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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Walking Dead 4x06: Live Bait

I gave last week’s episode of The Walking Dead very high praise. I liked the energy, suspense, plot and acting. The only real negative I brought up was my disappointment that the Governor showed up at the end. I have nothing against the Governor coming back, per se, but I felt it was too early to bring him back. The show was on a role so there was no need for him in the narrative. Save him for when the plot is lagging.

So, after expressing my disappointment regarding his cameo at the end of the previous episode, what do we get this episode? A whole heapin’ helpin’ of the Governor.

Live Bait was all about what the Governor was up to since last season. The episode picks up right after he senselessly slaughtered twenty or so of his own people. That’s not including the countless other people he was directly and indirectly responsible for killing. Oh, and then there was that time he sexually assaulted Maggie. If you know me and saw this episode then you should know why I bring this up but I'll get to that a little later.

Anyway, the Governor is in a daze after his massacre and his two remaining stooges quickly ditch him. He then wonders zombified Georgia like Caine from Kung Fu. Finally he stumbles upon a woman, her daughter, her sister and their sickly father.

The family has (somewhat preposterously) been living safely in an apartment complex since things fell apart. Despite living for approximately a year and a half after the fall of society they are woefully ignorant about how zombies works. Luckily the Governor has shown up to teach them the ways of Zombie Fu.

So, the Governor selflessly helps the old man live a little longer before his eventual death, bonds with the sisters (one a little more than the other, wink wink) and finds in the little a girl what he had lost with the death of her daughter. The Governor pretty much adopts this family (or vice versa) and vows to protect them. Through all this the Governor gains back something he may have thought was lost forever: his humanity.

The acting, as with the vast majority of the series, was well done. But the plot was dull and predictable. I suppose you’d like this episode if you’re really into a Governor redemption story but I guess that’s the sticking point.

Listen, this is nothing new in fiction; especially serialized fiction. Serialized fiction loves its redemption stories. I do not.

I have no insider knowledge or anything but I’m fairly sure I know how these redemption stories come about. A series will have a villain. This villain becomes a favorite of the audience. (Audiences in general seem to love villains over heroes, I have no idea why exactly this is the case but I have various theories and wild speculation.) Anyway, the villain of a series becomes very popular and/or is played by an actor the series isn’t ready to get rid of.

At some point the villain needs to be defeated but, of course, they aren’t killed (which can’t be said for the villain's hired goons). The villain may plot against the heroes again but there’s a limit to this. These series aren’t children’s cartoon so the villain can’t be Cobra Commander and antagonize the heroes continuously while simultaneously never being completely victorious and never being completely defeated. That would get stagnant.

So, you’ve got a popular villain but they can’t attack the heroes anymore. What do you do? You redeem the villain, duh. The villain has some life changing moments, sees (some of) the errors of their ways and eventually convinces the heroes to reluctantly let the villain into the fold. After the villain proves their reformation they become a full-fledged antihero. Heartwarming, really.

I invariably hate it. It’s funny that I’m so anti-redemption in fiction because in real life I’m all about forgiveness. The problem is in real life when I’m talking about forgiveness I’m talking about liars and thieves and people who made honest mistakes. They have the possibility of seeing the errors of their ways and making amends.

In fiction the people being redeemed, the people that are supposed to be forgiven, have committed much more heinous acts. I may be about forgiveness in real life but that doesn't mean I’m ready to forgive the Charles Mansons and Jeffrey Dahmers of the world. So why would I want to forgive them in the fictional world?

When I see the Governor save a little girl from zombies I’m supposed say, “Yay! The Governor saved a cute little girl. He’s regaining his humanity. He’s becoming a good guy!” Instead I just say to myself, “Well, I’m glad the kid is alright. But the Governor is still the same guy who senselessly slaughtered twenty or so of his own people. That’s not including the countless other people he was directly and indirectly responsible for killing. Oh, and then there was that time he sexually assaulted Maggie…”

Other Thoughts
So we get an episode (possibly more) of what the Governor was doing while off camera but we never got a similar episode for Merle which could have been interesting. (Or did we? Now I’m paranoid there was such an episode and I’m forgetting it.)

The zombie woman who walked through the fire towards the Governor should've started on fire but, oddly, didn’t.

The Governor recognized his own insanity but separates himself from it which I suppose is necessary for his "redemption." I guess the idea is that the Governor basically has/had a split personality disorder.

Why did the Governor dump the Spaghetti-Os out? The Talking Dead said it was because the Governor didn’t want to be indebted to anybody. It still seems silly to me.

The one sister seemed too young to be a police officer. Then she admitted she was in training. Still seems a bit young, though.

