*DIRTY, NASTY, LEADER-CULLING SPOILERS AHEAD*
If you, like me, bought last episode’s version of the Governor (David Morrissey), all boxed up in his shiny, new family man guise, complete with all new added tenderness and endless kindness or your money back, you may want to ask for a refund on your purchase.
It’s not that you or I bought a lemon, or that we were deceived because I am fairly certain that the attributes displayed by the man who called himself Brian were essentially a long buried re-assumed part of him; it’s simply that he reverted very largely to the darker side of his psyche, motivated by a need to love and protect his new family, newly acquired daughter Meghan (Meyrick Murphy), her mother and his new lover Lily Chambler (Audrey Marie Anderson) and sister Tara (Alanna Masterson), who found her own slice of sapphic happiness with Alisha (Juliana Harkavay).
And what a powerful motivator this need to act as protective alpha male was.
With the mildest of provocations, the new kindler Governor reverted very much to type, killing an inebriated Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who made the fatal mistake of letting down his guard, convinced his former deranged boss was a changed man and simply wanted a very rounds of “Kum Ba Yah” and a game of Winnebago golf, and found himself fodder for the hungry walker masses in one of the pits protecting the encampment.
Another disappointed buyer, who really should have looked under the hood, and not assumed that what he had bought was what he saw when he allowed the Governor to stay put, along with his new charges.
“Some things you can’t come back from. You either live with them or you don’t.”
(Martinez waxing philosophical about this season’s recurring theme with eerily prescient insight, mere moments before he at least, wasn’t allowed to live with them.)
He was joined fairly soon after that by the man who stepped into Martinez’s leadership shoes, morally upstanding Pete (Enver Gjokaj), whose refusal to lay waste to a neighbouring encampment fairly bulging with supplies, was met with a fairly swift response by the Governor who killed him in his trailer before dumping his body, brain still intact, into the dead pond near where they were living.
Turning fairly shortly thereafter, he provided, along with a quagmire of eerily trapped walkers who were going nowhere in a hurry, utterly oblivious to their eternally trapped state, one of the most chilling images of “Dead Weight”, his turned walker endlessly grasping for the surface of the water he would never reach thanks to great big hulking chains around his ankles.
A kind gentle man of upstanding moral fibre, unlike his far more pragmatic brother Mitch (Kirk Acevedo) whose life was spared because of his tougher outlook, he found himself one of the undead simply because he expressed doubts that he couldn’t adequately defend the people now in his charge, the very people by the way who found themselves in that position thanks to the Governor first re-surfacing of murderous intent.
This small but critically symbolic body count was not unexpected in one sense if you’d been paying attention to a conversation the Governor had with Meghan earlier in the episode when, over a game of chess, he admitted that his father “beat me at a lot of things.”
The inference was clear, and provided in one small bite-sized chunk of psychic insight, why the Governor is so maniacally driven to ensure the survival of those he loves – he was never given that sense of safety at any time during his childhood.
Consequently he has spent his adult life, especially that which has occurred post-apocalypse going to any and all lengths to ensure that he is never left vulnerable, victimised or at a disadvantage again.
It was a fascinating peek into his troubled mind, explaining in one small but powerful phrase why Woodbury existed, why he kept his actual daughter Penny locked away in his zombified state and why he launched the ultimately costly raids against the prison compound, of which we saw but a glimpse this episode (but what a crucial glimpse it turned out to be).
And it underscored why anyone dealing with Philip Blake/Brian Heriot/The Governor should always, always exercise buyer beware caution when dealing with him, since he will act, without remorse or regret (although there was evidence he was frightened of what he was becoming again when Lily discovered him sweating and shaking in their shared trailer) to safeguard those people and things he believes must be protected at all costs.
Just how far he is prepared to go became frighteningly clear once again when, after assuming leadership of the group, we found the Governor, his newly acquired and easily duped consumers, er, I mean fellow survivors and a big arse tank owned by Mitch about to lay siege to the prison, the ultimate symbol of safety for the man who craves that elusive and post-apocalypse, largely illusory, quality above all other things.
It was a salutary lesson that the Governor is all the things he has sold himself to everyone as – father, protector, lover, destroyer, killer, annihilator, vengeful dictator – and always will be, and you underestimate what it is you’re buying into at great personal cost.
Quite how high a cost for all concerned will become apparent in next week’s episode “Too Far Gone” …