expect from TWD. It truly was a character study (and a surprising one at that, because I disagree that we don’t learn anything new about the Gov; in fact, what we learn is that he’s still not yet the over-the-top villain from the comics and that there is still a heroic side to him). Sure, it’s difficult to reconcile his sadism from last season with the way he protected the family in the ep, but aren’t these contradictions between humanity and survival the appeal of the show?

      The critique I kept seeing in both yours and James’ live tweets was that it was “boring,” but I quite liked the fact that the show had the audacity to slow things down and give us an entirely different show for at least a week. Much like the ep with Morgan last season, whenever TWD steps away from the main plotline, it actually elevates the series. It was actually refreshing to see survivors who hadn’t figured out the apocalypse yet (why they’d want to leave their relatively safe home to go on the road, though, I’ll never understand).

      Sometimes, I think I’d prefer more of an anthology take on the premise (where we might follow different bands of survivors at different points in the season). Wouldn’t a zombie show like this be more intriguing?

      Because honestly, I’m getting a little tired of the main cast in the prison.

      Like

      1. Hey guys,

        Thanks for your comments. I’m sort of missing where I mixed up the sisters — one was the brash girl, one was mute. I barely talk about them here, so I’m not sure where I missed out on a detail. That being said, I couldn’t really tell the two of them apart, so it’s quite possible that on a first watch of the ep., I got them confused. Either way, I’m not sure it substantially changes my opinion of the ep.

        Re: the “Fake Sophie” gag — my point is that each of the new characters in the family are recycled characters we’ve already seen, and done with better nuance. Fake Maggie has the same characteristics as Maggie — protective, brash, sassy and overbearing. Fake Beth has the same characteristics as Beth (from Season 2) — unassuming, traumatized, needing to be protected, and generally absent from interpersonal interactions. Fake Sophie is any of a number of young girls we’ve already seen in this show — Sophie, Mika, Lizzy — who exist mainly as an object ofIprotection (or a MacGuffin, even). My point is that the Fake family doesn’t offer a new character idea; rather we have recycled personalities, just reimbued into new characters for the Governor to interact with. (Obviously, the Gov never interacted with Sophie — that wasn’t the point here).

        Also, my point isn’t that I don’t like character study. Consistently I’ve said that the strength of TWD — comic or series — is that it’s a new take on the zombie genre, one that is character-driven rather than gore driven. The problem with this episode wasn’t that it was character study; the problem was that it was badly done character study, IMO. As evidence, I point to the previous week’s episode highlighting Hershel, which was 95% character study (and only 5% action). The high notes of that episode were Hershel’s caring of the patients; the gore and thrills all occurred in the last 15 minutes and were a bit of an afterthought. I raved over last week’s episode precisely because the episode pushed not only our understanding of the Hershel character, but also proposed a relatively novel idea onto our understanding of the zombie genre — i.e., to merely survive is insufficient.

        By contrast, last week’s episode didn’t tell us much new about being a zombie survivor. I would also argue that it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about the Governor: his moments with zombie Penny, his interactions with Andrea, even his moments alone contemplating his decisions as leader of Woodbury — all revealed the humanity within the Governor. His final acts — to gun down his followers who refused to follow him — aren’t pure sadism, but what happens when a man is driven to rage over the grief of a lost child. I think it would be an over-simplification of Season 3 to have walked away with the conclusion that the Governor was a straightforward, Black-hatted, ne’er-do-well villain; he has always been presented as a very complex if ultimately “good” man who makes very bad or insane decisions.

        But, after having read several reviews of this ep before and after writing my own, I think the difference in opinion comes from how you viewed the Governor from Season 3. If you always saw him as a bad-as-all-get-out villain, sadistic and incapable of good, than this episode may have surprised you with its sympathetic take on him. But, if you (like me) walked away from Season 3 with a less black-and-white interpretation of the Governor in the first place (which paints the Governor as not stark evil to Rick’s stark good, but both men being two halves of the same morally ambiguous coin), than last week’s episode didn’t offer anything new. Just as he rose to power in Woodbury, here he starts off with the best of intentions — to protect those who need protecting — and we can predict based on his established trajectory through Woodbury where he will end up.

        My issue with this episode was that it felt like low-hanging fruit to me (vis-a-vis giving the Governor a new daughter figure and a new love interest; invoking aspects of the Governor character that we’ve already explored pretty well in Season 3), as well as a very long-winded plot-driven set-up to get the Governor to a desired end-point of having an armed force so he can attack the Prison. It absolutely made sense for the Governor to identify with Fake Sophia, because we’ve already seen the depths of his fatherly protectiveness with Zombie Penny. So, if you were charged with needing to get the Governor to a place where he cares about things again, the obvious thing to do would be to give him a surrogate Penny.

        And, that’s my issue. I feel like this episode patronized me as a viewer. It felt as if the writers started with an endpoint — we need the Governor to be invested in a new community and maybe in that we want him to have something he’s emotionally invested in protecting — and then worked backwards from there, mainly through conceptual recycles from previous seasons (including not only direct interactions the Governor has had with other characters, but also general character types — hence my identification of Fake Maggie, Fake Beth and Fake Sophia).