Most of this episode felt like quests my character in Fallout 3 had to perform. “Obtain backgammon set from upstairs.” Reward: Pistol “Get oxygen tanks from old folks’ home for the old man.” Reward: Damsel's affection

The Governor’s plan to get the oxygen tanks seemed flawed. How about you take the time to kill as many of the zombies first and then worry about carting out oxygen tanks?

Between the two sisters, I figured it was going to be the cop lady the Governor would end up getting it on with. I chose...poorly.

Shouldn't the Governor have warned the sisters about what would happen with their dad? He knew the dad was going to die and he knew the girls were zombie nubes. How about you talk to the sisters and develop a plan beforehand?

Apparently the Governor hasn't taught the sisters everything about the zombie apocalypse. The cop lady admitted she was a lesbian. That kind of character revelation is zombie crack in The Walking Dead. She's lucky to have survived.

The Governor rubbing Megan's face with his bloody hand was kind of messed up.

Was I supposed to recognize the guy at the end? I mean, I deduced that he was one of the Governor’s two surviving henchmen but I certainly didn’t recognize him.

Why doesn’t the Governor know what a pinky swear is?

5 comments:

  1. The pinky swear thing was weird. He's a sociopathic maniac, not a space alien.

    I mostly liked this issue. I wasn't expecting real redemption. I seriously thought he was still unhinged, that he would help the family, then randomly kill them all before leaving. I only finally bought into it when he saved the one chick from her zombie dad.

    Is it just me, or did the preview make it look like next week's episode is going to be entirely about the Governer as well? That seems like a bold move, if so.

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  2. "Was I supposed to recognize the guy at the end? I mean, I deduced that he was one of the Governor’s two surviving henchmen but I certainly didn’t recognize him."

    He was in the third season quite a bit. He had that standoff with Darryl whilst Rick and the G-Man had their abortive peace conference.

    You have some very interesting points about character redemption plots. I'm not quite so against them in general as you are - though I'm broadly sympathetic to your position - but with specific reference to the Governor I couldn't agree more. That said, I'm not sure the intent was for us to consider him redeemed just yet. I'm not saying this will end up being satisfying. But there's still time for this to be salvaged.

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  3. Yeah, I'm perhaps jumping the gun on the Governor being a redemption character. We'll have to wait and see what happens. It's just the direction I see it headed and I'm (obviously) not happy about it.

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  4. My first thought, upon finishing this episode and watching the preview for next week's (which, as Matt suggested, seems to be all about the Governor some more) was "wow, they think we like the Governor a lot more than we actually do".

    Of course, that's not entirely true: I think lots of fan do like the Governor that much. I'm just not one of them. I like him fine as a villain/human antagonist, but I have no desire to spend this much time with him, nor see him redeemed.

    I'm also not as opposed to redemption stories in general as you are, though I agree it's a story device that's become overused and I certainly don't want to see the Governor starring in one, in part because his villainous acts were shown to us - Ben on Lost killed a lot of people, but they were people we never saw or cared about, nor ever saw dying, so it was all a bit more abstract than, say, watching the Governor assault Maggie, leave Andrea to die, or gun down his own people.

    Like Matt, I was expecting the Governor to kill these people before he left as well. I'm hoping next episode, after his newfound humanity is inevitably snuffed out, he goes back to his old ways. As much as I'm done with the Governor for awhile, I would certainly prefer a villain over an anti-hero.

    I did enjoy this episode in terms of giving us another glimpse of the zombie apocalypse. As hard to swallow as these people surviving that long is (they explained where they're getting food, but what about water?) in this particular case, I wouldn't mind the show occasionally taking an episode to show the one-off adventures of someone else making their way through this new world.

    The other thing I liked? The Governor torching Woodbury, which at least explains why Rick and company never bothered to go back there, even when the flu was ravaging the prison.

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  5. Or did we? Now I’m paranoid there was such an episode and I’m forgetting it.

    We didn't. Just some vague mentions of how the Governor found him. And you're right: I'd have much rather seen this kind of episode featuring Merle.

    Most of this episode felt like quests my character in Fallout 3 had to perform.

    Ha! I hadn't thought of it in those terms, but you're right.

    How about you take the time to kill as many of the zombies first and then worry about carting out oxygen tanks?

    Yeah. Apparently, it took "Brian" a while to remember how to deal with zombies.

    Shouldn't the Governor have warned the sisters about what would happen with their dad?

    Yes.

    Also, I was curious why the hell they wanted to leave that apartment. I mean, as improbable as their continued survival was, they were surviving, and stood a better chance to continue to do so than wandering around the countryside.

    @Matt: The pinky swear thing was weird. He's a sociopathic maniac, not a space alien.

    Bwahaha!

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