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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Walking Dead 4x07: Dead Weight

Well, when a person is wrong they have to admit they were wrong. Me? I was wrong. So this Thanksgiving week the bird I’m apparently eating is crow.

After last week’s episode I lambasted The Walking Dead for trying to redeem the (in my opinion) unredeemable Governor. It’s honestly where I thought the series was headed. Instead, by the end of this episode the Governor is back to being his old, villainous self. However, that just makes me ask this question: What was the point of the last two episodes?


In the comments section of last week’s post Matt noted that it looked like this episode would again be Governor-centric. He was right. He was also right that this was a bold move.
This is the second straight episode that didn’t have any of the regular cast (aside from a cameo at the end of this episode). The regular group’s absence speaks to how much the writers love the Governor. Or, at least how much they think the viewers love the Governor.

Regardless of motivation this episode featured the Governor and his new family settling into a trailer park with a new group headed by his former underling Martinez. The Governor proves his worth and seems willing (if not a bit reluctantly) to simply remain in the background. However, once Martinez offered the Governor a share of leadership the Governor quickly dispatches of Martinez.

My initial reaction to this was that the Governor was so afraid of being of a leader again that he killed Martinez for even suggesting as much. (Which, if you don't want to be the leader how about you, you know, not kill the current leader?) However, he later kills Pete, the new leader of the camp, because Pete wasn’t ruthless enough. Then the Governor anoints himself as leader. Either the Governor made a quick about face or he killed Martinez because Martinez knew too much about the Governor. I don’t know. I can’t keep track of why the Governor does the thing he does. I don't think the writers can either.

Anyway, the Governor is the new leader and decides the trailer park is unsafe. Where is a safe place? The prison Rick and Co. are living in, of course! Now he’s, presumably, planning on taking it over the new group.

This episode was fine enough (the Governor’s inconsistent craziness aside) but I bring up my original question. What is the point of these Governor-centric episodes? The Governor ended up right where he started.

Let’s assume next week’s episode is the inevitable confrontation between the Governor’s camp and Rick’s prison. If we never saw these episodes and the Governor just showed up with a group of new people ready to take over the prison the viewers could have connected the dots. Sure, the story in my head wouldn’t be the exact same as theirs but, in much the same way we didn’t need to see Rick and the group fortify the prison, create a council and bring in new people, we don’t need to see the Governor enter a new camp, assume leadership over it and convince it the prison is the best place to live. That’s all plausible enough of its own.

I’m not saying devoting an episode to a single character’s journey is necessarily a bad thing but when that character ends up in the exact same place as where they started it does feel they're spinning their wheels. I'm not saying it's impossible to make the concept work but it has to be a hell of a story. This was just a passable story.

We did get introduced to some new characters, so that’s something. However, they’ll have to do something amazing in the next episode to convince me that whatever happens between the Governor and the prison in this “mid-season finale” isn’t what should have happened at the end of last season.

Other Thoughts:
I’ll be honest. As soon as I saw the Governor was standing next to a tank I had a strong feeling that I’d be eating some crow.

So the Governor’s dad was strict at best and abusive at worst. Is it just me or is every character in fiction’s dad strict-to-abusive provided they’ve been dead for a while before the narrative starts and they're not pertinent to the story. Of is that just for male characters' dads...just thinking out loud...or in type.

I figured the house with the corpses outside with signs nailed to them would be inhabited Kevin Spacey.

The people in the camp were sitting around getting drunk. I’m conflicted. On the one hand, you can’t stop living your life and having fun or what’s the point of surviving? On the other hand, would you really want to be drunk when zombies are everywhere? Maybe they had sufficient guards around the perimeter. Let’s just hope a giant hoard doesn’t come rambling through.

Let Martinez be a lesson to us all. When we have seen somebody casually open fire and slaughter their own people simply because that person was angry maybe it’s best not to turn your back on them while they’re holding a golf club.

Speaking of which, I don’t like seeing anybody get hit in the head with a golf club for any reason under any circumstances...period.

Why does the camp have pits full of zombies? Maybe they’re zombie traps but then maybe they should do a better job of cleaning them out?

So how did that group of people get slaughtered and have their food stolen with the Governor and the two other guys not hearing anything?

The "avoid all strangers, protect the camp at all cost" mentality always seems so narrow minded. And it's always espoused by people who once strangers themselves.

How did that zombie not get a bite in on the little girl? I know, I know…”plot.”

So the Governor kills Pete and dumps him in a lake but never stabs him in the head? It’s a good thing Pete didn’t turn into a zombie while the Governor was carrying him.

If this show was Heroes, the start of the next episode would feature the same shot this episode ended with of the Governor aiming his gun at Michonne but now she'll suddenly be standing behind a vehicle and the Governor will no longer have a clear shot. (No explanation will be given as to why that is the case...and the Governor's patch would be on the wrong eye.)