        Also, as I wrote in the post, the issue was in pacing as well as obviousness — an issue that several others noted about this episode too. Not that I don’t like it slow, but that if it’s going to be slow (i.e. not zombie-killing) it needs to be well-conceived and novel, not mundane and predictable; and certainly not in an episode that simultaneously introduces and then stresses a set of new characters whom we don’t have any experience with or care about.

        Combined with the frustrating return to some anti-feminist underpinnings — re: female prostitution for male protection — I was really underwhelmed by this episode. As I ended off in this post, I’m optimistic that maybe it was just a consequence of a weirdly broken up two-parter.

        Also, I will say that I’m not tired of the Prison community. I do enjoy what’s going on over there, and after the previous week’s Hershel episode, my appetite for more character study over there is only deepened. With such a season high note from the previous week, I think part of my disappointment comes with how much this episode just missed the mark. The writers are clearly capable of better, less obvious, more interesting character sketch than what we got.

        Like

    2. that fucking episode blowed and its people like you who make the world full of shitty shows and good shows turning shitty like this one did. i bet u liked the episode where andrea died too, cuz that took 3 years like this boring ass episode did! i bet you liked the last episode of season 3 as well, because that was the most anti climatic plot i have ever seen. they built us up the whole season to see ricks group fight the governors group and nothing happened! he jus killed everyone wow. and now he gets his every own – now two boring ass episodes to come and fucking ruin season 4! fuck this show its done now – over truly a walking DEAD show. i knew this would happen thats why gov should had died in season 3. but no they like to drag boring shit out as long as possible so people can put unrealistic meanings behind it like the retards they are

      Like

      1. Hi Cassandra — not sure if you are intending to reply to Nina or me (I assume, Nina?) but in case you were trying to respond to me, my recap indicates I didn’t like this episode.

        I did, however, enjoy the episode where Andrea was killed. although agree that the pacing was off in that ep too.

        Like

  2. Also, just to put it out there, I don’t know that I agree that this was a “breath of fresh air” ep by having survivors on the road. We’ve just gotten done — the episodes prior to last week’s — with two bands of Prison survivors on the road doing things. Daryl and co. was at the vet clinic after encountering Megahorde, and Rick and Carol when they meet the hippies.

    Several other reviewers also remarked that they felt that having survivors on the road vs. at a static complex was refreshing. But, I feel like the only recent ep that has focused on the Prison was Hershel’s ep. Several other eps were “on the road” eps, too, so I’m a little confused by that reaction. Ultimately, I think the change-of-pace comments comes more from a feeling that the characters in the Prison are getting stale, not the setting or the circumstances. And that’s an understandable perspective, if not one I share. Since I feel like Stookey, Michonne, Glenn, Maggieand (until two weeks back) Hershel were getting the short end of the character study stick anyways, I would rather have spent more time on those characters than to introduce some rehashed new ones with the same personalities as characters I’ve already seen, had time to get to know, and want to see explored in-depth in the prototype.

    Like

    1. I didn’t say the “on the road” aspect of it was what I found “refreshing;” instead, I quite liked meeting new characters who didn’t have all of the rules of the zombie apocalypse already figured out. It’s why I liked the first season so much. Seeing how other people react to this changed reality was something I really enjoyed.

      In fact, I thought it was pretty dumb that Lilly and Tara would want to take Megan on the road. I mean, they had shelter, food, and most importantly, high ground. Why give all that up to live out the apocalypse in the back of a food truck?

      Like

      1. Sorry — yeah, I was trying to be clear that I was commenting about others who have written criticisms of the show saying the “on the road” thing was refreshing. I didn’t think it was something you said.

        In fact, I thought it was pretty dumb that Lilly and Tara would want to take Megan on the road. I mean, they had shelter, food, and most importantly, high ground. Why give all that up to live out the apocalypse in the back of a food truck?

        This was something else that bothered me a lot and which I kind of alluded to in the recap: in the ep, it seems like the sisters are clinging to a strong man they think will protect them. Early in the ep, one of the sisters makes some joke about the “big strong guy in the room” helping the girls out. Later, Fake Beth basically doesn’t give the Governor a choice — “now you’re stuck with us”.

        Perhaps this isn’t intentional on the writers’ part, but it comes across as the girls hiding, finding a guy who will take care of them, and then wanting to be taken care of. Hence, go on the road, mainly so they can stay in the Governor’s protection. Which is pretty regressive.

        Also, we don’t know the state of the food truck. It was a finite food source, and was going to run out. The girls probably figured they would have to leave soon anyways, so best to leave when they’ve got someone who DOES have it figured out to take care of them.

        Like

  3. Ah, I just read a recap that helped me figure out where I got my facts wrong. Thanks for pointing out the errors; post has been updated to fix the problems.

    Like

  4. I agree with you a 100% Jenn. I also hate the new characters in the prison, like the new black guy who as an alcoholism problem and the 2 smiling idiots that Rick and Carol met outside the prison. I cant get emotionally involved in the show because im starting to care less and less about the new comers and the established Characters, but thats only my opinion. Anyways, Great Job on that Review. ^-^

    Like

Comments are closed.