I predict that if there are going to be any really big deaths in the next episode it’s going to be Glen. I feel like that would give the show the most “bang for its buck.”

10 comments:

  1. I'm so irritated by WD, especially since, up till these last two episodes, i've been mostly happy by this season.

    But, seriously, the season ends last year with fighting the govenor away from the prison.
    And now the midseason finale is...
    fighting the govenor away from the prison.

    Like, what? We're seriously going to do the exact same plot with the same characters?

    It's bull shit.

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  2. @Sarah: "Like, what? We're seriously going to do the exact same plot with the same characters?"

    That's exactly how I feel. I'm not sure how this is going to end but I'll be hard pressed not to think that its ending isn't how last season should've ended. It's like everything got needlessly stretched out too give us the same plot twice...with the same characters.

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  3. I can't help thinking this episode and last could've been combined into one. I'm with you on simply having the Governor show up with a new group, no explanations needed -- but if they felt they had to give an explanation, they should've stretched out the montage that started last week to quickly show the Governor meeting and befriending the family, then they could've moved straight into this week's story by trimming a little fat here and there. It would've worked.

    "The regular group’s absence speaks to how much the writers love the Governor. Or, at least how much they think the viewers love the Governor."

    I don't love the Governer, but I do love to hate him. He's a great villain. So when he clubbed Rodriguez and threw him off the RV, I thought, "Oh, good -- no more mixed feelings. He's a hundred percent hateable again!"

    "So how did that group of people get slaughtered and have their food stolen with the Governor and the two other guys not hearing anything?"

    Even taking into account the Governer's all-over-the-map characterization, this was my biggest issue with the episode. It kept bothering for far longer than it should have.

    Unless... could there be a ninja clan running around Georgia?? That would be awesome!

    Loved the dig at Heroes, by the way.

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  4. Maybe the mid-season finale will end up surprising us the way this episode suprised Dr Bitz, but I share people's concerns here that there's not been much to justify the Governor's return to pretty much where he was last time. That said, if he does attack the prison and it goes better than it did last time, maybe our heroes will end up on the run again. If that happens, then at least the break between governer attacks allowed the flu plot to play out in a way it couldn't have were our people on the move. Of course, YMMV on whether the flu plot was good enough in the first place.

    There also might be wrinkles in the situation this time with the newer characters (I'm thinking Tyreese and Bob), though again that doesn't justify two episodes of Governor action. I assume though that the Governor's new family are going to play a prominent role somehow, otherwise the whole arc will feel pretty pointless and hollow.

    Like our host, I was infuriated that the Governer was so horrified by the idea of taking control that he started killing all the leaders until he'd taken control. The best explanation I can lash together is that he killed Martinez because he realised he otherwise couldn't keep the fact that he was the leader who lost it last time from his new "family", and he killed Pete after the kid got almost chomped and he realised he'd have to be in charge to keep her safe.

    I actually quite liked that he didn't stab Pete in the head. Now that he can't watch the heads in his room, it makes sense he'd start a zombie pond. Well, you know, for a given definition of "makes sense".

    Lastly, I assume they don't clear out the zombie traps too often. There's something mentioned in the comics - maybe not on the show, but it's certainly implicit - that zombies tend to clump together with other zombies. Leaving at least some "alive" in the pit would make them more efficient at catching others.

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  5. Yeah, that felt like a great big waste of time. I'm with you: there's no reason the Governor couldn't have just shown up at the prison with some new followers - we didn't see him gather the Woodburians, we don't need to see him gather new people, we know he's (somehow) a charismatic leader that can convince bad and morally flexible people to buy what he's selling.

    So the only reason to spend time watching him essentially rebuild Woodbury is if the writers want to do something different with him and his followers this time. But the Governor is still singing the same tune, so it all feels pointless. Basically, I'm fine if they just want to do the prison vs. Woodbury 2.0, but then don't waste time setting that up. If you DO want to spend the time setting up a new Woodbury, fine, but then do something different with it.

    As for killing Rodriguez, I took it to be because of some combination of fear Rodriguez would spill the beans about his past (he killed him right after Lily was like "someday you'll have to tell me about the old [Governor]") and belief that Rodriguez couldn't keep the camp safe (he also killed him shortly after Rodriguez admitted as much).

    I think that even before he killed Pete, he had already decided to take control, and simply killed Pete because he figured Pete, unlike Pete's brother, wouldn't kowtow to the Governor's leadership and leadership style.

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  6. The people in the camp were sitting around getting drunk. I’m conflicted. On the one hand, you can’t stop living your life and having fun or what’s the point of surviving?

    I was similarly conflicted. Especially since they weren't just buzzed, they were like falling down drunk.

    When we have seen somebody casually open fire and slaughter their own people simply because that person was angry maybe it’s best not to turn your back on them while they’re holding a golf club.

    Indeed. I know Rodriguez admitted the only reason they took in the Governor was because he was with people (including a little girl), but man, I would have been like "you guys, this dude is crazy, we can't keep him around. I watched him slaughter his own people in cold blood. This will not end well."

    Speaking of which, I don’t like seeing anybody get hit in the head with a golf club for any reason under any circumstances...period.

    Heh. I thought of you during that scene - "aw, Dr. Bitz knows exactly how Rodriguez feels..."

    Maybe they’re zombie traps but then maybe they should do a better job of cleaning them out?

    Space Squid spoke to this a bit already, but I'll just add that on further reflection, digging those pits as defense mechanism is actually pretty smart. Make them deep and wide enough that a zombie can't get out, and I'd say you should ring your entire camp with them. Obviously, you'll need to clean them out regularly and they won't do much against a horde (at which point they'd just fill up and then the zombies walk over the other zombies to get into your camp), but against the regular shambling groups of zombies, they're arguably more effective than any fences/barriers short of concrete walls. The prison folk should have dug a zombie moat around the prison.

    So how did that group of people get slaughtered and have their food stolen with the Governor and the two other guys not hearing anything?

    Yeah. That, along with some stuff from the midseason finale, once again had me questioning distance on this show, but I'll get into that when you post on the finale.

    The "avoid all strangers, protect the camp at all cost" mentality always seems so narrow minded. And it's always espoused by people who once strangers themselves.

    Indeed. And again, you feel like the show is denouncing that philosophy by having a lunatic like the Governor espouse it, but then, the show seems so in love with the character, you wonder if they actually are trying to endorse that mentality. It's all part of the show's often icky "I can do anything no matter how morally dubious if I'm doing it in the name of protecting someone I love" philosophy.

    Also enjoyed the dig at Heroes, which is never undeserving of being mocked.

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  7. Why does everyone keep calling Martinez "Rodriguez"? Am I missing something?

    @Teebore

    [O]n further reflection, digging those pits as defense mechanism is actually pretty smart. Make them deep and wide enough that a zombie can't get out, and I'd say you should ring your entire camp with them. Obviously, you'll need to clean them out regularly and they won't do much against a horde (at which point they'd just fill up and then the zombies walk over the other zombies to get into your camp), but against the regular shambling groups of zombies, they're arguably more effective than any fences/barriers short of concrete walls.

    Actually, I think it's even better than that. I don't think zombies have the dexterity needed to pull a Dead Rising; they wouldn't walk over their stricken friends, they'd get their legs stuck. Maybe they could crawl, but they seem to generally lack strength until they actually get to the feeding stage (at which point they all suddenly become preternaturally strong), which means your zombie moat suddenly becomes a zombie wall.

    If you wanted to, you could set fire to a pit every now and again; create a wall of charred corpses, and then start digging on the other side of them. Simples, if admittedly grizzly.

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  8. @SpaceSquid: Why does everyone keep calling Martinez "Rodriguez"? Am I missing something?

    Well, *I'm* calling him that because Dr. Bitz referred to him as such in the post, and that got the name stuck in my head even though it's clearly wrong.

    Why Dr. Bitz got it wrong, I can't say. :)

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  9. @Matt: "I can't help thinking this episode and last could've been combined into one"

    I totally agree. One "catching up on the Governor" episode would have been enough.

    @SpaceSquid: "Leaving at least some "alive" in the pit would make them more efficient at catching others."

    Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. I'd still be nervous about going outside to take a piss in the middle of the night, though.


    "Why does everyone keep calling Martinez "Rodriguez"? Am I missing something?"

    Damn it. I could swear I looked that up. It's fixed now...

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  10. Nice writeup(s)... I'm sorry I haven't been able to comment lately.

    I was perfectly content to get a glimpse at the Governor's story when the first of the two episodes started. TV sagas (and comics, too) that drop in a periodic flashbacks or the odd visit to other locations in the larger tapestry that will impact the main narrative down the road feel richer and more planned somehow — except for when they don't. It's all in the, um, execution.

    So you can count me among those left scratching their heads when we got a return to the status quo. Maybe there would've been a rueful or gleeful moment at the end when "Brian" has fully become "the Governor" once more (at least for those who liked seeing him turn into a protective family man and/or those who love to hate the character's unrelenting, unrepentant crazy evil; me, I'm not really in either camp) if his story had been a long-running parallel to the main plot. I mostly just felt confused, instead, as to why we got this, especially when the series is entirely comfortable glossing over huge chunks of important stuff with the core cast between seasons, like the winter spent on the hustle before arriving at the prison in the opening of the last season and the establishment of the new order at the prison before this one.

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